Over the final weekend in September, post-secondary students travelled across Canada to Toronto for a meeting that would challenge, inspire and motivate them in pro-life work on their campuses. The event was the 11th National Campus Life Network (NCLN) symposium.

Sarah Buckle, the current executive director of NCLN, said, “The goal of the symposium is to educate university pro-life student leaders on pro-life issues, for students to meet, network and share ideas with other pro-life students and to motivate them to bring life-affirming messages back to their campus.”

This year, there were 43 participants who came from 20 schools as far away as British Columbia and Nova Scotia — no easy task for impoverished campus pro-life clubs.

The students heard from Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. She challenged them to talk about the issue of abortion, knowing that they have truth and logic on their side. They practised apologetics with each other after listening to a clear defence for protection for the unborn from Gray. She also encouraged students to consider working full-time for the pro-life movement after graduation, which she does herself. She pointed out that “there are more people working full-time to kill babies than there are to save them.”

Lara Lavelle is a student at St. Francis Xavier University in Halifax who attended the symposium. She is currently in the second year of a bachelor of arts program. Her pro-life club is officially recognized as St. FX Students For Life. Their efforts to spread the message of life have included fundraisers for bursaries for single parents, hosting a Hike For Life, organizing information booths in their student centre and running poster campaigns. This year, they have many plans in the works, including having Stephanie Gray speak, an Awareness Week and circulating a petition to put an end to partial-birth abortions.

Lavelle says their “main problem is that of apathy towards the issue in general” at St. FX. The symposium helped Lavelle get a “perspective from other clubs across the country and hear about their own struggles and success.” She is certainly glad she made the trip from out east for the weekend. “I was inspired to continue working, despite problems with membership, campus support and funding issues, because these are problems that have all been faced by numerous other groups as well, and they’ve managed to prevail in the end!”

Rose Savidge is the president of another eastern club, at the University of New Brunswick (Fredericton Campus). Her club was ratified as UNB Life-Link on Sept. 11 of this year. They have had their first general meeting, with four in attendance, but Savidge says, “We’re patiently hopeful.”

Savidge, in her third year of a BSc program in biology-chemistry, noted: “As one of the few campus pro-life groups ever to exist in eastern Canada, we face the challenge of exploring effective techniques to foster the formation of a pro-life conscience amongst students.”

It is clear that NCLN has been a great help for all the clubs, especially the eastern schools that are faced with being quite a distance from others and for whom linking with our campus groups might otherwise be difficult. Savidge is happy to acknowledge that with the network NCLN provides, “students develop a sense that they have chosen to be part of a greater movement that is not within their control, and that they are simply instruments of love who are surely effecting a transformation in the world – whether or not that transformation is apparent to them.”

Buckle was extremely happy with the success of the weekend. The “students found the weekend to be very useful and felt better equipped going back to their campus – for their pro-life group (if they had one) and in everyday dealings with students on pro-life issues. They had an enjoyable weekend and went back motivated, ready to make a difference.”