Six young persons walk across the country for life

What is Crossroads?

On May 19, six young adults from across North America started their cross-Canada trek in Vancouver. In a span of 12 weeks, they will cross more than 5,000 km, taking them as far east as Montreal before arriving in Ottawa on August 11. As they walk, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with their succinct message: “PRO LIFE” in bold 15 cm lettering, they pray, witness and sacrifice for those who have no voice – the 110,000 Canadians who will be aborted this year. They belong to Crossroads Pro-Life, an organization that has been leading walks across North America since 1995. This is the diary of Cyril Doll, their walk leader. (The walk has no affiliation with the Crossroads Television System.)

The walkers

Cyril Doll, 30, journalist, Calgary. This is Cyril’s second walk, having traversed from San Francisco to Washington D.C. for Crossroads in 1999. Each year, Crossroads sponsors three Pro-Life walks across the U.S. Cyril’s proud to have been approached by the group to organize and lead the first-ever Canadian walk.

Ben Broussard, 23, student, Lake Charles, La. This is Ben’s fourth summer walking across the continent. He’s fond of waxing historical, explaining to Canadians as he walks, that he has returned to evangelize the county that expelled his Acadian ancestors in the 18th century.

Greg Roth, 22, seminarian, Saskatoon. Upon completing his philosophy degree at Christendom College in Virginia, Greg heard of the cross-Canada walk and decided it best to join before entering the seminary for the diocese of Saskatoon.

Jeremy Fraser, 21, student, High River, Alta. Jeremy brings to the walk five years of spiritual discipline he absorbed from the minor seminary at Mission, B.C. He’s entering his second year of liberal arts at Thomas Aquinas College in California.

Sarah Gallaher, 20, student, Bakersfield, Calif. There’s no question that Sarah’s leadership, maturity and female touch are indispensable for the Canadian walk. She’s entering her third year of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Oh. This is Sarah’s second Crossroads experience. She was part of the Seattle to Washington, D.C. walk in the U.S. last year.

Etienne O’Toole, 20, student, Coquitlam, B.C. Etienne, a physics and math major at UBC, is appreciated among participants for more than his long stride, which comes courtesy of a 6-foot-5 frame. Etienne’s effervescent work ethic is surpassed in quality only by his humility and honesty.

Week 1: Leaving Vancouver

May 19-May 26, Vancouver to Osoyoos, B.C. Total distance: 296 km.

Whoever first said “the first days are the hardest days” didn’t try walking across B.C. Our first days provided us with the luxury of walking along the flat and surprisingly dry terrain of the Lower Mainland. After our inaugural “lap” around Stanley Park with area pro-lifers on May 19, the six of us were finally ready to depart Vancouver on May 21, after spending the weekend in the basement of St. Mary’s. Our route took us through the less-than-utopian Hastings Street, past Vancouver’s burbs to the north shore of the Fraser River. With the Coastal Mountains looming closely behind and the north reaches of the Cascades staring directly at us, it was a treat to walk along the cool basin of the Fraser River.

But that didn’t last long. Climbing higher and higher, we left the comfortable confines of the Fraser Valley for Manning Park and its mountains. After climbing 1,342 metres to Allison Pass, the desolate highway descended toward the town of Princeton, B.C. Princeton would have been forgettable, had it not been home to the most harrowing experience of the walk thus far. While walking along the shoulder of Highway 3 right out of town, I lost a game of highway-shoulder chicken with a one-tonne truck.
We arrived on time and no worse for wear in Osoyoos on May 25 – graciously accepting the offer of the Jay family in Summerland, B.C. to shelter and feed us.

Week 2: There’s a system to the walk

May 27-June 2, Osoyoos-Cranbrook. Total distance: 449 km.

It’s safe to say we picked up the pace during our second week. The logistics behind how many kilometres we cover is as follows. A dayshift of four walkers departs from camp in the morning to the spot where the nightshift left off. Two walkers walk 8 km, while the other two drive up eight in our support van. Once the walkers reach the van, they switch with the two in the van. This process is repeated until they’ve walked a minimum of 48 km and then the nightshift, consisting of two walkers, does the same. This week, we were able to have the nightshift up and rolling for all five evenings; hence, the extra ground covered.

By now, we all had the mental grit to understand what’s required from our bodies. Except for me. My mind didn’t listen to my body and I developed some inflamed shins – probably from jogging down a mountain in Manning Park. Reluctantly, I placed myself on the injured reserve list and missed the two highest passes of the trip: the Blueberry Bonanza (1,535 m), just west of Castlegar, B.C., and the Kootenay Pass (1,774 m), just west of Creston. After planning the walk, it was frustrating not being able to walk the mountains, but as Etienne told me, watching everyone else climb might be my own personal sacrifice.

Our two Americans were particularly impressed with the Kootenay Pass and the still-frozen lake at its summit. Neither had seen a frozen lake before. We made it to Cranbrook, but spent the weekend in Creston, at Holy Cross’s church hall.

Week 3: Arriving in Alberta

June 3-9, Cranbrook-Calgary. Total Distance: 403 km

The closer we got to the Alberta border, the bigger the smile on my gregarious face grew. Not that I don’t miss the peaks and valleys of B.C., but the promise of the Alberta prairies smelled fresher than the wild roses, which dress them. Crossing the Crowsnest Pass into Alberta was a breeze for the walkers compared to the Blueberry and Bonanza peaks from the week before. We also left the glorious weather we were experiencing in B.C. behind as well. Walking along southern Alberta’s cowboy trail, which parallels the Rockies, we encountered a freezing rain and wind storm – the likes of which left some of Calgary underwater the night before. Sarah and I both concluded it was the toughest 8 km we’ve ever walked.

Jeremy’s family in High River graciously provided shelter and home cooking for our cold damp souls. His father also let us borrow his 1976 Ford motorhome, which means no more tenting. Thus far, it’s been an unbelievable asset.

Surreally, we walked through my hometown of Calgary near the end of week three and into the prairies. People’s reactions were apathetic. We received no support, as well as no opposition. Besides the usual dirty look or single finger salute, which is common, the pro-aborts in Canada have almost been as apathetic as the pro-lifers. At least, that was the case in B.C. and Alberta. For Crossroads veterans such as myself, Ben and Sarah, we’ve been surprised at how indifferent people on both sides of this issue are, compared to our experiences in the U.S. In the two western-most provinces, outside of Mass, we were rarely offered words of encouragement or even curious inquiries about who we are or what we’re doing. Maybe people are convinced the “choice” argument’s won and the fight’s over. Or maybe the pro-aborts know they’re wrong. Maybe pro-lifers in western Canada need ecclesiastical leadership.

We were able to hold our first prayer service outside a Calgary abortion facility that weekend, reminding us grimly of the reality of abortion. It was also a grim reminder of the asinine laws of this country. We were only allowed four people at a time, praying across the street in – ironically enough – a playground. For whatever reason, our being at the abortuary that day garnered a stronger reaction from folks driving by. We received a lot of thumbs up, mostly from young men our age, and a lot of jeers and imaginative curses from pro-abort moral relativists.

After the service, we received instruction on pro-life apologetics and strategy from Jose Ruba, director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform – the controversial organization that sponsors Genocide Awareness Projects on university campuses. They compare the Jewish Holocaust and the U.S. civil rights movement to the abortion genocide using graphic pictures. They do great hands-on work and are very successful at converting minds to the pro-life movement. Keep them in your prayers.

After the hectic schedule of the weekend, it was nice to be able to house the walkers with my parents and my brother’s family.

Week 4: Hello, Prairies

Calgary-Saskatoon, June 10-16. Total Distance: 610 km

As spring settles into summer, so do blisters blossom to calluses and muscles strengthen. My, what a treat, traversing the flat, flat lands of Alberta and Saskatchewan. We were able to up our daily walking from 96 km to 120 km. The a-to-b directness of prairie highways was a welcome change, too, making it seem as if we were making good time (compared to zig-zag mountain dodging in the highways of B.C.’s interior.) Greg and his family put us up for a couple of days of R and R.

By far, we’ve received our most positive reaction in Saskatchewan. Personally, I’ve only received one negative response thus, far compared with dozens and dozens of positive ones. People stop us on the highways offering us donations and patting us on the back. Compared to the hollow response we received, particularly in Alberta, Saskatchewan has been a breath of fresh air. And it would be negligent of me to not mention the help and support we’ve received in the prairie province from Greg’s mother Denise and Campaign Life Coalition.