Canada’s pro-life youth continue to expand their networks and share ideas in defence of the right to life of unborn children.

The latest example occurred March 4 at Notre Dame Secondary School in Burlington, Ont. Billed as a pro-life “Youth Explosion,” the conference drew more than 50 high school and university students to discuss the latest developments in promoting a culture of life.

This was first-ever youth pro-life conference organized by the Halton Right to Life Association. Halton president Joanne Matters told The Interim that while organizers were hoping for a larger turnout, they were satisfied with the enthusiasm and dedication of this year’s conference delegates. Matters added that the Halton group now plans to hold a youth conference every spring.

This 2001 gathering featured discussion of pro-life strategies, chastity, and promoting the right to life on the international stage. Speakers included Halton pro-life’s youth coordinator Claudine Hardy, Tanya Granic and Cathrina Keet of Campaign Life Coalition Youth, and Steve and Michelle Starcevic, a brother and sister team who discussed the issue of chastity. Both are active members of the Halton Pro-Life Board of Directors.

Another highlight of the conference was an address by Andrew Fournier, who is currently on a cross-Canada pilgrimage to promote awareness of pro-life issues, and to raise funds for Campaign Life Coalition Youth and the Canadian Food for Children organization.

According to Joanne Matters, the conference was inspired in part by a desire on the part of Halton secondary school students to learn more about the right-to-life issue. Students had contacted Halton’s youth coordinator Claudine Hardy with a request for ways of promoting pro-life themes in their schools.

“We wanted to present students with a broad perspective of what other people are doing to promote the culture of life,” Matters told The Interim. “We also hope to provide them with the tools they need to begin a pro-life group in their schools, as a way of influencing fellow students.”

In addition to Claudine Hardy’s presentation on her personal experience with abortion, the Halton conference included a screening of the video, Harder Truth, which uses graphic images of aborted children. Despite its graphic nature, the video was well received by conference delegates.

The Starcevic presentation focused on chastity as a valuable tool in elevating young people’s attitudes toward dating, intimacy and sexuality. The presentation, punctuated by many good questions from delegates, offered chastity and abstinence as life-affirming alternatives to the cynical safe-sex messages which have come to dominate public sex-education programs.

Tanya Granic and Cathrina Keet described their experiences at the United Nations, where they have been active with the World Youth Alliance organization. The group was organized by young pro-lifers from various countries, to counter the anti-life, anti-family policies advanced by UN agencies in the name of the world’s young people.

Keet and Granic said that despite the United Nations’ positive origins, it has succumbed to policies and practices that are at odds with its humanitarian ideals. In many cases, this is seen in efforts to link development programs with legalization of abortion, contraception and other anti-life efforts.

“For a first-time conference, I was impressed with the students’ enthusiasm and insight,” Matters said after the gathering. “They were clearly favourable to right-to-life objectives, but it seemed they are fully prepared to bring that enthusiasm to a wider audience.” Matters was further encouraged to note that at least 15 conference delegates signed up to participate in the annual March for Life in Ottawa, to be held this year May 11-12.