More than 250 pro-lifers from every province attended the National Pro-Life Conference in Ancaster, Ontario July 2-4, and were treated to a series of presentations and workshops on a range of contemporary pro-life subjects.
According to Jacqueline DeJong, president of hosting group Hamilton Right to Life, the conference went smoothly. “The session with the MPs (Tom Wappel, Elsie Wayne, and Jason Kenney) was a highlight,” she said. “It was encouraging to see the harmony between the three and the fact that they’ve begun a (parliamentary) pro-life caucus.”
DeJong also pointed to Senator Anne Cools’ presentation on “Canada: Who’s in Charge?” and the accumulation of pro-life quilts as memorable. “They (the quilts) looked beautiful. They unified the conference and gave a visual cohesiveness to it all.”
The conference had as its theme, “The Canadian Quilt: A Pro-Life Pattern.” DeJong said many attendees took patches home with them to make more quilts in preparation for next year’s Day of Infamy commemorations on May 14—the 30th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in Canada.
“Each patch symbolizes one pre-born child who has been aborted. By next May 14, more than two million unborn Canadians will have been aborted. That means more than 4,000 quilts will, hopefully, be brought to Parliament Hill. It will be a huge visual statement of lives that have been lost and lives that have been touched. The quilts will then get donated either to relief agencies and crisis pregnancy centres … or be given back to the groups that created them, for fundraising. The quilts also symbolize the patches of pro-life groups all working together.”
Giuseppe Gori, leader of Ontario’s Family Coalition Party, characterized the conference as “a very successful event.”
“I was impressed by all the speakers I heard,” he said. “I was obviously interested in the plenary session where MPs Elsie Wayne, Jason Kenney, and Tom Wappel expressed their positions. I was impressed by their speeches, and learned a lot from that session.”
At the conference banquet, Wappel was presented with this year’s Joseph P. Borowski Award for outstanding leadership in pro-life affairs in the political sphere, while the late Teague Johnson of British Columbia was awarded the 1998 Kurelek Award by Alliance for Life for work that promotes respect for human life. Johnson’s brother Colin was present on his behalf to accept the award.
Teague Johnson, who had cerebral palsy, championed the rights of children with disabilities before passing away at age 12. He spoke on behalf of Tracy Latimer after her father was charged with murdering her in a case of “mercy killing.”
“All children are valuable and deserve to live full and complete lives,” he said at the time. “No one should make the decision for another person on whether their life is worth living or not … Life is a precious gift. It belongs to the person to whom it has been given.”
In accepting the award, Colin Johnson said, “We are proud that Teague’s courage and his questing spirit are being recognized in this way. He said that his mission in life was to help others understand that the lives of children who have disabilities can be joyful and worthwhile … Teague did not learn to communicate until he was almost six years old. But, believe me, he spent the next six years of his life making up for lost time.”
Johnson became the 22nd recipient of the Kurelek Award, named in honour of the late artist William Kurelek. Past recipients of the award include Jean Vanier and Terry Fox.
Pro-life activist Linda Gibbons gave a brief speech on opening night prior to a keynote address by David Mainse, the founder of Crossroads Christian Communications. Gibbons received a standing ovation. Patricia Bainbridge, of the Planned Parenthood watchdog group Life Decisions International, closed the conference with an address on what it means to be truly pro-life.
Workshops at the conference looked at a wide range of topics, including how to lobby MPs, palliative care, the human genome project, how to achieve pro-life legislation, and effective pro-life communication.