Largest March for Life
The 12th annual National March for Life in Ottawa saw record-breaking crowds mark 40 years of legalized abortion in Canada. Organizers and participants both said the demonstration is an important part of the pro-life calendar as it sends a clear signal to the country that the abortion issue has not gone away and that the pro-life movement will not rest until the unborn are protected in law.
Organizers say 12,000 people took part in the march – the Ottawa Citizen reported 10,000, which is closer to the truth than is often reported in the press – with the procession through the streets of the nation’s capital taking more than an from start to finish. The Ottawa Sun’s coverage of the massive march was limited to a report that it held up downtown traffic.
Provincial marches across the country in most provincial capitals had many additional thousands of Canadians marking the 40th anniversary of the legalization of abortion on May14, 1969. In British Columbia, at least 3,000 people took part, in Edmonton more than 600 and in Fredericton 400.
Organizers in Ottawa weren’t concerned about a forecast of rain and thousands of pro-lifers enlivened the Hill with their colourful umbrellas and ponchos. The weather – a drizzle that turned into a hard rain with strong winds – did not dampen the spirits of those who took part in “Exodus 2009: A Future Without Abortion,” the theme of the 2009 National March for Life.
MP Rod Bruinooge (Cons., Winnipeg South) alluded to the weather when he said, “The storm is here,” before adding that the real storm was the 12,000 people on the front lawn of Parliament. “We will not go away. We need to be listened to.”
Former MP Pat O’Brien told the crowd, “The March for Life is the most important rally on Parliament Hill every year.”
Other dignitaries present on the Hill included Toronto Catholic Archbishop Thomas Collins, Quebec City Cardinal Marc Oullet, the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson, former MP Tom Wappel and several sitting MPs, including Pierre Lemieux (Cons., Glengarry-Prescott-Russell) and Paul Szabo (Lib., Mississauga South). The theme of all the presentations was the need to keep up the fight against abortion and to not relent until the law is changed.
Lia Mills, a 12-year-old, Grade 7 student from Toronto also spoke. Earlier this year, a version of a speech she gave as a school assignment in which she laid out the arguments against abortion became a big hit on the internet. She presented that speech to the Hill, laying out a solid point-by-by argument against abortion.
This year, an unprecedented number of schools and church groups sent buses to Ottawa to take part in the march. Barry Mombourquette brought 114 students from the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. He told The Interim it is important for teachers to bring students to the National March for Life, because the students “are the ones who will make a change. They are the future lawyers, doctors, mothers, fathers, lawmakers and teachers.” His students enthusiastically shared their views on abortion. A Grade 11 student from St. Thomas More in Hamilton said she came to Ottawa to provide a voice for her unborn brothers and sisters because “their cries are not being heard.”
Also, 11 Catholic and Ukrainian bishops, archbishops and cardinals took part in the event by concelebrating two Masses at St. Patrick’s and Notre Dame basilicas on the morning of the march. There were also interfaith and Canadian Reform Church prayer services in the city preceding the march.
The evening before the march, more than 200 people took part in a candlelight vigil at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street, just blocks from Parliament Hill. The crowd prayed, sang and listened to stories from student activists and the Sisters for Life. Sr. Antoniana Maria challenged those in attendance to provide “their testimonies and views” to share the pro-life message.
After the march, David MacDonald provided musical entertainment and sang this year’s “anthem,” entitled Exodus. In it, MacDonald expressed the hope and vision of this year’s theme when he sang: “There’s a star ahead of us/Rising in the sky/We will follow/Through the night/To the future/Where our leadership/Will honour every life.”
MacDonald’s performance was followed by a half-dozen men and women giving their testimonials, on behalf of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, about their past abortion experiences. In the evening, about 1,000 people attended the sold-out Rose Dinner to hear featured speakers Tom Wappel and Carl Anderson. They both encouraged pro-lifers to remain vigilant in their defence of life.
CLC national president Jim Hughes told The Interim that, considering “every march builds on the success of previous ones, big things are expected for May 13, 2010.”