Focusing on goals, and the tools pro-life activists have to make a difference, were the aims of Alliance for Life Ontario’s Witnesses to Life conference, held June 8 at Holy Rosary Church in Guelph, Ont.

Hosted with the help of Guelph Right to Life, the conference attracted just under 100 people, and was somewhat “low-key” in nature as it served as a precursor to this fall’s larger international pro-life conference in Toronto. Still, attendees dealt with a number of important issues and received updates on a variety of action items.

“It was a good day,” said Alliance for Life Ontario’s executive director Jakki Jeffs. “It was intended for the leaderships of our affiliated groups and anyone else who was interested in getting more of a handle on how to present issues.”

The event began with the annual general meeting of Alliance for Life Ontario, where it was announced that the organization will have a new president starting in November – Sylvia DeBoer of Wyoming, Ont. She will replace current president Regina Weidinger. Two new board members were also announced.

The meeting was followed by a briefing from Hamilton Right to Life president Tom Kelly on the progress of the ambitious Reaching Minds Through Media campaign.

“We had a good report on (the campaign),” said Jeffs. “The effort is still going on. We had a wonderful gala dinner in Hamilton in April with Bishop (Anthony) Tonnos and he has graciously agreed to sponsor it on an annual basis.” Two more gala dinners are planned – in London this coming Nov. 9 and in Ottawa on May 27, 2003.

Alliance for Life in July 2001 commissioned a poll of Ontario residents in connection with the Reaching Minds Through Media effort. According to Jeffs, the poll produced some “amazing” data.

“The poll showed the largest ‘broad middle’ that we have seen in any poll. Fifty-one per cent of Ontario residents were extremely conflicted in the answers they gave on abortion … We found that once people knew certain facts, they couldn’t believe we have abortion the way we have it. Fetal development facts are very important, as is the fact that there is not a cutoff point for abortion in Canada. That shocked people.”

At the conference’s luncheon, Jeffs offered a rundown of current issues, including Ontario trials of so-called emergency contraception, general trials of the RU-486 abortion pill and the lack of official statistics on abortion in Ontario. She also drew attention to the DeVeber Institute’s important new book on the medical and psychological implications of abortion to women.

” We really have to have some kind of educational strategy on this,” said Jeffs. “Medically, psychologically and scientifically, abortion is absolutely horrendous for women’s health.”

Dr. Barrie DeVeber himself took the podium in the afternoon to further expound on his institute’s new book. He urged conference attendees and all pro-life advocates to take the information and bring it to doctors’ offices, libraries, universities and anywhere else it might be relevant.

Carroll Rees, executive director of Action Life Ottawa, closed the day with a presentation on how to present issues effectively and efficiently and create more effective advertisements.