On May 9, more than 17,000 pro-lifers, most of them youth took part in the National March for Life in Ottawa. The annual march, organized by Campaign Life Coalition, is the largest pro-life event in Canada.
CLC national president Jeff Gunnarson opened the proceedings for the march by welcoming “crazy, wonderful pro-lifers,” and noting that it was colder at the march in Ottawa in mid-May than the American march for life in Washington in January. Despite the chilly temperatures, Gunnarson reported an upbeat crowd travelling to Ottawa to defend human life.
Shalyn McGuin from Save the 1 told her story of choosing life for her child who was conceived in rape. She said that a crisis pregnancy centre offered her the support she needed to keep her baby. She also challenged the rape exception for abortion: ”When people say ‘pro-life except in cases of rape,’ they are saying precious women like my daughter are not deserving of life.” McGuin added, “Even though my daughter wasn’t conceived in love, she is very much loved.”
Abby Johnson, the former abortuary worker turned leading pro-life activist whose story is the basis of the new feature film Unplannedstarted a feisty speech addressing the media: “I want to say something to the media who film the counter-protestors. It is cowardly to support death. It is courageous to support life. Don’t pay attention to 100 people over there when you have thousands of Canadians right here in front of you.”
She then turned her attention to the 17,000-strong crowd. She said, “one thing I have learned in Canada: you are the most polite people in the world. You gotta stop being so dang polite. Life is on the line.” She said there is “nothing polite about abortion” where “children are being killed, dismembered in their mothers’ wombs… it is time for us to stop cowering to the liberal media, to your Liberal parliament.”
Johnson said that the march “is not your only pro-life activity for the year,” as she encouraged participants to become active within their community and social circles.
Phelim McAleer and Ann McIlhenny, the producers of the pro-life movie, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Biggest Serial Killer,talked about the motivation of producing film telling the story of the infamous Philadelphia abortionist.
McAleer said he was done working on a documentary when he found himself in a Philadelphia courtroom listening to the riveting details of Gosnell’s grisly practice. He was moved, however, by the fact that there were no other media interested in the story of the serial killer. When he flew to California to pitch the idea of doing a movie about Gosnell to his partner Ann McElhinney, she made clear she wanted to avoid the topic of abortion … at least until she read the transcripts of the grand jury hearings. McElhinney, agreed with McAleer that the story had to be told to a larger audience and told the march, “When people hear the truth about abortion, they don’t like it.”
Conservative MP David Anderson spoke on behalf of a dozen pro-life MPs attending the march. He thanked the crowd for showing up each year and called upon those in attendance to create a “groundswell” for pro-life support in the country and everyone to get behind his private members bill (C-418) that would provide protection of conscience for healthcare workers.
Campaign Life Coalition’s Gunnarson, presented retiring MP Brad Trost with the Joe Borowski award, for his pro-life leadership in Parliament and as a contender for the Conservative Party Leadership in 2016.
Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast introduced his fellow bishops who were in attendance and Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins gave brief remarks noting that life was a gift that deserved protection, noted that the assault against life now included euthanasia, and hoped for a day in which the march for life would be unnecessary.
Angelina Steenstra of Silent No More Awareness talked about the abortions she had and their physical and psychological toll on her.
In the evening, the Rose Dinner gala featured talks by Abby Johnson and Gosnell producers Phelim McAleer and Ann McIlhenny, who talked about the media’s efforts to bury the story of America’s biggest serial killer. The Youth Banquet heard a motivational talk by former NFL player Steve Fitzhugh.
The March was the central event of March for Life Week in the nation’s capital.
Two days before, on May 7, Campaign life Coalition kicked off March for Life Week with a private screening of the film Unplannedat the National Museum of History in Gatineau. Along with Dunn Media, CLC hosted the screening and held a question and answer with Abby Johnson and the film’s producer Lisa Wheeler. Save the Storks sponsored the event that attracted 500 pro-life leaders and grassroots activists. CLC is working with the Unplannedteam to bring the film to Canada.
On May 8, CLC hosted a pre-march press conference in the Parliamentary press gallery with guests Abby Johnson and Lisa Wheeler who talked about how the film was rejected by every Canadian distributor they contacted. Conservative MPs Arnold Viersen, Brad Trost and Bev Shipley were also present at the press conference.
On May 10, the day after the march, more than 500 pro-life high school students took part in a youth conference organized by Niagara Region Right to Life and Campaign Life Coalition Youth. They heard talks by Laura Klassen from Choice42, Dr. Maria Wolfs, and took part in breakout sessions run by CLC Youth and the National Campus Life Network.