The 2013 National March for Life in Ottawa attracted a record-crowd of 25,000 pro-lifers to Parliament Hill, surpassing last year’s attendance by approximately 5000 people. The size of the march, combined with construction on Wellington Street in front of Parliament, led police to shut off the exits, which prevented an estimated 2000 people from leaving the Hill and marching through the streets of the nation’s capital.


Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, which organizes the National March for Life (MFL), told The Interim his group appreciates the predicament of the police in ensuring the smooth entry and exit from the grounds of thousands of demonstrators. Despite it not being CLC’s decision to cut off the march, Hughes apologizes to the pro-lifers who made the trip to Ottawa and prevented from taking part in the March. He said he hopes that safety concerns were the only consideration in closing the exit as the last ten per cent of the crowd was readying to exit just as the front of the procession returned to Parliament Hill. “I am worried that someone with an agenda might have used the inconvenience of the construction in front of Parliament as an excuse to limit the full participation of pro-lifers in the National March for Life.”

Asked if  he was miffed at low-ball estimates of the March – Sun News said 5,000 people attended, while the CBC and RCMP both estimated 10,000-12,000 participants – Hughes shrugged. “They’ve ignored us for years and now that the media is covering the March, they are getting part of the story wrong. That’s par for the course.” Hughes noted that the entire west side of the lawn was full with people and that three quarters of the east side was full. “Soon we won’t all fit on the Hill,” Hughes predicted.

chooselifeOn the Hill, the crowd heard from numerous speakers, and a record 28 parliamentarians were present on the Hill, although not all of them spoke. (Another MP attended the Rose Dinner, bringing to 29 the total number who took part in various events.) Former Liberal and independent MP Pat O’Brien, introduced the MPs and described how they resist the intense political pressure to remain silent about abortion. He said, “they defy that pressure and they join with you.” Conservative MP David Anderson (Cypress Hills–Grasslands), said the MPs “will stand with you and move ahead on this issue.” MP Rob Anders (CPC, Calgary West) told the crowd that if they want more pro-life MPs they need to become involved in nominations at the riding level.

Conservative MP James Lunney (Nanaimo-Alberny) told the crowd he was “so glad you are here.” Then referred to the Scripture passages that are on Peace Tower, drawing particular attention to “where there is no vision, the people perish.” Lunney continued: “A lot of Canadians have perished since the law was struck down, nearly three million Canadians in the most vulnerable state.”

Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener-Centre) discussed his Motion 312, which was defeated last Fall, but if passed would have initiated a special parliamentary exploration of modern science in relation to preborn life and its human rights implications. He said it was shameful that defending abortion trumped human equality and human dignity in the debate over his motion. “We’re here today to convince Parliament that human equality and human dignity are more important than any political interest. And I’m counting on you to take that message back with you all across Canada.”


After the MFL, Woodworth told The Interim he hoped “politicians would get the message” that Canadians are ready to have a mature discussion about these issues.

Senator Tobias Enverga (CPC, Ontario) introduced his 23-year-old daughter, Rosselle, to the crowd. He said of it were up to some doctors Rosselle, who has Down’s syndrome, would have been aborted. He related: “A few years ago they told me, ‘you’ve got some options’ … and one of them is abortion. And we said, ‘no, we want our children’.” Enverga said, “I know we made the right choice.” Rosselle also spoke, saying she was thankful for her life: “I love my life. I like everyone.”

Kyle Seeback (CPC, Brampton West) also provided a personal story, saying that in 2011 he and his wife found out that their third child had terminal genetic disorders and that “everyone told us we should abort that child.” Seeback said, “my wife and I said, ‘Elijah, you have a life that is worth living, no matter how short that life might be’.”

John-Henry Westen, editor-in-chief of, said the March is the “most important public demonstration in our nation.” Conservative MP Bev Shipley, (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex) concurred. “There is none, there is none as significant as this one, supporting the dignity and the sustainability of life.”

Shipley and his colleague Wladislaz Lizon (Mississauga East-Cooksville) met with constituents in the crowd. Lizon also gave a shout-out to parishioners from St. Maximilian Kolbe Church, which is in his riding, from the podium.

Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast introduced seven of his fellow bishops (12 in total attended the events). Quebec Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, primate of Canada, insisted, “we want to care for life from conception to natural death,” and “we come here today to tell the whole of Canada and our people here we have elected to serve the great people of Canada: we want life to be respected; we want life to be celebrated and we want to protect life every day of the year.” Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins and Valleyfield Bishop Noel Simard also spoke.

Several speakers directly addressed this year’s theme, “End Female Gendercide!” Organizers tied the theme to Mark Warawa’s motion, M408, which sought to condemn sex-selective abortion but was deemed non-votable earlier this Spring. Many marchers carried signs and wore t-shirts calling for an end to gendercide, the practice of abortion to target unborn girls. Warawa said that despite the scuttling of his motion, victory will come. “Together we will keep up the fight and we will win.”

CLC Youth’s Alissa Golob said that all abortion is discrimination and must end.

Janet Morana of Priests for Life and the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, echoed themes in her new book Recall Abortion in which she called abortion “a failed product.”

Hughes estimates that at least three-quarters of those in attendance were high school and university students. LifeSite`s John-Henry Westen told the crowd, “you know the pro-life movement is in good hands when you look around and see all the youth.”

Ron Jackson, a long-time pro-lifer, made the trek to the March from Midland, Ont. He told The Interim that the crowd was “amazing” and that the “people are focused on what we are here for.” Sister Mary Van Hee, sister of Fr. Tony Van Hee, who prays in front of Parliament whenever it is in session, said that besides coming to Ottawa to check up on her younger brother, it is important “to support the pro-life movement by participating in the March for Life.”

Pro-life Super heros

Pro-life Super heros

Four pro-lifers were dressed up as super heroes. Patrick Grover of Iowa was dressed as Captain America told The Interim they were Avengers for life, a play on the comic book heroes in the Marvel series The Avengers. He said they are helping spread the word that “life must be defended.” Grover was joined by Evan Heard of Iowa who was dressed as the Incredible Hulk, Jona Hoffmaister of Georgia who came as Iron Man, and Lukas Christa of Germany who donned a Thor costume. They are missionaries from Regnum Christi, an apostolic movement within the Legionaries of Christ, and were joined by Brother Ryan Harkins from New York. When the marchers returned, they were greeted by music performed by a band led by Chris Bray, heard moving testimonials from several women in the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, and witnessed the Ukrainian Catholic closing prayer ceremonies.

After the MFL, there were two events at the Hampton Inn, the annual Rose Dinner and the Youth Banquet. The keynote speaker for the Rose Dinner was Reggie Littlejohn of Women Rights Without Frontiers, a group that fights against gendercide, especially Red China’s One Child policy which often uses coercive abortion to enforce the government’s strictures.


At the Rose Dinner, CLC presented Stephen Woodworth with its Joseph P. Borowski Award. It was the eighth time CLC gave the award since being inaugurated in 1997 to “recognize politicians for their integrity, courage, and leadership in defending life and humanity in the public square.” Woodworth said Borowski, an NDP cabinet minister in Manitoba who resigned in protest against the government’s compliance with abortion, “taught us that human equality and human dignity are found in an individual’s own nature as a human being.” Woodworth also said Borowski showed “how easy it is for anyone, including politicians, to do the right thing.”

Woodworth said that “human equality and human dignity are the most important and necessary features of any civilized democracy,” a message he urged the nearly 500 in attendance to take “back with you from Ottawa across the country and drive it home to all the politicians at every level in your cities and your towns and your villages.”

Gethsemanie Ministries youth provided the music for the Youth banquet.

Gethsemane Ministries youth provided the music for the Youth banquet.

The keynote speaker for the Youth Banquet, producer Jason Jones, had to cancel at the last minute because he could not make it, and David Bereit, founder of the 40 Days for Life campaign, filled in after his own trip to Ottawa faced many hurdles, including being re-routed to Montreal. He said the 950 youth at the sold-out event, “you are the generation that is committed to end this injustice (of abortion) once and for all.” Bereit told the young people that ending abortion is necessary and possible, but that it will be hard work. He said, “it’s time to turn the tide. We’re going to walk out of here with a commitment that it’s time. The line is drawn in the sand. Abortion ends starting now.”

Echoing comments made by CLC’s Jim Hughes at the March earlier in the day, Bereit told the crowd that youth are not the future of the pro-life movement, they are the present.

The day after the MFL, more than 900 mostly high school students attended the Youth Conference, where they heard from numerous speakers, including Bereit, Golob, Littlejohn, and Westen.

The evening before the National March for Life, 1600 people attended the Candlelight Vigil at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument at dusk. That was twice as large as last year’s crowd.

“Every single person here is put here by God. And every single person here has gifts from God. And every single one of you right now are using those gifts to be the voice for the voiceless,” said Alissa Golob of Campaign Life Coalition Youth. Faytene Grasseschi of 4MyCanada, who recently led 25 women in a 250-km Back to Life Walk from Montreal to Ottawa, said that eventually abortion will not only be illegal but unthinkable. Ruth Shaw of the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform related her own story of being adopted from India, noting that she could have just as easily been a casualty of abortion. Fr. Bradley Markus, a member of the board of Priests for Life Canada, started to speak as the rain began, and he called upon the crowd to “rejoice” even as it rained, which he called “purifying” waters.

This year’s MFL was dedicated to the late Nellie Gray, a Washington lawyer and a co-founder of the March for Life in Washington, who died last year. Hughes said the large march in the American capital served as an inspiration for the one in Canada. The MFL is held annually in the second week of May, and was originally meant to mark the anniversary of Pierre Trudeau’s 1969 Omnibus Bill which effectively legalized abortion-on-demand. Over the years, the focus has shifted from remembering the Day of Infamy to a more hopeful message that abortion will someday again be illegal in Canada.

The MFL was aired live for five hours by Catholic broadcaster, Eternal World Television Network. EWTN teamed up with Hamilton, Ont.-based Dunn Media to relay the speeches on Parliament Hill, dispatches from the march, and exclusive interviews from religious and pro-life leaders, to an international audience. The next day, EWTN aired a seven-minute segment that covered the Candlelight Vigil and the March.