Marie-Claire Bissonnette grew up pro-life. Her family has been involved in pro-life activism since she was a child, taking the kids along to LifeChain, the National March for Life, and Show the Truth. She jokes that part of her family tradition was to go to Show the Truth rather than summer vacation. In Grade 7, she gave a speech about abortion and showed pictures of a developing and aborted baby; she represented her school in the regional competition. She was active with her high school pro-life club in Brantford and headed the pro-life club at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay. At OLSWA the pro-life club attended the marches for life in Ottawa and Washington, had fundraising pub nights with pro-life speakers such as John-Henry Westen of LifeSiteNews, and held drives such as Halloween for Humanity during which students picked up supplies for crisis pregnancy centers.
After graduating from Redeemer College in Ancaster, Ont., with a degree in music, Bissonnette moved to the nation’s capital and helped Ottawa Against Abortion with their marketing while teaching music privately. She decided that the music business “wasn’t the scene I wanted to be in” and moved to Hamilton where she worked in real estate. As she was less active in the pro-life movement, she became more drawn to work in it full-time. She approached Hamilton Right to Life to see if there was employment opportunities there and “one thing led to another” and she discovered that Campaign Life Coalition was looking for a temporary replacement for their CLC Youth coordinator position during the pregnancy leave of their current youth leader.
Bissonnette told The Interim CLC Youth wants to reach out to high school and university students and young professionals to “spread the pro-life message and encourage them in activism.” She said her mandate is to get teens and young adults excited about the issue so they become involved in pro-life witness and political activity.
Bissonnette said CLCY will educate youth through presentations at schools and churches, and is just beginning to connect with teachers to arrange speaking engagements at schools which should begin in early 2017.
She said CLCY will also refocus their social media activities to encourage “human interactions.” Bissonnette said the goal is to get youth away from their computers and mobile devices so they can share information directly with others through conversations. She said social media – Facebook, Twitter, and blogs – are good tools to equip people with information, but not necessarily a great way to activate people. She said one new idea is Fact Fridays in which CLCY will disseminate a fact and encourage people to tell one other person about it. We want “to encourage followers to actually converse with other people” including those who might not share their views.”
CLCY will also encourage youth to attend the marches for life in Ottawa and across the country, and find ways to engage them after the event. Bissonnette insists that “the march is not the summit of their yearly pro-life activity,” but admits it will be a challenge to turn students who hold pro-life views into actual pro-life activists.
Lastly, Bissonnette hopes to teach youth how to counsel women thinking about abortion. She said many young people know women vulnerable to the abortion culture and they might be the only person who can help. “Pro-lifers should be taught how to talk a friend out of having a abortion.”
For now, Bissonnette said there is a steep learning curve, beginning with the pro-life 101 presentations she will be giving starting in January.