Rita Burnie

Rita Burnie, who with her sisters Helen (deceased) and Mary, long served in the frontlines of the Canadian pro-life movement. She passed away last Dec. 13th. Burnie, a nurse, had been active in the pro-life movement since 1984 when she first picketed Morgentaler’s newly opened Toronto abortuary. “I went in to nursing to save lives,” Burnie is quoted as saying Grace Petrasek’s book in Silhouette’s Against the Snow: Profiles of Canadian Defenders of Life, “No doctor or nurse has the right to kill. Abortion is followed eventually by euthanasia.”

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, remembers the enthusiasm of the three Burnie sisters for the pro-life effort, which he credits to their strong Irish Catholic roots. Of Rita he told The Interim, “At times they thought she was the quietest and perhaps not full of the same enthusiasm as her two sisters were, but she was solid in her faith, and she was absolutely sure that the battle for the protection for the unborn child was the most important thing facing society today.”

Of her salty personality Hughes commented, “Her sisters would make a strong statement and then she would put an exclamation mark on it with an even more pungent additional
line… She was terrific.”

Burnie displayed an impressive commitment to the pro-life cause. Among her activities, Burnie often picketed abortuaries, attended pro-life conferences, and took part in Life Chain and the rosary walk for life. “She was there every time we (CLC) had a function,” said Hughes. She contributed financially, wrote hundreds of thank-you notes with her sister Helen on behalf of CLC, and wrote letters to the editor and religious leaders. Said Hughes, “I can remember when the archdiocese of Toronto called me and said ‘How come you got the same person writing in using three different initials from the same address on Dovercourt?” And I said, ‘They’re not the same person they’re three sisters and they’re all just as feisty.

Hughes said Rita “was a wonderful example to everyone, and she will be greatly missed.”