Every year since it started in 1997, the National March for Life has grown. In the past three years, it has nearly doubled, from just over 10,000 to 19,500. Organizers say next year, for the first time, they could smash through the 20,000 ceiling and some youth said afterward they want to see 25,000 people on the Hill next year. Yet, Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes said it is hard to imagine a bigger and better demonstration for life than the one he witnessed May 10 this year.
MARCH FOR LIFE PHOTOS – HERE
Hughes told Dunn Media, “when I looked at the crowd, I saw an absolute sea of people.” He said looking at the numbers, and in particular the number of youth, “it looks very positive for the future.” Hughes said the young people’s enthusiasm was “infectious” and that he was excited about youth bringing the pro-life message they heard in Ottawa back to their local communities.
Buses clogged the streets near Parliament Hill as they dropped off students from schools, activists from pro-life groups, and the pro-life faithful from church groups across the province. Right to Life Kent sent two full buses from Chatham – the 120 people doubling the 60 they brought in 2011 – that departed at midnight and arrived at 7 am to allow some sight-seeing in the nation’s capital before the formal program began at 12:30 pm. The Hamilton-Wentworth school board sent three full buses with Don Hall, a chaplain at St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School in Hamilton, telling The Interim they had to turn away people who wanted to come to the March.
About 20 MPs were present on the podium although not all them spoke. Four bishops, several pastors, the evening program’s two speakers, and pro-life leaders including Hughes and LifeSiteNews managing director Steve Jalsevac addressed the crowd before the women from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and Knights of Columbus led the hour-long procession through the streets of Ottawa. The last group was leaving Parliament Hill as the beginning of the march was returning to the lawn in front of the legislature.
Don Hutchinson, vice president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, opened with a prayer calling for God’s blessing on the march and for the protection of the unborn, who are created by and in the image of God. (See page 12 for the text of Hutchinson’s prayer.)
The MPs were introduced by former Liberal and independent MP Pat O’Brien before they made their remarks. Pointing to a third of the lawn on the Hill cordoned off for a few dozen pro-abortion supporters, O’Brien said, “pro-abortion people get space out here,” and then turning and pointing to the Parliament buildings, continued, “we want time in here” to debate abortion.
Garry Breitkreuz (CPC, Yorkton-Melville), a frequent speaker at the March, said, “I’ve been a member of Parliament for 18 years. This is one of the largest rallies I’ve seen on Parliament Hill. You are to be congratulated.” Rod Bruinooge (CPC, Winnipeg South), the chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, endorsed Breitkreuz’s observation. Kevin Sorenson (CPC, Crowfoot) said he was “glad to see” the large crowd and was “honoured” to join them. Senator Norman Doyle (CPC, Newfoundland and Labrador) congratulated the throng for taking a stand against abortion and acknowledged a group in the crowd that came from his home province for the March. Wladyslaw Lizon (CPC, Mississauga East-Cooksville) said he shared the pro-life convictions of the assembled mass of people and called for his fellow Poles from Saint Maximilian Kolbe parish in Mississauga to make some noise – which they did. Fellow rookie MP Lawrence Toet (CPC, Elmwood-Transcona) said, “I support you 100 per cent.”
Mark Warawa (CPC, Langley) said, “I have a dream, and that’s that we respect, in Canada, life from conception to natural death.” Stella Ambler (Mississauga South) said, “I am also here to say that, as with most Canadians, it does no Canadian credit that there’s no law in Canada on abortion.” She thanked the crowd for taking part in the March. (To read Ambler’s full remarks, see p. 12.) David Anderson (Cyprus Hills-Grasslands): “You must continue this fight, you can see that it is only when the 70 per cent across this country who want protection for the unborn step forward, the government will have the courage to actually deal with this issue.” He said it was encouraging to MPs to see such large numbers on the Hill in support of life.
Harold Albrecht (CPC, Kitchener-Conestoga) supported Stephen Woodworth’s private member’s motion (M-312) that would have Parliament look at the humanity of the unborn child for the purpose of possibly amending the Criminal Code. Albrecht insisted “we need to have this conversation” and urged people to “engage friends and family.”
When Woodworth came to the podium, hands held high, he was treated to an ovation like he was a rock star. He thanked the crowd for their support and encouraged them to contact their MPs to urge them to support M-312. He concluded by thanking everyone for their efforts and to “keep up the good work.”
O’Brien thanked and congratulated the MPs, saying, “it takes courage to come out and be here.”Some MPs who did not speak to the crowd, nonetheless met with pro-lifers who made the trek to Ottawa. Right to Life Kent outreach coordinator Pamela Bauer told The Interim that Conservative MP Dave van Kesteren (Chatham-Kent-Essex) met with a some of the group that made the seven-hour bus-ride earlier that day.
Bruce Clemenger, president of the EFC, said that contrary to elite opinion, the abortion issue is not settled. “You have heard it said that the debate over the protection of the unborn is over,” he said. “I say look at this crowd.” Clemenger added, “we cannot afford not to have the conversation,” saying politicans need to “catch up with what Canadians believe.”
Alissa Golob, coordinator for Campaign Life Coalition Youth, said “the debate is on.”
Bishop Noel Simard of Valleyfield (Quebec), Archbishop Gerald Lacroix of Quebec City, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Bishop Nicola De Angelis, Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe of Thunder Bay, and Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto also spoke on the Hill before taking part in the march. Cardinal Collins said: “We treasure life. It is a gift; it is something that we need to stand up for … we need to encourage all people to see this precious gift.”
Montreal Archbishop Christian Lupine also attended the pro-life Mass at Notre Dame.
Fr. Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International, welcomed his “fellow pro-life warriors” as he said “your voices make a difference.” Stephen Mosher, president of the Population Research Insitute and the keynote speaker for that evening’s Rose Dinner, brought “greetings from pro-lifers around the world.” He noted the youthful vibrancy of the pro-life movement and then said: “Look at the multitude around you. Look at the young, look at the strong, look at your numbers. Now look at the thin, graying ranks of our opposition; which seems to have disappeared entirely.” He said it must stop being “open season on the unborn.”
Stephen Jalsevac, managing editor of LifeSiteNews.com, said the pro-life message is one of truth, justice, and charity. “Your signs tell the truth about these terrible realities, the harm that it does to women, the damage that this culture of death does to our entire society,” he said. “Hold those signs high with determination.”
Kevin Dunn of Dunn Media asked the crowd to hold their signs high, too, but for a different purpose. He wanted to film the crowd doing a pro-life wave. Hughes told The Interim “that was an incredible sight from the stage.” It can be seen as part of the seven-minute video Dunn Media produced that can be accessed on YouTube.New media was a big part of this year’s March. Dunn’s daughter Kathleen encouraged people to put the pro-life message on social media, CLC asked for people to send contact information and donate by texting LIFE to (647) 931-6778, and CLC Youth had a contest for the best video from the 2012 March. Hundreds of tweets provided instant feedback through the #M4L2012 hashtag while participants were on the Hill.
Angelina Steenstra of Silent No More reminded those in attendance that “abortion hurts everyone.” This year, approximately a third of the crowd remained after the March, to hear a number of men and women provide their abortion testimonies. Steenstra told The Interim that four individuals were telling their personal abortion stories and the toll it had on their lives for the first time on the Hill.
A Ukrainian Catholic Moleben prayer service closed the events on the Hill.
Although some in the media downplayed the number attending, even noting that the crowd seemed smaller than the 15,300 who attended in 2011, some outlets such as QMI (the Sun newspaper chain) corrected stories submitted early, before the full crowd assembled.
The evening before the March, there was a record-breaking crowd of 800 people at the Candlelight Vigil at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument. On the morning of the March, there were Masses and prayer services held at various churches across the city. The Reformed prayer service at the First Baptist Church John Diefenbaker used to attend attracted 300 participants; they planned for 200.In the evening, about 500 people attended the Rose Dinner where Mosher spoke about Red China`s one-child policy and the growing problem of gendercide, which has found its way to Canada. Across the hall from the Rose Dinner, 800 students attended the Youth Banquet where they heard an inspirational talk by keynote speaker Rev. Patrick Mahoney, president of the Christian Defense Coalition.
On May 11, most of the youth who attended the banquet attended the Youth Conference where they heard various speakers including Mosher, CLC Youth’s Alissa Golob, and LifeSiteNews.com’s John-Henry Westen. Speakers focused on providing information that students could take back to their communities to better articulate the pro-life message and become more active in the cause.
Hughes told The Interim that besting the size and enthusiasm of the 2012 March “will prove a daunting task.” He said to do so, teachers, pro-life organizations, and church groups will have to begin planning for 2013 right away. “The best promoters of the National March for Life are those who have experienced it and share it with friends, family, and colleagues.”