Long-time Campaign Life Coalition Saskatchewan president Denise Hounjet-Roth passed away on August 25 at the age of 59 after a long battle with cancer.
Hounjet-Roth was a French Immersion teacher for 30 years, including 28 with Saskatoon Catholic Schools. Since 1989 she also served as president of CLC Sask. Her obituary noted, “It was a calling she had to help the most defenceless of human life; the preborn child.”
CLC national president Jim Hughes said that Hounjet-Roth “revitalized the provincial chapter” in the Prairie province and was a driving force behind Liberals for Life in 1990 and the 1991 abortion funding referendum in Saskatchewan.
Hughes recalled that the entire Liberal delegation from Saskatchewan supported pro-life MP Tom Wappel in 1990 when he ran against Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, and Sheila Copps for the Liberal leadership. Indeed, Hounjet-Roth said that meeting Wappel is what motivated her to get involved in the political arm of the pro-life movement. After meeting him at a CLC strategy weekend, “We would work at signing up members to the Liberal party, get them elected as delegates to the leadership convention and vote Tom Wappel in as leader and our pro-life work would be done.” It did not quite work out that way, but Wappel’s fourth-place finish – after Chretien reportedly gave some of his delegates to Copps so she wouldn’t finish behind the pro-life MP – did not discourage the Saskatoon activist.
When Saskatchewan premier Grant Devine made public the fact the province would hold a referendum on abortion funding in 1991, Hounjet-Roth was among the pro-life and religious leaders attending the announcement. CLC and other pro-life groups had been lobbying for the defunding referendum. On October 21, 1991, 62.7 per cent of the province opposed abortion funding, voting “no” on the question, “Should the government of Saskatchewan pay for abortion procedures?” Just 37.3 per cent voted “yes.”
Hounjet-Roth was involved in every facet of pro-life activism, including LifeChains, 40 Hours for Life, and hosting Crossroads walkers. The focus was politics, however, because she knew pro-lifers had to be elected to get pro-life laws passed. She would door-knock and leaflet for pro-life candidates to help them get nominated and elected. She met future pro-life MP Brad Trost door-knocking for Maurice Vellacott.
In March of this year as Hounjet-Roth was battling cancer, Trost (Saskatoon-University) stood in the House of Commons to praise her. He said: “Denise is known for volunteering countless hours working with Campaign Life Coalition and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, praying in front of hospitals and organizing demonstrations to support the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.” Trost continued, “This passion has also led her to an active role in politics, first with the Liberals for Life campaign and then later with the Conservative campaigns in Saskatoon.”
Hughes told The Interim that Hounjet-Roth’s pro-life activism was “deeply rooted in her strong faith.” Asked earlier this year why she perseveres in pro-life work, she said her Dutch roots gave her a stubborn streak. But more seriously, she said, “I am going to have to face the Lord one day and He is going to ask what did you do, what did you do for my little ones? I better have an answer.”
Hounjet-Roth was born in Prud’homme, Saskatchewan in May 1957. She is survived by her husband of 34 years, Louis, and her sons Fr. Gregory and Jonathan, (Liz), granddaughter Olivia, and mother Alice.