Damian Goddard, fired from his sports broadcasting job for supporting traditional marriage, tells the Pro-life Forum banquet that they need to spread the pro-life and pro-family message.

Participants at the Toronto Pro-Life Forum were informed, inspired, and, organizers hope, activated, after a weekend of listening to pro-life and pro-family speakers explain what is happening politically and culturally and challenging both youth and movement veterans to speak up and defend their moral values.

In 2011, Campaign Life Coalition increased the number of regional and provincial conferences in order to reach more people and get them involved in grassroots activism. The Toronto Pro-Life Forum is the largest of these events, which have been held in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, as well as numerous Ontario cities including London and Kingston and, later this year, Sudbury, Ajax, and Kitchener.

These events feature Campaign Life Coalition experts and local activists and sometimes a featured guest or keynote speaker. Last year, the Pro-Life Forum banquet speaker was Sun News Network host Brian Lilley. This year, Damian Goddard, a sports broadcaster fired from Rogers SportsNet for endorsing traditional marriage, was the keynote speaker at the banquet on June 15.

As Goddard explained, in 2011, he had the day off and was watching sports coverage with his children when a controversy was reported about NHL player agent Todd Reynolds making statements in favour of traditional marriage of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Goddard went to his personal computer and tweeted (posting a comment on a social media website) support for both Reynolds and traditional marriage. He wrote: “I completely and whole-heartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage.” He did not think this was controversial, but he wanted to show support for Reynolds because he was being vilified in the media.

His employers at Rogers SportsNet, however, had a different view. They immediately distanced themselves from Goddard’s words by issuing their own statement on Twitter that Goddard’s views were his own and did not represent those of the company. Goddard was called into work on his off-day. He was fired for expressing an opinion on his own time, an opinion that was until 2004, the law of the land.

Goddard has since become a spokesman for the Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance in the United States. He has also become more active in pro-life and pro-family circles, including speaking at the Toronto Pro-Life Forum.

After describing how he saw his “career blown up” for speaking what he considered the truth, he urged people to stand up for their beliefs. He said, “be that person to take up the argument in conversations about marriage and abortion” because “it is our job as Christians to spread the word of God.”

While he said he wishes he did not lose his “nice job” as a sports broadcaster, he said would do it again and he is pleased to be able to promoting moral truths. Noting that one National Post sportswriter called his tweet in support of marriage “notoriously unwise,” Goddard replied: “if standing up for marriage is unwise, then I hope I would be notorious for it.”

Saying it has not always been easy since being fired, Goddard said: “We suffer. Big deal.”

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim he enjoyed Goddard’s speech and that his message echoed the words he often shares when he speaks to pro-lifers: “it is a privilege to share a splinter of the Lord’s cross to do his work.” Hughes said “it is not always easy to go out and speak up for the unborn or to defend real marriage or to stand up for what’s right,” but added that “Goddard’s inspirational message might serve notice to us all that we must defend what’s right and good and just.”

Early in his speech, Goddard led the crowd in a rendition of the hymn “Be Not Afraid” and asked the audience how many times Scripture alludes to God’s message that His followers should not be afraid? The answer: 365. “Do you think He’s trying to tell us something,” Goddard asked.

During the Saturday presentations, the focus was more on education than inspiration. Campaign Life Coalition’s Matt Wojciechowski and Jack Fonseca told about the anti-life and anti-family agendas being pushed at the United Nations and Ontario schools, respectively.

Wojciechowski explained that Canada “is a leader in promoting the Culture of Death” at the international level and has been for decades. He said it is important that CLC send young pro-lifers to international conferences to present an alternate view to the official pro-abortion position of the Canadian delegation and to counter the anti-life and anti-family activism of pro-abortion non-governmental organizations such as Planned Parenthood International. He also said that youth need to share information with their peers about what’s going on at the UN and “educate their fellow Canadians.”

Fonseca outlined the major problems with Bill 13, the government’s so-called anti-bullying initiative that pushes a radical sexual agenda. He said “Bill 13 has always been about a sexual agenda, not creating safe schools.” He said that the pro-gay “indoctrination” that will occur in schools will undermine parental authority and religious teaching. “Dalton McGuinty is not content to be a political leader, but wants to be our moral and spiritual leader, too,” Fonseca warned. The CLC point man on Bill 13, Fonseca quoted a number of NDP and Liberal politicians who have made it clear that there will be no accommodation of religious and conscience rights in the schools. He noted that Glen Murray, the Minister for Universities and Colleges, read from the Catechism of the Catholic Church during the Bill 13 debates and then stated: “I say to you bishops, you can’t do that anymore.”

Mary Ellen Douglas, president of Campaign Life Coalition Ontario, got up to the microphone on the floor and said, the speakers “frightened the creepers out of us” but that they should also spur people to action.

Alissa Golob, coordinator for Campaign Life Coalition Youth, spoke about graphic images and their political and educational purposes. John-Henry Westen, editor and co-founder of LifeSiteNews.com, explained how their journalistic mission is to “keep readers abreast of everything that is happening,” and to do so by speaking the “truth in love.” Christina Alaimo, a coordinator of the Toronto 40 Days for Life, talked about the campaign’s success and the importance of providing assistance to abortion-minded women. Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, talked about how the issue of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is being advanced through the courts following legislative defeats. He focused on the Carter decision in British Columbia (see page 2) that was brought down the day before.

There were 130 people at the banquet on the Friday evening and 100 people at the Forum on the Saturday. Organizers estimate that about one-quarter of those in attendance were high school or university students.