Paul Tuns:

Campaign Life Coalition said 5000-6000 people participated in the National March for Life through the streets of the nation’s capital on May 11, and many others also attended the week’s numerous events including a screening and panel discussion of the documentary Roe Canada: The True North in a Post-Roe World, songs for life coffee house, the Candlelight Vigil,  pro-life church services throughout the city, the Rose Dinner, Youth Banquet, and Youth Summit.

Despite difficulties and obstacles – many schools and school boards no longer sending buses of students to the March for Life and youth conference, a small counter-protest was given half of the field in front of Parliament Hill, buses being banned from parking near Parliament, and the closure of public restrooms on the  Parliament Buildings and across the street at the Visitor’s Centre — organizing committee member Debbie Duval said she was pleased with the program and attendance. “Another success,” she told The Interim as the program on the Hill concluded following the prayer service led the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute. (Retired journalist Deborah Gyapong tweeted, “the government shut down all public washrooms in the vicinity. Shades of treatment of Truckers. The Liberal regime hates Canadian citizens who disagree with them.”)

On May 10, CLC held a press conference, taking note of the central pro-life battles in Canada in recent years. Prior to the press conference, CLC was told by a Parliament liaison officer, that the organization could not use images showing abortion victim photography.

At the Candlelight Vigil the night before the March for Life, speakers included a representative from a pregnancy care centre who talked about saving babies, a former abortionist about the redeeming power of Jesus Christ, and a mother who sought an abortion but changed her mind (she was joined on the stage by her infant child).

On May 11, as the crowd assembled before the March for Life, Campaign Life Coalition president Jeff Gunnarson, greeted pro-lifers and noted the fight to restore legal protection for the preborn is God’s battle. “We’re His soldiers,” and in the end victory is guaranteed. He said that the pro-life movement needed God’s armour to “stand firm” against abortion and euthanasia, nodding to the theme for the 2023 March for Life. LifeSiteNews editor-in-chief John-Henry Westen told the crowd, “Wow, there’s a lot of you today.” Westen led the crowd in a “wave” to honour “Jesus Christ, who we know is the Victor and will bring us to victory for life in Canada and around the world.”

The organizing committee decided on Stand Firm as the theme for the March to remind the movement to steel itself for the upcoming battles to protect innocent human life in Canada, especially considering the Trudeau government’s radical pro-abortion agenda following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States last June, and its steady liberalizing of Canada’s already broad euthanasia laws.

Josie Luetke, director of education and advocacy for CLC, told the crowd, “The most basic function of a society is to stop its members from killing each other.” She added, “Canada must end abortion and euthanasia, or we will live only to see our civilization die,” and told the rally on Parliament Hill, “We can follow in the footsteps of the United States, which over-turned Roe v. Wade after a nearly 50-year-long battle. We too can experience a triumph like Dobbs. It will not be easy, but it is possible.”

Other speakers included 40 Days for Life director Stephen Karlen, Conservative MP and chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus Arnold Viersen, a mother who chose life for her child, and others.

Former U.S. abortionist Haywood Robinson, wore a burgundy t-shirt with the message, “Abortion kills trees — family trees.” He said that the battle to restore legal protection for the preborn is not only a cultural and political fight, but a spiritual one, too. Robinson, who killed thousands of preborn in his 40-year career as an abortionist, said the only reason he killed them was money. But he said the pro-life movement has something stronger than money — “Jesus is leading this battle and you can’t lose with the stuff He used,” he told the cheering crowd.

Joining the March for Life was Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine and Ottawa-Cornwall Archbishop Marcel Damphousse, several current and former MPs, Lutherans for Life, and members of the Knights of Columbus and Catholic Women’s League, as well as student groups from universities in Barry’s Bay and Waterloo.

During the march, one group chanted, “I’m a child, not a choice; represent me, be my voice.”

After the procession through the streets of Ottawa, most attendees remained to listen to the presentation of Silent No More Awareness testimonies.

Archbishop Damphousse told EWTN, which was livestreaming the event, “We need to stand firm together,” echoing the theme. “We need to be able to tell the government that there are many other options than what they’re proposing as to how we are to treat mothers who are expecting and people at the end of life who are really finding it challenging. To tell them that the only way is through death is such a horrible message to give.”

CLC said on a blog posted the day of the March for Life of the video, “You couldn’t miss the optimism and enthusiasm on the faces of everyone in the crowd. There was a real sense of faith and hope in the Lord that day, and a realization that the pro-life movement is rooted in God through prayer, sacrifice, and joy.”

A time-lapse video of the March for Life is available on the CLC website and CLC’s YouTube channel, so those who could not attend can get a sense of the size and spirit of the event.

At the Rose Dinner, there were presentations about pro-life activities across Canada, followed by keynote speaker Dr. Calum Miller, a medical doctor and Oxford University research associate. Afterward, a panel of current and retired medical practitioners discussed abortion. Miller rebutted numerous pro-abortion myths using official and pro-abortion statistics, notably that few women give fully informed consent to killing their preborn children, even when the law requires it. Miller also pointed out that pro-life electoral and legal victories are possible, noting not only the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States but the rejection of a pro-abortion constitutional reform and election of a pro-life majority to rewrite the constitution in Chile.

Across the hallway in the conference centre, a full room heard Isabel Brown of Turning Point USA address the Youth Banquet, sponsored by Niagara Region Right to Life (NRRL).

On May 12, there was a “Stand for Life” youth summit, hosted by CLC and NRRL. The program included numerous workshops and featured two speakers, Miller and Autumn Higashi of Students for Life America.

CLC stated in its blogpost, “the 2023 National March for Life was a success, and now it’s time to bring that same optimism and enthusiasm back to our local communities.”

Last month, there were also marches for life in provincial capitals, although some were held later in May.

In Victoria, B.C., the crowd heard from Vancouver’s Catholic Archbishop J. Michael Miller, Christian Heritage Party leader Rod Taylor, Delta Hospice Society president, Angelina Ireland, Life Renewal executive director Rev. Theo Lodder, Students for Life spokesman Autumn Higashi, and pro-life speaker and author Jonathan Van Maren.

In Edmonton, about 800 people attended the March for Life and organizers had their first Rose Dinner, at which Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director Alex Schadenberg spoke.

Halifax and St. John’s held their marches for life on May 20. About 60 Nova Scotians met after Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica in Halifax and marched to Province House.

Numbers were not available for the Newfoundland and Labrador March for Life but an organizer told The Interim they were outnumbered ten to one by counter-protesters, and some pro-lifers stayed after the event to “dialogue with them.” Michelle Lowe, a board member of Nova Scotians United for Life and a facilitator of Project Rachel, was the guest speaker in St. John’s.

New Brunswick held their march for Life in Fredericton on May 25, after The Interim went to press.

Marches for life were also held in Regina, Winnipeg, and Toronto. There was no march for life in Quebec or Prince Edward Island this year.