Yellowknife is a thriving community of 15,000 located on Great Slave lake, 960 kilometers north of Edmonton. The are is characterized by low rock outcrops and stunted trees. Summers are warm but January temperatures range from –33 to –25 degrees Celsius.
The city has nine schools, many social agencies and at least 13 religious denominations. It is a centre for mining, transportation, communications and tourism.
As the capital of the North-west Territories, it is also the seat of government for 54,000 people scattered across a land mass one-third the total area of Canada. Liberal Ethel Blondin is the local Member of Parliament.
Such a northern location makes for hardy and resourceful people, but does not protect them from the social problems afflicting the rest of Canada. Yellowknife has pregnancy rate 3.5 time national average among women aged 15-19, and Canada’s highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases.
The city’s 135-bed hospital is the abortion centre for all the Northwest territories, doing about 300 a year. It has recently received national attention because of callous treatment of abortion patients.
Yellowknife’s pro-life force is tiny- about eight active members with additional help for specific projects.
Linda Wood gives many of the talks. Four members pay special attention to issues involving problem teenagers, special-needs children, home schoolers, and the local Women’s centre.
“But when we decide to do something, we can count on everyone to pull together and do their part,” says Julianne Hamer. She explains that since 1988, they have held a Walk for Life on Mother’s Day. “We don’t carry placards, but we do walk past the hospital where abortions are done,” she says. Their purpose is to raise funds to send members to conferences and to increase public awareness of pro-life issues. This year they raised over $2,000.
The Mother’s Day project has continued to evolve. This year, thanks to a joint effort by Teen Aid and Pro-Life, it became a week-long “ Celebrate life” Conference, featuring the dynamic Toronto youth counselor and chastity promoter Bev Hadland. There was also a Saturday night banquet, the customary Mother’s Day walk, and a family picnic.
Evenings, Bev Hadland spoke in five different churches. She discussed single parenting and adoption, post-abortion trauma, peer pressure and chastity, chastity as God’s law.
Days were devoted to prearranged school visits. St. Patrick’s Junior-Senior High School accepted Miss Hadland warmly. To the dismay of parents mindful of the high pregnancy and STD rates, the public schools were less cooperative. One school left her to announce herself on the PA system at noon. Another refused to let her speak to their students until after school closing on Friday.
A local editorial ridiculed the notion of trying to sell a chastity message to teens. Indigent parents responded. The unexpected outcome was an invitation for Bev Hadland to spend Friday with the students in Fort Rae (a Dene community of 1,200 people, 100 kilometers further north), who received her gladly.
She also conducted two Saturday workshops at the Women’s Centre, one on sexual abuse and one on post abortion trauma.
As always, Bev Hadland really reached people. The banquet was sold out- 150 people, half teens and university students.
(They gave Linda Wodd a tip for other organizers: “In future, go directly to the student councils and get tem to back such talks in the schools. Kids have clout these days.”)
Pro-lifer Hanny Hartery feels that the group’s success reflects their decision to pay more attention to prayer, “a resource too often over-looked,” she notes.
“When our group began to include more prayer, things began to go much better,” she says. “We now have half an hour of prayer before our meetings, and members try to spend half an hour each day in some form of prayer. Since including God more in our work, all kinds of good things have happened.”