Paul Tuns:

On May 9, an estimated 3,500 Canadians took part in the National March for Life in the nation’s capital.

The 27th annual National March for Life’s program, organized by Campaign Life Coalition, ran over four days and including the airing of a new pro-life documentary, a pro-life coffee house, a press conference, a series of masses and church services, the Candlelight Vigil, the rally on Parliament Hill and march through the streets of Ottawa, the Rose Dinner, and Youth Summit.

During the press conference, CLC communications director Pete Baklinksi explained the reason for the March: “(Pro-lifers) come to stand in the place of the preborn child who cannot rally and cannot march,” adding, “it is not just one preborn child, but more than four million whose lives have been tragically snuffed out since abortion first became permitted in 1969.”

The march is held near the anniversary of May 12, 1969 when Pierre Trudeau effectively decriminalized abortion by permitting abortion-on-demand when approved by what CLC has called rubber-stamp therapeutic abortion committees.

The theme of the 2024 National March for Life was “I will never forget you.” At the opening of the rally on Parliament Hill at noon on May 9, Debbie Duval, an organizer with the NMFL committee, said “This is God’s promise to each and every one of us. God made us in His image and likeness, and he will certainly not forget any of us, whether we are just conceived in our mother’s womb, whether we are suffering a health crisis or at the end of our life – He will not forget us. And we know we are still valued and loved and we need to be treated that way.” 

In his opening prayer, Fr. Daniel Szwarc, a priest serving communities in Nunavut for over 15 years, was accompanied by three pro-life volunteers from Naujaat, a town on the Arctic Circle. He asked God to “help us not to be silent, not be passive, and not to be forgetful of the unborn children.”

Following the prayer, Diana Kringayark, described the pro-life ministry with which she volunteers that assists about 40 families every month with the help of Campaign Life Coalition’s Nunavut Campaign.

Ottawa-Cornwall Archbishop Marcel Damphousse welcomed the throng in attendance and called them “champions of life.” He said that God’s promise to never forget helps “reaffirm our unwavering commitment to cherishing and defending the dignity of every human being.” He added: “As we march together, let us carry this message as a beacon of light illuminating the path towards a culture of life and love.” 

CLC national president Jeff Gunnarson, said “Supporting and promoting abortion is more than just ‘wacko’,” referencing Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s recent epithet for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “It is a profoundly evil position to hold.” Gunnarson reminded pro-lifers that the leaders of each of the parties in Parliament “support the killing of tiny, human beings in their mothers’ wombs.” He said “the unborn deserve to live and that is why we march.”

Former Planned Parenthood abortuary director Abby Johnson said that Canadian pro-lifers must heed the only words she understood in the Canadian national anthem, to “stand guard for your citizens who have not yet been born.” Johnson said, “You have to stand up, no matter the cost. Friends, we are not here to compromise on these issues. No compromise, no excuses.”

Johnson also mocked the small counterprotest and asked, “How fair is your Canadian government that this is a March for Life and the government gave them this entire space,” pointing to the third of the Hill that was reserved for a few dozen pro-abortion activists.

United Kingdom cardiologist Dr. Dermot Kearney, who pioneered the abortion pill reversal service in the U.K, spoke about saving dozens of lives. “The message I want to get across to you today is that abortion pill reversal is safe, it is often effective — not always effective — and it is desperately needed.” He said that when a mother takes the two-tablet abortion-pill regimen, there is less than a two per cent chance the child survives. But if she doesn’t take the second pill, the chances the baby survives rises to 20 per cent. If she gets progesterone promptly, there is a survival rate of 55-60 per cent. There are “not very many interventions in medicine” that have “such a success rate in reducing certain death to a very good chance of preserving life.”

Human rights lawyer Lia Milousis, who spoke at the 2009 National March for Life 15 years ago when she was a 12-year-old, returned to the podium to say that she majored in women’s studies and that abortion is “fundamentally premised on an impoverished understanding of women’s equality” because “women’s rights cannot be premised on the destruction and dehumanization of their own children.” She concluded her remarks that “Part of being pro-life is not just being opposed to something, but it is fighting for the inherent value and dignity and quality of every single human life, regardless of age, regardless of ability, regardless of independence, regardless of any of these factors that society says changes one’s value – it is about the inherent dignity of human life.”   

Two Conservative MPs addressed the crowd: Arnold Viersen (Peace River—Westlock) and Cathay Wagantall (Yorkton—Melville). Viersen said the Trudeau government has a “total disregard for life,” noting attempts by the Liberals to expand euthanasia to those suffering solely from mental illness. “Only a common-sense Conservative government would permanently throw out this terrible idea,” he said. Viersen concluded his comments saying, “We are called to protect the dignity of life from conception to natural death because we are all made in the image and likeness of God.”   

Wagantall thanked attendees for their presence on the Hill and for witnessing to the injustice of abortion. “The truth is not being told in general media or in our House of Commons about what abortion really does to your heart and your mind and your soul and your body, let alone to that life that is lost,” she said.

Christian Heritage Party leader Rod Taylor offered remarks closely tied to the march’s theme. Noting that the CHP is the only pro-life federal party, Taylor said, “Some politicians, far too many, have forgotten their responsibility to defend innocent, human life and to protect the next generation.” He continued: “But, God has not forgotten and He never will. Every human being, preborn or elderly, is made in the image of God, and He will never forget them, not even one. You and I are also made in his image. And, as his image bearers, He calls on us to never forget and to continue to defend every innocent human life.”

Deputy supreme director of the Knights of Columbus Arthur Peters highlighted the pro-life work of the Knights, stating the Catholic men’s organization “fights tirelessly through prayer and action” to uphold the sanctity of human life. Angelina Steenstra, the Canadian coordinator for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign – who along with her husband Walter was honoured by having the 2024 March for Life dedicated to them – said do not forget “all our brothers and sisters who died through surgical abortion, chemical abortion, they deserve to be remembered.” She introduced Nathalia Comrie, a young woman who shared her abortion story. Comrie said she was not supported by her family or her boyfriend and she felt coerced by them to have an abortion. “I felt betrayed and abandoned by my family.” She said the abortionist lied to her that everything would “go back to normal” after the abortion but “I felt that part of me died and was left with a hole in my soul.” She felt suicidal and only through the companionship of the Sisters for Life and Silent No More Awareness was she eventually freed of the guilt she felt for killing her preborn child.   

Kevin Dunn of DunnMedia led the crowd in a wave that was broadcast, like the full program, live on EWTN, before Shawn Carney, co-founder of 40 Days for Life who noted this was his 12th National March for Life, closed the rally with speech encouraging pro-lifers to not “shut up and go away” like the government wants them to. “You are allowed to use your free speech to go out and to peacefully offer hope to the women going in for an abortion.” He said the pro-abortion position necessarily entails believers to “reject science … reject reason … reject God.” He urged pro-lifers to put their faith not in politicians but God: “We pin our hope, not to the government, but to the cross. And, It is through the cross that we will be victorious.” He noted one success in Canada: the closing of Clinic 554 in Fredericton. “Ignore the noise, believe in the power of the cross, and end abortion in Canada,” Carney implored the crowd.

In the evening, about 700 people attended the Rose Dinner – which this year included youth as part of its program. Abby Johnson and Shawn Carney took part in a conversation moderated by CLC Atlantic Coordinator Ruth Robert.

There were also regional marches for life in Victoria, Edmonton, Saskatoon, and Steinbach, Manitoba in early May. The first-ever march for life in Quebec City was scheduled for June 1.