Hundreds of tourists stopped and stared at the 50 small white crosses with flowers and baby toys strewn among them. It was at this location 25 years ago that the Omnibus Bill was passed which legalized abortion in Canada and pro-lifers from all over the Ottawa area had come to Parliament Hill to mourn.
The faces of the tourists who passed the “Memorial to the Unborn,” wore expressions of sadness, wonder and thoughtfulness. There was no anger and little ridicule directed at the mourners who stood around the crosses and whispered or fell to their knees in solemn prayer. It was a setting that demanded a respectful countenance, even for those who didn’t understand or agree with the message.
Campaign Life Coalition-Ottawa Carleton which organized the “Day of Mourning” on Parliament Hill intentionally stayed away from large rallies and loud speeches. “We didn’t want to have to play the numbers game,” said organizer, Annette MacDonald. “We wanted to have a powerful, solemn presence on the Hill for the whole day that would evoke sorrow, but wouldn’t depend on how many people attended.”
The memorial was erected for eight hours. It included small white crosses and large banners in English and French which read, “We Mourn 25 Years of Abortion. 1969-1994.” A smaller sign read, “These crosses are in memory of the 1.5 million babies who have died from abortion since 1969, in Canada,”
Ottawa area pro-lifers were asked to come to the Hill and sign a Memorial book and bring flowers or a baby momento to lay among the crosses as symbols of mourning. Ottawa City Councilman Jack Mackinnon played the bagpipes and Glen Harder, a local pro-life activist, provided soulful melodies on his violin.
One of the first visitors to the Memorial was Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais accompanied by a Bishop from Africa. Other dignitaries included Anglican Catholic Bishop Robert Mercer and Liberal MPs Tom Wappel and Jesse Flis. Over 700 people signed the Memorial book throughout the day, including many tourists. Campaign Life Coalition will present the signatures to Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
Some of the items people brought to lay among the crosses included baby booties, rattles, pacifiers and toys as well as baby photos and hand-written prayers and poems. One young mother placed on a cross an ultrasound picture of her son at 23 weeks beside a picture of the same son at two years old. There were many notes asking God’s forgiveness for the sin of abortion as well as a personal letter from a woman who had had an abortion. By the end of the day the area was filled with flowers including a wreath made up especially for the occasion by Nurses for Life.
One of the aspects of the event which organizers did not anticipate was the number of people who shed tears. It appeared that many people who have been personally touched by the tragedy of abortion used the “Day of Mourning” as a true memorial—a place and opportunity to express personal sorrow and seek healing and comfort.
The event’s positive impact prompted many pro-lifers to ask that the “Day of Mourning” take place on Parliament Hill every year until abortion is once again made illegal.