At least 15,000 Canadians attended the March for Marriage on Parliament Hill April 9 to let politicians and the public know that the definition of marriage is not to be tinkered with. Some estimates put the number as high as 20,000.
Despite some media reports that just 4,000 people took part in the march, the CBC surprisingly reported the RCMP estimate of 15,000, the same number the police told organizers. John Pacheco, the principal organizer of the march, wrote to the CanWest news service regarding its report that said just 4,000 participated in the march.
“I do not understand how such distortion can further your credibility with thousands of residents of Ottawa who were there and know the truth,” wrote Pacheco. “And it was a slap in the face to the thousands who travelled … from all parts of Ontario and Quebec to attend the rally.”
While addressing the throng, Presbyterian minister Rev. Tristan Emmanuel turned to reporters who were there and said: “I have a message for you. I challenge you to be the media of the people. Be the media of the people, not the media who seek to impose (a) liberal agenda. I challenge you to report that thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands showed up on this historic day to defend marriage.”
The crowd roared, but his warnings were not heeded as most of the media ignored the march or failed to relay much more than the partisan criticisms of Prime Minister Paul Martin by Conservative leader Stephen Harper.
Among the speakers were political and religious leaders including Emmanuel, who also heads the Equipping Christians for the Public Square Centre, Canada Family Action Coalition president Dr. Charles McVety, Ottawa Roman Catholic Archbishop Marcel Gervais, and Rev. Dominic Tse of the Chinese Christian community, Crossroads Christian Communications founder David Mainse, Imam Dr. Gamal Soleiman of the Ottawa Islamic community, Sikh leader Amarjit Singh Mann of the Ontario Gurdwaras Committee, Father Rueiss Awad of the Coptic Orthodox church, and Father Peter Chin of the Toronto Chinese Catholic Taskforce on Marriage. As well as Harper, Conservative MP and former Alliance leader Stockwell Day, Liberal MP Pat O’Brien and Conservative Senator Anne Cools were there. O’Brien told the crowd, “This is the largest protest I have ever seen on Parliament Hill.”
Tse said, “The Chinese community is solidly against Bill C-38, because marriage is such a central institution for the Chinese culture in general and we don’t want the government or courts to touch this definition of marriage.” Tse estimated that 2,000-3,000 Chinese Christians attended the march.
The crowd was certainly one of the most diverse ever to demonstrate on the Hill. In addition to the Chinese community, approximately 500 Sikhs and several thousand Muslims took part.
Despite the gravity of the issue concerning the demonstrators, Imam Soleiman incited mass laughter as he brought the central issue of the debate into focus, noting that in all his 78 years of life, he had never seen “an ox jump another ox”.
Gervais warned that the religious rights of Canadians were being threatened and pointed to the fact that Calgary Bishop Fred Henry is facing an Alberta Human Rights Commission hearing because he spoke out against gay “marriage.”
Gervais joined other religious leaders in calling for MPs to defeat Bill C-38, the government’s same-sex “marriage” legislation.
Emmanuel also exhorted Martin to follow the example of Pope John Paul II, who was buried in Rome the day before.
“If you really, truly, respect Pope John Paul II,” Emmanuel said, “then I can think of no better way for you to pay your last respects than to listen to his instructions on the nature of marriage and forsake Bill C-38.”