The biggest topic of discussion at the Alliance for Life national convention in Charlottetown June 24-25 was not on the agenda. It was the statement circulated by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops advising Senators and Members of Parliament that they could support the abortion proposal known as Amendment “A” with a clear conscience.
The two hundred delegates gathered at the University of Prince Edward Island for the joint Alliance for Life/Campaign Life Coalition conference, were stunned and dismayed by the news. “It may be the least objectionable option, but still legalizes the direct, intentional killing of unborn babies,” they exclaimed.
“Do the Bishops realize that in effect they are approving of abortion on demand?” was the incredulous, even bitter question on most lips.
Only hours after the convention opened, officials learned, with dismay, that the unexpected statement signed by Archbishop James Hayes of Halifax. President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) had already been mailed to the Parliamentarians. With a vote expected in a matter of weeks, it was a doubly discouraging development.
The Board members of both organizations immediately plunged into a series of round-the-clock efforts to minimize what seemed like irreparable damage to their efforts to protect the unborn.
Even during the annual meetings, much time was spent trying to develop appropriate responses and courses of action that would not further aggravate the situation. At the executive level, discussions continued for two days following the close of the convention.
This was the first convention held since Campaign Life and Coalition for Life joined forces last year under the title Campaign Life Coalition, to provide a stronger and more unified pro-life voice in the political arena.
The convention also marked the twelfth year of pro-life work by Alliance for Life. As an umbrella organization for 255 pro-life groups, Alliance concentrates on education its members and the general public.
Noting that an unprecedented wave of interest and commitment to the unborn has led to the formation of 17 new pro-life groups across the country in the past few months, Alliance Executive Director, Anna Desilets observed, “People everywhere are hungry to know about the issues.”
Alliance provided a number of fine presentations: Valerie Moore, a Charlottetown lawyer, spoke on the rights of the fetus; Dr. Paul Henteneff, of Winnipeg, on euthanasia; Dr. Malcolm Beck, of Charlottetown, on selective feticide (the use of diagnostic prenatal techniques to facilitate abortion decisions). Other seminars gave excellent suggestions on getting the pro-life story into the classroom, using TV to educate the public and dealing with the media. All are available on tape and well worth obtaining. The political action wing of the pro-life movement, Campaign Life Coalition, concentrated on useful forms of activism and strategies for the coming provincial and federal elections, including ways to educate politicians an evaluate their degree of pro-life commitment.
Several people pointed out that known pro-life parliamentarians received the least mail of all MPs following the Supreme Court decision, which weakened their impact in caucus.
“We absolutely must support them in every way we can. We must also work very hard to get pro-life candidates elected and the competition defeated. It’s not enough to simply vote for them ourselves. We have to go out and persuade others to vote for them too,” said Joe Borowski.
It becomes most important to accurately identify those candidates who are pro-life. Unfortunately, experience shows that neither church affiliation nor past or current involvement with service, fraternal or church organizations is an accurate indication of their true position on the protection of unborn.
James Albers of Alberta and Campaign Life Coalition president, Jim Hughes, advise attending the political meetings and asking blunt questions so the candidates’ answers will be in the public record.
Introduce yourself, then suggest, and ask such questions as “What have you done recently to protect the unborn? What are you prepared to do? Is it true that you don’t protect the rights of the unborn?”
They stress that it is better to ask their position on choice, rather than on pro-life or abortion, because the question does not contain any clue to the candidate as to the expected answer, while the answer does tell the pro-lifer what is needed.
Once elected, Members should be monitored. “Some who identify themselves as pro-life in their constituency, act quite differently in the House as shown by their speeches on important issues and absences for crucial votes,” cautioned several speakers.
For such monitoring, Hansard, the daily verbatim record from the House, is worth the subscription of about 25 dollars per session, they advise.
What if Parliament brings in a bad law in the next few weeks, hoping to ensure that abortion is not an election issue? “It will be up to us to make it an election issue, and to work to defeat every politician who did not vote against it. We can do that, if we want to.”
A delegation from the Canadian Youth Pro-Life Organization (CYPLO) also attended the convention, led by Alex Schadenberg, a second year student at King’s College, Western University, and Edward Kiernan, who will be going into his first year at the same university. “It is essential that Canada’s youth be dynamic and well-informed pro-lifers. It is also important that youth be represented on the board of any pro-life organization that is looking to the future,” they say. They were attempting to establish a branch of CYPLO in P.E.I.
Young or old, experienced or newly active, everyone seemed convinced with Joe Borowski that we may never have another such chance to protect the unborn. They left the convention determined that pro-lifers can and will make a significant political difference in this crucial election.
Newly elected executives
Alliance for Life
President – Heather Stilwell, British Columbia
First Vice-President – Ken Post, S.W. Ontario
Second Vice-President – Marilyn Bergeron, E. Ontario
Secretary – Nina Ross, Nova Scotia
Treasurer – Ann Kiss, Quebec
Other regional representatives:
Lois Morrow, Alberta
Bernadette Mysko, Saskatchewan
Stan Kreitz, Manitoba
Eileen Levasseur, N. Ontario
George Gilmore, New Brunswick
Mona Doiron, Prince Edward Island
Noreen Brien, Newfoundland
Campaign Life Coalition
President – Jim Hughes, Ontario
Past President – Bill Lenihan, Alberta
First Vice-President – Margaret Purcell, Ontario
Second Vice-President – Joe Borowski, Manitoba
Secretary – Winifride Prestwich, Ontario
Treasurer – Stephen Jalsevac, Ontario
Members at large:
Heather Stilwell, British Columbia
Shirley Witt, Ontario
Joe McLellan, Nova Scotia
Alfred Cannon, Prince Edward Island.