Editor’s Note: Campaign Life Coalition has commissioned a series of interviews and articles to help mark the 35 years since the beginning of Campaign Life in 1978. Previous interviews included Fr. Ian Boyd and former MPs Garnet Bloomfield and Tom Wappel. This month, CLC interviewed members of the board of Business for Life.
For many years, Campaign Life Coalition attempted to establish a business organization to advise it on business matters and to provide funding. CLC national president Jim Hughes enlisted the help of Fr. Ted Colleton to bring together some of his business friends and acquaintances to see if anything like this could be accomplished. One Sunday while speaking at the Masses at a church in Chepstow, Ont., Fr. Ted’s homily touched the hearts of some sitting in the pews. That homily lead to a breakfast gathering with some members of that congregation, which later lead to the first meeting of pro-life business professionals in Toronto on a cold night in January 1989. This month, Business for Life will be celebrating 25 years of their commitment to the Canadian pro-life movement.
Since it’s inception, Business for Life has involved dozens of members across Ontario. These pro-life business men and women held monthly strategy meetings in various communities that have resulted in numerous fundraising projects to provide financial assistance to the life-saving work of Campaign Life Coalition.
One of the first projects they took on was funding monthly dinners for the parliamentary pro-life caucus in Ottawa which Campaign Life Coalition had established two years prior to Business for Life being formed. In the ensuing years, Business for Life also took on the responsibility of paying for the distribution of The Interim newspaper in Southwestern Ontario, including publishing a newsletter insert in every issue for several years. The many and varied companies which they were associated with continue to place advertisements in The Interim and other pro-life publications.
For more than two decades, through projects such as golf-tournaments (including co-sponsoring the annual Rita and Ray Holmes Memorial Golf Classic), informational meetings, dinners (including the first Fr. Ted Colleton Dinner that drew hundreds of people), and a concert with globally known and Juno Award recipients Leahy family, Business for Life has thus far helped raise more than $5 million dollars for the pro-life cause.
Locally, they have invited world-renowned speakers to community pro-life events which help not only raise much-needed funds but also raise awareness about life and family issues in Canada and around the world.
In the past, some of the their guest speakers included: Dr. Denis Culver, an expert on pain management who as a licensed anesthetist refused to participate in abortion procedures; Eric Mcluhan, internationally acclaimed author and lecturer on communications and media; Dr. Clement Persaud, a microbiologist and expert on stem cells; William Gairdner, a former Canadian Olympian, poet and author of The Trouble with Canada and The War Against the Family; John Henry Westen, co-founder of LifeSiteNews.com; Carolyn Evert, former abortion mill owner; Helen Walsh, mother and activist who walked across the country in 1988 spreading the pro-life message; Angela Costigan, a long-time lawyer and pro-life advocate; Joe Borowski, former Member of Manitoba’s Legislative Assembly, NDP Cabinet Minister and life-long pro-life activist and advisor to Campaign Life Coalition; Stockwell Day, former leader of the Canadian Alliance Party of Canada (now the Conservative Party of Canada); other political leaders from the Family Coalition Party and the Christian Heritage Party.
When Campaign Life Coalition, The Interim and Catholic Insight moved their Toronto offices from Dundas Street to around the corner on Bond Street, members of Business for Life personally did most of the miraculous, heavy labour work required to transform a dark and decrepit warehouse space, not used for 25 years, into the new CLC offices. They also donated most of the building materials required for this transformation. The resulting functional office space has accommodated more than 50 staffers and hundreds of interns and volunteers over the years. They didn’t just stop at renovating offices. One year, a BFL member bought property and built a house, and after paying himself and his workers a laborers wage, donated the $25,000 profit from the sale of the house to the pro-life cause.
When Therese Weiler walked from Newfoundland to British Columbia between April 1992 and August 1993 to raise awareness of pro-life efforts, Business for Life provided the financial backing for the walk, including a trusty motor-home that followed her along the way. In 1999, Business for Life published her story in a book titled Fire Under Foot.
At Christmas time and other holidays, Business for Life often donates food to various food banks. One year, they donated 100 turkeys for CLC to give to Second Harvest in Toronto.
For all these years, the members of Business for Life have been ordinary business people doing extraordinary things for the protection of life, born and preborn. For them, it was never about just writing out a cheque and saying good luck; it was about physically getting the job done and helping the movement grow and move forward. Donating their time organizing an event one week, and spending countless hours putting up drywall and flooring the next, they were always up to the challenge.
Their exceptional generosity has been a key element in helping Campaign Life Coalition become the organization it is today. It is also no coincidence that all of these men and women have been people of faith and love for God.