About 900 people in Niagara Falls were among some 15,000 Ontarians who took part in the annual, North American Life Chain event on Oct. 1.

The diverse crowd, organized in four zones, lined both sides of Lundy’s Lane, the major thoroughfare running through the honeymoon city. For one hour, they held signs and stood in prayerful witness to the sanctity of human life. The large turnout – which drew participants from St. Catharines, Dunnville and Grimsby, as well as Niagara Falls – happened despite the fact the event was competing with the popular Niagara Grape and Wine Festival.

Jackie Messenger, who headed the organization of this year’s Niagara Falls Life Chain on behalf of St. Catharines Right to Life, said it helped that she got started on a co-ordinated promotional effort early on, during the last week of August.

“I gave (local churches) notice,” she said. “Then I would wait a couple of weeks and make up another bulletin notice. I contacted the chaplains at all the Catholic high schools. One high school sent a busload and that added 40 or 50 people.” The Dunnville Christian Reformed Church sent another 40 or 50.

“There were a lot of Protestant churches that I dealt with,” Messenger added. “The number was up from last year.” She said there are many pro-life churches in the area and she even worked with Port Colborne-Welland Right to Life to get the word out.

The initiative, in the end, was worthwhile. “If one girl turns around after going by in a car and seeing (the Life Chain), you’ve saved a life,” she said. “You’re making a silent witness. You’re showing the public that (abortion) is still there and you’re not approving of it … You can make a difference. One hundred thousand babies are aborted in Canada every year. That’s unbelievable.”

The retired former director of Toronto’s crisis pregnancy agency Aid to Women, Joanne Dieleman, took part in this year’s Niagara Falls Life Chain and was impressed by the large number of young people who participated.
“I saw several school buses drive up with kids in them. What caught my attention was that the young people were by themselves, without their parents,” she said.

Dieleman added the Niagara Falls Life Chain is the largest she has taken part in since early ones during the 1980s along Toronto’s major thoroughfare, Yonge Street. She credited local organizers with “doing an awful lot of work to get so many people.”

In Edmonton, about 300 people took part in a Life Chain there along 149th Street, as one of 11 sites in Alberta that staged the event. Fifty-three more people showed up in the town of Cold Lake and a hearty 10 in Mayerthorpe. Some 1,200 Life Chains took place throughout North America this year. The precise number of participants continent-wide is still being tabulated, although there were a confirmed 13,000 participants in Ontario alone.