Suzanne Fortin is a 32-year-old mother of two. She and her husband have been married for seven years. When Suzanne is not busy raising her family, she busies herself promoting the right to life among other young French Canadians.
“Culturally, I’m a Quebecker,” she shares. “I grew up in Quebec City. I spent the first 25 years of my life there, before moving to Kingston with my husband.”
While Fortin now lives in Canada’s capital region along the Ontario-Quebec border, her time in Kingston would transform her from an aspiring pro-life politician to a pro-life activist. “I had always argued in favour of a pro-life and pro-family position,” she says. “But Kingston is where I started going to pro-life demonstrations.” Yet, this is not to say Fortin was any less pro-life before picking up a sign. “In the 1993 federal election, I ran as the NDP candidate in Beauport-Montmorency-Orleans. The riding is a suburb just outside of the old part of Quebec City. I was very clear about being pro-life when I accepted the nomination.”
Fortin recalls the reaction of the local NDP organizer when she told him she would only run as a pro-life candidate. “He said, ‘That’s fine.’ He assured me it wouldn’t be a problem.”
She found the reaction of local voters even more interesting. One lady was surprised to discover that Fortin held strong pro-life convictions. “I’m leery about voting NDP,” the lady told her, “but I’ll make an exception for you because you’re 100 per cent pro-life.” Fortin adds that from that point in the campaign, “Word got out that I was pro-life. My stance was published in Quebec’s pro-life newspaper and I was profiled on CTV right after the Blue Jays won the World Series.”
Fortin credits her openness as a pro-lifer for a strong showing in a province that traditionally ignores the NDP at the ballot box. “The NDP had very little organization in Quebec,” she explains. “I was an unknown candidate, a student with no political experience or connections within the community. The NDP’s support level across the province was one to two per cent. I pulled in 1,100 votes – one of the best performances outside of Montreal.”
She would also attract the attention of other pro-life NDP members and become close to future leadership contender Pierre Ducasse. “We spent a lot of time together,” she says. “He was ardently pro-life back then.” When challenged by the NDP’s predominately pro-abortion membership, Fortin states Ducasse “would argue our position with conviction …”
Fortin was saddened during the NDP’s last leadership race – a race won by Jack Layton, but contested by Ducasse. “I emailed (Ducasse) to find out if he was still pro-life,” Fortin states, “but he replied, ‘If elected, I would uphold the NDP platform on abortion.’ I was disappointed. He did not answer the question directly, whereas I had known him to be a man of integrity.”
Yet, long before the NDP’s most recent leadership race, the young woman from Quebec would face her own problems in Canada’s most anti-life political party. “I was associate vice-president of the NDP youth wing in Canada,” she recalls. “I made it known to the wrong people that I supported the right to life and I was not in favor of the homosexual agenda. This led to my ouster from the youth wing executive in 1995.”
The NDP’s loss became the right-to-life movement’s gain. “Gradually, I drifted away from the NDP and the right to life became my priority as a political activist,” Fortin shares. “I really cannot articulate why I felt called to focus primarily on right-to-life issues at that time. As a young woman, I was sick of the state of affairs – of there being no protection for the child in the womb. I wanted to do something positive.”
She then adds that her faith played a strong role in this transformation. “I was also becoming knowledgeable about my Catholic faith,” she says, “and my views on social justice were becoming more steeped in Catholic tradition. I no longer wanted socialism dressed up in Catholic verbiage – I desired the real thing when it came to Catholicism and the church’s social teaching. Around 1998, I allowed my membership in the NDP to lapse.”
Today, Fortin organizes much of her pro-life activism through the internet. “Some of it is debating,” she shares, “some of it is hosting pro-life message boards. I maintain a blog and article archive at BigBlueWave.ca. Its purpose is to foster the culture of life. I’m also trying to get more francophones involved in the pro-life movement. Right now, we’re still in our infancy stages of rebuilding a pro-life movement in Quebec. Thus, I spend a lot of time on the French European boards gathering information.”
Getting married and becoming a mother has also deepened Fortin’s pro-life convictions. “When you feel the baby inside you and see the ultrasound, you know the poor-choicers – I call them poor-choicers rather than pro-choicers – are wrong,” she says.
Finally, Fortin is helping the Family Coalition Party organize in Ottawa. “I believe that there are enough pro-lifers in Canada to get pro-life legislation,” she explains. “But we must want to have it badly enough and we must be prepared to work hard for it. We need every pro-lifer to flex his or her muscle at the ballot box. We need them to contact their MPs, provincial legislators, write letters, speak out and lobby for pro-life legislation.”
From NDP candidate to mother and devout Catholic, Fortin is a positive example of a young French-Canadian living the culture of life.