On the last day of summer, tens of thousands of Ontarians gathered at Queen’s Park in Toronto to voice their support for life. The September 21 “Justice for the Unborn” rally in front the Ontario legislature was followed by a 15-block walk through downtown Toronto, which led past the Morgentaler abortion clinic on Harbord Street.
The turnout, estimated by Campaign Life president Jim Hughes at between 20 and 25,000, meant the rally was “definitely a success.”
“Any time you can get pro-life people to come out to make a statement in those numbers, you have to consider it a success,” Hughes elaborated.
It took the crowd nearly an hour to pass a single point on the route, which led from Queen’s Park Crescent to Harbord street, along Harbord past the Morgentaler clinic to Robert Street, up Robert to Bloor Street West, and along Bloor back to Queen’s Park and the legislature.
At past major pro-life rallies, “pro-choice” activists have staged counter-demonstrations, drawing around 2,000 to their 1983 rally. This year, however, the only “pro-choice” presence was a group estimated by the Toronto Star at 60 at the corner of Spadina and Harbord Streets. Pro-life demonstrators passed the corner – and along the entire route – politely and without incident.
The rally had the support of 79 Ontario pro-life groups, with demonstrators coming from every part of the province on over 300 chartered buses. During speeches prior to the walk, Laura McArthur, president of the Right to Life Association of Toronto and Area, read messages from pro-life groups across Canada, indicating support and solidarity.” Let us never feel we are alone,” McArthur said. “Today we have the support of 262 groups. We speak in great numbers for great little people. We will do whatever is necessary to protect the tiniest members of our human family.”
Prior to the walk, the 25,000 demonstrators heard speeches by McArthur and Hughes, and prayers by Baptist and Roman Catholic clergymen.
In his opening prayer Dr. Roy Lawson thanked God for the “miracle of conception and birth” and for the “freedom that enables us to express in a corporate way to our leaders our determination to resist the forces that seek abortion on demand.” In the closing prayer, Rev. Pierce Lacey, auxiliary bishop of Toronto, prayed that we would never cease to hold the gift of life precious or falter in our determination to protect it. Also present on the podium were ministers from Presbyterian, Free Methodist, Pentecostal, Christian Reformed, Evangelical, Baptist and Lutheran Churches.
Mr. Hughes called on demonstrators to be silent as they passed the clinic. “Thousands of unborn Canadians have been murdered there,” he explained.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Morris Shumiatcher of Regina, Saskatchewan, a constitutional lawyer and civil rights spokesperson. In her introduction, Gwen Landolt, legal counsel for the Toronto pro-life movement, said Shumiatcher’s life “has been a journey of caring and sensitivity for the dispossessed, for those who can’t speak for themselves.”
Shumiatcher, who was made an officer in the Order of Canada in 1981, told the crowd he had “never witnessed such a gathering.”
“Your concerns, your efforts,” he continued, “are bringing to individuals new insights.” Noting a decline in abortions in Saskatchewan of 55 percent between 1982 and 1985, he said, “More and more women are recoiling from abortion. Abortion is growing odious in the nostrils of the medical profession and the public alike.”
Proponents of legal abortion justify their position by denying the humanity of the unborn child, he said, in much the same way as slaughter of Indians was justified by denying the humanity of black people. “But blacks survived,” he noted, “and yesterday the first black Leutenant-Governor took office.”
“You can anaesthesize the human conscience by a simple formula,” Schumiatcher elaborated. “De-humanize the unborn child, and your conscience is salved. It’s necessary to rationalize that the unborn child is not a person. Call him anything, but don’t call him a child; because if you call him a child, that word touches everybody’s conscience.”
Science is making that position less and less tenable. Aided by X-ray, ultrasound and other technologies, modern science, he said, “has rescued the child by revealing the day-to-day life of the child in the womb. Science has re-inforced the principles of religion and law that are so old.”
Who was there
Representatives of every area, age group and occupation were among the 20-25,000 demonstrators who gathered at Queen’s Park in Toronto on September 21 for the second all-Ontario pro-life rally. Toddlers in strollers and senior citizens made the walk. People came from around the corner in Toronto, and from as far away as Timmins and Thunder Bay. Veteran pro-lifers were joined by first-time demonstrators.
Annette Oullette, who joins pickets at the Morgentaler abortion clinic once a month, came with her family from Windsor, joining almost 1,000 people on over 20 buses. “There’s no reason for the killing,” she said. “They’re killing innocent children that have as much right to life as anyone.” (Picture shows l to r husband Gene Oullette, son Paul 16, wife Annette Oullette holding son Kenneth 7, sons Pat 14 and Roland 13.)
Fourteen-year-old David Dunn came with his mother and younger sister from Tottenham, accompanied by approximately 60 others. He said he came “to get rights for the unborn,” and added that he hoped his presence “would make a difference.”
For Lloyd McDougall, a member of Tories for Life, this was his first pro-life rally. McDougall was co-ordinator at his church – The First Filipino Baptist Church on Lipincott Street in Toronto – for participation in the rally. “Our son was born in Toronto Western,” he commented. “I was really upset when I heard they had stopped doing live births. All they do is abortions. It brings it close to home when your own son is the end of a generation of right use of a hospital.”
Coming from Sudbury to join her sister Cindy was Kim Mullally. Kim was part of the 300-plus group traveling on six buses. The rally was Kim’s first, while Cindy had participated in the 1983 protest. “Everybody sits around doing nothing,” she said. “I hope my presence will make a difference.”
Coming with a 500-strong group from Hamilton were Connie Godyn of Hamilton and Betty Van Es of Ancaster, with her daughter Roxanne. It was the first time either had participated in pro-life activity. “I felt it was my duty,” explained Godyn. Van Es said she was pessimistic about changes being made in the law, “but I feel it’s necessary to speak up.” (Picture shows Godyn on left, Van Es right and Roxanne in stroller.)
John Homerski of Waterdown, was present at the 1983 rally as well. He says he “has never seen anything like that.” A member of Halton Region Right-to-Life, Homerski says he came “to give justice to the unborn.”