It is hard not to recognize Bill Murphy at Northern Ontario right-to-life functions. Between his black cowboy hat, his grey captain’s beard and a generous laugh, the Calgary transplant stands out as Sault Ste. Marie’s local leader for Campaign Life Coalition. He and his wife Colleen arrived in this tight-knit northern Ontario community about 20 years ago. The couple now boast four lovely and intelligent daughters.

“Being a pro-family activist really begins with your own family,” Murphy shares over coffee at Tim Horton’s. “Parenting becomes much more important when your children hit their teens. As they prepare to strike out on their own, it’s important that you take the time to shape their character. It’s important that your children take with them happy memories of their family.”

In many ways, the right-to-life movement in Sault Ste. Marie is like a large family. “I was in high-school when abortion was legalized,” the former Calgarian says. “So it was some time before I became active in the pro-life movement. I want to thank the people in Sault Ste. Marie who came before me in the pro-life movement. When we arrived, the infrastructure for a strong pro-life community was in place because of their efforts.”

The role of CLC local leader has evolved over the years. “I co-ordinate whatever the immediate need seems to be,” Murphy explains. “I connect CLC with the local pro-life community in Sault Ste. Marie. From one year to another, the activities might be different.”

For instance, one of CLC’s more important tasks is to identify where candidates for political office stand with regard to life and family issues. In the past, the local pro-life leadership in small communities often focused on candidates to provincial or federal office. “We are still more active at federal and provincial level,” Murphy admits, “but we’ve started taking municipal and school board elections more seriously. Local politicians can often have an immediate effect in the community.”

Nevertheless, CLC Sault Ste. Marie remains as vigilant as ever at the higher levels. “Politicians threw us a bone in the past, expecting us to vote for them and then go away,” Murphy shares. “I feel the candidates were surprised during the past federal election to discover just how organized, professional and effective the pro-life community has become.”

Along with other members of CLC Sault Ste. Marie, Murphy identified where each of the local candidates stood with regards to same-sex “marriage” and abortion. “We have an extensive mailing list of local voters who share our pro-life convictions,” he states. “It’s pretty big for a small northern community. We sent a letter to every family on our list and informed them where each candidate stood. We also had an automatic dialer call these pro-life families the morning of the advanced poll to encourage them to vote pro-life.”

Not everyone was happy with pro-family voters expressing a stronger voice in the federal election. At least one non-pro-life candidate approached CLC after the campaign to complain about the strong support pro-life voters delivered to a competing pro-life candidate. Murphy simply shrugged off the criticism. “The worst thing that can happen to us is to be ignored,” he states. “Opposition can be an encouraging sign. It demonstrates that we are making an impact.”

He credits much of this impact to strong co-operation between CLC’s local leadership and the national office. “As a local leader, I’m much more effective because I’m linked to CLC’s national and provincial office.   I’m encouraged that whatever actions we take in Sault Ste. Marie are co-ordinated with a national right-to-life and pro-family effort.”