Interim staff

The new executive director of the Winnipeg-based Alliance for Life knows she has a tough act to follow in replacing Anna Desilets, a 26-year veteran of pro-life campaigns.

In fact, the 23-year-old Michelle Blanchette, who officially takes over May 1, wasn’t even born when Desilets first became involved with Alliance for Life.

But as organizations embrace new strategies in protecting the sanctity of human life, Michelle represents the first in a new generation of pro-life leadership.

Michelle comes to Alliance for Life after working as a youth counselor with the Grey Nuns in St. Rose, Manitoba. Previously, the much-traveled Michelle taught English to Grade 7 to 12 students at a rural parish in Jamaica. While teaching in the Caribbean, Michelle obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Manitoba.

Working amid poverty and social dysfunction both in Manitoba and abroad might leave some with a cynical outlook on human life. But for Michelle, the experience built a strong pro-life sentiment instilled by her parents in the family home. It’s an attitude marked by faith, respect for human dignity and a willingness to relieve suffering.

Michelle however, recognizes that attitude alone can’t replace experience in heading up a large, widely respected pro-life organization. “I’m fortunate in that I’ll be able to draw on Anna Desilet’s experience and wealth of contacts as I take over,” Michelle told The Interim. “Anna may be retiring but she won’t be lost to the organization.”

Michelle hopes to further Anna’s efforts to build among Canada’s diverse pro-life organizations. She also plans to recruit new volunteers to support Alliance for Life’s educational and research aims.

Another major objective for the new executive director is to draw more young people into active pro-life work.” Any change is an opportunity for an organization to grow and try new things,” she said. “The younger people bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm to pro-life work.”

Michelle is concerned over the lack of awareness among many young people as to the central aims of the pro-life movement. Too often, she believes, students have been misled by the cynical, materialist values propagated by abortion/contraception supporters.

“I’m optimistic that when younger people are exposed to the essential truths of the respect for life movement, they’ll be much more receptive,” she said.

Michelle also hopes to take advantage of the latest information technology in promoting pro-life work across the country.

She admitted that the movement has some catching up to do compared to pro-abortion groups in utilizing the Internet and e-mail. With the addition of more technologically fluent young people however, Michelle believes the movement will some make great strides in spreading the pro-life word.

Prior to officially taking over May 1, Michelle spent several weeks getting to know Alliance board members and learning more about pro-life issues.

She’s also working on improving the organization’s relations with the media. To that end, Michelle is eager to see the results of media relations strategy currently being developed by Alliance Action, an affiliated pro-life group in Manitoba.

“We’re naturally concerned with the image of pro-life people as fanatical or given to violence,” Michelle said. “Even though it is distorted by the mainstream media, it’s something we should be prepared to deal with, especially if we want to recruit more supporters.”

Michelle’s first “public” event as executive director will come during the June 27-29 Alliance for Life National Conference in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

In addition to meeting Alliance for Life members from across the country, Michelle will chair her first meeting of the organization’s annual general meeting.

“It will be nice to get to know some of Alliance for Life members from the different provinces,” the new Alliance leader said.