One of the towering figures on not only the Canadian, but also the international, pro-life scenes has died at the age of 78.

Gilles Grondin passed away suddenly in Montreal on August 5. At the time of his death, he was as active as ever for the cause, looking forward to attending a pro-life strategy meeting in Mississauga, Ont. this month. In fact, Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes said he had just received Grondin’s registration form for the meeting when he learned of his passing.

“He worked tirelessly on life and family issues,” said Hughes. “He was a deep thinker, with an amazing ability to analyze the written word. He helped us greatly. I’d bounce ideas off him all the time. He was also a fine human being. He’ll be greatly missed.”

Grondin distinguished himself as a career diplomat on the international scene for over 30 years. He served as the Canadian charge d’affaires in Haiti, and then was seconded to the United Nations to oversee the French-speaking countries of Africa. He also served for a time in Indo-China and had the opportunity to drive Pierre Elliot Trudeau around in a jeep when the late prime minister visited that area of the world.

Hughes first met Grondin over 20 years ago when the pair joined at the Ottawa office of CLC in working to lobby French-Canadian MPs on life issues. In September 1989, Grondin took on the challenging task of establishing a Quebec branch of Campaign Life Coalition, Campagne Quebec Vie, and remained its president until his retirement in 2002.

“Gilles did a great job in starting CQV at a time when everything was falling apart in Quebec society,” said Hughes. “The roots were being pulled out by the handful.”

“Mr. Grondin kept the resistance alive for Campagne Quebec Vie … and that is a great accomplishment,” said Grondin’s successor as CQV’s president, Luc Gagnon. “For political and cultural work, Campagne Quebec Vie is really the only light in Quebec. That is because Mr. Grondin (was) there. He has really kept the light burning despite a lot of difficulty. I would like to say a word of gratefulness for his work.”

By the early 1990s, a crisis began to emerge at the international level, as concern over anti-life agendas globally began to take on an increasingly prominent presence. Grondin was immediately summoned by CLC to join Louis Di Rocco in attending UN conferences variously dealing with abortion, women’s “rights” and population control in places such as Cairo, New York, Copenhagen and Beijing.

Despite a very short period of acclimatization, his international diplomatic experience proved to be invaluable and was instrumental in CLC’s effectiveness in thwarting some aggressive anti-life initiatives at those conferences. Grondin had long been personally concerned about the UN’s role in anti-life activity – he had sounded the alarm as far back as a conference in 1974.

“He specifically targeted Third World, French-speaking delegates” for lobbying, said Hughes. “They warmly embraced and trusted him. He did a fabulous job there.”

Dan Zeidler of Wisconsin, who now works with the Latin American Alliance for Life, teamed with Grondin as part of the international pro-life coalition in the 1990s. He also cited the admiration Grondin attracted from various delegates to UN conferences.

“He was a great guy and I have fond memories,” Zeidler told The Interim. “He was dedicated, effective and a friend. We worked the early UN meetings as part of the NGO (non-governmental organization) presence. He was especially effective with the French-speaking Africans. He was a hard worker, principled and cared deeply for life, family and the faith.”

Zeidler added that delegates from Latin American countries, which were particular targets of international population controllers, also appreciated Grondin. He said he last spoke to Grondin about a year ago.

Hughes noted that the Holy See cited Grondin and Di Rocco as two of the most effective lobbyists the pro-life and pro-family coalition had at UN conferences. In fact, they were so good, other delegations didn’t want them to leave when their scheduled times, as established by CLC, were up.

Grondin was also a groundbreaker in bringing to Canadian attention the existence of NSSM 200, former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s shocking memo outlining how population control targeted at certain countries could help maintain U.S. supremacy in world affairs. The memo is now regarded by many as a primary motivation behind current international population control efforts – which continue to be directed primarily at developing countries.

Throughout his pro-life career, Grondin was a regular media presence, offering a credible counter-balance to anti-life, anti-family representatives who dominated in that arena. As well, he always maintained a devout Roman Catholic faith, regarding Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour, attending Mass daily, keeping an intensive prayer life and having a devotion to the Virgin Mary.

Hughes recalled how Grondin once told about how he marvelled in awe at the glory of God’s creation while lying on his back, staring quietly at a star-filled sky on a night in northern Africa.

Grondin’s diplomatic skills and spiritual life made him a natural to act as CLC’s host for Mother Teresa when the saint-to-be visited Canada in 1986, when she made some strong, public pro-life statements. On a personal level, Grondin loved his family and doted on his two grandchildren.

Grondin never minced words, and could be counted on to call the proverbial spade a spade. At the 1999 March for Life in Ottawa, for example, he told the crowd that the Liberal government’s 1969 omnibus bill legalizing abortion threw “wide open the dikes of a furious outburst of unbridled passions, which overthrew everything in its path, including the well-tried values of our Christian culture and civilization. Some two million unborn children torn to pieces and thrown into the garbage cans since 1969 and, from there, thrown into the incinerators of our clinics and hospitals, as well as hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands of men and women sterilized in order to be able to ‘enjoy life,’ as they say. A nation which kills its children, which asphyxiates life at its very roots, has no future … You have the right to choose, yes – but also the duty to choose right.”

It was that kind of language – and probably also his effectiveness in thwarting anti-life and anti-family agendas – that made Grondin a particular target of attack by his opponents. He was cited as part of “the Catholic far right in Quebec” by Arm the Spirit, a Toronto-based “autonomist/anti-imperialist collective,” as well as by the Anti-Racist Action group. They claimed “Quebec’s chief anti-abortion crusader” was a member of a “fascist” organization.

As a form of the truism goes, you can be judged by the enemies you have.

Grondin is survived by his sisters Janine, Colombe and Yolande, his brothers Denis and Laval, his grandson Michel Mpoulimpassis, granddaughter Nathalie Mpoulimpassis and son-in-law Tom Mpoulimpassis. He was pre-deceased by his daughter Marie Helen and sister Paula. The funeral Mass was held August 13 at St. Ambrose Parish in Montreal, with interment at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery.

As his obituary published in the National Post so verily said, “Gilles will be sorely missed as he joins the pro-life team beyond the faithful on earth.”