On Nov. 6-8, pro-lifers from across Canada gathered in Edmonton for the Canadian national pro-life conference, Life 2003. Co-sponsored by Life Canada, Campaign Life Coalition and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, and hosted by the Alberta Pro-Life Alliance, the conference had representation from both the political and educational arms of the pro-life movement in every province.
A notable aspect of the conference was that, in keeping with the theme, “Silent No More,” post-abortive women gave brief testimonies between the featured events. Also in deference to the theme, the keynote speaker at the closing banquet was Dr. David C. Reardon of the Elliot Institute, a well-known expert in the field of abortion sequelae. Reardon gave a brief summary of the many studies on increased health problems and death after abortion, and in his closing statements, encouraged pro-lifers to consider women first in the fight to end abortion, rather than babies. The conclusion of his speech created the only tension of the evening, as it touched on a difference of opinion among pro-life leaders as to whether the focal point of the struggle should be abortion-minded mothers or their endangered children.
Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spoke on “Cloning and Beyond: Preparing for a Post-Human Future?” which covered the history of the UCCB’s fight against cloning, and revealed upcoming problems, including the possibility of patenting human beings in the U.S.
Another notable American speaker was Scott Klusendorf of Stand to Reason, who addressed the group twice over the weekend on the topic of pro-life apologetics. Klusendorf is notable for having trained many of the up-and-coming young Canadian pro-lifers, including Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.
While most of the conference focused on abortion issues, the topic of euthanasia was also addressed. Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, outlined the problems of the Artificial Nutrition and Hydration debate (AHN), most specifically in the recent case of Terri Schiavo of Florida, who is constantly in danger of being starved to death due to being disabled. Schadenberg explained that AHN is becoming more of a problem in Canada, as chronically under-funded public institutions try to rid themselves of difficult patients and the elderly and disabled are devalued in society.
There was a large youth component, with almost half of the attendees on the last day – a Saturday – being high school or university aged. In total, 173 of the 458 people who participated in the three day event were youths. Janelle Reinhart performed the World Youth Day song on the Saturday.
Other youth presentations were by Bryan Kemper, the founder of Rock for Life, and Mark Isinger, the youthful president of Rock for Life Canada.
Joanne Byfield, president of Alberta Pro-Life, told The Interim that it was encouraging to see so many young people at the conference. “The youth are not the future of the movement,” she said. “They are the energy and the lifeblood of the movement right now.”
The conference for 2004 is expected to be held in Winnipeg.