Media downplayed the massive annual pro-life demonstration in the nation’s capital, counter-protesters attempted to “end the March for Life,” and police re-routed the march through the streets of Ottawa to prevent a clash with a small group of pro-abortion activists , but organizers and 22,000 participants are pleased with the National March for Life, inspired by the messages of hope from religious and political leaders during speeches on Parliament Hill.
The National March for Life opened with a prayer from Pastor Pauline Wilcox of the Golden Eagles Gathering Place Church, Pikwakanagan First Nation.
Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, repeated the message he gives most years. “The late, great Mother Teresa said the beautiful thing about the pro-life movement is that it’s ordinary people doing extraordinary things for God,” said Hughes. “We have to make sure when we go home we do those extraordinary things.”
Christiana Holt, outgoing director of Campaign Life Coalition Youth, told the mostly under-30 crowd at the March, that attending the event in Ottawa is a good start but if that is the extent of their pro-life activism, there will be no cultural or political change. “We have an estimated 20,000 in this crowd,” Holt said. “I ask you and I beg you to use your power to protect life.” She pleaded, “please, when you go back home, lobby your MPs, park yourself at their office and let your voice be heard, and only then will we end the killing in Canada.”
Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins warned of the “dark cloud of euthanasia and assisted suicide is growing darker and darker,” as he urged everyone to contact both federal and provincial elected representatives to express their opposition to changes in Canadian law allowing for the killing of the sick, elderly, and disabled. He also said, “we pray for those who are suffering who are tempted to move in the direction of abortion or euthanasia.”
The message was echoed by Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition who urged everyone to write their MPs to ask they vote down C-14, the government’s “medically assisted dying” legislation.
MPs encourage crowd
Numerous MPs focused on euthanasia as well. Conservative Mark Warawa (Langley-Aldergrove), asked participants to sign a petition calling on conscience rights for health care workers. He also said “life is sacred because God created it” and “when we end life prematurely, we miss out on God’s blessing.”
Conservative Bob Zimmer (Prince George-Peace River), said pro-lifers “need to write the government” because while some MPs recognize the sanctity of human life, many do not.
Conservative Guy Lauzon (Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry), said, “you’re our power, ladies and gentlemen. Next year, let’s double the crowd.” MP Bev Shipley (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex) echoed the sentiment. “You are often our voice and always our encouragement,” he said. “Please continue to grow and expand.”
New MP Tom Kmiec (Calgary Shepard) said, “you have to fight for this, you have to force politicians” to stand up for life.
Conservative Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga) told the crowd that the inscription on the Peace Tower reads: “Where there is no vision the people perish,” adding: “My vision for Canada is that every human life from conception to natural death is cherished and valued.”
Rod Taylor, leader of the Christian Heritage Party, said, “it’s never wrong to do what’s right, and it’s never right to do what’s wrong. Killing people is always wrong and defending innocent life is always right.”
Here are some photos taken on Parliament Hill before the march on the streets of Ottawa.
‘The government of death’
First-year MP Arnold Viersen (Peace River-Westlock) noted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does not allow people with pro-life views to run for the Liberals and that his government is ramming a pro-euthanasia bill through Parliament. To loud cheers, he called the Trudeau government, “the government of death.”
Obianuju Ekeocha, founder of Culture of Life Africa and keynote speaker at the Rose Dinner, told the throng, “my little voice, I join it to yours: End the killing,” as she urged the crowd to continue standing up for their principles.
Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes’ count has the official National March for Life attendance at 22,000, down slightly from recent figures of 25,000. According to numerous MPs, the pro-life demonstration on the Hill is the largest annual even on the Hill.
Media reports on attendance varied from 3,000 to 10,000, with David Akin of the Sun chain reporting a personal count of 4,500 at 12:20 pm. He posted a picture from a stationary camera on Parliament Hill at the time that showed vast swathes of the lawn empty. But organizers note that the peak time for attendance is around 1 pm as many participants are just arriving at noon and grabbing lunch, as are thousands who take part in numerous church services in the morning before the march. Akin also reported that police estimated 10,000 participants.
A few photos just prior to the march, photos taken during the march, and finally back to Parliament Hill.
Approximately 100 pro-abortion protesters under the title “Proletarian Feminist Front,” vowed to “end the March for Life” according to their signs and social media promotional material, as they set up a blockade near the human rights monument on Elgin Street.
They did not end the march, but they did cut it short. In response to the blockade, Ottawa Police Services diverted the march, resulting in a significantly shorter route and away from streets with heavy foot traffic. The rerouting also forced a ten minute pause in the march just minutes after it began, with pro-lifers forced to hold their position until the police could organize traffic stops along alternate streets.
Campaign Life Coalition’s permit for the march outlined the route and the city issued a travel advisory to make it easier for drivers to avoid disruption.
The Feminist Front clashed with more than 50 police, including about a dozen RCMP officers who were called from duty from Parliament Hill. The pro-abortion demonstrators, many wearing shirts or carrying signs with communist or anti-police propaganda, chanted “”Whose street? Our Street!” Others offered condoms to high school students participating in the march.
After police arrested several counter-protesters, the crowd of left-wing youth reassembled at the downtown police station to demonstrate.
Campaign Life Coalition vice president Jeff Gunnarson told The Interim he believes the police failed to do their duty because police permitted the counter-protesters to disrupt the vigil the night before and the march to be cut short despite permits for the events. Gunnarson commended the police for maintaining peace, but said “it shouldn’t be at our expense.” The counter-protestors “should be inconvenienced, not us.”
Sgt. Chuck Benoit, a spokesperson for the Ottawa Police Service, told LifeSiteNews that it is not illegal to block city streets for a protest without a permit, and that even with a permit police use their discretion and can reroute to ensure public safety.
The National March for Life organizing committee is making plans for the 2016 event which may incorporate the 150th anniversary celebration of Confederation in the nation’s capital.