Dr. Walter Kazun, a retired Vancouver family physician, long-time pro-life activist and co-founder of B.C. Physicians for Life, voted No in last month’s referendum.

He says he’s always been politically alert, probably because at the age of four he immigrated to Canada with his hard-working Polish parents, an event that forged his deep love of Canada and concern about its future.

“The constitutional proposal contains confusion and misinformation and hasn’t been properly explained to the people. Moreover, it shies away from the principles that enshrine our Judeo-Christian roots, singling out some minorities for equality yet ignoring the pre-born child. They should scrap the deal and start over again,” he said last month before voting.

Medical Politics

Dr. Kazun always wanted to become a physician, so he didn’t enter politics. However, that decision did not stop him from being active in the politics of medicine, especially on pro-life issues. In the early 1970’s, he co-founded B.C. Physicians for Life with four other colleagues, and later served as its national president. He has also been a member of World Physicians for Life for two decades and has followed the abortion debate since 1969, persistently voicing his pro-life views at all levels of medical association meetings, often crossing the country to do so.

Over the years he’s helped to prepare pro-life briefs to government and medical groups and has written numerous letters to medical journals and newspapers protesting abortion, while continuing his busy family practice.

When h isn’t involved in medical politics, he’s usually helping Vancouver Right to Life as a medical consultant or as an activist. In 1988 he retired from his practice for health reasons, and he now gives the pro-life cause more time than ever.

As ell, he’s a staunch supporter of public pro-life events. Last June he and Jean, his wife of over forty years, attended the national Save the Planet’s People Conference in Toronto. As a pro-life pioneer, he felt his spirits soar to hear the excellence of the presentations and to see the attendance of over one thousand pro-lifers – many of them young.

Betty Green, head of Vancouver RTL for the last twenty years, says, “Dr. Kazun is always there to help us with abortion or euthanasia issues. If he doesn’t know the answer, he’ll find us someone who does. He was on our board for two decades and since his retirement he has become a director of B.C. Campaign Life Coalition. He’s a ‘father figure’ to us and an intelligent sweet man to work with.”

For instance, just last month Betty heard that a supposedly pro-life Vancouver hospital was doing abortions, after their people had told her group they were not. Disturbed, she called Dr. Kazun and now they plan to make an appointment with the administrator to settle the matter. With his direct but kindly manner and familiarity with medical procedures, Betty says he’s invaluable.

Of his long-time commitment he says, “I get tired of being so involved at times and wish someone else would take over, but it’s such an important issue that I can’t run away from it.” He views his extra time in retirement as a blessing and as an opportunity to continue pro-life activism, unburdened by the tensions of work.

He and Jean were married in his third year of medical school at the University of Ottawa. “Money was scarce but we never went hungry,” he recalls. Jean helped out financially by working part-time as a secretary, and Walter worked as a waiter on CPR trains during the summers to pay for university. By the time he graduated, they had one child. Now their family numbers six: Stanley, Bernice, Teresa, Edward, Mary, Barbara, and fifteen grandchildren.

Even in lean times, Dr. Kazun placed principle above money. When he returned to Vancouver after medical school, he took an extra year of Obstetrics and Gynecology and was offered a lucrative position with a well-established family physician. He was uneasy about the offer, however, suspecting that this person was involved with abortions. He refused the position. Instead, he accepted another with “a morally solid physician,” but took a steep drop in income.

For expressing his strong pro-life views at medical gatherings, he’s taken his knocks over the years. He recalls the first time in the 1970’s, when after a stormy confrontation at a B.C. meeting, he ran into a pro-life classmate at coffee time and asked him, “Is it safe for me to go back in there?” His colleague quipped, “Don’t stand too close to any windows.” He found that experience chilling, although it was not the last of its kind.

He believes that often physicians don’t have fixed views on abortion. That is why it is so important, he says, to continue to express pro-life views at meetings and to write medical journals in order to educate the undecided. He notes that many physicians who are not opposed to abortion still listen to and respect the pro-life side.

Priorities in Life

A devout Catholic, Dr. Kazun has always taught his children that his priorities in life are faith, family, work and only then sports, music or other interests. His respectful children seem to have heeded their father’s advice by combining his priorities in their own way. While growing up in the 1970’s, they formed a family band that turned into a joyful and financially successful family affair.

It all began when Stanley, the oldest, was fourteen. A gifted musician, he played accordion, guitar, piano and organ, and, recognizing the musical ability of his younger brother and sisters, he organized them into a band. Some played instruments and others sang. Soon the popular group had a repertoire ranging from hymns (sung at fold masses) to old time waltzes and rock music, played at weddings and other social events. Naturally, and in keeping with family tradition, they offered their services to pro-life rallies and dinners. With their earnings they helped pay their way through school for the nine years they were together.

As adults, they still do pro-life work. When Stanley was a student at the University of British Columbia in the 1970’s, he organized its first pro-life group and it is still thriving. Teresa, married and living in Victoria, helps with pro-life education, and Bernice, in Vancouver, volunteers with Birthright. Other family members participate whenever they can, such as in the October 4th Vancouver Life Chain.

Dr. Kazun, not a musician by his own admission, has his own interests. He is an avid football fan and, like his creative children, found a way to channel this interest. For thirty years he was a team physician for the B.C. Lions. With eight other physicians, he would examine the players before training camp and attend their games to treat any injuries. He loved this part of his work, finding it a refreshing change from the strain of a busy practice.

As we had lunch at the recent June conference in Toronto, he talked about the future of the abortion issue. He says it will turn around someday, but he worries that it has sensitized people to the idea of killing. He fears that euthanasia will be a more subtle threat. In the last years of his practice, he began to notice that elderly patients were reluctant to be admitted to hospital, fearing that they would not come out. Shaking his head, he says in a hushed voice, “That is a sad commentary on our profession.”

Then his kind brown eyes brighten and he muses, “But you know the pro-life movement will never die because it is right. Young people will take up the challenge where we leave off, and they will continue it.”

As our lunch drew to a close, with an intent look, he offered an unsolicited comment: “As for the importance of spreading the pro-life message, I tell you I read The Interim from front to back. It’s the only pro-life newspaper that I feel comfortable with and can trust.”

Then, as we part, he breaks into a warm smile.