Anarchists, Communists, feminists, and gay activists litter Toronto with hate propaganda

The war of words started well before Human Life International arrived in Toronto for its 18th World Conference on Love, Life and the Family April 7-11.

As for previous HLI conferences in other years in Ottawa and Montreal, an assortment of leftist- and liberal-oriented groups launched an array of verbal and written attacks on the pro-life organization, regurgitating oft-cited charges of anti-Semitism, “homophobia” and “hatred of women,” among other things.

The groups were helped along by their lackeys in the mainstream media, including such notorious types as the Toronto Star’s Michelle Landsberg and, writing in the
London Free Press, Judy Rebick.

“These are not harmless people,” cried Landsberg. HLI, she said, preaches “the most abysmal kinds of prejudice against lesbians, gays, Muslims and Jews.” Rebick, meanwhile, huffed that HLI is “one of the most fanatical anti-abortion groups.”

Unexpected vitriol came from the Toronto Sun’s Michele Mandel, who in her column “Bigots should just stay home,” repeated many of the hackneyed charges against HLI and concluded with the advice that “these intolerant people should simply crawl back into their hole and stay home.”

After HLI threatened to sue her for that column, Mandel weighed in with yet another invective, “Fanning the flames of hatred.” “In (HLI’s) midst – and hierarchy – are Christian right extremists who foster hatred,” she claimed. “You are judged by the company you keep. And HLI’s company stinks.”

All the hyperbole must have come as old hat to HLI types, who have seen it all before – at least in Canada. But as HLI president Fr. Richard Welch pointed out, the rhetoric – and accompanying riots staged by anti-HLI protesters at conferences – are unique to this country.

“It amazes us that when we come to Canada, we see such emotion about our conferences,” he said. “We don’t see this in other places.”

A quick look over the list of some of the groups who organized the anti-HLI campaign made it clear that, media depictions to the contrary, the opposition was coming mainly from student groups and derelicts from the fringes of Canadian society, including: Anti-Racist Action, the New Socialist Group, the Revolutionary Anarchist Wimmin’s Collective, the Black Action Defence Committee, the Freedom Socialist Party, and the Toronto Women’s Health Network.

Anti-Racist Action gained notoriety last summer when its members launched a physical assault on participants during a Show the Truth demonstration at Queen’s Park, Toronto, during which several arrests were made. It previously has called for the torching of Domino’s Pizza outlets (whose former president is a staunch, pro-life Catholic), had its members arrested for a subway beating, and has physically broken up meetings of people it opposes.

Previous HLI conferences in Ottawa and Montreal were marked by the calling of riot police in full regalia when rabid demonstrators took to pelting HLI conferees with objects including firecrackers, eggs, coins, and glass-filled condoms. In Montreal, a police cruiser was destroyed and several arrests were made.

More of the same was portended for Toronto this time around, with posters pasted on telephone poles throughout the city in the weeks leading up to the conference, calling for “Rage Against HLI” and urging demonstrators to “remember Montreal.” A poster for an Anti-Racist Action rock concert – with proceeds going to anti-HLI forces – depicted a masked individual who was about to unleash a Molotov cocktail.

The “Stop Human Life International” website featured profane language and pornographic images. One image depicted Christ carrying a cross in the form of a swastika. “When HLI held their annual conference in Montreal in 1995, thousands rallied to ruin their fancy Mass and procession through the downtown core, and HLI called it ‘the worst reception’ they had ever received. We need to mobilize and make sure that HLI is similarly appalled by strong resistance to their presence in Toronto,” the website said.

The extremism of some of the anti-HLI elements caused some participants to re-examine the modus operandi of conference protests. Anti-Racist Action and the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics agreed to hold separate demonstrations after the latter objected to an ARA poster that depicted a naked man bent over with legs spread, urinating on an HLI symbol.

The OCAC also admitted that it was encountering resistance to involvement in the protests among students because of ARA’s militant reputation.

Still, there were voices of sanity. Journalist and broadcaster Michael Coren submitted a Sun Media column in which he noted that “the knives are out” for HLI and that misinformation was being taken “to new heights.”

“There may well be violence at the HLI conference,” said Coren, “but it will not come from the delegates. It will come from people who are truly hateful. And it will have been partly fuelled by those who really should know better and have resorted to name-calling when they have lost the arguments.”

Fr. Alphonse de Valk, editor of Catholic Insight magazine and a conference speaker, asserted that “HLI is not anti-Semitic, and never has been; it has no links with violence against abortion doctors or abortion clinics whatsoever; and it is a ‘radically anti-abortion group’ only in the sense that all principled opponents throughout the world reject the killing of babies in the womb.”

For its part, HLI said it would refuse to be intimidated by campaigns launched against it. “My life has been threatened repeatedly,” said Fr. Welch. “I have been physically beaten, my car has been vandalized, and other attempts have been made to intimidate me. Pro-life leaders have learned to put the death threats behind them and remain focused on the life-saving nature of our work.”

In the wake of the various charges against HLI, HLI-Canada executive director Theresa Bell, sent a letter to all members of Parliament noting that her organization “has consistently been on record condemning acts of violence inside the womb and outside the womb.”