They are young, technologically wired and active leaders within Ottawa’s pro-life community. They articulate the pro-life message with passion. Meet John Pacheco, Suzanne Fortin and David MacDonald – the next generation of Family Coalition Party candidates. During the last Ontario election, each found a unique way to address abortion and the rights of the unborn.
John Pacheco is well-known to many pro-family activists. On April 9, 2006, while pro-family Canadians were working feverishly to defend the traditional definition of marriage, Pacheco organized the March for Marriage and Freedom on Parliament Hill. The rally drew between 15,000 and 20,000 pro-family activists – by some estimates, the largest in Canadian history.
Pacheco and his high-school sweetheart Lara have been married for 11 years. The couple are parents to four adorable young daughters. Thus, the 38-year-old chartered accountant understands the value of marriage, family and children.
Pacheco initially decided to sit out the 2007 election. Having previously run twice for the FCP, he knew a campaign would mean time away from his family. His friends and family urged him to reconsider when no pro-life candidate stepped forward in his home riding of Ottawa-West Nepean. “I ran under the FCP banner because they were the only pro-life party in the province,” says Pacheco. “I wanted the people of Ottawa-West Nepean to have a pro-life candidate to vote for.” Pacheco decided to focus his campaign on abortion. “I consider abortion the central issue of our time,” he says. “And yet it’s the subject that is least discussed. So I wanted to make it an issue.”
Thus he commissioned 36 three-by-four-foot signs. The full-colour signs featured the standard FCP election sign on one side, and a picture of a 20-week-old child in the womb on the other. Underneath the photograph of the unborn child, stamped in large letters, was 20weeks.ca – the official website for Pacheco’s campaign. “Pro-lifers benefited from a tax-deduction while promoting my campaign’s pro-life message,” says Pacheco, noting that donors receive 75 per cent back on their taxes.
Pacheco chose to display an image of the unborn because “today’s culture is the culture of image.” He says the image of an unborn baby at 20 weeks is particularly troublesome to people’s consciences because the baby is perfectly formed while enjoying no legal protection. “One may forget the candidates, the issues or the election,” says Pacheco. “But one won’t easily forget the photograph of a 20-week-old child in the womb. That image will remain in people’s minds long after the election is over.”
The signs became a target for vandalism during the campaign. Pacheco and his sign crew spent at least three hours every night putting them back up. Yet Pacheco also received several encouraging phone calls from pro-lifers in his riding. “They told me they were touched that someone was willing to put their name and money on the line – someone who isn’t a professional politician, but a family person like themselves – and that it gave them encouragement to continue working for the unborn,” says Pacheco.
Suzanne Fortin is often touted by younger pro-lifers as the next leader of the FCP. While she herself shies away from the suggestion, the 33-year-old stay-at-home mother of two has earned the respect of her peers to become Canada’s top pro-life blogger. It was in this capacity that she successfully helped spearhead the recent CBC Facebook initiative to have abortion declared the most important issue facing Canada today.
Fortin is the FCP’s eastern regional director – an area that covers Ottawa to Brockville to Pembroke. She was also the FCP candidate for Nepean-Carleton. “I wanted to offer the residents of Nepean-Carleton the opportunity to vote for a pro-life candidate,” Fortin says. “I offered voters a pro-life, pro-family and fiscally prudent platform.”
When voters asked Fortin to identify the most important issue of her campaign, she replied: “The right to life.” She said that tens of thousands of abortions take place in Ontario each year and that she could not stand silently “while this injustice is perpetuated upon our most vulnerable human beings.”
Fortin used her blog to promote the right-to-life for the unborn. She also helped other FCP candidates set up blogs where they could promote a pro-life and pro-family platform. Throughout the campaign, she used Facebook and an e-mail list to maintain contact with supporters.
“Voters found me accessible because I was online,” Fortin says. “They would e-mail or call and say: ‘I was going to decline my ballot, but now I’ll vote for you because you’re pro-life.’” Even after the campaign, Fortin continues her online pro-life activism.
Participants in Canada’s annual March for Life on Parliament Hill will recognize the pro-life music and testimony of David MacDonald. The 46-year-old activist is one of Canada’s most well-loved pro-life musicians.
Yet the 2007 Ontario election became MacDonald’s first foray into politics. “For the last four elections, I have officially rejected my ballot,” MacDonald says. “When they asked me why at the polling station, I would say: ‘Because there is no pro-life candidate.’” Thus, MacDonald was thrilled when Suzanne Fortin informed him the FCP was fielding a pro-life candidate in his riding.
Fortin then told him no pro-life candidate had stepped forward next door in Ottawa South to challenge Premier Dalton McGuinty. “The previous four elections came flooding back in my memory,” says MacDonald. “I replied: ‘I will run.’”
With 1.9 per cent of the popular vote and over 900 votes, MacDonald was one of the FCP’s most successful candidates. He was also one of the party’s most successful candidates when it came to putting abortion on the political agenda. He accomplished this through three incidents during the campaign.
The first involved an all-candidates debate where MacDonald confronted McGuinty with the following question: “One day earlier in a debate, a man came up and said he waited eight months for cancer treatment. And yesterday in the paper you said you would shorten the waiting lines for abortion, which is almost always an elective surgery. Why pour money into elective surgery when necessary treatment for cancer is in dire need?” The moment was captured on video and broadcast over the internet.
The second incident involved MacDonald sharing his own abortion experience with the media. In 1984, MacDonald was a successful Broadway musician dating a medical doctor under consideration for Canada’s space program when the couple decided to abort their child. “The very two things we were trying to preserve by having an abortion – our careers and our relationship – we ended up losing because of the abortion,” says MacDonald. “Abortion is bad for women, bad for men and bad for the baby that loses its life.”
Finally, as a long-time disability advocate, MacDonald reminded the disability community during a campaign debate that at least 80 per cent of Down Syndrome babies are aborted for no other reason than that they have a disability. “There was a tremendous amount of resonance to this,” he says. “People came up to me – many of them disabled, particularly the deaf community – and said that my addressing this issue was the most moving part of the evening.”