For the past several years Quebec has been the scene of so much political turmoil, and its population has been divided over so many issues, that pro-life activists have found it difficult to make their voices heard amidst the general clamour. It is hard to convince an anglophone parent that there is any issue more important than his right to educate this children in the language of his choice. It is equally hard to convince a federalist francophone that there is anything more vital than preserving his right to Canadian citizenship, or to convince his separatist brother that the whole might of English speaking North America is not directed towards robbing him of his birthright.
Faced with the issues they see as vital to the future existence of their family or their community, people are not ready to let anything they consider less threatening to themselves affect their political choices. Pro-lifers, of course continued to do their thing. The meetings, the strivings to be heard, the presentations, the recruiting and the lobbying went on- even though it was clear that the results would only come at some time in the future and at times that future seemed very far away.
The future seems to have come much closer in recent months. The departure of Trudeau and Lalonde from the political scene, the election of new and more open-minded MPs all over the province, the disintegration of the Parti-Quebecois, all of these have contributed to the emergence of a new atmosphere, and the pro-life movement is taking advantage of the changing atmosphere-helped enormously by the shock of the acquittal of Morgentaler in his Toronto trial. That shock has jolted thousands of fence-sitters from their comfortable perch. When Morgentaler published an appeal for financial support in January, and Pro-Life responded with a similarly worded appeal two weeks later, the response from the public was startling- letters of support and donations came from all over the province.
Coalition For Life, Quebec, and Montreal Pro-Life, working under the name of Pro-Life Action, have organized a series of Saturday demonstrations during February and March at Montreal General Hospital, Morgentaler’s “exterminations shop” and the offices of the Professional Corporation of Physicians of Quebec. By demonstrating at different locations the point is made that we are opposing abortion, regardless of who does it or where it is done. As time goes on, other sites will be picketed and the size of the demonstrations will be increased. The planning committee has some interesting locations in mind which should make headlines when the time comes.
Coalition For Life is also actively working on preparations for the provincial elections which will be held sometime within the next-half year. A central Political Action Committee was set up in November and six regional committees are now working at the task of forming riding committees. Coalition’s national president, Lucille Lavoie-Gordon, has had meetings with pro-life politicians of all provincial parties in recent weeks. She hopes to be able to increase the influence of the pro-life movement in the political sphere and also to keep the parties aware of the extent of pro-life support among the population.
The success of the Jury for Life postcard campaign was the first proof of the effectiveness of the new Coalition network. French-language cards, suitable for Quebec, were printed by Coalition and the distribution was done by the political network, with assistance from Montreal Pro-Life and supporters within the various churches. By the end of January 150 000 postcards had been mailed from Quebec to the P.M.’s office. Requests for cards are still coming in. At the present time we have requests on hand for another 100 000 cards.
Pro-Life activity among Quebec protestants
During the past year there has been a rapid growth of pro-life activity among several of the Evangelical churches in Quebec. This spurt of activity started within the Pentecostal churches, following the release of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada’s position paper on abortion in early 1984. The wave of action has spread to the other evangelical churches and in one recent demonstration at the Morgentaler “clinic” the vast majority of the participants were Protestant. Numerically, and in terms of dedication and energy, the Pentecostal churches are the leaders of the trend and if a recent study day I attended at a local Pentecostal church is any indicator, we haven’t seen anything yet.
We’re on the move
There has been a feeling of simmering resentment an attitude of “what’s the use in trying?” among Quebecers ever since the federal Justice Minister freed Morgentaler in 1976. Over –ruling the Supreme Court to do so, after Quebec had laboured so long to get a conviction against him and to get it upheld by the Supreme Court.
That setback has cost Quebec and Canada dearly. But, now with new political situation which has come about in the last year, there is a new beginning of hope; a new determination to put democracy back on the rails and to put an end to the fixers of juries and the manipulation of public opinion. There is a new sense that Justice and Right can and must triumph. We are on the move once more.
A United Church in Beaconsfield, a Montreal suburb, held a showing of the film Abortion North and South one night last week. The film was advertised in the local newspaper and during the preceding days there were numerous announcements on radio, urging people to attend. Four pro-lifers went along, just to show the flag and hoping to get some input in the discussion. Apart from the four there were only two other people present at the showing. The pro-lifers suggested to the pastor that he ought to show a pro-life film as well. He refused, saying that to avoid controversy it is church policy to show only Nation Film Board Films.
Peter Hopkins is a former president and active member of Montreal Pro-Life