If you asked Canadian pro-lifers to compile a list of the five most important pro-lifer activists and leaders in Canada over the past 40 years, British Columbia activist Heather Stilwell would be on most everyone’s list. She played leading roles in every major pro-life organization in the country including Campaign Life Coalition, Alliance for Life Canada, REAL Women, and the Christian Heritage Party, as well as provincial groups such as the Pro-Life Society of B.C. and the B.C. Family Coalition Party. She also served on the Surrey school board for 15 years and was part of a case that went to the Supreme Court after that board refused to provide pro-homosexual propaganda to elementary school children; this part of her activism is the focus of the Surrey Delta Leader obituary. She was a driving force to unite the two pro-life political groups in Canada (Campaign Life and Coalition for the Protection of Human Life) in the mid-1980s and served on the new organization’s board (Campaign Life Coalition). Last week, after a long battle with breast cancer, Stilwell passed away at the age of 66.
Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sunwrites about Stilwell the Culture Warrior and I particularly liked this part:
When I interviewed Stilwell, she said a friend once told her, since she doesn’t have a university degree: “You should put an `S.D.’ after your name because you’re so good at s—-disturbing.”
Stilwell was fearless in her moral certainty. At one pro-life rally, she urged her followers to stoke up their courage and turn themselves into Christian warriors, saying: “This is a bloody war. We’re all called to be soldiers. Prepare yourself for battle.”
In 2006, we ran a profile of Stilwell in The Interim. Like so many pro-lifers, Stilwell started by becoming involved in her local group, the Surrey Delta Pro-Life Society, and like many others couldn’t stop (just like Dr. Jack Willke). Despite eventually having eight children, she rose to leadership positions in numerous organizations, eventually becoming of the president of Alliance for Life Canada and later leader of the Christian Heritage Party. There is a wonderful quote in Grace Petrasek’s Silhouettes Against The Snow: Profiles of Canadian Defenders of Life, in which the Stilwell says of taking the Alliance presidency, which she then held for three years, “When I took the job I was 42 – now I am 107.” In October, LifeCanada presented Stilwell with its Mother Teresa Award to recognize her lifetime of service to the pro-life movement and the unborn. This morning, Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interimthat Stilwell’s passing is probably the biggest loss the the pro-life movement has had to deal with since the death of Joe Borowski in 1996.
We will have a full obituary in the January issue of The Interim.