25,000 at 18th annual National March for Life

Photo Anna Dzieciol

Photo Anna Dzieciol

In what was the largest National March for Life marking the 46th anniversary of the Omnibus Bill that legalized abortion-on-demand in Canada, more than 25,000 pro-lifers demanded “let life win.”

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes told The Interim that he personally counted more than 25,000 marchers. CLC organizes the annual event in the nation’s capital, in what was originally a witness to mark the “Day of Infamy” when, on May 14, 1969, Pierre Trudeau decriminalized abortion in Canada. Then a few hundred stalwarts of the pro-life movement showed up. Now tens of thousands of pro-lifers, most of them high school and university students, join what has become a joyous celebration of life. This year’s theme of “Let life win” spoke to the upbeat and hopeful nature of the large contingent of young people.

Several MPs who addressed the crowd noted that the National March for Life is the largest demonstration on Parliament Hill each year and it’s always peaceful. LifeSiteNews reported that 30 Lutherans for Life took part in the March this year, including Gary Teske, who traveled from Saskatoon to Ottawa to participate. There was also a large group of Anglicans.

This year’s National March for Life was dedicated to Linda Gibbons and Mary Wagner, who at the time were both in jail in Vanier, Ont., for their pro-life witness encouraging women at abortuaries to choose life. Gibbons was released the following day. Wagner had excerpts of an open letter she penned read to the crowd (see letter HERE).

In addition to the demand for justice for the unborn, this year’s March also highlighted the issue of euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide following the Feb. 6 Supreme Court ruling striking down the assisted-suicide prohibition in the Criminal Code.

During the press conference the day before, speakers from Campaign Life Coalition and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition highlighted ways in which the groups hoped that Canadian public policy could “let life win,” including resisting the call for expansion of abortion services in Atlantic Canada, turning back the assault on conscience rights in Ontario and Saskatchewan, and finding a satisfactory solution to the Supreme Court ruling on euthanasia.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said Parliament needs more time to debate the issue foisted upon them by the Supreme Court decision that ignored the fact that the House of Commons considered the issue in 2010 when it voted overwhelmingly against legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide. Schadenberg called for the invocation of the notwithstanding clause to buy more time for the government to consider its options and present a bill to Parliament, noting that the summer recess and fall election campaign severely limited the ability of the Conservative government to deliberate on the issue.

That evening, hundreds of pro-lifers gathered at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street in Ottawa for the annual Candlelight Vigil to mark the killing of more than 4 million Canadian children in utero. CLC said on its website that the vigil’s “prayerful nature served as excellent spiritual preparation for the next day’s big march.” The Auxiliary Bishop of Ottawa, Christian Riesbech, opened the vigil with the words of Deuteronomy 30:19: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Adrianna Palma, 22, shared the story of how she refused abortion as a solution to her inconvenient pregnancy in university. Also addressing the crowd at the event were CLC Youth speakers Christina Alaimo and Emma Coates, and Steve Karlen, director of North American Outreach for 40 Days for Life.

The next day there were a total of seven prayer services and Masses in the city.

At a gathering of more than 350 Reformed Christians at the Baptist Church of Ottawa, Rev. Peter Holtvluwer, pastor of Spring Creek Canadian Reformed Church in Tintern, Ont., said that Canada is “cozying up to death” because “since 1988 Canadians have had unrestricted access to the killing of babies in the womb.” In response to the call for euthanasia and assisted-suicide, Rev. Holtvluwer reminded attendees Jesus “loved life so much he was willing to suffer death.” Rev. George Van Popta explained that Reformed Churches are vigorously pro-life because, as the Dutch pastor-politician Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine’!”

Canadian bishops celebrated masses in four different churches. At St. Patrick’s Basilica, London Bishop Ronald Fabbro said pro-life efforts “are powerful witnesses to your Catholic faith that manifest that your faith in Christ makes a difference in your lives.” He said it was important for all “followers of Christ” to “not be silent” in protecting the unborn. At the Church of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Bishop Fred Colli of Thunder Bay, said while the “world is a battlefield when it comes to life” we must not let the troubles of the world make us “immune” to the gift of life that we all share.

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The National March for Life opened with a prayer from First Nations Chief Kenny Blacksmith. He called for God’s intervention to stop abortion in Canada

The National March for Life opened with a prayer from First Nations Chief Kenny Blacksmith.

The National March for Life opened with a prayer from First Nations Chief Kenny Blacksmith.

and end all immorality. He said, “the spiritual report card on the integrity of our nation is marked with an ‘F’,” as “we acknowledge much bloodshed, broken covenants, and immorality.” Chief Blacksmith said, “our leaders have failed, our laws have failed, to protect the precious gift of life at all stages of our people.” Noting that “Canada will certainly reap what it has sown,” he called for mercy as we try to right the wrongs.

On the Hill, various dignitaries addressed the throng of pro-lifers, including Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast and Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins, papal nuncio Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi who brought greetings from Pope Francis, and the Anglican Bishop from Newfoundland & Labrador, Don Harvey, who said not enough of his fellow Anglicans have joined the March, a trend he hoped to see reversed. Cardinal Collins said we are all called to acknowledge a “reverence for life for every person from conception to natural death.” He called upon the pro-life movement to witness with “charity and clarity.” Also in attendance, Catholic bishops, Kingston Archbishop Brendan O’Brien, Thunder Bay Bishop Fred Colli, London Bishop Ronald Fabbro, Alexandria-Cornwall Bishop Marcel Damphousse, Hamilton Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Miehm, and Ottawa Auxiliary Bishop Christian Riesbeck.

CLC national president Jim Hughes called those in attendance heroes for coming to the National March for Life. He noted that Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, opposed abortion.

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Eric Metaxas, keynote speaker at the Rose Dinner, and biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, encouraged the crowd to be a voice for the unborn, quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.”

A number of MPs also addressed the crowd, thanking them for their presence and urging them to continue the fight. Conservative MP Stella Ambler (Mississauga South) said everyone had to return home and write a letter to their MPs urging them to oppose euthanasia and assisted-suicide. She asked everyone in attendance to volunteer for the pro-life candidate in their riding or neighbouring riding. In all, more than 30 parliamentarians addressed the March or sent greetings.

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Five or six topless protesters from Femen, a pro-abortion feminist group that leverages their naked disruptiveness into media coverage for the cause, attempted to interrupt the speeches, but they were stopped by the volunteer security and RCMP before they could become a problem.

Other speakers included former Liberal MP Pat O’Brien, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director Alex Schadenberg, co-founder of LifeSiteNews.com John-Henry Westen, and Nat Gallo from the Knights of Columbus.

About 90 per cent of those on the Hill participated in the one-hour march through the streets of the capital, as security limits participants to only those who leave the gates of Parliament Hill one hour after the march formally begins at 1:30.

After the March, men and women from the Silent No More Awareness campaign shared their stories of regret with the crowd.

In the evening, the annual Rose Dinner and Youth Banquet attracted crowds of nearly 450 and 850 respectively.

At the Rose Dinner, Eric Metaxas drew on his biographies of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the victories for righteousness in history to urge pro-lifers to stand up together to fight the culture of death. “If all of you push now with all the strength you have, it will go down,” Metaxas said, of the abortion license in Canada.

At the Youth Banquet, about 850 students heard Matt Fradd who talks about sexual freedom and the dangers of internet pornography. The evening closed with music from NET Ministries.

The following day, about 750 high school students took part in the Youth Conference organized by Niagara Region Right to Life. They heard Daniel Gilman and Dan Zeleny talk about “Bro-Life,” about why men should join the pro-life movement; a Pro-life 101 seminar with Maaike Rosendal of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform; a pro-life leadership workshop presented by Patrick Sullivan, and CLC Youth’s Carter Grant and Alissa Golob talked about “More than a Hashtag” urging activism beyond social media. Keynote speakers included Golob, the CCBR’s Jonathon van Maren, and Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman.

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About the National March for Life CLC national vice president Jeff Gunnarson told LifeSiteNews, the March’s theme “Let Life Win” is intended to acknowledge “the fact that hearts and minds must change before the laws will change. We have to have a groundswell of support that says, we need to have this abortion stopped, then you have the courage of the MPs to change.” He said the National March for Life “is more a cultural event than a political event,” because “the witness we give here, and the fact that it’s on Parliament Hill, will get people engaged in the culture with the pro-life message.”

Additional March for Life photos  HERE 

CLC has announced that the 2016 National March for Life will be held May 12.

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