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Catholic Vancouver July 24, 2018

Controversial pro-life group hits B.C. with renewed energy

By Agnieszka Ruck

An activist with the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform at a recent demonstration in Vancouver. The organization, which has been criticized by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is expanding in B.C. (Photos submitted)

An edgy pro-life group that has drawn the ire of Canada’s Prime Minister is expanding to B.C.

The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform has attracted controversy across the country for its use of graphic images of abortion victims. Various groups, and Justin Trudeau himself, have publicly opposed their work.

According to CCBR’s brand-new hire, a Vancouver outreach coordinator, that’s just fine.

“Any press that we can get is good press, because we’re ultimately not worried about how our organization looks, but how abortion looks,” said Michael Roy.

Roy is the new local face of the group, which is active in Calgary, Toronto, and Winnipeg, as it sets up shop in the Lower Mainland. In the few months since he was hired, he has rallied 15 new volunteers and has been running weekly activism projects in cities including Burnaby and New Westminster.

“Our goal, ultimately, is to make abortion unthinkable in Canada. In order to do that, we have to reach as many different Canadians as possible. By bringing a new initiative to Vancouver, we’re reaching a brand-new audience of, potentially, millions of people.”

They have met resistance at the highest levels. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his position on the Canada Summer Jobs grant controversy – in which federal funding would only be available to companies trying hire summer students if they checked a box saying they supported abortion – he specifically targeted CCBR.

“You have organizations out there like the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform that have been receiving thousands upon thousands of dollars of government money – taxpayer money – to distribute hateful flyers of aborted fetuses to try and convince people to remove the right of a woman to control her reproductive choices,” he said.

“That is not something the federal government is going to fund. We are not rolling back the clock on women’s rights. I know that makes a few people upset, but there is no way government funding is going to organizations that have the specific and explicit purpose of limiting women’s rights, period.”

Roy said CCBR has already received negative reaction in B.C., but he remains unfazed.

“When people look at an image of what abortion is, there are studies that show approximately 67 per cent of people report having more negative feelings about abortion,” he said.

“If 67 per cent of people who see us, regardless of what they think of us, are less inclined to have an abortion and are more inclined to vote for life in the future, that’s ultimately what we want.”

A CCBR activist chats with a bystander at a recent demonstration.

The organization is growing despite the negative publicity, according to Western outreach director Cameron Côté.

Côté is the former president of Youth Protecting Youth, the pro-life club at the University of Victoria, which took the university to court over what members considered squashing of the club’s right to free speech.

“We are definitely experiencing fairly significant growth,” said Côté. “I think more and more people are getting a taste of the work we are doing and are seeing the results.”

He hopes to build a regular CCBR presence in the Lower Mainland, an “important social hub” in Canada.

The group is not new to B.C. – former executive director Stephanie Gray grew up in Chilliwack and co-founded CCBR in 2001 – but it hasn’t generated the same volume of activism that other Canadian cities have.

Now, if Roy meets his goals, this renewed effort in the Lower Mainland will see three activism events somewhere every week. They would include Choice Chain – where demonstrators display graphic images on posters on a busy street – and door-to-door post card distribution. The organization also has a truck with signage pasted on it, but doesn’t have a driver for it yet.

“Our goal is to get as many people to see this reality that’s being hidden, which is what abortion actually looks like,” said Roy.