OTTAWA (CCN)—Despite logistical
challenges and a competing March in Toronto, the 22nd National March for Life
drew thousands to Parliament Hill May 9 to mark the 50th anniversary
of legal abortion in Canada.
The committee in charge of events on Parliament Hill did not permit Campaign Life Coalition, organizers of the March, to use the steps in front of Centre Block as it had in previous years; it did not allow the satellite truck for EWTN to park on the lawn; and it ensured half the lawn was blocked off, making only the west side available. At the far corner of the west lawn, an area was carved out for between 50 and 100 counter-demonstrators.
These changes meant organizers had to set up a riser at the foot of the steps for speakers, making it harder for the crowd estimated at between 6,000 and 20,000 to see the speakers.
But these challenges and the threat of rain did not quell the excitement of the crowd that included eight Catholic bishops: the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi representing Pope Francis, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal; Archbishop-emeritus Brendan O’Brien of Kingston, Bishop Ronald Fabbro of London, Bishop Guy Desrochers, Auxiliary Bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall, and Bishop Bryan Bayda, of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon. Bishop Charlie Masters of the Anglican Network in Canada was also present.
Cardinal Thomas Collins spoke of the “profound preciousness of the gift of life,” that is threatened by abortion in its first stages. “But increasingly, the cold hand of euthanasia is upon our country as well” at the last stages of life, the cardinal said.
He urged people to pray for “those
seeking to follow their consciences and not follow the path that leads to
death,” and for protection for conscience rights not only for medical
professionals but for everyone.
The counter-demonstrators unsuccessfully tried to drown out the speakers at the March by chanting slogans. Police kept them away from the marchers and this year counter-protesters did not block the March and force it to reverse course the way they did last year.
Former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson, the subject of a new feature film called Unplanned about her conversion to the pro-life cause, told the media not to be tempted “to give attention to vile protestors and vile signs defending the killing of the most innocent among us.”
“This is the story here,” she said, gesturing to the pro-life crowd. “It is cowardly to support death. It is courageous to support life.”
“Don’t pay attention to the 100 people over there, when you’ve got 20,000 in front of you,” she said.
“It’s time to stand up to the media who will try to silence us and take away your freedom of speech,” Johnson said.
Canadians are “the most polite people” she has ever met, Johnson said. “You’ve got to stop being so danged polite!”
“Children are being killed, dismembered in their mother’s wombs,” she said. “It’s time to stop cowering to the liberal media and the Liberal Parliament.”
”We need a radical conversion in Canada that is going to start in the churches,” she said. She asked the religious leaders present what they were going to do to make that happen.
“We are waiting for your voice from the pulpits,” Johnson said. “We are waiting for you to lead on this issue.”
Johnson said the scourge of abortion was not going to end in the halls of Parliament, but because people like those demonstrating say, “no more death; no more evil; not on our watch.”
“It is time to stand up; time to fight back; time to break free of the fear that binds us,” Johnson said.
About 15 present and former Members of Parliament on the Hill and at least one Senator.
“Every person has a set of beliefs that informs them where they came from, where they are going and who they are,” said Conservative MP David Anderson, speaking on behalf of the parliamentarians present. “Your beliefs tell you that life is precious and should only end in natural death.”
The pro-life cause includes standing
with women who choose to keep their babies; protecting freedom of conscience; supporting
palliative care and defunding money promoting abortion overseas, Anderson said,
noting the Maternal Health Initiative under the Harper government was a pro-life
initiative aimed at truly improving the health of women and children five and
“We are not called by conscience to condemn others, but to show a love that transcends us,” Anderson said.
He also mentioned his private members’ Bill C-418 defending conscience rights for health professionals that coming up for debate in the House of Commons later this month. It is meant to protect people from threats, intimidation and coercion, he said. Anderson, who is retiring from politics and will not run in the next election, said if his bill does not pass in this Parliament, other MPs will take it up in the next.