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Pro-life flag (middle) over Ottawa's City Hall. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews

Update: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has ordered the pro-life flag taken down after pro-abortion backlash. Read the story here.

OTTAWA, May 11, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — For the first time in Canada’s history, the nation’s capital this morning raised a pro-life flag over its City Hall. The day marks the 20th anniversary of the National March for Life where tens of thousands of pro-lifers rally at the country’s Parliament to demand legal protection for pre-born children targeted for abortion.

The grayish flag has the words in white and red: “National March for Life Ottawa.”

About thirty pro-lifers attended the event, which took place around 5:45, just after sunrise. The flag will fly until sundown.

The City’s Mayor Jim Watson proclaimed the day as the “National March for Life Day in the Capital.”

In a proclamation, which was read by Paul Lauzon, the Mayor stated that the National March for Life is an event where “thousands of people from across Canada and the United States…come to Parliament Hill” to “bring awareness for the need for life-affirming solutions.”

Ottawa resident Francis Barrett is the 89-year-old father and grandfather, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer, who worked with city officials to fly the flag.

Barrett told LifeSiteNews he is “so proud” of the mayor and the city staff for working with pro-lifers to raise the flag.

About 30 people gathered to raise the pro-life flag over Ottawa's City Hall.

“My idea was that everybody else can put a flag up, so why can’t we?” he said. “And they agreed with us.”

But the flag raising event almost didn’t happen. At the last minute, city officials told Barrett that the newly designed pro-life flag he wanted flown did not match with the Mayor’s proclamation about the “National March for Life Day.” There were no words on the flag indicating what the day was supposed to be about, he was told.  

Barrett said he quickly contacted Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), the political arm of the pro-life movement, to see if it had any pro-life flags with the appropriate words. And they did have a flag from years ago. The flag made it from Toronto to Ottawa just in time to be flown this morning.

The City of Ottawa says that the various flags that it raises over City Hall are meant to help build community.

“Flag-raising ceremonies enhance public awareness of activities such as national days, multicultural events, and fundraising drives,” the City states on its website. “They encourage support from members of the public, and benefit and enrich the community.”

Barrett called it a “big, big deal” for the pro-life movement in Canada to have a pro-life flag flown in such a prominent location.

He said that when good men and women do nothing, “evil will triumph.”

“So I say, pro-lifers, stand up, be counted, don’t be ashamed. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Coalition told LifeSiteNews that he hopes the event “marks the beginning of an annual tradition that will grow in cities across the nation.”

“We thank the Mayor and Councillors of Ottawa for respecting free speech, and allowing the pro-life flag to fly over City Hall. May it continue next year and every year after,” he said.

“The sanctity of life is flying high today,” he added.

Fonseca said that Barrett's initiative reminded him of what Saint Mother Teresa once told CLC President Jim Hughes years ago at a prior March For Life in the nation's capital.

“She said that the 'beautiful thing about the pro-life movement is that it’s ordinary people doing extraordinary things for God,'” he said. 

The March for Life commemorates May 14, 1969, what pro-lifers call Canada’s “day of infamy,” when Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s Liberal government passed the Omnibus Bill that legalized abortion.

The bill has resulted in the deaths of about 100,000 babies annually by abortion, or what works out to about 3.5 million since 1969.

The theme for today’s March for Life is “Life, We stand on guard for Thee.”