By Steve Jalsevac
May 31, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Campaign Life Coalition in its June Newsletter reports that the 2009 National March for Life in Ottawa marking 40 years of legalized abortion in Canada was a resounding success with record-breaking attendance. The organization went on to provide many details about the various March for Life events that have not been reported in the secular media.
Despite a forecast of rain that ran all week before May 14 and a misty rain that turned into more of a downpour during the speeches on Parliament Hill and the beginning of the March, CLC confirms, as reported in LifeSiteNews on May 14, over 12,000 people took part in this year's National March for Life. The procession which took well over an hour from start to finish, witnessed to the great injustice of millions of unborn child killings facilitated by the 1969 passage of the Trudeau-led Liberal government's Omnibus Bill.
This year's crowd for the March smashed last year's record of just over 8000 with a 50% increase. “Each year's success builds the foundation for the next National March for Life,” says CLC, “as schools, youth groups, and churches return from having experienced the incredible demonstration of solidarity with the unborn and are moved to encourage friends and family to join in subsequent marches.”
This year, an unprecedented number of schools and church groups sent buses to Ottawa to take part in the march. Barry Mombourquette brought over 150 students from the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. He told The Interim it is important for teachers to bring students to the National March for Life, because the students “are the ones who will make a change. They are the future lawyers, doctors, mothers, fathers, lawmakers and teachers.” His students enthusiastically shared their views on abortion. A Grade 11 student from St. Thomas More in Hamilton said she came to Ottawa to provide a voice for her unborn brothers and sisters because “their cries are not being heard.”
Besides those who came on hundreds of buses, including 65 schools, this year's March was joined by numerous notable dignitaries including 14 Catholic bishops. The CLC National News lists them as follows:
His Eminence Marc Cardinal Ouellet – Quebec City
His Grace Archbishop Terrence Prendergast – Ottawa
His Grace Archbishop Thomas Collins – Toronto
His Excellency Archbishop Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada
His Grace Archbishop Brendan O'Brien – Kingston
His Grace Archbishop Sutton, OMI, emeritus archbishop of Keewatin-LePas
His Excellency Bishop Paul-André Durocher – Alexandria-Cornwall
His Excellency Bishop Ronald Fabbro – London
His Excellency Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe – Sault Ste Marie
His Excellency Bishop Michael Mulhall – Pembroke
His Excellency Bishop Stephen Victor Chmilar- Ukrainian Bishop of Toronto and Eastern Canada
His Excellency Bishop John Stephen Pazak – Byzantine Rites
Msgr Gerard Drainville, retired bishop of Amos (Quebec)
Retired Archbishop of Ottawa, the Most Reverend Marcel Gervais
In addition, two Anglican Catholic bishops joined in the March events and were invited onto the altar with all the Roman Catholic bishops during the mass at Notre Dame Cathedral before the march. The two bishops were the Rt. Rev. Peter D. Wilkinson, from Victoria, B.C., and the Rt. Rev. Carl L. Reid, of North Gower, ON.
Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet gave an impassioned French-only speech on the Hill that was significantly picked up by the Quebec media. In his call to action he stated, “After forty years of exile from the culture of life, we come to Parliament Hill to claim the return of the right to life of the human being in gestation in Canada”.
Toronto Archishop Thomas Collins, head of Canada's largest diocese, was also a prominent and heartily cheered first time participant in the March. In his comments on the Hill, immediately following Cardinal Oullet, Archbishop Collins emphasized the reason and compassion of the pro-life cause, stating, “The right to life is a question of justice.”
Collins stressed that the marchers have to publicly express their views on the abortion issue and that they “must engage in a public conversation.” He stated, “We do this in a public place on Parliament Hill as is our right, for we are citizens…” The archbishop urged such engagement, “especially on issues of injustice, whether it be slavery, civil rights or, in this case, the protection of human life from the first moment of its existence to natural death.” In that context he also mentioned the growing push for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
CLC also listed the 19 Members of Parliament who were also present on Parliament Hill to greet the demonstrators (many of the MPs addressed the audience of thousands):
Harold Albrecht, Kelly Block, Garry Breitkreuz, Rod Bruinooge, John Cummins, Dean Del Mastro, Guy Lauzon, Pierre Lemieux, Colin Mayes, Dan McTeague, Levar Payne, Andrew Sheer, Paul Szabo, Brad Trost, Maurice Vellacott, Chris Warkentin , Jeff Watson, Stephen Woodworth.
MP Rod Bruinooge (Cons., Winnipeg South) alluded to the weather when he said, “The storm is here,” before adding that the real storm was the 12,000 people on the front lawn of Parliament. “We will not go away. We need to be listened to.”
Former MP Pat O'Brien told the crowd, “The March for Life is the most important rally on Parliament Hill every year.”
The theme of all the MPs' presentations was the need to keep up the fight against abortion and to not relent until the law is changed.
Other dignitaries that addressed the throng included Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus; former MPs Pat O'Brien and Tom Wappel – who serve as the political and legal counsel to CLC respectively – and Lia Mills, a 12-year-old whose school speech became an internationally famous five-minute internet video presentation that provides an articulate, reasoned, point-by-point argument against abortion. Other than young Lia Mills who addressed abortion directly, the speakers generally rallied the crowd to continue giving voice to the unborn and to remain vigilant in their defense of life in all spheres.
Organizers of the National March for Life said they were thrilled with the turnout.
The rains, the first time this has occurred during the March, didn't dampen the spirits of those in the crowd, who were louder and more enthusiastic than ever before.
More than half of those in attendance were youth – high school and university students – many who were proud to display their school banners or pro-life signs reports Campaign Life Coalition. Many wore pro-life t-shirts, signaling their deep commitment to the cause. Jim Hughes, the National President of CLC, said that “the growing number of young people” is a “tremendous blessing” to both the March and to the movement. “This is going to make a difference.”
CLC also states it is extremely gratified that the March had the support of the nation's Catholic bishops. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops threw its official support behind the event, as the 13 Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals concelebrated various Masses and several Bishops took part in the actual procession through the streets of the nation's capital.
Before the National March for Life, there was plenty of opportunity for spiritual nourishment. There was a Canadian Reformed Church and ecumenical prayer service as well as Catholic simultaneous masses at Notre Dame Cathedral and St. Patrick's Basilica that were filled to capacity. The evening before, there was a Mass at St. Theresa's Church preceding the candlelight vigil at the Human Rights Monument. In the bus trips organized by schools, youth groups and churches, many travelers took the opportunity to pray during the journey to Ottawa.
Approximately 500 people took part in the candlelight vigil the evening before the March, holding candles, listening to guest speakers including student activists, the Sisters for Life and the Sister Servants of the Cross (a new community of Sisters in Ottawa). They prayed and sang hymns. It was seen as a powerful reminder that abortion is the human rights issue facing our nation.
After the March, there was musical entertainment by David MacDonald, a veteran pro-life activist and an annual staple of the National March for Life accompanied this year by Kathleen Dunn from Ancaster. McDonald's band invited students to join them on stage and they danced and sang as a testament to the joyful nature of doing the Lord's work. “The issue of abortion may be a grave one”, writes CLC in its newletter, “but we need not be in the doldrums fighting it.”
After the music, a number of men and women gave powerful and moving personal testimonies as part of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. The size of the crowd that stayed behind after the March to listen to these testimonies was at least 3-4,000 – by far the largest ever. Many in the crowd were seen wiping tears from their eyes while listening to these heart wrenching personal stories. After that there was a Prayer Service led by Eastern Catholic Chaplaincy of Ottawa. At least 500 people stayed for this impressive Eastern rite ceremony and prayers.
In the evening, the Rose Dinner was said to be a huge and successful event, with the 1100 seats sold out long in advance. Featured speakers were Tom Wappel, former Member of Parliament, as well as Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. Both speakers left the crowd aware of their duty to stand up both politically and in their everyday lives for a just nation where all life is protected.
Organizers are planning for the 2010 National March for Life. CLC exects next year could be bigger and better than this year's event, but every March builds upon the previous ones. The organizers are encouraging pro-life Canadians to begin now to make your plans to join the 13th annual National March for Life in Ottawa next year (May 12-14).
Over 800 people attended the Youth Conference the day after the March. They heard presentations from numerous speakers, including LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief, John-Henry Westen. The packed conference centre at the Hampton Inn featured multi-media presentations which provided excellent opportunities to educate future pro-life activists and leaders. The feedback from students and teachers is reported to have been overwhelmingly positive.
(Article compiled with files from June CLC National News, the June Interim newspaper and LifeSiteNews reports)
See Previous LifeSiteNews reports on the 2009 March for Life
Ontario Knights of Columbus Throw Full Support Behind March for Life – Will Subsidize Bus Trips
Thousands More, 12 Bishops, and 18 Politicians Join in Regional Marches for Life Across Canada
Toronto CWL Convention Rallies behind the Pro-Life Cause, March For Life
Cardinal Ouellet at Ottawa March for Life: Canada “is at the Lowest Rung of the Ladder”
12-Year-Old Pro-Life Prodigy Gives Moving Speech at Canadian March for Life
CBC “Engaged in Blatant Media Censorship” Says CLC about Lack of National Coverage for March for Life
Canadian Evangelical Leadership Looking to Increase March For Life Attendance
Largest Canadian Paper: No Coverage of March for Life but Detailed Reports on Jailed US Abortionist Shooter
Hamilton “Culture of Life” Committee Breaks Ground in High School Pro-Life Education