‘Indefatigable’ Saskatchewan pro-life ‘warrior’ passes away to cancer

Denise Hounjet-Roth will be remembered for her tireless efforts by pro-life advocates across the country.
Fri Aug 26, 2016 - 4:56 pm EST
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Denise, right, with married son and first grandchild.

SASKATOON, Saskatchewan, August 26, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- She will be remembered by pro-lifers across Canada as an inspirational pro-life activist and mother who worked tirelessly in her province over the past 26 years to be a voice for the voiceless in the political arena. Yesterday Denise Hounjet-Roth, president of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) Saskatchewan, lost her battle with cancer at the age of 59. She was a beloved wife and mother of two sons and had just become a first-time grandmother. 

“Denise was tough and soft at the same time,” recounted CLC National President Jim Hughes to LifeSiteNews. “She was tough on the issues. She would not back down. She would not compromise in the least, but she was as soft as a teddy bear when it came to dealing with individual human beings.”

Hughes said that as the key person when it came to politics in Saskatchewan from a pro-life and pro-family perspective, Denise was “indefatigable” in her work as well as “highly respected.” 

“She worked so hard. She was absolutely amazing. She wouldn't take any guff from any of the politicians. She was well respected by all of them,” he said. 

It was in 1990 when Denise, who at the time was pregnant with her second son and had only been involved in pro-life activism for three months, became president of CLC Saskatchewan. The faithful Catholic first became involved in pro-life activism in response to pro-life MP Tom Wappel’s announcing his bid for the federal Liberal leadership at that time. 

Denise, middle, protesting aboriton in Saskatchewan.

A 2009 article in The Interim tells Denise’s story this way. 

As a devout Catholic, Hounjet-Roth received mailings from the local pro-life group. However, she had never considered becoming active herself. Wappel’s leadership bid changed this. The campaign captured her imagination and she attended a CLC strategy meeting in Ste. Anne de Beaupre. There she met Wappel and Liberals for Life leader Dan McCash.

Their message resonated with the political rookie. “If everyone went back home and worked hard at selling memberships in the party, and selected a majority of pro-life delegates, then we could elect a pro-life prime minister,” she recalls thinking at the time. “I said: ‘Let’s do it!’”

Hounjet-Roth returned to Saskatchewan, where she sold memberships for the Liberal party and helped organize delegates for Wappel. He says she was the “head of a triumverate of ladies who organized his campaign in Saskatchewan.” The province was the only one not have a majority of elected delegates supporting Jean Chretien.

Her enthusiasm and organizational skills caught the attention of Saskatchewan’s pro-life community. Less than a month later, she was asked to assume the leadership of CLC Saskatchewan.

In an interview with The Interim in May of this year, Denise relates that she decided to become involved in pro-life activism because she wanted to “make a difference” for preborn babies targeted for abortion. 

Even though Wappel lost his bid for leadership, Denise continued pro-life work in the province, meeting and building relationships with practically every Saskatchewan MP, who learned to know her by name. 

She helped the campaigns, including door knocking, that saw the successful election of now veteran pro-life MPs Maurice Vellacott, who retired before the last election and Brad Trost, who recently announced a bid for the Conservative Party leadership. 

Denise said in the same May interview with The Interim that if Canada wants authentic pro-life laws, it must work towards implementing “incremental legislation” not “gestational legislation.”

I think many are so ready for a law that they would settle for any law even if it meant a bad law. I have never believed or supported gestational legislation. And I am glad that Campaign Life Coalition has stood their ground on this issue. I believe in incremental legislation such as defunding, women’s right to know, etc. When you set about thinking that getting a law protecting unborn children after 20 weeks, will settle things in this country, you are dreaming. First of all, most of the abortions are done around 12 weeks or less, especially in our province. If nothing else, we should have learned from past experience that there will always be a way around the coveted “weeks” number. One needs only look and study what has happened across the ocean with gestational legislation and that should push us to work harder to protect the unborn from conception or at the very least, work on incremental legislation.

She said at that time that the greatest challenges faced by the pro-life movement is “people not willing to get involved” and so-called “pro-lifers” who vote for pro-abortion candidates.

I find that people are very comfortable on their couches and they are not willing to get involved in doing more than reading the newsletter and maybe showing up at pro-life banquets, March for Life and that is the extent of their involvement in the pro-life movement. The other is a lack of fortitude. Many will tell me that they are committed pro-life supporters but then turn around and vote for a pro-abortion candidate. Go figure.

When asked what she might say to people wanting to become involved in pro-life work, Denise responded: “Step up to the plate. Get involved. Vote pro-life! Do your part. There is no work more important than standing up for the unborn, the elderly and handicapped.”

Campaign Life Coalition Ontario president Mary Ellen Douglas called Denise an “inspiration to the whole pro-life movement” who will be sorely missed. 

“She was a valiant warrior, a big shining star in Saskatchewan. I have a very heavy heart, but I know that she will be praying for us down here,” she told LifeSiteNews. 

Denise is survived by her husband and two sons, one who has just recently married, and the other who has become a Catholic priest. 

  campaign life coalition

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