Update 3:25pm: Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews he counted 23,000 participants. As he does every year, Hughes stood at one spot along the route and counted marchers in groups of ten to ensure the most accurate count possible.
OTTAWA, May 8, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On a beautiful sunny day in Canada’s capital, thousands of pro-life citizens joined the National March for Life to urge Canada’s parliamentarians to promote the right to life.
The march this year focused especially on urging Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to reject the RU-486 abortion drug, which is currently being considered for approval by Health Canada.
Marchers were surprised to receive a personal message from Pope Francis supporting the event, read during the rally by Cardinal Gerald Lacroix of Quebec City.
The Holy Father “assures [March for Life participants] of his spiritual closeness as they give witness to the God-given dignity, beauty, and value of human life,” read the message by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. “He prays that this event foster greater respect for the inviolable right to life of each person from conception to natural death and support the efforts of all who labor to ensure that this fundamental human right receives adequate legal protection.”
As Lacroix read the message, he was interrupted by a topless woman protester who shouted “f*** your morals!” The woman was taken away and the cardinal continued reading.
The event was again broadcast live by EWTN. It also saw an unprecedented presence from Canadian media, with cameras from CBC, Global, CTV, and Sun News.
The march came one day after Liberal leader Justin Trudeau controversially stated that his party would bar pro-life candidates, except sitting MPs, from running in the 2015 federal election.
In his remarks at the rally, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto prayed that all MPs would be free to promote life in accord with their conscience.
“It is the role of all of us as citizens to pray for those who serve us in public office and to pray that each person who is entrusted with the mission of public service would be free to do so with a free conscience,” he said. “We pray particularly that all of those who serve us in political life will not in any way feel inhibited from proclaiming the great gift of life, the great gift of marriage.”
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In his remarks, Cardinal Lacroix noted that the there were renovations underway on Parliament Hill, and observed, “Our people can continue to count on us to rebuild our nation, working for the respect of human beings one at a time.”
“It’s a joy to be here together today once a year but I'm very proud that all year long we continue to help people around us to respect life and we are committed in our own homes, families, parishes, and in our cities and towns, to be lovers of life,” he said.
There were twenty-one members of Parliament and senators present at the rally.
Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge, chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, opened the remarks from the politicians by criticizing Trudeau’s comments.
“As a parliamentarian I actually believe all of you should be able to hold [the pro-life] view in society,” he said. “I believe you should be able to join political parties, actually run for political office. And thankfully in my party I have that right. I can run as a pro-lifer and I’m very proud of that.”
Conservative MP Royal Galipeau reminded marchers, “You are the landlords of this place. … We are just tenants and temporary tenants.”
Conservative MP Bob Zimmer exhorted participants to “change hearts and minds” on the abortion issue and said, “You are the front lines.”
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth told participants, “Please demand that each and every single member of Parliament recognize the equal worth and dignity of every member of the human family.”
“Each year Campaign Life outdoes itself. This is by far and away the biggest crowd that we've had,” he added.
Conservative MP Pierre Lemieux said, “To the youth, as a father of five children, I’d like to say never underestimate the strength of your voice and never underestimate the power of your presence, especially on this life issue.”