Each year, thousands gather on Parliament Hill for the annual March for Life to show their opposition to abortion. The march is one of Campaign Life Coalition’s biggest success stories. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Campaigning for life for 35 years

  • June 6, 2013

TORONTO - For 35 years Campaign Life Coalition has fought on the political front of the pro-life movement — and to its dismay the end is nowhere in sight.

On May 25, 1978, Campaign Life was established in Winnipeg with about 200 supporters who sought to change Section 251 of the Criminal Code of Canada, frequently referred to as the therapeutic abortion provision. Contained in former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1968-1969, the provision legalized abortion when it was deemed in the interest of the mother’s health by a committee of doctors.

In January 1988 that law was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada, which invited Parliament to come back with a re-written law that conformed with the charter. That new law, however, has never passed, leaving Canada without abortion legislation.

Since its early days, Campaign Life has grown nationwide, setting up provincial offices from coast-to-coast and increasing its number of supporters to more than 1,000 families.

“The battle over the years has been first of all to educate Canadians to what this is all about and then to encourage them to run for public office,” said Jim Hughes, Campaign Life’s national president. “We’ve helped hundreds of candidates over the years to win nominations at various levels of government and then got behind them to get them elected.”

According to the organization there have been more than 40 pieces of incremental legislation that Campaign Life has helped initiate through the politicians it has recruited, educated and stood behind in the face of adversity. But few have passed, including MP Mark Warawa’s recent Motion-408 to combat gendercide.

Canada still has no laws that limit abortion, meaning the life of an unborn child can be terminated at any time during the nine months of pregnancy.

“Because we don’t appear to be, quote, winning, some people are suggesting that we can accept something less than a law that would protect all human life,” said Mary Ellen Douglas, Campaign Life’s national organizer. “Campaign Life does not accept that.”

While Campaign Life’s behind- the-scenes battles in the House of Commons have yielded fewer results than hoped, aside from establishing the multi-party Pro-Life Caucus in the mid-1980s, Campaign Life does have one true success story in Ottawa. Sixteen years ago the organization hosted the first National March for Life which drew pro-lifers from across the country together, united in their opposition to abortion, to assemble on Parliament Hill and demand change. Like Campaign Life itself, annual marches have since been established in cities across the country, garnering greater numbers with each passing year, said Hughes.

This year in the nation’s capital alone more than 20,000 gathered at the march to advocate for life and distaste express for the federal government’s lack of affirmative action on the abortion issue. Of those who gathered on May 9 at Parliament Hill this year, about 75 per cent were 25 years of age or younger, estimated Hughes, adding that this gives the organization great hope for the future.

“A lot of young people have joined us now,” he said. “A lot of them have assumed leadership roles and the older people are mentoring them. Hopefully it will lead the whole movement to see the end of the slaughter of innocence.”

The growing strength of the young voice sparked the birth of Campaign Life Coalition Youth in 1999, which holds an annual Defund Abortion Rally at Queen’s Park in Toronto. The rally targets the taxpayer funding of abortion.

These events, and the others held by Campaign Life over the years, have helped the organization meet its number-one function, said Hughes: to keep abortion in the public eye.

“Keeping the issue alive is the number one thing that we’ve done,” said Hughes. “We’ve managed to keep the issue alive when former prime ministers have said the issue is dead.”

What drives these events, and the cause as a whole for Campaign Life, is spirituality.

“The spirituality is at the core of everything that we do,” said Hughes. “Every day we just say you’ve got to say your prayers first and then go and try the best you can. As long as we continue to do that then eventually things will change.”

When that will be Hughes cannot say. So until then, all the organization can do is continue what it has always done — educate.

“We recognize that we would like them to change today but everything is in God’s time and when He says so that’s when things will begin to change,” said Hughes. “We have to continue to try to educate people on these issues and continue to sacrifice in order to make it work. It’s certainly been a huge challenge but it has been life altering.”

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