RICHMOND HILL, ONT. - The pro-life movement is spreading in the halls of St. Theresa of Lisieux Catholic High School.

Published in Youth Speak News

Trent University’s student union has denied club status to the pro-life student group Trent Lifeline.

Published in Canada

TORONTO - Armed with graphic posters depicting abortion, information pamphlets and unified voices, about 20 pro-lifers gathered on the sidewalk outside Innis Town Hall on the University of Toronto campus Jan. 28 to protest the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Morgentaler decision.

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For the second consecutive day pro-life supporters in Sudbury, Ont., are protesting the Dec. 21 appearance of Liberal leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau at St. Charles College.

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OTTAWA - For pro-life activists Ruth Lobo Shaw and her husband James Shaw, a new baby last August only strengthened their willingness to put even their livelihoods on the line.

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In the face of an impending lawsuit, the student union at Langley, B.C.'s Kwantlen Polytechnic University has relented and will confer club status on a campus pro-life group.

Published in Youth Speak News

DUBLIN - Thousands of pro-life demonstrators held a candlelight vigil outside the Irish parliament Dec. 4, calling on the government not to introduce abortion legislation.

Published in International

DUBLIN (CNS) -- An Irish bishop and pro-life activists insisted that any legislation to provide abortion in limited situations would inevitably lead to widespread abortion.

Published in International

A new study by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom (JCCF) found that many Canadian university campuses may embrace the principle of free speech but in practice give it a rough ride.

Some campuses received an “A” for their written policies and statements about free speech, but a far lower grade for implementing those policies and settling disputes. To anyone who has watched the treatment of university pro-life clubs in the past decade or so, the findings were not surprising but only confirmed the extent of the problem and pointed to where it could lead.

The JCCF’s Campus Freedom Index rated the policies of university administrations and student unions based on whether they supported and protected free speech on campus. The study also reviewed human rights policies and anti-discrimination policies to determine if they were being used to censor politically incorrect speech. Higher grades went to universities that had a clear anti-disruption policy that prohibited students and others from blocking, obstructing, suppressing or interrupting speech with which they disagree. The Index also examined policies governing the imposition of “security fees” as a means to discourage groups from inviting controversial or unpopular speakers to campus.

Among incidents with religious overtones, members of Carleton University’s pro-life club were arrested, handcuffed and charged with “trespassing” for attempting to express their views in a high-traffic area on campus. Simon Fraser University and the University of Calgary were both censured in the report for condoning the physical obstruction of pro-life displays on school property after campus security watched passively as the peaceful expression of opinion was made meaningless by obstructers using sheets and blankets to cover the message. The University of Western Ontario, University of Toronto and Carleton demanded that campus pro-life clubs confine their messages to isolated rooms, a restriction not placed on any other campus club, while St. Mary’s University forced the cancelation of a pro-life lecture by failing to provide adequate security to allow listeners to hear the presentation.

The survey also studied university policies on Israel Apartheid and inviting controversial political speakers on campus. In a National Post report on the findings, study co-author John Carpay, president of JCCF, said that while pro-life groups seem to be a “current target” on campus, in future it could be some other group that doesn’t fit with the popular view of the day.

An incident not included in the study suggests that day may be closer than we think. As reported in the Oct. 28 issue of The Catholic Register, a Catholic chaplaincy program at Brock University has faced harassment due to ties to the Sodalit movement, which a women’s studies professor claimed was affiliated with “far right” and “cult-like” Catholic organizations in Peru. Despite a ruling from Brock’s administration that the accusations are unfounded and the relationship between the university and SEA has been beneficial to the university, incidents of harassment continued, including an episode where a fundraising event was shut down by hecklers. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal subsequently dismissed a claim of religious discrimination against the professor, ruling that her actions fell within the realm of academic freedom. (The CCRL had an advisory role in the case at the request of one of the volunteer chaplains.)

The tribunal’s assertion that the professor’s actions do not constitute religious discrimination is certainly arguable; harassment took place and it’s impossible to see any basis for it other than religious affiliation. Some of the academics who opposed the chaplaincy initiative stated their case more plainly when they declared point-blank at a rally in 2011 that they don’t want organizations with religious ties offering any work programs or volunteer experiences on campus.

Given the very strong relationship between religious belief and philanthropy, it’s hard to imagine where those volunteer opportunities will come from if organizations with religious ties are excluded. We have been witnessing an ongoing marginalization of religion in public life for several decades, so it’s quite possible that religious groups will be deemed to no longer fit with popular notions of who belongs on campus. Only a vigourous defence of campus free speech now — including the right to express ideas Catholics may dislike — will help prevent that from happening.

Published in Joanne McGarry

TORONTO - Political lobbying is not just about what you say, it’s how you say it, according to a pair of Conservative MPs. That was just one of the tips Stephen Woodworth and Brad Trost gave to those attending the National Pro Life Conference.

“Although I am in Parliament, I happen to believe that the world does not stop and end inside the House of Commons,” said Woodworth, MP for Kitchener Centre. “The real important work that needs to be done is outside the chamber of the House of Commons.”

Much of this has to do with language and scope, Woodworth told those attending the third and final day of the conference hosted by Alliance for Life Ontario in Toronto Oct. 25-27.

Woodworth said too many MPs are pre-occupied with the word abortion. By adjusting the language and widening the scope of the message, the pro-life movement will garner more support by avoiding sensitive words — something Woodworth admits is easier said than done.

“People don’t necessarily take away from words the meaning that I take away from them,” Woodworth said. “We have members of Parliament who are actually suggesting, in relation to Motion 312, that the Prime Minister should have a veto over the independence of backbench MPs.”

Woodworth said some MPs “couldn’t see the democratic tradition and the value of backbench independence” and “they were willing to sacrifice because of their pre-occupation with the word abortion.”

Although Motion 312 — Woodworth’s motion for a debate on when life begins — did not mention the word abortion, it led to its failure.

But Woodworth does not completely blame the failure on those MPs pre-occupied with abortion — pro-lifers are at fault too for not being able to adapt how they communicate their message.

“If you simply go in with your truth and you fail to recognize the truths that others are concerned about, you won’t make that connection, you won’t develop that relationship and you won’t be listened to,” he said. “If you cannot convince someone that a child is a human being before birth you are not going to convince them about abortion.”

While Woodworth focused heavily on how to convey the message, Trost addressed how to understand a politician’s position on the pro-life cause.

“The weakest link in Canada’s pro-life movement has been political,” said Trost, MP for Saskatoon-Humboldt. “In Canada we know the political aspect is very important and the political aspect needs to change and evolve and we need legislation to start moving it forward.”

As a Liberal turned Conservative, but a constant pro-life supporter, Trost cautioned the audience to never assume which way a politician will vote.

“People don’t actually know what they’re voting for or what they’re voting on (when electing politicians),” said Trost.

“Politicians can do one thing in Ottawa and another thing in the constituency. People are shocked when they find that out.”

He continued by stressing the importance of checking an MP’s voting records to see who stands strongly on either side of the issue, but also exposes those in the middle who’d be easier to influence.

“If you don’t know where your MP has voted, get involved, talk to them. A lot of these people who have come in from professional careers may not have fixed views. "

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OTTAWA - Pro-life activist and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medalist Linda Gibbons is back in prison, certain she is doing God’s work for praying outside an abortion facility.

Police moved in and arrested her Oct. 30 after the 64-year-old great-grandmother prayed outside of the Morgentaler abortuary on Hillsdale Avenue in Toronto, breaking a temporary injunction prohibiting demonstrators from coming too close to the facility and impeding its business.

Gibbons carried her usual sign depicting a picture of an infant and the words: “Why Mom? When I have so much to give.” Police moved in after about an hour and a half and arrested Gibbons.

“We will remain free in our love, we will not be coerced by the government to turn our backs on the unborn child,” Gibbons told CCN in an exclusive phone interview from Toronto days before her latest arrest. “If that lands us in court, that’s a gift, another providential opportunity to do the Lord’s work.

“When hoping and praying become a criminal activity, where is our freedom?” she asked.

Gibbons said her fellow inmates often ask her how she can stand the confinement, and being away from her family.

“I always tell the girls, ‘One day at a time with Jesus.’ It is Christ’s strength that gives you that fortitude to persevere,” she said.

The injunction dates back to 1989 after the former Morgentaler clinic on Harbord Street was firebombed.

Morgentaler built a bigger and more secure facility at the Hillsdale Avenue location that is covered by the temporary injunction creating a bubble zone around it.

Gibbons recalled the first time she was arrested. She and some fellow pro-lifers were in the alley behind the facility praying in a circle. They were not blocking the entrance or talking to people or doing anything that might impede Morgentaler’s business operation, she said.

She knew she would lose her job at military headquarters if she was arrested. But the words of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane came to her: “Can you not pray with me for one hour?” She realized her job “is something I must lay down.”

“Anything I put before Christ is not where I should be at the moment,” she said. “Doing the will of Christ is my first duty and the duty of the moment.”

In between arrests Gibbons used to try to get a job so as to maintain her apartment, but she realized hanging onto her home or an income was unrealistic.

“For 20 years, I have had no government support; I’m on no government program,” she said. “Pro-lifers have are carrying me through.”

A great-grandmother of two, Gibbons does miss her family when she’s in prison.

“I see this as a cost of doing business with the government,” she said. “I’m trying to leave a legacy for my grandchildren, so they don’t have to live in a society burdened by abortion.”

Published in Canada

TORONTO - About 300 people from the pro-life community filled a banquet hall at Spirale Restaurant Oct. 18 to honour Fr. Alphonse de Valk, the recently retired editor of Catholic Insight magazine.

“He was ahead of his time with his warning of legalizing abortion,” said Steve Jalsevac, managing director of LifeSiteNews. “In all the years I’ve known Fr. de Valk he’s been faithful, faithful, faithful.”

Jalsevac first got to know de Valk in 1984 when the Basilian priest moved to Toronto from the Prairies, where his pro-life journalism began shortly after penning Morality and Law in Canadian Politics: The Abortion Controversy. Both members of Campaign Life Coalition, which de Valk joined in 1978 while principal of St. Joseph’s College at the University of Edmonton, the two were always able to look past their personal differences in the name of life.

“Both being Dutchmen, actually I’m only half Dutch, we’ve had our differences,” said Jalsevac at The Testimonial Dinner for Fr. Alphonse de Valk, which was sponsored by a number of pro-life organizations. “But I prefer a man who isn’t lukewarm.”

As a post-secondary educator in both Saskatoon and Edmonton during 1970s and early ’80s, de Valk published more than 200 articles addressing abortion issues in papers which circulated on the campus. These writings helped to recruit young pro-life support.

While living in Edmonton de Valk had gathered enough supporters to begin publishing booklets, 12to 24-pages long, focusing on issues facing the pro-life movement. The group produced 36 editions over a 15-year period before de Valk moved eastward and joined Campaign Life Coalition fulltime.

“It was a wonderful thing to find a group of people whom we could associate with and who shared the value of human life, who shared the teachings of the Church,” said de Valk.

He also began writing for The Interim, a Toronto-based pro-life newspaper, that same year and eventually became editor, a position de Valk held from 1987 to 1992.

As a reporter, de Valk made the transition from advocate to activist when, in 1985, he was arrested for chaining himself to the Morgentaler Clinic’s gate. One night in the Don Jail was all de Valk served thanks to the province’s Attorney General withdrawing the charges after hearing a priest was imprisoned.

The arrest didn’t scare off de Valk who continued to be a regular, slightly less radical, picketer outside the clinic every Friday for almost five years — even after the 1989 injunction prohibiting such protests. Over these years he was arrested another eight times and fined $750 or two weeks in jail for trespassing — a fine he hasn’t paid, jail time he has not served.

“Fr. de Valk could always be counted on to state the blunt truth about controversial goings on,” Jalsevic wrote in the evening’s program.

De Valk continued to do just that after leaving The Interim with the launch of Catholic Insight in 1993.

Following a stroke, and his 80th birthday this March, de Valk decided that Catholic Insight’s publisher, the Board of Directors of Life Ethics Information Centre, should seek a new editor.

Although no longer a member of the editorial team, de Valk continues to sit on both the advisory and publishing boards of Catholic Insight.

“God’s grace has allowed us to withstand the sexual revolution,” de Valk said during the dinner’s closing speech.

“Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being. Do it for the Lord rather than for me since you know fully well that you will receive an inheritance from Him as your reward.”

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

OTTAWA - Pro-lifers targetted 44 Ontario MPPs Oct. 13, including Premier Dalton McGuinty, holding Defund Abortion mini-rallies outside their provincial riding offices to urge them to redirect money from abortion to real health care needs.

“It is illogical to have a health care system that is cash-starved and yet continues to allocate scarce dollars towards the killing of children,” Campaign Life Coalition lobbyist Johanne Brownrigg told 55 to 75 people outside McGuinty’s Ottawa office, which appeared to be closed, with its blinds drawn.

Delisting abortion from Ontario’s health insurance plan would save taxpayers up to $50 million, she said. That could hire more than 200 family doctors to address Ontario’s doctor shortage, 400 nurses to cut hospital wait times, treat 500 additional autistic children, buy 20 new MRI machines every year or make palliative care available in communities that lack it now, Brownrigg said.

“Let’s be clear about this elective procedure,” she said. “It is disingenuous to claim that abortion is necessary for a woman’s health.”

A 2011 Abacus poll revealed 91 per cent of respondents did not know Ontario spends $30 million to $50 million on abortion, she said.

“The more Ontarians know the figures, the less they want to see this waste on an elective procedure.”

Brownrigg said momentum is growing after MP Stephen Woodworth’s Motion 312 revealed “the ugliness of the pro-abortion position” and the unwillingness to even talk about the humanity of the unborn. Unregulated abortion and the underlying lack of humanity attributed to the unborn are spilling over into the “horrifying prospect” of infanticide being treated the same way in the courts, she warned.

Demonstrator Tom Rooney said he was incensed by Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten’s recent remarks that the pro-abortion position could not be taught in Catholic schools.

“I resent my tax dollars going to pay for abortion because I’m a father, a grandfather and a great grandfather,” said Frank Barrett, who added there are many ways to help women with unwanted pregnancies that do not involve killing the unborn child.

Anne Dareys called the funding of abortion unjust.

“Our whole society is getting old,” she said. “We need young people to replace them to be able to support our social programs.”

Her husband Bruno said women lack information on the health and psychological impact of abortion on the mother. We only know it is a choice, but we know more about second-hand smoke than about abortion’s effects, he said.

The mini-rallies were organized by Campaign Life Coalition youth organizer Allisa Golob, who estimated 2,500 to 3,000 people took part in the cross-province mini-rallies.

“The majority of organizers were young people. However, there were others who stepped up in their communities despite their full-time jobs and taking care of their children and so on,” she said in an e-mail.

Campaign Life is organizing a larger Defund Abortion Rally for Oct. 30 at Queen’s Park, she said.

Published in Canada
October 11, 2012

Winds of change?

It was hardly a wind of change. But it was at least a whisper of hope.

And if Parliament’s vote on MP Stephen Woodworth’s motion gives new hope to pro-life Canadians, it also affords an opportunity to change for the better.

Woodworth’s private member’s motion seeking to have a House of Commons committee study when life begins was, of course, defeated 203-91 in late September. But while the win-loss margin seems large, the 91 “yeas” were much more than just a moral victory. They were a shock. Few, if any, predicted such a level of support. No one publicly foresaw high profile cabinet ministers such as Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose voting for the motion.

Whatever their other motives, it’s clear Woodworth’s character and conduct during the acrimonious debate was key in making it possible for his colleagues to vote yes. He was implacably patient and polite. He went out of his way to try to help reporters understand that his motion did not pit him “against” Prime Minister Stephen Harper but merely signaled a “difference” between them.

The distinction has virtually no currency in the binary world of parliamentary media coverage, where conflict-model news reporting is the default, indeed almost exclusive, mode. If Woodworth’s efforts in that regard help the penny to drop in just one reporter’s head, he will have done this country a world of service.

He did at least two additional things that were strategically brilliant precisely because, more than mere tactical maneuvers, they formed the essence of his action. First, he made the motion about study, not insistence. Second, he made it about science, not shouting. The upshot was that those who argued “nay” were arguing to resist the scientific study of the most foundational question any lawmaking body faces, namely how we define being human.

As Preston Manning wrote on The Globe and Mail’s op-ed page, the response of some of God’s children was a reflexive fallback to ideology and, in some cases, mere shrill harangue. Referencing Woodworth’s honestly intentioned attempt to reframe the debate, Manning wrote, “the opposition and most of the media insisted on debating... within the historical abortion-focused framework — still polarized between pro-choice and pro-life positions developed in the 1970s and 1980s. The result was not only divisive but embarrassingly unproductive — confirming once again in the public mind that our Parliament seems to be the last place in the country where we can have a forward-looking discussion of a substantive issue.”

That confirmation opens up questions as to why this is so, and whether it need remain so. Starkly, it asks us all to confront the basic question of what a Parliament is for. It asks us where can we debate such contentious matters if not in Parliament? In that sense, Woodworth’s motion was as much about democratic life as it was about when life begins. It was predicated on the reality that scientific certainties have moved us a long way from the 19th-century misconception that life commences only when birth is completed. It required us as a democratic people to take a first step toward deciding how our laws and lawmaking can best embody that reality and balance it against the equal reality of the rights of the mother within whom that life begins.

The opening, lesson and hope for those Canadians who consider themselves pro-life comes directly from Woodworth’s recognition of the necessity of an incremental approach not to win, but to balance and, perhaps most importantly, to balance democratically.

Such talk naturally raises hackles among some pro-life Canadians. As one of the finest and smartest once asked me point-blank: “Who in their right mind would talk about incrementalism if the subject was bombing the train tracks into Auschwitz?” It’s a fair question, and it’s a strong question but it’s also, ultimately, a question of despair. It presumes there is not even a whisper of hope that democratic means remain available to resolve Canadians’ most foundational conundrum.

The fate of Woodworth’s motion, the unexpected support it received, undermines that presumption. It shows the system, minus the shouting, can be made to persuade in the name of what is right for all. Can the wind of change do anything but follow?

Published in Peter Stockland

OTTAWA - The defeat of Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth's Motion 312 Sept. 26 was expected, but the level of support, including that of 10 cabinet ministers, came as a welcome surprise to pro-life groups and political journalists.

Defeated 203 to 91, Motion 312 was supported by 87 Conservatives, a majority of the 163-member Tory caucus, as well as four of 35 Liberal MPs.

The Conservative MP's Motion 312 would have set up a parliamentary committee to examine the 400-year-old definition of when human life begins.   

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, a devout Catholic, was the first cabinet minister to publicly announce he would support the motion. The votes of the other cabinet ministers were not anticipated however. It garnered the support of Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose, Government House leader Peter Van Loan, National Revenue Minister Gail Shea, Trade Minister Ed Fast, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue, International Co-operation and CIDA Minister Julian Fantino, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, Foreign Affairs Secretary of State Diane Ablonczy and Minister of State for Seniors Alice Wong.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper respected the House tradition of free votes on private member's business, something the New Democratic Party was not prepared to do, said Woodworth at a news conference following the vote.

"NDP members, with their extreme personal preoccupation with abortion, actually suggested that we give the Prime Minister power to veto private members' motions," he said. "Can you imagine. They propose to take away one of the most effective democratic tools left to MPs in the face of an MP's diminishing role."  

Woodworth said he'd done his job by exposing Subsection 223(1), "the most vile, most unjust law in Canada." It rules that a human life does not begin until a baby is actually born.  

Though opponents of Motion 312 have said the abortion debate is settled and the courts recognize a right to abortion, Woodworth pointed out Justice Bertha Wilson in the 1988 Morgentaler decision left the question of protection for unborn life to Parliament. That means the question of how to honour universal human rights in Canada "will remain open and unresolved," he said.

"This issue was never closed, it's not closed now and will never be closed if we in Parliament continue to stick our collective head in the sand," he said.

He remarked on the huge volume of mail mostly in favour of the motion, the hundreds of petitions with thousands of signatures that showed both women and men supported it. The volume of mail was so big it clogged up the Parliamentary post office, he said.

"I want Canadians to remember that no great issue is ever determined by a single vote in the House of Commons," he said. "It remains for the Canadian people to rise up even more strongly in defence of honest laws and universal human rights, which are so shamefully violated by subsection 223(1)."

"I think Canadians will conclude that much of what was said by those speaking against Motion 312 in the Parliamentary debate lacked any logic or coherence," he said. "Many speakers against Motion 312 showed they were willing to abandon time-honoured Canadian values in a single-minded personal preoccupation with abortion no matter how grave the consequences."

Campaign Life Coalition national organizer Mary Ellen Douglas congratulated the MPs who had the courage to vote for the motion.

"We hope this will give them the courage to continue to bring up the issue in Parliament as often as it takes to obtain a law," she said.

She said all of the identified pro-life MPs except for a couple were accounted for in the vote. But many others not identified as pro-life also supported it.

"The point is they were presumably voting on freedom of speech," she said, noting "pro-aborts" have said the issue "cannot even be discussed in Parliament."

"Although the motion was defeated, it was very encouraging to see the subject brought forward, as well as the groundswell of support through meetings with MPs, e-mails, letters, phone calls and petitions," said Catholic Civil Rights League executive director Joanne McGarry.

"We thank Mr. Woodworth for proposing the motion, and all those MPs who supported it and thereby kept respect for life on Canada's agenda," McGarry said in a statement. "This particular motion has been defeated, but the debate on this issue, which many Canadians believe is anything but 'settled,' will continue until Canadian law recognizes the humanity of the unborn."

WeNeedaLAW.ca represents a grassroots campaign to bring about federal restrictions on abortion. Its director, Mike Schouten, defended Ambrose against an attack by Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada spokeswoman Joyce Arthur who accused the minister of throwing "women under the bus" and described her vote as a "slap in the face to the women of Canada."

"The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada is a group of extremists who advocate for abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy," said Schouten in a Sept. 27 release. "Not only does Ms. Arthur continually misinterpret the Supreme Court decision in 1988, she also advocates for the legality of late-term and sex-selective abortions."

Published in Canada