Thousands marched through the streets of Ottawa at the National March for Life May 12. Organizers estimated there were 22,000 people in attendance at the annual march. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Thousands take over downtown Ottawa for National March for Life

  • May 12, 2016

OTTAWA – Thousands descended on Parliament Hill May 12 for the annual National March for Life as the Liberal government within the walls of Parliament was rushing a bill through that will legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.

The March’s focal point has always been “the threat to life at its earliest stages through abortion,” Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins said in a homily at the annual pro-life Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. “These days we have witnessed a growing threat to life at the other end of the earthly journey, through the misguided decision of the Supreme Court and the preparation of legislation to implement that decision throughout our land.

“The scourge of euthanasia and assisted suicide is upon us, and we need only to look to countries of western Europe that have gone before us down this dark path to see what is in store,” he said.

He urged Catholics to seek holiness, to keep God at the centre of their lives, to communicate more effectively and to build bridges by creating trust before conveying our messages. 

“The building of the bridge of trust brings us back to the need for a repentant heart: if our lives contradict the message, then we will convince no one.”

Collins carried his message to Parliament Hill where he encouraged the marchers to join the Coalition for HealthCARE and to promote both palliative care and pregnancy care centres.

Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine told the crowd, estimated by Campaign Life Coalition’s Jim Hughes at 22,000, our personal life is a “gift from God,” no matter how fragile or weak it is.

Papal nuncio Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi brought the blessing and greeting of Pope Francis to the crowd. He quoted St. Clare of Assisi who once said, “I thank God for having created me.” He said it was his wish we would all be able to “be thanking God for the life He has given us.”

Conservative MP Ted Falk told the crowd the time is now to stand up against Bill C-14, the recently introduced assisted suicide bill. 

“In our country, the sanctity of life is being challenged on both ends of the spectrum, both in the womb and at the end of life,” said Falk, vice co-chair of the Justice Committee that just sent C-14 back to the House of Commons. 

“We have to stand up to it,” Falk said, encouraging the crowd to continue their support. “Science is on your side.”

The Justice Committee rejected the proposed amendments Falk and other Tory MPs proposed to strengthen safeguards for vulnerable, mentally ill and disabled Canadians.

Falk was one of a dozen pro-life MPs who spoke on the Hill, as did several pro-life Senators. 

“Did you know that earlier this week, the Liberal government decided to export death?” asked Conservative MP Arnold Viersen, who noted the lifting of the restriction on abortion funding to the developing world. The government is not only including abortion funding, but also “promoting it,” he said.

“This Liberal government is quickly becoming the ‘Government of Death,’ ” Viersen said. 

“Laws come and go, but universal truths remain,” said Culture of Life Africa founder and president Obianuju Ekeocha, this year’s Rose Dinner keynote speaker. “It is a universal truth that life begins at conception, without exceptions.”

She decried Canada’s decision to send money to fund abortion in developing countries in Africa and elsewhere. 

“I beg you to not use the blood of the innocent to pave the path to development.”

“We need to stand up for the doctors, nurses and pharmacists who want to say no to euthanasia and assisted suicide,” said Conservative MP Mark Warawa, who tried to get a conscience protection amendment into Bill C-14. He has also introduced a private member’s bill to make it an offence to coerce, threaten or withdraw employment from health care professionals who refuse to participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia on conscientious grounds. 

The Justice Committee did amend Bill C-14’s preamble to note the Charter’s protection of freedom of conscience and religion and states, “nothing in this Act affects the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion.”

Security was extremely tight on Parliament Hill to prevent half-naked Femen protesters from storming the steps while the bishops were speaking as they have done the previous two years. When a counter demonstration of from 50-150 people tried to confront the March on Elgin Street near the Human Rights Monument, police changed the route, shortening it by two blocks, to prevent any incidents, said Hughes.

On the eve of the March, however, protesters interrupted the annual vigil by the Human Rights Monument, Hughes said. About 30 protesters stood in front of the pro-life speakers, blew whistles and shouted obscenities. 

“There was a lot of cursing and profanity in front of the children and the nuns,” he said.

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