Pro-life protest at March for Life in Ottawa. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

National March organizers troubled by proposed Toronto pro-life march on same day

By 
  • February 6, 2019

OTTAWA – Plans to hold a pro-life march in Toronto on the same day as the National March for Life in Ottawa are raising concerns about a split in the pro-life movement.

The new Toronto march is being organized by a coalition of pro-life groups, including ARPA Canada, its affiliate WeNeedaLaw.ca, the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform and Toronto Right to Life. Campaign Life Coalition has organized the national march since 1998.

“Two competing events in the same region will split pro-life attendance,” said Jeff Gunnarson, president of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), in a Feb. 4 news release. “With potentially a much smaller crowd of pro-life demonstrators on Parliament Hill, it could also lessen the impact on MPs who come out to address the crowd, and on all parliamentarians inside the House of Commons.”

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto has already confirmed he will be attending the May 9 March for Life in Ottawa.

“The Archdiocese of Toronto is not involved in the organization of any Toronto-based events planned for the same day,” said Neil McCarthy, communications director for the Toronto archdiocese. “His Eminence encourages all those who wish to support the cause of life to join in solidarity on May 9, 2019 in Ottawa.

Gunnarson said CLC received no prior notice of the Toronto event nor was it asked for input. He does not oppose a march in Toronto, but CLC is disappointed it will take place on May 9, the same time as the national march.

But organizers of the Toronto march are determined to have it on the same day, which marks the anniversary of the passing of the bill in Parliament in 1969 that relaxed Canada’s abortion laws. They regard their event as complementary to the national march.

“While many people from around Ontario travel up to Ottawa for the March for Life on Parliament Hill, there has been an increasing call to provide an opportunity for the thousands that can’t make the trip and still want to make sure their voice is heard in defence of the voiceless,” said Mike Schouten, director of advocacy for ARPA Canada and spokesman for WeNeedaLaw.ca

“It is important that our voice is heard in Ottawa, and we encourage those who are able to, to still attend the Ottawa March for Life, right on the federal government’s doorstep. But we are also excited about the addition of an organized march in Toronto, which will increase the number of people speaking out for life across the country.” 

Divisions among pro-life groups in terms of strategy and messaging are no secret, but the annual Ottawa march has brought all the groups together on Parliament Hill, where various groups have freely handed out literature.

WeNeedaLaw.ca, for example, has advocated gestational laws to reduce abortion, something CLC has opposed on principle. 

“The National March For Life is about standing together as one movement against abortion,” Gunnarson said. “The 2019 March is especially significant, not only because it precedes a federal election, but because it marks 50 years since the floodgates to abortion were opened in Parliament.”

Though CLC organizers are involved in marches across Canada at various provincial capitals, CLC has always avoided promoting marches in Ontario or Quebec so as to encourage participation in the National March.

“The largest number of attendees to the annual National March come from the Toronto region,” Gunnarson said.

Mary Helen Moes, executive director of Aid to Women, a crisis pregnancy centre in Toronto, said her organization applauds having a Toronto march, “but we’re still pleading with them to change the date because we want to be part of it” and they have already committed to going to Ottawa.

She said they were blindsided by the decision and forcing people to choose between the marches may end up with many deciding not to go to either one.

Blaise Alleyne, president of Toronto Right to Life, said his group will be sending representatives to Ottawa as usual, but will also help plan the Toronto march "to give even more people a chance to march in solidarity on May 9."

"We're not cutting ties with the National March for Life at all, just trying to do our local part to increase the overall participation and offer a smaller event in the provincial capital for the many who cannot make to the national capital," he said in an e-mail to The Register.

(NOTE: This story has been updated and the headline revised to reflect the position of the pro-life groups.)

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Comment

abuse summit catholics

Fr. Raymond J. de Souza: Sex abuse summit is catch-up time for much of the world 

It is déjà vu all over again for Canadian bishops who travelled to Rome for the Vatican’s meeting on the protection of minors in the Church, Fr. Raymond writes.

Faith

Pope's homily

pope wyd crowb

Pope: 'You, dear young people, are not the future but the now of God'

Read the latest homily given by Pope Francis. 

#WYD2019

panama pilgrims mary

Jean Ko Din in Panama: WYD leaves behind a wealth of memories 

Read Jean Ko Din's latest blog post on World Youth Day 2019 in Panama.