Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, left, with Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto and Cardinal Gerald Lacroix of Quebec City at the 2018 National March for Life. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Archbishop Prendergast admits separate pro-life events show ‘divided’ movement

By 
  • February 13, 2019

OTTAWA – Plans for a pro-life march in Toronto on the same day as the National March for Life in Ottawa is evidence the movement is “divided,” says Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast.

“I guess this shows the pro-life network is divided — we all knew that — and that compromise here isn’t in the cards,” the archbishop said. “Too bad.”

As the National March for Life marks the 50th anniversary of legal abortion May 9, organizers hope a new march planned for the same day in Toronto won’t hurt turnout in Ottawa.

“I instinctively felt it would weaken participation in the March for Life in Ottawa,” Prendergast said.  “I guess we’ll see when the March or Marches take place. I would have preferred a united approach and a different day for Toronto, but perhaps this will galvanize more people and the pro-life cause will appear more vital.”

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto has accepted Prendergast’s invitation to preside at one of the pro-life Masses in the city on May 9 and to speak on Parliament Hill “as he has courageously done so in recent years,” Prendergast said. 

While the archbishop has only begun to send invitations to other bishops, he said he expects a “good number will accompany delegates from their dioceses and regions.”

“We are focusing on organizing the National March for Life to make it the best we can,” said Matt Wojciechowski, project manager for Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), organizers of the National March.

He said discussions took place with organizers of the Toronto March about changing the date, but to no avail.

Prendergast noted the date of the omnibus bill of 1969 was May 14 “so other dates around the second Thursday in May could work in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario.”

“These decisions about witnessing to life issues from early on have been taken by lay people and we bishops and priests are pleased to accompany and support them,” Prendergast said. “So while the new Toronto March may weaken the witness in the nation’s capital, I’ll be happy to share the day here in Ottawa with those who come.”

Since news emerged in early February that a coalition of pro-life organizations is organizing a Toronto march on the same day as the National March, CLC has received hundreds of e-mails from supporters, people organizing buses and Church leaders expressing disappointment, Wojciechowski said.

Organizers for the Toronto March say they also have received encouraging feedback.

Mike Schouten of ARPA (Association of Reformed Political Action) Canada and its outreach WeNeedaLaw.ca, says the response to the Toronto March has been “overwhelmingly positive.” He believes the Toronto event complements the National March and others occurring May 9 in other provincial capitals.

“The majority of people we’ve heard from are excited about the opportunity to participate in Toronto if they are not able to make it to the main march in Ottawa,” said Blaise Alleyne of Toronto Right to Life.

Both Schouten and Alleyne say their organizations plan to send representatives to Ottawa and Toronto. The Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform (CCBR) is also involved in organizing the Toronto March.

They reject the idea the Toronto March will detract from the National March. They also oppose holding it on a different date because the March will be in solidarity not only with the National March but with marches in Victoria, Edmonton, Winnipeg and elsewhere.

“The reality is the pro-life movement is growing,” Schouten said. “There are tens of thousands who have joined the pro-life movement in the last five years. Those are the people we want to reach.”

Schouten said he is puzzled by CLC’s claim that they were blindsided by news of the Toronto March.

Schouten has been involved in organizing marches in Regina, Edmonton and Victoria. “At no time in any of those processes was I asked, ‘Why didn’t you call CLC?’ 

“If other pro-life organizations want to take initiatives to engage more people, celebrate that,” he said. “The more people sending the message Canada needs to protect pre-born children the better.”

Conservative MP Arnold Viersen agrees. 

“The fact is 300 pre-born babies are murdered each day in Canada,” he said. “They need our voices. Marches in multiple cities will help amplify this critical issue.”

Other pro-life MPs contacted by CCN declined to comment. Often a dozen or so pro-life MPs and Senators come to the steps of Parliament Hill during the pre-march rally.

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