A pro-life sign is displayed during the 2019 annual March for Life rally in Washington Jan. 18, 2019. CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

Groups unite to breathe life into Montreal campus pro-life

By  Anna Farrow, Catholic Register Special
  • January 18, 2023

Post-secondary students from five organizations came together Jan. 14 to give new life to pro-life activity on Montreal university campuses.

The launch of Etudiants Pour La Vie Montréal/Students for Life Montreal was organized by Campagne Québec-Vie (CQV), and featured speakers from Campaign Life Coalition, the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, Toronto Right to Life and Montreal Against Abortion.

Arpad Nagy, CQV’s director of political operations, said the only way is forward together in a province where student pro-life is effectively moribund.

“There is no pro-life presence on any Quebec campuses, colleges or universities,” Nagy said. “Students who have pro-life values are made to feel alone. If nothing else, we want pro-life students to know there are others out there who hold those values.”

The last two decades has seen an escalation in the bureaucratic hostility demonstrated by the institutions and student unions towards pro-life clubs on Canadian university campuses. The result has been either a limitation of club activities or, in the case of McGill University, the suspension of club status. In 2009, the Students Society of McGill University voted to cancel official club status for Choose Life, a pro-life student organization. Though there was an attempt to reorganize in 2014, pro-life activities on the Montreal campus have been essentially eliminated.

Blaise Alleyne, CCBR Outreach Coordinator for Eastern Canada, encouraged participants to build networks that will facilitate the work of pro-life education on campus and not to get hung up on whether there is a club to join.

“Pro-life clubs do not exist so that members can get together to eat pizza. They exist so the culture can be transformed.”

Nagy said that while breaking the isolation for pro-life students and providing an opportunity for fellowship was a goal of the event, the broader ambition is to “inspire students to get active, to live out their pro-life values in their school setting.” Traditionally, a primary way that happens is through street activism, where pro-life students engage their peers in conversation about abortion. 

Kim Headley and Maeve Roche, both youth coordinators for Campaign Life Coalition, talked about their work of abortion education on campus sidewalks. Both noted they were anxious when they first began but gained confidence through experience and with training provided by CLC. 

The education piece is essential, Roche says. Her advice to students new to pro-life work is to “become well-versed in apologetics.”

“Get the training you need to be able to coherently and adequately represent the anti-abortion position.”

Alleyne reiterated that recommendation: “We need to ensure that we always have clear reasons and compelling evidence to actually change the minds of our peers.”

In addition to the promise of a renewal in the pro-life student movement in Quebec, the event sparks hope a new era of collaboration between pro-life organizations has begun. Historically, there have been tensions between various pro-life organizations both in Canada and the United States, and a tendency to work in silos. But an “all hands-on deck” attitude is necessary, says Alleyne.

He outlined the three branches of pro-life work: pastoral, political and prophetic. The first provides support to women, the second works to change the law to protect the unborn and the third educates “to make abortion unthinkable.” Using the analogy of a forest fire to prove his point, Alleyne noted that a raging fire is not extinguished using a toy water pistol but through the coordinated efforts of ground crews and aerial water bombing. 

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