Ottawa police stand between pro-choice advocates trying to shut down the National March for Life and the pro-life marchers. Photo by Kirtley Jarvis

A trip of peace, protest and patience

  • May 16, 2018

OTTAWA – Prodded by an increasing intolerance for those who profess pro-life convictions — most pointedly and menacingly by no one less than our prime minister — my wife and I decided it was time to walk the walk and made our way up to Ottawa for the 21st annual National March for Life. I had attended one of the very earliest of these marches back around the turn of the century and had a pretty good idea what we were in for.

A full two-thirds of our day — May 10, the traditional Feast of the Ascension — was spent on a chartered bus, eight hours each way. So, forget about comfort and getting anything but fitful snatches of sleep. But it did us a world of good, firming up our convictions for this most fundamental of causes and helping us shake off the slurs of bigotry and hatefulness that are routinely thrown at those who refuse to disregard their conscience.

Our bus pulled out of a south London church parking lot at the stroke of midnight and the threatened rain started pouring just as we pulled into Ottawa around 8 a.m. and didn’t really let up until about noon. We walked along Sussex Drive to Notre Dame Cathedral, where a special pro-life Mass was presided over by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast. Almost half an hour before the service was set to begin at 10 a.m., the pews, downstairs and upstairs, were already filling up with hundreds and hundreds of marchers, young and old and middle-aged. Many of them were decked out in colourful t-shirts proclaiming the pro-life cause with such slogans as “Defending human life from the womb to the tomb” and “Beloved Child of God.” 

The homily was delivered by visiting Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal Thomas Dowd, who told touching stories about his father who lived to the age of 94 (“he died too young,” Dowd said), his brother who struggles with ALS and still cherishes every minute of his life, and his sister who went into labour with a daughter at 26 weeks gestation and was asked by medical staff, “Do you want us to make attempts to save this baby?” She not only answered in the affirmative but was present with her healthy daughter at the Mass.

Citing the new intolerance for pro-lifers from the highest political office in the land, Dowd reminded us that we do not live in a dictatorship. “We are the leaders,” he said. And it is incumbent upon us to help this country find ways to truly celebrate life.

Next we gathered on Parliament Hill for some short speeches from Church and political leaders, including crowd favourite Tanya Granic Allen, who’d been removed from the Ontario PC party the week before by new leader Doug Ford when he caved in to complaints from political opponents about Allen’s critical comments about abortion, same-sex marriage and the province’s revamped sex education curriculum. Allen promised the crowd, “I will continue to be a strong voice for the families and for the children of Ontario. And for the unborn.”

Far and away the most popular sign of the day featured a photo of a surprised-looking Prime Minister Trudeau juxtaposed with a snap of a pregnant woman’s ample girth. “Look Justin,” the sign read, with a red arrow pointing toward that belly: “Peoplekind!”

The march through downtown Ottawa was disrupted soon after it began when a contingent of maybe 100 protesters calling themselves The Coalition to End the March for Life blockaded our progress on Elgin Street not far from the First World War Memorial. Some dressed up in Anti-Fa face masks, they yelled inane and obscene slogans and insults through bullhorns (“Hey hey, ho ho, this sexist s- - - has got to go” and “Get your rosaries off our ovaries”), flashed us the finger and waved placards with messages like, “May the fetus you save turn out to be gay,” “Intersectional feminism always,” and, my particular favourite for sheer witlessness, “You say no choice, we say pro-choice.” Right, the people who want to shut down our legal demonstration with their illegal demonstration fancy themselves as broadminded inclusivists.

The Ottawa police did a beautiful job of holding these wretched malcontents back and after about a 10- or 12-minute standoff — them bellowing away, we quietly praying or just standing in silence — the police and our own parade marshals decided that we’d just turn around, back to front, and conduct our whole march in a counter-clockwise direction instead. The police were then able to keep this band of protesters sequestered on a side street.  

When we’d marched our way around to that same part of the old town about an hour later, they impotently screamed at us for about 20 minutes as all 15,000 of us walked through that one intersection without responding to their cheap provocations.

(Goodden is a writer in London, Ont. His latest book is Speakable Acts: Six Plays.)

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I was there and as we walked by counter-protesters at an intersection my brother Knight of Columbus and I decided to turn 90 degrees so that the vounter-protesters could easily read my inspired banner that said “There is no love in abortion,...

I was there and as we walked by counter-protesters at an intersection my brother Knight of Columbus and I decided to turn 90 degrees so that the vounter-protesters could easily read my inspired banner that said “There is no love in abortion, neither before, during, not after.” folliwed by “Without love, we all suffer. This is the word of God.”

It is because there is no love in abortion that it is a hard decision to have one and that it torments you afterwards.. It is undeniable that we suffer without love. Just about everyone has experienced that suffering.

As the pro-abortion of unborn baby protesters read my banner, the volume of the nasty words decreased by about half. I noticed one beautiful young lady, her jaw dropped! She understood.

There is a modern delusion that if we have a choice, all choices are good. No! God gave all of humanity freewill and all choices are not good. The mothers are the surviving victims of abortions. It torments them for ever. It is very sad.

This was my first time going to the march for life in Ottawa. I went because I was, I believe Divinely inspired with this message of love. I am not dictating to people what to do, many women mutilated themselves when abortions were illegal and they would do it again. So people felt sorry for these women but killing their babies is not really helping them as well as lovingly helping them have and raise their children. There are many people and organizations who help women with love. With love, life is much better.

I will go again and keep sharing loving messages and lives will be saved and lives will be made better.

So, that was my experience and perspective.

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Rénald Richer
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