Youth have been major players in Canada’s pro-life movement. Photo courtesy Campaign Life Coalition

Youth a driving force at Campaign Life

By  Angelica Vecchiato, Youth Speak News
  • August 25, 2021

Campaign Life Coalition has been a major player in Canadian pro-life advocacy since it was founded in 1978, and over the years teenagers have provided much of the wind beneath this non-profit’s wings.

A strong part of that has been through Campaign Life’s summer intern program. Youth aged 14-29 can partake in a full-time summer internship and at the end of the two months are armed with the know-how to defend life from its conception to natural death.

For Sarah Fernandes, the intensive summer offered her an opportunity to do more for the unborn.

“I know I wanted to do something more than just passing out pro-life pamphlets, I wanted to do something meaningful,” said the 17-year-old Catholic from Scarborough, Ont.

The internship gives youth a behind the scenes look at the pro-life movement as interns take on a variety of office tasks, rotating through different roles every few weeks. The young pro-lifers are expected to write for The Interim, its newspaper, prepare for Life Chain, draft position papers, call political candidates and manage social media, among other tasks.

This summer made for a highly competitive entry, with over 20 applicants, 12 of whom were hired.

Since her first internship in 2015, 25-year-old Josie Luetke has climbed the rungs to now work as Campaign Life’s youth co-ordinator and oversees the intern program.

“Many youth are already involved in the pro-life movement, and the internship just allows them to spend more time on something that is already their passion, but they also get paid,” said Luetke.

Luetke adds that it’s difficult for these youth to publicly stick to pro-life principles in a staunchly “anti-life society” where cancel culture reigns supreme.

“It’s very astounding how many youth are ostracized by the current culture for being pro-life,” she said. “If you put this internship on your resume, it could actually hurt you as opposed to helping your career. Despite all that, youth are still doing it. They ask the question: Is there meaning in this world or not? They find it in defending the vulnerable and innocent.”

Campaign Life president Jeff Gunnarson concurs that the internship is not for “the faint of heart.”

“To take abuse, you need a strong faith,” said Gunnarson. “Although this sounds cliche, you won’t know until you do it.”

Advocates need to be especially fearless when engaging strangers in pro-life conversations.

“You can’t be passive. Either you speak up and are a bystander or you go with the flow,” said Fernandes, who goes into Grade 12 at Father Michael McGivney Academy in Markham, Ont., in September. “Being pro-life doesn’t mean anything until you put it into action.” 

The young activists also play a role in the international arena. Since the 1994 Cairo conference on population and development co-ordinated by the United Nations, Campaign Life has sent youth delegates to UN gatherings to provide reporting and commentary. 

Elijah Pace realizes circulating the pro-life message depends on whether people speak out.

“All of us who have had a chance for life are obligated to stand up for the voiceless. People need to start speaking their truths because in the end truth and life will always win,” said Pace, a sociology major at York University.

The 21-year-old envisions the lessons he learned during the internship will steer his future.

“I want to become a teacher, and then eventually a principal. I want to carry the thoughts of the internship, the message of life, into schools to be a voice of change.”

(Vecchiato, 17, will begin Grade 12 at Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School in September.)

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