More than 15,000 gather in Ottawa compared to 12,500 last year
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
OTTAWA (CCN)--There won`t be any ducking the abortion debate. People came in droves to Ottawa May 12 to make sure Parliamentarians get the message.
More than 15,000 people--the biggest National March for Life in the event`s history— filled the lawn on Parliament Hill May 12, eclipsing last year`s record 12,500, according to Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes.
They put the new majority Conservative government on notice.
“I`ve got a newsflash for you, Mr. Prime Minister!” said former Liberal MP Pat O'Brien, who acted as MC. “The debate is on!”
O'Brien noted how Prime Minister Harper had promised not to re-open the abortion debate even if he won a majority. He told the crowd their support for the members of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus is critical for ensuring the issue gets brought to the floor of the House of Commons.
“The Supreme Court said the debate belongs in Parliament,” in the 1988 Morgentaler decision, said Don Hutchinson, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada`s director of the Centre for Faith and Public Life. The court struck down the law as it existed as inconsistent with the Charter, it did not say Parliament could not restrict abortion. “Neither Parliament nor the Supreme Court has ever declared a right to abortion,” he said.
Each one of the 304 Members of Parliament has the right to bring this debate forward, he said.
Though usually 25-30 Members of Parliament attend the March, this year only a handful came. The House of Commons is not in session and most MPs are in their ridings taking care of post-election business, said O'Brien.
He described Canada as a “laughing stock” because it is the only country in the civilized world with no law protecting the unborn child through nine months of pregnancy.
Conservative MP Scott Reid said when he was first elected in 2000, he was told the issue of abortion had been “settled.”
“This is not a settled question,” he said, noting this was the biggest crowd he'd seen on the Hill in his career as a politician. He predicted support for the pro-life position would grow because of the “inherent rightness of the cause” and “the determination all of you have shown.”
Conservative MP David Sweet urged the crowd to reach out “with patience and grace in an ongoing grassroots conversation.”
It was announced that Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson had proclaimed May 12 as Respect for Life Day, drawing a roar of applause. Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, however, asked why the whole city was not filled with people. “It's all right; it's safe to talk about the human rights of children before birth.”
Woodworth said Canada`s law concerning when an unborn child becomes a person under the law means that “if a little toe remains in the birth canal that child is not a human being.”
“Is that consistent with modern medical science? Is that consistent with a modern understanding of human rights?” he asked.
He predicted that if people engaged in a respectful dialog about the human rights of the unborn with those who don`t agree and those who do not want to hear, next year “you would see people as far as the eye can see.”
The new Primate of Canada, Quebec Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix opened the official portion of the March in prayer, speaking of how (if) Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.
Lacroix also celebrated a French-language pro-life Mass at one of Ottawa`s francophone parishes.
Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast celebrated a bi-lingual Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica; Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins celebrated an English language Mass at St. Patrick`s Basilica.