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Pro-life march draws 2,000 on its 10th year

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Archbishop Miller says assisted suicide now an added concern
By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Photo: Students from Credo Christian High School in Langley attend the March for Life in Victoria for the first time May 11. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

On the 150th anniversary of Confederation, Canada’s human rights situation now has an added concern – assisted suicide.

That was the message Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, told Victoria’s March for Life May 11.

The archbishop told the crowd of about 2,000 the recent legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide is a violation of human rights and a danger to the vulnerable. “We are worried many marginalized people will become victims of suicide now that this practice is legally acceptable.”

It was the 10th anniversary of the march, which has traditionally focussed on abortion as a human rights violation. This year there was the added dimension of euthanasia and its impact on the rights of the dying, the disabled, and the distressed, said Archbishop Miller.

When Canada was born 150 years ago, “The founders of our nation accepted the self-evident truth that life is sacred from its beginning to its natural end, and that no state could compromise these moral imperatives dictated by reason,” he told marchers on the lawn of the B.C. Legislature.

“They recognized that no civil institution bestows the right to life. We can only acknowledge that right: uphold it, defend it, and cherish its beauty.”

On this anniversary year, the same conviction “remains the stance of the pro-life movement, which includes people of many religions and no religion,” he said.

Rally speaker Stan Leyenhorst said he could have been one of the victims of legalized suicide.

“Forty years ago, if euthanasia was in law, I probably would not be here,” said Leyenhorst, who broke his neck that many years ago. “In times of suffering, one often feels like death would be a better thing.”

Leyenhorst, who uses a wheelchair to get around, faced another near-death experience seven years ago in a serious car accident. He was hospitalized again, with two broken legs. Although he doesn’t remember it, he apparently told his wife he didn’t want to live anymore.

“Life is beautiful,” he said in Victoria. “We are responsible as citizens of Canada to protect the rights, the privileges, of our fellow humans, every single one of them, whether they are a minute old, or whether they are 100 years old, whether they can speak, whether they can see, whether they can walk, or whether they can’t walk.”

Pro-life activist Irene said, “When a quarter of our generation has been wiped out by abortion, we have to stand on guard for our peers and speak up for the next generation, whose lives depend on us.”

A member of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, De Souza shared stories about minds changed and lives saved thanks to public pro-life displays. “I want to encourage each and every one of you to not let this be the only day you ‘march for life.’”

The annual March for Life began at Victoria’s Centennial Square. Guided by police, 2,000-some marchers walked down the temporarily closed Government Street carrying messages such as “We Choose Life” and “Think Adoption, not Abortion.”

Many high school students, families with small children, and seniors from various faith and ethnic backgrounds were among the crowd.

They met some opposition; two men on bicycles rode by yelling “burn the fascists” and tried to destroy a speaker system, while a vehicle drove past police blockades and honked loudly at marchers until uniformed police pulled the driver over.

The crowd ended its march on the lawn at the Legislature buildings, where De Souza and several other speakers gave short addresses on their pro-life views.

Ethics professor Paul Chamberlain said whether or not Canadians agree on abortion or assisted suicide, all should agree on one pro-life effort: palliative care.

“As we stand here today, in palliative care centres in B.C. and across this country there are people who are looking death in the eye,” he said.

“They are experiencing less depression and an improved quality of life,” as their pain and symptoms are managed outside a stressful hospital environment, around loved ones, said Chamberlain.

“It’s hard for me to imagine a more beautiful, compassionate service for our most vulnerable citizens than this.”

The professor said only 52 per cent of people who would benefit from palliative care in the Fraser Health region actually do. “I call upon the government of B.C. and of Canada to extend our resources to make palliative care not only available, but accessible as well.”

Thousands of marchers across the country held similar demonstrations in other Canadian capitals including Ottawa, Edmonton, and Regina. The largest was in Ottawa, where organizers estimated 15,000 marchers took their message to Parliament Hill.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 May 2017 10:52  

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