By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News
[Ottawa – CCN] – During the first-ever online National March for Life May 14, Canadians were urged not to be afraid to speak out to protect life — protection that extends from the moment of conception until natural death.
While the event was held online this year because the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the actual in-person annual march and rally that has been held in the nation’s capital since 1998, a wide-range of pro-life activists, religious and spiritual leaders and pro-life politicians praised Canadians who are on the frontline of the pro-life movement during a three-hour online “march.” The online rally mixed footage and testimonials from past March for Life gatherings in Ottawa with new messages of hope about the impact that the pro-life movement can have in Canada.
Part of that message of hope for the future of the pro-life movement in Canada is the way that Canadian society has come together to protect the vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic and what that could mean for preserving the sanctity of life in Canada in the future, noted speakers.
“The unborn child in Canada has absolutely no protection,” said National March for Life co-chair Margaret Mountain, explaining why it is important to go online and share the pro-life message, despite not being able to physically gather this year.
“Even in this pandemic, abortions are happening across Canada,” Mountain said. “That is why we march, the message remains the same. Parliament must bring in a law to protect all human beings, not just some, all human beings from the time of conception until a natural death.
“We miss the exuberance of the young people on Parliament Hill, the inspiring speakers, the camaraderie, the singing, the chanting, but we know in a time like this we do the best we can,” she said.
Conservative MP Arnold Viersen of Peace River-Westlock pointed out in a pre-recorded message aired during the online March for Life rally that 300 babies are killed by abortion every day in Canada and that Canadian society’s and the pro-abortion federal Liberal government’s concern to protect life during the COVID-19 pandemic must be expanded to protect babies from abortion.
“During this time of COVID, I am grateful that Justin Trudeau and his government understand the value of life and how important it is to take measures to support it and that the government will sacrifice the economy to protect vulnerable Canadians,” Viersen said. “All of us are practicing social distancing to protect the vulnerable, but what about the pre-born?” he said. “Pre-born Canadians are arguably some of the most vulnerable… Who will speak for the pre-born?”
The online National March for Life also gave prominent screen-time to two pro-life MPs who are seeking the leadership of the federal Conservative Party – Ontario MPs Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis. Both of those candidates for the federal Conservative leadership are supported as strong pro-life advocates by the Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), which has organized and staged the National March for Life since it was first held in Ottawa.
Along with the online rally and march that was streamed on the MarchForLife.ca website on May 14, pro-life content provided on May 14 included a Mass for Life with Ottawa-Cornwall Catholic Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, recorded at Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as a pro-life special “Be Not Afraid” broadcast on EWTN. Streaming of pro-life films from May 10-12, and an online candlelight vigil May 13 were se other features of the online event. May 14 marks the anniversary of the 1969 federal omnibus bill that decriminalized abortion.
Positive response to online event
While the decision to make the National March for Life a virtual online event was born out of necessity, the Campaign Life Coalition is happy with the response. CLC national capital coordinator Debbie Duval told Canadian Catholic News that the response and feedback the CLC has received has been “overwhelming.”
According to viewership numbers provided by Duval for the the events and programs that were part of the online National March for Life from May 10 to May 15, there were more than 15,000 views registered for the live events shown on YouTube. The number of views registered on EWTN, which showed the candlelight vigil on May 13 and the National Pro-life Mass and the pro-life special “Be Not Afraid” on May 14, were more than 17,000 views for the vigil and 25,000 views for the pro-life special.
Duval said the positive reaction to this year’s online National March for Life bodes well for there being an ongoing online aspect to the largest pro-life event held annually in Canada. However, Duval stressed that planning for the future will only come after the CLC holds its analysis of this year’s March for Life online event, and affirmed that holding a physical rally and march in the nation’s capital will always be the primary focus of the event’s organizers. “I do expect that next year we will have some sort of a hybrid that will involve online content,” Duval said, but added, “we will always be on the Hill.”
“It will always be important to be there in person and tell the politicians that the killing of babies has got to stop,” she said. “That will always be the focus of the march and rally.”
Most of the virtual National March for Life content will remain available online through the CLC’s website (www.campaignlifecoalition.com) and Facebook page. The National March for Life’s website can be accessed through the CLC’s website as well.