Canadian Anti-Hate Network
The March For Life, an annual anti-abortion demonstration in Ottawa, went ahead, with hundreds of people descending on Parliament Hill today.
Starting with a rally on the hill, the Thursday event was followed immediately by a march through downtown Ottawa. Ends with “Silent No More Awareness Testimonies,” where women who have terminated their pregnancies shared stories of trauma and regret to an audience waving anti-abortion signs.
Before the event’s official start, individuals from a number of organizations spoke with friendly media live streaming the event. Among these groups were 40 Days Of Life, Canadian Physicians For Life, Sisters For Life, and more.
As the rally got underway, the subject on the tip of most speakers' tongues was the leaked draft decision from the United States Supreme Court indicating that Roe v. Wade – the court ruling that legalized abortion across the US – would be overturned.
“How about that Roe v. Wade decision? Are you stoked? I am,” said Campaign Life Coalition National President Jeff Gunnarson. “They’re not, the pro-aborts aren’t.”
The Campaign Life Coalition defines itself as the “political arm of the pro-life” movement in Canada. The CLC has organized the march since it began 25 years ago, according to its website.
Hardly the only speaker to share this sentiment, every time the leak was mentioned, the gathered crowd let out a cheer. While still significant in size, several people on the scene commented that the crowds were smaller than usual, mostly due to the lack of school children bussed in for the event.
The event falls on the anniversary of the 1969 passing of Bill C-150, which decriminalized not only contraception and abortion, but also homosexuality – a jailable offence up until this time. This is the 25th year the March for Life has been held, according to the organization’s website.
Several sitting members of parliament attended to show support including Cathay Wagantall, an MP for the riding Yorkton-Melville in Saskatchewan.
Wagantall read a statement from Dr. Leslyn Lewis, a candidate for leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada who is staunchly opposed to abortion. Those in attendance were specifically asked by the speaker to sign up as a member of the CPC and vote for Lewis – even over other potential anti-abortion candidates.
CPC MP Garnett Genuis, Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, took the podium before Derek Sloan, a former MP and now leader of the Ontario Party. Sloan has long been an outspoken supporter of the anti-abortion movement.
“We need to be pro-life, we need to promote a culture of life,” he said during an on-site interview with a prominent Catholic media organization.
Sloan later added his entire party is explicitly anti-abortion.
Also in attendance was Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen and Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner MP Glen Motz.
Issues in Canadian Access to Abortion
Pro-choice counter-protesters were in attendance, with chants of “my body, my choice” being called out during many of the speeches taking place on Parliament Hill.
Abortion has been decriminalized in Canada for decades, however, there remain a series of serious issues around accessing the medical procedure, much of which depends on geography. As healthcare is under the purview – and budget – of provincial governments, the management of reproductive health programs can vary drastically from region to region. Laws in New Brunswick, for instance, prevent federal funding from going to any other hospitals other than three approved hospitals in two cities that are able to provide abortions.
Prince Edward Island has long suffered from a lack of access to reproductive health services, while the situation has improved somewhat over the past several years, pregnancies over 13 weeks require the patient to travel to the nearby provinces of Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.
The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women report on Canada pointed to a number of issues around access to reproductive health services. The report includes recommendations that “conscientious objection by physicians does not impede [patients’] access to legal abortion services” and stresses the need to make affordable contraceptives accessible to all who need it, “in particular those living in poverty and/or in remote areas.”
The potential for the US courts to overturn Roe v. Wade has left many concerned about reproductive health nervous about what the future holds in Canada. When questioned, BC Finance Minister Selina Robinson told the press that abortion access will change “over my dead body,” while the Government of Canada announced more than $3.5 million in funding for projects by Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights (Action Canada) and by the National Abortion Federation Canada (NAF Canada).