Organizers are calling it the largest-ever demonstration on Parliament Hill. Holding placards and chanting “Defend marriage,” between 15,000 and 20,000 Canadians converged on Parliament Hill April 9 to protest the Liberal government’s same-sex marriage bill.
Muslims, Jews and Sikhs, stood alongside Christians of all denominations. The lawn in front of the House of Commons was a sea of blue and white “Defend Marriage” posters, printed by the Knights of Columbus and held by people of all faiths, ages and ethnicities.
Catholic groups were strongly represented at the rally. Among the many groups were the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Women’s League, Marriage Encounter, Couples for Christ and numerous parishes. Papal flags, and posters of Pope John Paul II waved in the air.
More than 20 speakers, including grassroots leaders and members of Parliament—both Liberal and Conservative—took to the microphone.
"The Liberal Party of Paul Martin has declared war on the values of New Canadians," Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper told the crowd.
"Liberals may talk about protecting minorities but undermining the traditional definition of marriage is an assault on the beliefs of all cultural and religious communities who have come to this country," he said.
Senator Anne Cools told the crowd that Bill C-38 “has subjugated the rights of children to the sexual needs of adults. There's no public interest in anyone's sexual gratification. The only public interest in the union of a man and a woman is that God and nature entrusted procreation to that."
"Our government wants sodomy to be accepted as part of the norm and we refuse that," said Archbishop Marcel Gervais of Ottawa. "What the government proposes would change life, change family, change the care of children in ways we can barely imagine.
“Homosexuality is a private reality and it cannot be the basis of society,” the archbishop continued.
"If the bill passes, we will no longer be able to tell our children that homosexual practices are not acceptable," he said, urging the protesters to voice their position to the prime minister.
Liberal MP Jason Kenney urged the people in the crowd to be “true champions of human rights as they are properly understood… Marriage belongs to us, not [Prime Minister] Paul Martin.”
Echoing Kenney, Rev. Tristan Emmanuel, director of Equipping Christians for the Public Square, received great cheers from the crowd. “Mr. Prime Minister, get your hands off marriage!” he shouted. “Don’t impose your secular morality on the people of Canada.”
He challenged the Catholic prime minister to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church and the late John Paul II on marriage.
Fr. Rueiss Awad of the Orthodox Coptic Church urged the crowd to use their democratic rights “to publicly defend the truth.”
To show fellow citizens dignity and respect does not mean destroying the fundamental institution of marriage, said Liberal MP Pat O’Brien. One of the few vocal Liberals against Bill C-38, O’Brien said that if it takes the notwithstanding clause to defend marriage, “we must use it.”