.- Canadians turned out in the thousands to demand an end to abortion at the National March for Life yesterday and to voice their support for the creation of a culture of life. Nearly 6,000 people gathered on Parliament Hill May 12 for the annual event, and at least half were under the age of 25. People traveled in from Montreal and as far west as London, a seven-hour drive from Ottawa.
This was the highest turnout in recent years. Last year, 3,500 people participated.
A large number of the young people present had come from more than a dozen Catholic high schools in southern Ontario. Some stayed overnight to attend the pro-life youth rally at Carleton University on Friday.
The marchers listened to pro-life Parliamentarians and religious leaders speak about the need to respect life in all its forms and stages.
A number of women and men also shared their experiences with abortion, addressing the emotional, spiritual and physical pain that they lived as a result of procuring an abortion or encouraging other women to do so. These speakers, associated to an organization called Silent No More, said the negative effects of abortion are largely ignored by society and pro-abortion organizations.
They spoke of how their scars were healed by the Lord’s love and mercy and urged women who had abortions to seek healing.
About 1,300 of the marchers began their day with a mass at St. Patrick’s Basilica. In his homily, Archbishop Marcel Gervais of Ottawa urged the faithful to present the vision of a culture of life as an alternative to the current culture of death in Canada.
That evening, Marc Cardinal Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec City, and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson were the guest speakers at the annual pro-life Rose Dinner.
Cardinal Ouellet commended the pro-life advocates for “creating little by little a culture of life … and a value for life in our country, something that we need badly.”
He addressed the ecumenical nature of the gathering saying that such events provide an opportunity for unity. “We are a big family united around the issue of life … united by the same love of life,” he said.
The cardinal also read the message issued by the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) on the occasion of the national march, which said: “It is time to begin a new societal debate on abortion.” COLF is an organization of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Anderson focused his talk on euthanasia, which he considers to be the next big debate on the horizon. Referring to the recent death of Florida woman Terry Schiavo, he said euthanasia in some ways becomes more sinister than abortion since it masquerades as a selfless act.
“Once the door to euthanasia is open, human life will no longer have absolute value,” he warned, adding that the notion that euthanasia would be limited is wrong.
If euthanasia were legalized, then the elderly, the infirm and the handicapped will come to be regarded as drains on public resources, he said.
North Americans “share a common destiny” and “a common spiritual heritage,” said Anderson, and they must work together in the pro-life cause and in the creation of a culture of life.
Member of Parliament Rob Merrifield of Yellowhead, Alta., was honored with the Joseph Borowski Award for his pro-life work in government. Merrifield was a staunch and vocal defender of life in the recent embryonic stem-cell debate in the House of Commons.