May 12, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “Are you ready to party and defend life!” shouted the guitarist for the Gethsemane ministries band, to a loud roar of assent, kicking off the rally on Parliament Hill for the 14th annual Canadian National March for Life.
The weather could not have been better for the massive pro-life event – clear, sunny skies, and warm, but with a cool breeze. By 12:30 this afternoon, the lawn in front of Canada’s Parliament buildings was packed with an exuberant crowd, stretching from corner to corner.
The annual event marks the passage of Trudeau’s infamous “Omnibus Bill,” which paved the way for abortion-on-demand in Canada.
Jim Hughes, who stands by the side of the road every year and individually counts marchers as they pass by, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) that he counted over 15,000 participants this year - a record-breaking crowd. The previous record was around 12,500.
Hughes, the President of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), who was introduced during the rally by CLC Youth director Alissa Golob as the “heart and soul of the pro-life movement in Canada,” told those assembled that this year’s crowd “eclipses last year.” “Thank God!” he told LSN.
More than one speaker remarked on the number of youth present – with many thousands of highschoolers, college students and young adults represented.
Archbishop Gerald Lacroix, the new Primate of Canada and Archbishop of Quebec City, officially opened the event with a prayer. The national anthem was sung by 16-year-old up-and-coming country star Carly Taylor, who is also slated to perform at tonight’s youth banquet.
Golob, who was the English master of ceremonies for the event, announced to cheers at the beginning that this year’s march is dedicated to the pro-life “legend,” Fr. Ted Colleton, who passed away last month.
She also announced the first ever “defund abortion” rally, to be held at Queen’s Park in Toronto, on Saturday, September 17. “Over 80 million of our taxpayer dollars are being put towards the killing of our most vulnerable citizens,” she said. “We can no longer tolerate abortion being funded with our hard-earned money.”
Prior to the commencement of the rally, a dozen or so pro-abortion counter-protesters - including one bearing a large sign with the presumably tongue-in-cheek slogan, “I hate life” - attempted to hold their protest in the middle of the lawn. However, police moved the group of protesters, which eventually swelled to just over 100, to the far side of the lawn.
But the counter-protesters were no match for the size and enthusiasm of the pro-life crowd.
Former Liberal Member of Parliament and staunch pro-life advocate Pat O’Brien was present on the Hill to introduce those MPs who were able to make it for the event. He pointed out that this year the number of MPs present was small, due to the fact that most are back in their ridings following the recent federal election.
O’Brien told those assembled, “It’s critical that you come here every year” to show Parliament “that you are pro-life Canadians, that you represent that millions of Canadians who understand that this country is a laughing stock because it simply has no law speaking to the question of the right to life. And that must stop, and that will stop.”
To loud cheers O’Brien said: “And even though the Prime Minister said that he’s not interested in opening the debate: well, news flash prime minister, ‘The debate is on!’”
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, who said one of two opening masses for pro-life Catholics in Ottawa this morning, introduced a number of the clergy present, including the bishops of Quebec City, Ottawa, Peterborough, Saskatoon and Sault Ste. Marie, as well as Carl Reid, the head of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, and Bishop Stephen Victor Chmilar of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy.
David Bereit, the charismatic head of the wildly successful 40 Days for Life campaign, flew up from Washington for the event.
Bereit explained that the 40 Days phenomenon, which has swept all 50 states in the U.S., numerous provinces in Canada, and numerous countries around the world, came about after Bereit and a number of fellow pro-lifers spent an hour of prayer together, and said ‘yes’ to what they felt was a call to do more for the pro-life cause.
To date over 400,000 individuals have participated in 40 Days for Life campaigns, dozens of abortion workers have left their jobs thanks to the 40 Days campaigns, and thousands of babies and their mothers have been saved from abortion.
“All those results came about because of an hour of prayer and an initial ‘yes,’” said Bereit. “And today as you gather here on Parliament Hill, you have time to pray and discern your call to this most important movement of our generation. And my question is, ‘Will you say yes to life?’”
The response was a resounding affirmative.
After the conclusion of the rally, the throng of pro-lifers threaded their way through the streets of downtown Ottawa, and past the infamous Bank St. Morgentaler abortion facility.
However, the rally and the march only mark the beginning of the pro-life events in Ottawa. This afternoon, following the march, men and women from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign will speak about their personal experiences with abortion on Parliament Hill. Later this evening there will be two dinners - the Rose dinner, featuring Bereit, and the Youth Dinner, featuring former model and actor and pro-life convert Mario St. Francis.
Then, tomorrow, there will be an all-day youth conference, which will be attended by an estimated 800 youth.