By Rebecca Richmond, NCLN Executive Director
Canada’s pro-choice movement has been well-served by campuses. Whether pro-choice or pro-life, campuses remain critical ground to take in the culture wars. These venerable institutions are an engine for change and cultural transformation in our country – for better or for worse.
During a recent re-reading of Henry Morgentaler’s biography, I was struck by the manner in which universities were used to advance abortion on-demand. As the Women’s Liberation Movement rose in the 60’s and 70’s, groups formed on campuses with abortion “rights” a core tenet of their mission. They influenced the soon-to-be legislators, lawyers, doctors and educators. They became legislators, lawyers, doctors and educators. Even before the law changed, their associations, such as the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Bar Association, lobbied parliament to allow abortions.
And when Henry Morgentaler was arrested, “women across the country were politicized, activated” and able to spring to his support, says biographer Catherine Dunphy. And it was often university educated men and women – the business, arts, and political elites -that publicly or privately championed the cause, often funding and fundraising for it as well.
These days pro-choicers are calling on students to reclaim campuses for the cause. A few years ago the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) began a student project, and Joyce Arthurs has served, she wrote in an ARCC newsletter, as a consultant for student unions nationally. Their student coordinator even noted with concern that, “Canadian campuses have become hotbeds for anti-choice activities in recent years.”
But our goal is not to merely worry pro-choicers. We still have a lot of work to do. But as we return back to school – or start at university or college for the first time – we can find ourselves overwhelmed. The fact is that there are many good and noble things that can occupy our thoughts and time.
When I started my degree at the University of Ottawa, pro-life activism was not on my radar. I was pro-life, to be sure, but I was focused on getting my education, accomplishing my goals and ultimately doing good in the world after graduation. None of this was bad, but I was missing something: the fact that Canadian campuses are mission fields desperate for the pro-life message and that I could do good here and now and not just after graduation.
Our campuses contain the age demographic upon which the most abortions are performed each year; our campuses contain Canada’s future leaders; our campuses affect Canadian culture. And unless there is an active pro-life presence on a campus, students are exposed to only the pro-choice message.
This year, in particular, I have been impacted by the sad reality that we are a generation that has come of age in the 25 years since the R. v. Morgentaler Supreme Court decision. We are a generation that has known nothing but unrestricted abortion on-demand. We are survivors, with a quarter of our generation having lost their lives to abortion.
That is who we are and we didn’t have a choice, but who we can become is what we get to choose. We have the opportunity and the obligation to ensure that the next generation is not abandoned to the fate that ours suffered.
The upcoming NCLN Symposium is entirely dedicated to forming student leaders who can lead Canada out of the shadows of R. v. Morgentaler. This weekend’s theme is Out of the Shadows, and is open to all pro-life students in Canada as an incredible opportunity to be formed, educated, and equipped by top Canadian and American pro-life leaders as well as to connect with the cross-Canada Student Pro-Life Movement.
Many Canadian pro-lifers, including leaders such as the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform’s Stephanie Gray, Jonathon Van Maren and Maaike Rosendal, credit the Symposium with being “THE event” for pro-life students and “literally life changing” for them personally.
If you believe that abortion is the killing of innocent human beings, if you believe that women deserve better than abortion, and if you want to see Canadian culture respect life, it’s time to take action on campuses. The Symposium is a great way to start.
I realize that I am asking you to let your heart break for injustice, over and over again. I know that I am asking you to make a sacrifice and to take a risk. But it is only in this way that we can move Canada out of the shadows and into the light of a Culture of Life. It starts with you; it starts with your campus.
 Catherine Dunphy. Morgentaler: A Difficult Hero. Toronto: Random House of Canada Ltd. 1996, pg. 100.