Today marks the annual March for Life, the annual rally and march on Parliament Hill that I have long called the biggest political movement without a home.
I believe I’ve been to every March since 2005 and even some before to offer media coverage as a reporter and a commentator. Literally tens of thousands of people show up on Parliament Hill each year and are mostly either maligned or ignored. I’ve seen colleagues of mine do a headcount at 11 am, an hour before the event starts and then claim the few hundred people there are the sum total of the event.
I’ve seen more attention paid to the few dozen counter protesters than the 20,000 plus people showing up to announce that they are pro-life and a force to be reckoned with.
Bizarrely in a country that celebrates WE Day and youth involvement in any social cause, I’ve seen story after story about how it is wrong that Catholic school kids are bused in from across Ontario and Quebec to take part. Were it any other cause, the same journalists writing those stories would be signing their praises, profiling their commitment to “change the system.”
But that won’t happen with abortion.
I’m acutely aware that Canadians do not have black and white views on abortion. Some do, many don’t. After following this issue for many years, after reading countless polls that ask more than a simple are you “pro-choice” or “anti-abortion” question, here is what I know. Canadians don’t want abortion banned but they don’t like the status quo with no restrictions at all.
Whether they want restrictions after 12 weeks, as many European countries have or later really depends. One thing that I have seen several polls highlight is that many Canadians don’t like tax dollars being used for abortion.
So really, neither side of this debate can claim to have won the hearts and minds of Canadians but one side, the “pro-choice” side can claim victory because they own the hearts and minds of the media and the politicians if not everyday Canadians.
That is why I am urging a change in tactics for those that want to see change from the pro-life point of view.
If electing Andrew Scheer as leader of the Conservative Party and Jason Kenney as leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party won’t result in a change in policy or legislation, then it is time for a change in tactics.
These two men are devout Catholics, I’ve known them both for years and would never question them on this front. I know them both to be personally pro-life and even they promise no change in policy, never mind legislation.
Simply put, their parties, their caucuses are not with them and would not stand for the daily barrage of media stories on the evil conservatives attacking abortion rights that do not exist in our charter. Politics is the art of the possible and if your caucus will not go with you then there is no ability to move policy.
I’ve long thought trying to change our permissive culture on this issue with legislation was wrong because our courts would strike almost all of it down. While maybe some tweaks could be made, some small changes, the idea, the hope by some that we will have a legislated ban on abortion is nothing short of pure folly in our current climate.
The pro-life movement has not won the battle for the hearts and minds.
I’m not telling pro-lifers to give up, pack up their tents and go home. Instead I’m saying start closer to home. Try to evangelize, in whatever way that word means for you. If you are religious, well that means spreading your faith. If you are not religious it means spreading your message of why you are against abortion but doing it in a way that brings people in, rather than drives them away.
Politicians, even the good ones are often followers when they should be leaders.
Why should we ask them to stand strongly when the people back home they are supposed to represent won’t have their backs but instead are aiming at their backs for taking a stand on this issue?