by Mark Penninga
From ARPA Canada’s first day in 2007, our strategy has been to devote as much time and energy as possible to working proactively in achieving what is possible. We are an association for ACTION. And, by God’s grace alone, these past 12 years have shown us that far more is possible than we even imagined.
From our first day, we have tried our best to work alongside others who share our convictions, and that remains a priority moving forward. Our mission is not to build up our organization, but to advance something much bigger than us, which many others are seeking as well: the honour and glory of God in the public square.
This year, ARPA Canada is assisting with the organization of a new March for Life in Canada’s largest city.
Contrary to these concerns, we believe that, with the Lord’s blessing, this Toronto March will serve to advance the cause of the pre-born and strengthen the pro-life movement.
The GTA is, by far, Canada’s most populous region. It is also the location of our country’s largest city. Although there are annual marches on the same day as the Ottawa March for Life in other provincial capitals, there is none in Toronto. We are optimistic that having a March for Life in Toronto, in solidarity with the other marches being held the same day, will make it possible for many more Canadians to make a public stand for life. We are also excited about the potential of doing the march a little differently: using the gathering to provide training to the attendees so that they can continue to be advocates on behalf of the pre-born throughout the rest of the year.
Yes, it is possible that the Ottawa March numbers may be impacted in some way if there is a Toronto March. But we respectfully challenge those concerned about the numbers to remember that our standard ought to be the well-being of our pre-born neighbours, not how many people come to a particular event that we may have organized. The numbers in Ottawa are by no means a measure of the health of the pro-life movement. The numbers change every year and make little difference in the message sent to MPs or the media.
Mobilizing Canada’s most populous region with its own march has the potential to get many more people involved in this critical cause, some for the very first time. Between the two cities (and other capitals around the country), the marches can serve as a means to witness to our nation and equip pro-life Canadians for more sustained and long-term action.
Some have expressed concerns that the organizers of the Toronto March are moving ahead without the support of the organizer of the Ottawa March. We would love to work alongside the organizer of the Ottawa March if they are willing. From when ARPA Canada was first formed in 2007, to when we started the We Need a Law campaign in 2012, and until today, we have done our best to work with and alongside other organizations in the pro-life movement. We are very grateful to have very positive relationships with dozens of them.
The reality is, however, that in this broken world there are differences of belief. Two pro-life organizations have long disagreed with us because we advocate for laws that fall short of the ideal: a complete ban on abortion. The Ottawa March organizer is one of these. We knew where they stood on the idea of a Toronto March. We could devote more time and energy to trying to change this, knowing what the outcome will be. We could choose to continue ignoring the opportunity and desire for a march in Toronto, as has happened year after year. Instead, we have chosen to carefully move ahead, working with those who are willing to work with us, for the sake of the pre-born. At the same time we have communicated to the Ottawa March organizer to please let us know if there is anything we can do moving forward to ensure that the Toronto March does not negatively impact the Ottawa March.
This recent controversy reminds me of when, with great trepidation, we started the We Need a Law campaign seven years ago knowing that there were some in the political arm of the pro-life movement who would vigorously oppose us. They have indeed done that. Hair loss may be largely genetic, but I don’t think it is a coincidence that I lost much of my hair the year we started this campaign. Thankfully, my wife has never minded and even thinks I look better this way (I’m not sure yet if that is a compliment).
Kidding aside, I am so grateful that we did not let opposition deter us from what we were confident was required to advance justice for our pre-born neighbours. Quietly, and behind the scenes, incredible progress is being made among Canada’s MPs, MLAs, and mainstream media on behalf of the pre-born, directly through the work of We Need a Law. We choose not to broadcast the details from the rooftops because doing so will hinder, rather than help, the pre-born. We don’t do this work to advance ARPA or We Need a Law. We move ahead because God calls us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. I am confident that, the Lord willing, a law restricting abortion can be introduced and passed in this country in our lifetime, through the quiet and faithful leadership of We Need a Law, working alongside so many others.
If complete unity is required before we can proceed with a worthy task or mission, the reality is that most things would simply not get done. That is true in our families, our church communities, our schools, and yes, also in the pro-life movement. We Need a Law would not be here today if our focus was on what people thought of us, instead of on the goal of protecting pre-born children made in the image of God. I’m so grateful we pressed ahead, even in the face of some of the strongest criticism I have ever received.
Yes, we ought to pursue unity as much as possible. And rest assured that we have, and will continue to, respectfully engage with those who disagree with our work, and do our best to work alongside them when possible. But there are times when we have to move forward to do the right thing while we are able, even if others don’t agree.
I am very encouraged by the progress occurring in the political arm of the pro-life movement and am hopeful that the Toronto March for Life will become one more effective means through which justice is achieved on behalf of our littlest neighbours.