By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

More than 3,000 Catholics and many other people of faith, young and old, took to the streets of downtown Edmonton on Thursday for the 10th annual Alberta March for Life.

They joined 35,000 people in cities hosting marches across the country, in support of the dignity and sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

“This is a vibrant cause that’s not going away,” said MC Stephanie Fennelly, executive director of Alberta pro-life group the Wilberforce Project.

“There’s a movement. People are seeing that…our country’s ready for a mature conversation about human rights.”

“Life is beautiful!” declared speaker Vera Fischer at Churchill Square, where participants rallied before marching to the Alberta Legislature and back, by police escort.

“Here we stand, united again, as a visible sign of our conviction to uphold the sanctity of all human life,” she said to the crowd.

Blue, pink, and white ribbons lined the route of the march, which also garnered many curious stares from bystanders.

“We’re marching toward the goal of ending abortion,” said participant Maria Dusterhoft, 17.

The Hippocratic Oath, which promises to protect life, and respect life from conception to natural death, is perfectly summarized in the theme of the event, All Lives Matter, said Catholic physician Dr. Martin Owen.

“Practising medicine with that principle has never been more controversial, but neither has it been more important,” he said. “We can't expect patients to trust our medical judgement if we are taking all our cues from politicians or bureaucrats.”

The rights of physicians are under threat, he said, by policies mandating doctors to provide effective referral for services such as euthanasia, to which they might object on the grounds of conscience.

Participants were also met by a small handful of dismayed onlookers, who yelled “Pro-choice!”

Speakers, including Archbishop Richard Smith, encouraged participants not to keep silent in the face of legal abortion and now legal physician-assisted suicide, but to speak the truth in love.

Smith was joined by bishops from across Alberta for the Mass for Life at St. Joseph’s Basilica, which took place before the march and rally. 

“So great is the value of a human life and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in its mother’s womb, that no alleged right…can justify a decision to terminate that life,” said Bishop Paul Terrio of St. Paul, quoting Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

“So, yes, we do well to ‘March for Life,’ and we have the full endorsement of Pope Francis in doing so.”