This report offers an overview of COLF’s work – projects and publications – between June 30, 2009, and June 30, 2010.

Presented to the Plenary Assembly of the 
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops 
and to the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) was involved in a number of topical projects between June 30, 2009, and June 30, 2010, given the need to offer Catholics the Gospel perspective on various ethical and social issues. This report provides an overview of the work COLF has done in the past year – projects and publications – thanks to the financial support of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus.

PUBLICATIONS

“Families, Let’s Build a Better World Together!” 
In its 2009 Message to Families, COLF reminds them of their responsibility to play an active role in democracy, to be involved in shaping the future and public opinion, and to offer a Christian tone to cultural, social and economic changes. Since, sooner or later, every choice and every decision our governments and courts make affects families, families must mobilize so that together they can develop a culture and policy for the family that meets their real needs. A brief workshop guide is included as part of the message to encourage discussion on concrete issues related to families’ involvement in the public sphere.

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide: Why not?  Quick answers to common arguments” 
In the face of the threat represented by Bill C-384, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity), we produced new educational documents to try to dispel the confusion that was keeping citizens from understanding the true nature of euthanasia. The title of this electronic publication says it well: it is a series of brief responses to the main arguments of the pro-euthanasia lobby.

Two other short electronic documents that could serve as parish bulletin inserts were made available to the faithful:

Legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide: What would it mean for you?  An analysis of Bill C-384.

Stop Bill C-384 – Speak up now! – Overview of the threats presented by this bill and suggested ideas for writing letters to Members of Parliament and the media.

SEMINAR ON BIOETHICS

With the issue of euthanasia omnipresent in Canadian society, we chose the following theme for the Seminar on Bioethics: “Euthanasia and assisted suicide: Pitfalls and alternatives.” On March 25 and 26, some 15 national and international experts gathered in Ottawa to discuss the topic from various angles: the Catholic Church’s perspective, experiences of other countries, palliative care, dying at home, supporting the sick, living wills, perspective of the medical community, call to the laity, testimonials on the Christian understanding of suffering, etc.

In light of COLF’s educational objectives, for the first time this event was open to more people; 84 participants attended the seminar, many representing organizations and associations interested in these issues. Half of the dioceses in Quebec and a third of those in the rest of Canada sent delegates. Also for the first time this year, we added to our website all the presentations given during the Seminar, in text and audio formats.

PUBLIC STATEMENTS

Bill C-384, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity)
On October 15, 2009, we wrote to all the Members of the House of Commons and of the Senate of Canada to voice our strong opposition to the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide, practices which “oppose the fundamental principles that guide Canadian society”. After providing an overview of the situation in certain countries where these practices are legal, we insisted on the inalterable human dignity and on our responsibility towards those who are suffering, and also denounced the current verbal engineering. In conclusion, we proposed three priorities for Canadian society to remain just and human: (1) “encourage new research and education on pain relief; (2) provide public funding for more palliative care centers and units in order to ensure that all Canadians have access to end of life care; (3) and develop fiscal measures to allow primary care givers to commit themselves freely to the support of their sick or dying loved ones”. On April 21, 2010, the Bill was defeated at second reading, 228 votes to 59.

Canadian initiative for maternal and infant health
On February 2, 2010, we wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper applauding his government’s decision to promote a plan fostering maternal and infant health at the G8 summit in Toronto in June 2010. We emphasized “a misguided trend that has developed among Western nations to include abortion among the means of attaining maternal care”.

National March for Life
Entitled “Threats to Civilization,” the COLF message for the National March for Life (May 13, 2010) encouraged Canadians to choose life to build a civilization of love. The message explored concrete ways to repair the damage caused by abortion and issued a call to all persons to take responsibility for offering care that is filled with compassion and solidarity “at both ends of the spectrum of life.” On Parliament Hill on May 13, 2010, Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, spoke to the crowd of 12,500 people. A dozen members of the CCCB and 21 Members of Parliament took part in the event, and a number of them spoke, including Cardinal Marc Ouellet (Quebec) and Bishop Nicola de Angelis (Peterborough).

Bill C-510 (Roxanne’s Law)
On April 22, 2010, we issued a press release supporting the parliamentary initiative of the Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South, Rod Bruinooge, who introduced Bill C-510, An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort (Roxanne’s Law), on April 15, 2010. This bill aims to guarantee respect for the integrity and dignity of pregnant women by protecting their physical and psychological well-being. We encouraged citizens to contact their federal MP to ask him or her to support this bill.

POLYGAMY

After being invited by the Supreme Court of British Columbia to ask permission to intervene in the Reference re Polygamy case, COLF formed a coalition with the Knights of Columbus of British Columbia and the Yukon, and were granted this permission. Our argument was to be based on the negative impact of polygamy on women, children, men and society. Our research, however, led us to conclude that the social sciences have up until now provided very little proof. At the CCCB’s suggestion, we therefore decided to withdraw from this project for the time being.

COLLABORATION WITH THE CANADIAN CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS

Ad Hoc Committee on Life and Family
The three bishops who are members of this new CCCB committee on life and family invited the COLF director to work with them. Two people whom COLF recommended were also asked to join the committee as advisers: Sr. Catherine Marie of the Sisters of Life, and Gérard Valade, former director of the Diocese of Montreal’s Office of the Family. We took part in a number of meetings aimed at the creation of an overall plan that will be submitted to the 2010 Plenary Assembly. To prepare for a meeting (June 2, 2010) with 13 representatives of pro-life and pro-family movements, we submitted our responses to the committee’s questionnaire.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide 
We prepared a history of Bill C-384 for the General Secretary of the CCCB who was meeting with representatives of episcopal conferences from other countries in the Americas.

We collaborated in the drafting of a letter that the CCCB President wrote to Canadian Members of Parliament on September 21, 2009, on the possible legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

On April 8, 2010, following a suggestion from COLF and in collaboration with us, the CCCB president also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and to the leaders of the other federal parties urging the Canadian government to devote more resources to palliative care in Canada.

Abortion
In response to the open letter addressed to Prime Minister Harper by the dissident group Catholics for Choice, we did some research on this group and recommended that the CCCB intervene in this situation. On April 16, 2010, the CCCB posted a comment on its website stating that this group is not Catholic.

Annual Forum with Movements and Associations
On December 3 and 4, 2009, the COLF director co-hosted the CCCB’s Annual Forum with Movements and Associations, as well as participating on behalf of COLF. At this time, we gave each participant a full set of our publications.

COLLABORATION WITH THE KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS

In December 2009, at a request from the CCCB Executive Committee, we prepared a report for Carl Anderson. The Supreme Knight was to give a report to the Pontifical Council for the Family in February 2010 on the initiatives of the Churches of the United States, Canada and Mexico in the area of marriage and the family. The COLF report contained the CCCB’s priorities in this area, including the creation of an Ad hoc committee on life and family, whose task is to develop a strategic plan for the coming years. COLF’s projects and priorities were also listed.

CREATION OF THE “LIVING WITH DIGNITY” NETWORK

In the fall, we worked actively to plan and organize the Wilberforce Weekend  Ottawa (November 13-14, 2009), an initiative of the Manning Centre for Democracy, which brought together one hundred people to develop a strategy to block the legalization of euthanasia in Canada.  Twelve people from Quebec took part in this weekend.

On January 15, 2010, 20 people responding to an invitation by COLF director, Michèle Boulva, participated in a meeting in Montreal. All agreed on the importance of creating a group to serve as an anti-euthanasia voice in Quebec and to promote support for vulnerable people and palliative care. After some intensive work by those involved in this project, including several physicians, lawyers, teachers, etc., the new grassroots network “Living with Dignity” (LWD) was incorporated in Montreal on May 19, 2010, and became public on June 22, 2010. Its vision, mission, objectives and initiatives are presented on its website (www.vivredignite.com). The website also features a range of relevant information, including ways to intervene during the governmental commission’s consultations on the issue of dying with dignity.

LWD’s Board of Directors is made up of the following people: Dr. André Bourque, chief of medicine of the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM); Dr. Patrick Vinay, head of palliative care, department of medicine, CHUM; Odile Marcotte, associate director of the Centre de recherches mathématiques at the Université de Montréal; Dr. Marc Beauchamp, orthopedic surgeon; and Michèle Boulva, director of COLF.

At the request of Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Knights of Columbus generously agreed to sponsor this new network and sent a cheque for $75,000 to LWD. This support comes from the Fund for a Culture of Life (Canada) and the Supreme Council. Thanks to the efforts of Bishop Bertrand Blanchet, Bishop Emeritus of Rimouski, who takes part in LWD’s meetings, the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec (AECQ) contributed $5,000 to LWD.

PARTICIPATION AT CONFERENCES

During the year, COLF personnel participated in a number of events and conferences, using these opportunities to make COLF’s work and publications better known:

2009

October 18-20: CCCB Plenary Assembly (Cornwall)
November 13-14: Wilberforce Weekend (Ottawa) 

2010

March 8: Gala of the youth movement Christian Catholic Outreac (Ottawa).
March 11: Institute for Marriage and Family Canada conference (Ottawa).
April 23-24: Association des responsables de l’éducation de la foi (AREF) conference. We set up the COLF booth and handed out our publications. We gave a complete set of our publications to the eight people in charge of the regions (Gatineau).
April 30 – May 2: Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies (CFCPS) annual conference. COLF was an exhibitor (Montreal).
May 6: through the intervention of Christian Meert, creator of the Catholic Marriage Preparation program, we gave a complete set of our publications to the person responsible for marriage preparation in the Canadian Forces.
May 6-8: Colloquium on the Family, Saint Paul University (Ottawa).
May 11-12:Triduum for Life, on the occasion of the National March for Life. We gave a hundred complete sets of our publications to the two Montreal priests who organized the event, to give to their fellow priests working in parishes (Montreal). 
May 21-24: Youth Summit – we gave a set of a number of our publications to the approximately 400 participants (Ottawa). 
June 2: Meeting with representatives of pro-life and pro-family movements, organized by the CCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee on Life and Family (Ottawa).

OTHER NEWS AND ACTIVITIES

COLF newsletter
In December 2010, a new issue of our electronic newsletter Towards a Cultural Revolution was sent to the hundreds of people who are listed in our database. The aim of the newsletter is to keep in touch with friends of COLF, informing them regularly about our most recent activities, projects and publications.

Collaboration with the “Prions en Église” missal
At the invitation of the editors of “Prions en Église,” we submitted an article that was published in August 2009, marking the launch of our Message to Families entitled “Families, Let’s Build a Better World Together!”

Interviews and letters
Various subjects touching on issues of life and family attracted the media’s attention. We had the opportunity to give a number of interviews:

2009

July: CanWest – Reaction to the Quebec College of physicans’ statements about euthanasia
August 11:  Radio Ville-Marie – Comment on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Chantal Daigle affair (abortion)
September: Canadian Catholic News (CCN) – COLF Message to Families
September 22: Catholic Register – Comment on the increase in the fertility rate in Canada 
October 14: Radio Ville-Marie – Reaction to the draft legislation on adoption in Quebec
November: Salt and Light Radio – Bill C-384
December 8: CCN – Consultation in Quebec on the issue of dying with dignity

2010

January 17: Radio-Canada – The host of “Le Jour du Seigneur” presented the French version of our brochure “Marriage in the Catholic Church: Frequently Asked Questions” to viewers.
April 21: Radio-Canada Ottawa – Bill C-384
April 22: CanWest – Bill C-384 Radio Ville-Marie – Bill C-384 and Bill C-510 (Roxanne’s Law) 
May: CCN – Reaction to the attacks on Cardinal Ouellet on the issue of life
May 18: Salt and Light Television – Reaction to the attacks on Cardinal Ouellet and discussion about abortion.

Links to the dioceses
COLF is pleased to be able to collaborate in promoting life and family with its diocesan contacts, with the national executive of the Catholic Women’s League, the state deputies of the Knights of Columbus, members of the Table provinciale de pastorale familiale (TPPF) and other individuals and groups in our database.

IN PROGRESS

Message to Families 2010 – The global economic crisis that shook the world and the massive job losses happening in Canada as elsewhere make this the ideal time for a message from COLF on the importance of work in the lives of families. This will be the theme of our 2010 Message to Families. It will allow us to present the Christian vision of work as collaborating in the creative work of God, as a path to holiness and as a place of evangelization for the men and women of today. The message will be launched in September.

Brochure on abortion and brochure on palliative care – These two brochures should be published in 2011.

Third National Symposium on the Theology of the Body – Two excellent speakers, Christopher West (USA) and Yves Semen (France) have accepted our invitation to the Third National Symposium on the Theology of the Body, which will take place in Ottawa on October 20-22, 2011. 

This report is respectfully submitted by the members of the Board of Directors and the staff of COLF: 

Board of Directors

  • Mr. Mickey Casavant, St. Albert, AB – retired social worker and Knight of Columbus
  • Ms. Sharron McKeever, Oshawa, ON – retired religious and family life education consultant
  • Dr. José Morais, Montreal, QC - Assistant Professor of Medicine, McGill University, and Director of Geriatric Medecine, McGill University Montreal, QC - Assistant Professor of Medicine, McGill University, and Director of Geriatric Medecine, McGill University
  • Dr. Marie Peeters-Ney, Victoria, BC - Director of Medical Research for the International Foundation of Genetic Research ("The Michael Fund") Pittsburg, USA
  • Mr. Dennis Savoie - New Haven, Connecticut, Deputy Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus
  • Most Rev. Noël Simard, Auxiliary Bishop of Sault Ste-Marie, ON
  • Most. Rev. Gerald Wiesner, O.M.I., Bishop of Prince George, BC
  • Ms. Cecilia Zucchi, Montreal, QC – Professor of philosophy, Grand Séminaire de Montréal 

Staff

  • Ms. Michèle Boulva (Director)
  • Ms. Jocelyne Pagé (Administrative Assistant)

September 2010