March for Life takes over downtown core

Thousands of people flooded downtown Ottawa on Thursday for the March for Life.

The annual pro-life demonstration kicked off at 12:30 p.m. on Parliament Hill, followed by a march through downtown streets.

Organizers say the rally features “political, spiritual and pro-life leaders who will attest to this year’s theme of being Pro-Life All In.”

Speakers included Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, Thomas Cardinal Collins of the Archdiocese of Toronto and Kitchener MP Harold Albrecht.

A counter protest also marched through downtown Ottawa yesterday. The Coalition to End the "March for Life" says it is rallying because it still "needs to fight for reproductive justice."

Its march began at Confederation Park at 12:30 p.m., and moved north on Elgin St. as the March for Life made its way south down the same street.

The two groups met in front of the National Arts Centre, amid a heavy police presence. 

There was no proclamation from the mayor this year, declaring the day "March for Life Day."

The mayor has made the proclamation in previous years, but City policies were reviewed last year, following a flap over a March for Life flag at City Hall.

The flag was requested and given permission to fly on one of City Hall's flagpoles, but was later taken down amid furor from some City Councillors and members of the community.

City of Ottawa Chief of Protocol Cathy Bowles says, in a statement, “The City is not proclaiming a 'March for Life' Day this year. Last year’s review of the Flag Protocol and Proclamation Procedures was intended to ensure that these procedures, in their wording and application, continue to reflect prevailing community expectations, recognizing that these may evolve over time. The City’s Proclamation Procedure states:  'A proclamation will not be issued for matters that are politically or religiously motivated or represent individual conviction'. It is the City’s view that, in light of the above clause, a 'March for Life Day' proclamation no longer qualifies under the City’s Proclamation Procedure. The City is of the view that this matter largely falls within the last one in that it represents 'individual conviction'.”