Pro-choice and pro-life advocacy groups held demonstrations side-by-side at Parc Lahaie on Saturday. A footpath serving as a police-designated dividing line separated the two groups. Pro Choix Montreal, a pro-choice group, held a hot pink banner and placards, responding with cheers to the honks of passing traffic. On the other side of the footpath was Quebec Life Coalition, a pro-life group, who held prayer books as they stood in vigil.
The Quebec Life Coalition is currently participating in the now-international “40 Days for Life” campaign, a semiannual movement in which pro-life activists in over 200 cities worldwide fast and keep vigil outside local abortion clinics and hospitals.
In some locations, the vigils last 24 hours a day throughout the forty-day period. Campagne Québec-Vie occupies its post outside the Montreal Morgentaler Clinic from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.
Brian Jenkins, a worker at Quebec Life Coalition, said he ensures a constant volunteer presence throughout these hours despite the small pool of volunteers he has to work with.
There are 13 regular volunteers.
He said he sees himself and his fellow vigil-keepers as “representing the children, because no one’s speaking up for them. They’re being burned, dismembered, and chemically aborted…we are here to pray, and to try to bring it back around.”
This Saturday was Quebec Life Coalition’s eighth vigil of the campaign. All of their vigils have been challenged – hence the police-designated dividing line – but Pro Choix Montreal was not among the challenging demonstrators until 2010.
Pro Choix Montreal did not formalize its efforts until 2011 and still operates on a largely casual basis.
According to Pro Choix Montreal activists present on Saturday, a small core of foundational members coordinates the group’s demonstrations. However, it lacks a formal organizational structure and encourages members to initiate their own demonstrations and events via a Facebook group, which currently boasts over 1,200 members.
Unlike Quebec Life Coalition, Pro Choix Montreal has not maintained a constant presence during the forty-day movement, but supporters come to represent the cause during the hours they are available.
Members of Pro Choix told The Daily that they had aimed to be there every day of the campaign in 2011, but no longer aim for this level of constancy.
“We just want to be a visible presence here too, to show that there`s another side,” a demonstrator said.
In spite of the ideological differences between the groups, each group has a strict code of conduct for their demonstrators to ensure a positive atmosphere.
Quebec Life Coalition said they encourage non-confrontation and seeking common ground, while Pro Choix Montreal emphasizes inclusivity through the use of non-hateful, non-discriminatory language, particularly based on religion or sexuality.
In the upcoming weeks, Pro Choix Montreal will be holding bi-weekly picnics with food and live music. Quebec Life Coalition will maintain its constant presence in the park.