Ottawa Catholic schools paid $3,000 to send students to pro-life rally

People participate in the March For Life on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, May 9, 2013.
People participate in the March For Life on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, May 9, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – The publicly-funded Ottawa Catholic School Board spent $3,000 to send high school students to a pro-life rally on Parliament Hill Thursday.

Spokeswoman Mardi De Kemp said according to eight of nine Catholic high schools in Ottawa, approximately 195 students attended the four-hour March For Life event Thursday afternoon.

De Kemp said in an email Friday each school arranged its own transport, but $3,000 “would be a fair estimate.”

The 16th annual event, which drew thousands to the lawn of Parliament Hill and a march through the downtown streets of Ottawa, featured prayers, songs, and a number of anti-abortion speakers including Conservative MPs and Senators.

One speaker, Calgary Conservative MP Rob Anders, said anti-abortion activists need to back political candidates who share their views if they want abortion laws changed. Fellow Tory backbencher Mark Warawa gave a speech about female gendercide – the systemic killing of women and girls.

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Not all Catholic schools used school money to pay for the trip.

A spokeswoman for the Brantford, Ont.-area Catholic school board said 39 students from two high schools travelled to Ottawa by bus early Thursday morning, along with 15 parishioners, and returned that night.

Tracey Austin said the $3,000 cost was split between the Diocese of Hamilton, the parishioners, and the students, but no Ontario Ministry of Education or board money was used.

Another 15 students from the Guelph, Ont.-area travelled by bus to attend the rally with members of a Catholic parish. The students paid $25 each on their own dime to attend, said Don Drone, the director of education at Wellington Catholic School Board.

Drone said boards might pay for or subsidize such a trip, because they have program money to spend on Catholic curriculum or chaplaincy services.

“More often than not it’s a cost-sharing with either a parish, or with either a student and the parish, or they in fact do a lot of fundraising on their own,” he said.

“It’s social justice, and the issue of having your voice heard is a part of the democratic process and therefore that’s why we would engage students in these things.”

Many students who attended the rally Thursday said the anti-abortion movement was growing among young people.

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Global News called 29 Catholic school boards in Ontario. Several did not have students attend the event and most were unable to respond in full Friday.

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