U.S. funding helped to re-open the Canadian abortion debate

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The Conference of Bishops is one of the few publicly listed sponsors alongside individual archdioceses and other Catholic organizations. According to the sponsor list on CLC’s website, the Conference of Bishops donated $5000 in 2012. Further research reveals that a separate pro-life arm called the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) also contributes.

COLF was co-founded by the Conference of Bishops and the world’s largest fraternal Catholic organization, the U.S.-based Knights of Columbus, “to build a culture of life and a civilization of love by promoting respect for human life and dignity and the essential role of the family.” 

Director Michele Boulva told the Vancouver Observer that the organization holds informational seminars on topics like abortion, stem-cell research, euthanasia, and other topics related to the creation or cessation of life. She added that COLF also sends out informational letters to MPs ahead of votes like Motion 312.

”We are a bit politically active, but predominantly we are of an educational nature,” she said. 

Although COLF is autonomous and they do their own publication, they  are co-funded by the Conference of Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, according to Boulva.

Based out of Connecticut, the Knights of Columbus run a network of charitable organizations which fund everything from broadcast media and construction of churches to scholarships and political activism. As of February 2011, the Canadian Knights have 227,538 members comprising 1,942 councils which form a dominant part of a link connecting potent Members of Parliament, the pro-life movement and the Catholic church.

Woodworth is a Knight, as are Americans John Boehner, Jeb Bush, and Rick Santorum.

Over $1 million in U.S. funding
The American Knights of Columbus tax records from 2004 to 2007 show the Conference of Bishops as a recipient of $1,036,350, including explicit support for COLF and “pro-life activities.”

The Canadian March of Life received $6,250 from the Knights of Columbus in 2004. In 2005, the Ottawa march disappeared from the books, but the Campaign for Life Coalition became an item on the cash recipient list with $17,752 in total financial support from 2005 to 2007.

Furthermore, according to a public statement by the Canadian Knights of Columbus, the annual interest of their $1 million Bishop du Laval fund is given directly to the Conference of Bishops. The statement also notes that the “Canadian Knights have also been key supporters and participants in Canada’s annual March of Life.”

Parliament Hill and the U.S. Knights of Columbus 
A March news release by the American Knights of Columbus reports on a private luncheon attended by Supreme Director of the Canadian Knights, Robert Cayea, and Speaker of the House, Conservative MP Andrew Scheer. The Speaker is a member of the Knights of Columbus Council 10418 in Regina.

Other notable members of the Knights include Conservative MP Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, and a potential successor to PM Stephen Harper. Kenney, too, voted in favor of Motion 312. Last June, on behalf of the Canadian government, Kenny awarded Deputy Supreme Knight Dennis A. Savoie with a commemorative medal for his charitable work and contribution “to the revitalization of the new voices of lay Catholics” expressing “the values of dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life.”  

The ceremony took place at MP Andrew Scheer’s reception room and was also attended by Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, vice-president of the Conference of Bishops and Stephen Woodworth, who frequently volunteers for the Knights. At the time of writing, Supreme Director Robert Cayea had not returned calls to comment on the Knights’ relationship with Canada's Parliament Hill.

Despite the resounding defeat of Motion 312 in September and a general desire in the House of Commons  to move on from further discussion of abortion, legislative backbenchers have been successful in reintroducing the discussion of universal human rights.

With Mark Warawa’s motion on sex-selective abortions still on deck for debates, it is hard to imagine that the issue of abortion will be resolved in the nearfuture.

Woodworth says he is trying to close, not reopen, the abortion debate in addressing Justice Wilson’s proposal and determining the point at which a human being can be lawfully protected within full purview of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The majority of Conservative MPs are anti-abortion, according to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.  With continued help from south of the border, this country's March for Life is likely to grow.  

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