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Quebec Life Coalition defends the human person from conception until natural death.



Why is abortion victim photography important? An interview with Merichel Diaz

By Joanne of Arc for Quebec Life Coalition — Photo : Montreal Against Abortion

Montreal Against Abortion (MAA) is a pro-life group in Montreal that is focused on Abortion Victim Photography (AVP).

The group was founded in 2021 by Manuel Medina and Merichel Diaz. It organizes activism sessions throughout the year and has been growing in activity for the last two years.

Quebec Life Coalition was able to interview one of its co-founders prior to the launch of Students For Life event in Montreal. 

Joanna for QLC: Can you present yourself and your group Montreal Against Abortion

Merichel for Montreal Against Abortion: I am Mexican. I came to Montreal 12 years ago. The group MAA was founded two years ago. We completed the second year of operation, but we built it one year prior to launching it. Therefore, we have two years of operation, but technically we exist since three years. We started in 2021 during the summer. It was founded by Manuel and myself. Friends in common helped us to meet, because they knew we were interested in the pro-life movement. I had a call to do something in the pro-life movement and he also had the same call. We decided to work together since we had the same purpose. Manuel had a previous contact in Toronto from CCBR (Canadian Center Bioethical Reform) and TRTL (Toronto Right To Life).

From TRTL we received online training (apologetics training) that was very helpful and we received some tools to defend the culture of life. We got the training in 2020, we also started to read books on the topic. 

We were convinced that abortion is wrong, but we needed to know how to explain that it is wrong to other people. 

It was important to learn about science and human rights. Because we defend life using science and human rights, it’s not a personal opinion or idea. We were encouraged to do it in a proper way, when we found out that there is a lot of scientific information that states that life starts from the moment of conception and a lot of literature confirms that. Learning that and learning that the first right is the right to life helped us recognize that we need to give a voice to the voiceless. 

“Stuck” by Justina Van Manem is a book that explains how to go through each argument. How to defend life from the moment of conception if the mother is in danger, for example. 

Right now the technology is improved, there is no need to do an abortion if we can do a C section. If they put the baby in the incubator, it can be saved and survive. We also don’t need to dismember the baby in pieces to save the life of the mother. 

The book also explains what to say if the mother was raped. We first must have empathy for them, and show that we care about the trauma of the woman who has been raped, but we also need to show care about the trauma of an abortion. 

We tried to learn all those sides of the arguments to explain these complicated situations to people.

When we got all this clarity,  we decided to spread this information to other people who were also pro-life and we launched Montreal Against Abortion in 2021. We only had the idea in our heart that abortion was wrong and from that idea - we decided to put it into action. 

Volunteers doing activism in the city of Montreal — Photo : Montreal Against Abortion

Joanna for QLC : You mentioned that you felt a calling for this mission. How did that happen specifically for you? 

Merichel for M.A.A. :  As I mentioned earlier, I am from Cancun,Mexico. In Cancun we protect nature, the ocean, the animals and the eggs of the turtles. There are a lot of groups who care about nature. Therefore, it was a shock for me to see that I was involved in groups that protect the eggs of the turtles and realize that in this country [Canada]  we can kill a child, a baby in the womb and it just broke my heart. (...)

It was a call for me when I saw that behind all this, there is a business, because the same narrative that I hear from people in Canada is the same narrative I hear in Mexico and Latin America. So I am wondering why is the message the same when 

in Mexico we care about family? There are a lot of poor people who would never have this idea, but why people who have more education are receiving and open to that message? Probably because they are closer to the media. The message being : “It’s just a clump of cells” 

When I saw the same narrative in US and Latin America, it didn't make sense in my mind. In my country we care about family, I said to myself that maybe I should spread the message about why it’s important to care about family.  

Joanna for QLC : Let’s talk about street activism. Your group particularly does abortion victim photography activism ?  Why is it important? 

Merichel for M.A.A. : Abortion Victim Photography (AVP) is a strategy that has a lot of impact. We have seen the effects of it in the past. 

When you read in a pamphlet “abortion is wrong '' as opposed to seeing a photo of an aborted fetus, your response is different. When you see photos of victims of a holocaust or a war, it touches your heart. For that reason, I know it has an impact. When people see the photos, they have two choices, to talk to us or not. 

But we have testimonies of people who have told us that when they saw us they ignored us but when they were later in a vulnerable circumstance they didn’t abort, because they knew it was a human being, because they had that image in their head.

A photo can have an impact, it’s worth 1000 words. 

AVP is a strategy that has been tested in the States and Canada, but it was missing in Montreal, Quebec, so we decided to do that. 

The strategy has been present in many provinces and the idea is to cover the whole country. I see that the pro-life movement is growing, we were the first movement who decided to launch it in Quebec, but I believe that we are not going to remain the only ones. 

Joanna for QLC : Let’s talk about the challenges. You have been doing this for two years now, what are the challenges when you guys are there in the street? Is it considered legal?

Merichel for M.A.A. : It is legal, because we are using our right of expression. Canada has a charter of rights and freedoms, and we are under that charter. It is completely legal. Before we launched the group, we sent a letter to the SPVM - the Montreal Police. We told them what we do, pacific activism. We don’t push people to talk or have a conversation, we do educational outreach. We talk with people who want to talk to us. We don’t talk with people who don’t want to talk to us. The cops told us to not interfere with pedestrians or businesses and respect the areas where we are, but it is legal to use our freedom of expression so that is what we do. Educating people is legal.

People don't know that an abortion dismembers the body of the baby, they just think, “well it’s my choice”. Most people just repeat “my body, my choice, it’s a clump of cells” but if they really want to learn they will have a conversation with us.

Sometimes it’s not easy, because if people have a heart issue, we need to have empathy for them. We are there to listen, sometimes they want to hear us back, sometimes not, but at least they see the photos. 

Volunteers presenting abortion photography in the streets of Montreal — Photo: MAA

Joanna for QLC : What is the biggest challenge?

Merichel for M.A.A. : To understand that we don’t want to win any conversations. We are there to win people’s hearts. When people are really open to see the truth, they see a human being and I think people need to be treated with respect and that’s what we do. Sometimes we cannot anticipate people’s reactions, but I really want to say that in two years we have seen a lot of people who do not agree entirely, but they expressed their opinions and we hadn’t had any incidents, so that’s a good sign. This is pacific activism. We show the truth by showing the pictures and have conversations with people who want to talk with us. 

Joanna for QLC : What is the purpose of the training if we don’t convince people of the truth?

Merichel for M.A.A. : People have to do their own introspection. The training helps us to debate against arguments people will give to us. Training is about learning to ask them the right questions. If we know that they are wrong, we won’t tell them that they are wrong, but we can ask them the right questions. That type of strategy helps people to think. 

Joanna for QLC : I want to know according to you, how much more effort needs to be put in Quebec in the pro-life movement? 

Merichel for M.A.A. : There is a lot to do, but I feel that is just the beginning. I think we are very pacific, calm and silent. I see from two years to now, a lot of good things happening. I have noticed that the youth has been more active on this and we need students, their voice is very powerful, because they will present the values of this generation. I think they have a lot of power if they try to get  involved and talk about this subject with their friends, relatives and families. Little by little the idea of protecting the rights of each human being will be cared more for by people. I have seen that there are students that are trying to build their own teams in their own college or schools, that’s very positive. With social media, we are trying to connect to each other. We can spread the message more powerfully. Also having these type of events [Students For Life] conferences, or trainings in person, it helps a lot. We can listen to a podcast, or read literature,  but it is inspiring when we go to an event and meet people who think like us. We need to do more events like this, because we can see that the pro-life movement is big, but we are simply being silenced. {citation pour Facebook}

Joanna for QLC : Is there anybody that should avoid this type of activity? 

Merichel for M.A.A. : No, because we are defending our own species. Who else can avoid this if we are human beings? 

Joanna for QLC : How is the pro-life movement here in Montreal, Canada? Are we strong?  

Merichel for M.A.A. : People outside of the province have been very impressed with the recent growth of the pro-life movement. The anglophone provinces were always willing to do something more in Quebec, but because of the language barrier they didn't do it in the past. Most of the literature is still in English. I know they are very happy with the recent development over the last two years and that there are other groups like in Quebec city that want to join the network. I think each province is trying to do their best. I think we still need to have more training in French, pamphlets in French, resources and so on. CCBR has a lot of information in English, so we need to translate a lot of things. 

Joanna for QLC : How can students make a change in their neighborhoods? How can we encourage them in their areas? 

Merichel for M.A.A. : I have seen that students build their own clubs in their own schools and I think that’s amazing. You can build a club that defends life says a lot. It’s a good way to encourage people to have that discussion about what is happening in Canada. In Canada, we can kill the baby just before birth, at 9 months pregnant. Do the students know that this is legal in Canada? When I tell them that, people get surprised. Young people have a topic to discuss. If students build a club they will see they are not the only ones who feel the same way on this issue. 

Joanna for QLC : What do you want people who attend your training on Sunday to remember? 

Merichel for M.A.A. : I like when people say that they are inspired to fight against an injustice that is happening. People get inspired when they find a cause that touches their heart. When people see the injustice, they cannot just sit on their couch. For the youth, with the energy they have it becomes a new purpose, I have seen that. It makes me especially happy when I hear stories that by attending the training and watching the videos, learning what the science says about it, people begin to understand that the first right is the right to life and they need to do something about it. 

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