Albertos Polizogopoulos, a pro-life lawyer who was known across Canada, has died at age 41 after being diagnosed with cancer in September 2020. (Canadian Catholic News photo)

Canadian pro-lifers lose standard bearer to cancer at 41

On May 9, as thousands of Canadians once again gathered on Parliament Hill for the annual March for Life, Canada’s pro-life movement lost one of its greatest champions. Albertos Polizogopoulos, a dear husband to Faye Sonier, father of two, and a friend of many, passed away at the age of 41 after being diagnosed with cancer in September 2020. It is a devastating loss not only for those of us who knew and loved him, but for the Canadian Church that benefited from his commitment, his conviction, and his integrity.

Albertos was a familiar face to everyone in the pro-life movement. For a decade and a half, it seemed he was everywhere: at national pro-life conferences; at ARPA conferences; Christian Legal Fellowship events; Canadian Physicians for Life symposiums; and the March for Life, which he never missed. He was legal counsel for many pro-life groups and spent his career defending the rights of Christians from the federal courts to the Supreme Court of Canada. In recent years, he co-founded the Acacia Group and built a team to focus on the essential work of providing counsel to religious organizations.

It was not Albertos’ original career plan. But in his first year of law school at the University of Ottawa, he met Faye Sonier. She was a Christian, so he got a Bible and began to read. His investigation into Christianity did not end the way he thought it would. Instead of disproving it, he believed it. It changed his life—and the trajectory of his career. He was called to the bar in June 2008. Only four months later, he was representing the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Christian Legal Fellowship at the Supreme Court, defending religious freedom.

When I wrote a profile of Albertos and his work seven years ago, Don Hutchinson, formerly of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, put it this way. “We read stories of ancient England in which royalty select a standard bearer to represent them in jousting competitions,” he said. “The Canadian courtroom is the contemporary jousting arena. Albertos Polizogopoulos has become one of the standard bearers for religious freedom and other interests of Christ’s Church.”

I thought he was indispensable. Many of us did.

It was one of the privileges of my life to be able to work alongside him in the causes both of us hold dear. I wish I could write more. For the moment, I will end with a line from Yeats: “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”

Jonathon Van Maren’s latest book is Prairie Lion: The Life & Times of Ted Byfield.

A lawyer of conscience

In recent years, it seemed there wasn’t a significant freedom of conscience, religion, or speech matter that constitutional lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos didn’t become involved in, including several cases in British Columbia.

Most recently, Polizogopoulos represented the Delta Hospice Society before the B.C. Supreme Court in 2020 when the society faced a legal challenge in its becoming a Christian society while facing pressure to permit euthanasia on site.

In 2018, Polizogopoulos represented the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada in its intervention over Trinity Western University’s mandatory same-sex community covenant. That same year, he was guest speaker at the annual Focus on Life dinner sponsored by Signal Hill, the Christian Advocacy Society, and the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

Albertos Polizogopoulos with Focus on Life emcees Monica and Malcolm Roddis in 2018. (Scott Roy photo)

He also waded into cases involving parental authority in education and gender identity, and in 2017 he helped a pro-life blogger get access to abortion statistics from the Ontario government.

In 2016, Polizogopoulos represented Canadian Physicians for Life when the Trudeau government brought in its euthanasia legislation. “The bill provides no protection for conscientious objectors, he noted, and compels them to be part of the chain of events leading up to a person’s death.”

Also in 2016, he was involved in an Indigenous religious freedom claim when the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) and the Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF) jointly intervened on behalf of the Ktunaxa First Nation in the Kootenays who opposed the development of a ski resort on land they considered sacred. The Ktunaxa Nation is in the Kootenay region of B.C.

In 2013, he represented the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada in a case involving a Muslim man on life support whose wife opposed doctors’ efforts to remove support. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that life support and palliative care treatment were part of a “treatment package” requiring consent to be removed.

Polizogopoulos also represented members of  Carleton Lifeline, a campus pro-life club that sued Ottawa’s Carleton University for violating their Charter rights, censoring them and having them arrested for trying to mount a pro-life exhibit on campus in 2011.

His funeral will be on Tuesday, May 14, at 6:30 p.m. at Kanata Baptist Church in Ottawa.

Canadian Catholic News with files from The B.C. Catholic


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