Whatever you think of abortion, this is yet another episode of "The Judiciary Knows Best"
What do I always tell you, kids? The most important parts of the newspaper are (1) the corrections, and (2) letters to the editor. Here’s historian Michael Bliss’ letter to the Post today on Morgentaler’s OC:
As a Member of the Order of Canada, I am deeply saddened by the way that our honours system is apparently being debased and cheapened by appointments such as the Henry Morgentaler one. Those of us who occasionally nominate worthy people for consideration for the Order have been told repeatedly that if they have been considered and rejected on an earlier occasion, the files are not normally reopened. I cannot understand why the Morgentaler file was apparently reopened on several occasions.
If the Order of Canada’s advisory committee, meeting behind closed doors, continues to make divisive, apparently political recommendations, it will undermine the integrity of the Order and further discourage those of us who tried to help make the system work. I am particularly distressed that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada is involved in a process the trustworthiness of which many of us now question.
Michael Bliss, Member of the Order of Canada, University Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, Toronto.
This confirms what Order of Canada scholar Christopher McCreery hints at in this op-ed in the Globe:
Dr. Morgentaler has been nominated to receive the Order of Canada numerous times over the past 25 years, before supporters organized a nomination campaign earlier this year. But members of previous Advisory Councils – the committee of 11 people, chaired by the Chief Justice of Canada, advising governors-general on appointments – have steered clear of pushing his nomination forward because it was viewed as highly divisive and potentially damaging to the prestige associated with membership.
--"Does the Order of Canada stand for unity or recognition?," Christopher McCreery, Globe and Mail, July 2
Continuing with the fallout, a B.C. priest has returned his OC, and prominent Bay Street figure Thomas Caldwell (pictured) has reportedly removed his OC lapel pin:
A Catholic priest in British Columbia is returning his Order of Canada after Dr. Henry Morgentaler was named a member, calling the controversial abortion doctor’s induction into the Order “a terrible mistake.”
Father Lucien Larre, who was inducted into the nation’s highest order in 1983 for his work with troubled youth, said in a news release yesterday that he felt “compelled in conscience to return my Order of Canada.”
The priest, based in Coquitlam, B. C., said he did not want to show disrespect to the Governor-General or to condemn Dr. Morgentaler, but added, “I believe in my heart that he is horribly wrong and the advisory committee made a terrible mistake.”
--”B.C. priest gives back his Order over Morgentaler,” National Post, July 3
As the media have reported, Larre was pardoned for prior convictions of assault and offering a noxious substance:
He said the assault charge stemmed from an incident in 1974, when he slapped a 19-year-old woman trying to have an affair with a 14-year-old boy under his care. The other change came from an incident when he and a nurse told three teenagers to consume various unidentified vitamins, sugar pills and placebos in an effort to teach them about drugs.
--"Priest critical of Morgentaler has controversial past," CTV.ca
At my age, and with my middling skills, I have not been graced with the time or talent to have attained such a prestigious award. But if I had, and if the same folks who honoured me then chose to celebrate a man for snuffing out little lives, I like to think I would waste no time in telling them where to stick their snowflake. I was proud that my father removed his own hard-earned Order of Canada immediately upon hearing of Morgentaler’s accolade.Given that there are more than 5,000 OC members, we probably haven’t heard the last of these. McCreery makes the same prediction.
--”Every child a gift from God,” Theo Caldwell, National Post, July 3
My own views on abortion are conflicted, and I’ve never blogged about them. My initial reaction was that Morgentaler’s OC is consistent with what the Order of Canada has become, and I was surprised he had not been recognized earlier.
Though Bliss’ comments above might fuel a paranoiac view that this was deliberately timed to occur during Stephen Harper’s tenure, it is more likely that Justice McLachlin cracked the whip due to Morgentaler's age and health:
The sources said Chief Justice McLachlin drove the nomination, which was opposed by the two government members on the nine-member committee, Privy Council Clerk Kevin Lynch and deputy heritage minister Judith LaRocque.
Dr. Morgentaler has been nominated for appointment to the order several times before, but was rejected.
But at 85, and having recently suffered a severe stroke, there are concerns about his health. The honours are not made posthumously.
--"Panel divided on crusader's nomination, vote suggests," Globe and Mail, July 3
Neverthless, I agree with the prime minister’s implication yesterday that this is a divisive decision. In that vein, McCreery poses this question:
Membership in the Order of Canada was never intended to be a source of controversy or discord. So we need to seriously consider the following question: At what point are we willing to sacrifice the unity of our national order so that recognition can be accorded to a single individual?
But McCreery's question is now moot. As on so many other occasions since Papa Trudeau granted us our court-proscribed rights in 1982, a judge has taken it upon herself to make our decision for us.
The Great Pumpkin has also posted on the OC.
So has Dr. Roy.
And Halls of Macadamia.
And Joanne (recommended).