When the announcement that Dr. Henry Morgentaler had been awarded the Order of Canada appeared in the press on July 1, the word "controversial" almost always appeared somewhere in the first paragraph.
The term "controversy" implies that there is a difference of opinion. Where is this difference of opinion coming from? The story published by the Globe and Mail quoted Thomas Collins, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto, as saying that the country's highest honour has been "debased". The article also quoted Joanne Byfield, president of Life Canada, expressing disapproval of giving the Order of Canada to a person who "kills babies for a living".
A couple of days later, we got the news that Father Lucien Larre of Coquitlam, who received the Order of Canada 25 years ago, is returning his award.
There's somewhere around five million practicing Roman Catholics in Canada. If these five million Canadians were represented by Collins and Larre, then, yes indeed, there would be a significant difference of opinion among Canadians, and thus a controversy.
The problem with this is, if we were to ask Collins and Larre if they are representatives of their flock, the answer would be "no". They weren't elected by anyone; they were appointed by a hierarchy with a head office in Rome, Italy. Not only that, there isn't a single female cardinal, bishop, or priest anywhere in this hierarchy.
Now, what about Joanne Byfield? I couldn't find out how many members Life Canada has, but they had enough money to put up some billboards with the disingenuous message that abortions in the ninth month of pregnancy are legal in Canada. The wife of right-wing idealogue Link Byfield, Joanne Byfield is just part of the Canadian Extension of the Republican Noise Machine.
Dr. Morgentaler stood up to these people. He opened up abortion clinics, then dared his opponents to shut them down. They made all sorts of threats, and called Dr. Morgentaler all sorts of names that I wouldn't want my mother to hear, but they couldn't shut the clinics down, or make their "baby killer" accusations stick.
This is because Dr. Morgentaler figured, correctly, that the fix is in on this issue. This could be a subject for a future blog entry, but to reduce it the argument to two sentences, people of means have always had and always will have access to abortions. Dr. Morgentaler's clinics extended this access to the rest of the population. He wasn't just a good choice for the Order of Canada; he was an excellent choice.