Morgentaler honour?

Yes, those words will be meaningless to most Americans, but Canada’s highest civilian honour, the Order of Canada – similar to a knighthood – has been given to, among several dozen honorees this month on the occasion of Dominion Day (as it used to be called more meaningfully), July 1, the Auschwitz survivor who got abortion legalized in Canada by performing tons of them illegally, even in front of documentary cameras, and even going to jail for it, before getting the Supreme Court of Canada to outlaw outlawing it in 1988: Dr. Henry Morgentaler.

Whatever one thinks about abortion, it’s inappropriate to give a national honour in Canada to someone who is not only politically controversial – lots of good people are politically controversial – but considered by millions of good, sincere, law-abiding, even progressive,* Canadians – leaving to one side the hate-spewing anti-abortion extremists – to be a butcher of innocent, viable human beings, and at their most defenceless: in the womb, by their own mothers.  Morgentaler is officially cited “For his commitment to increased health care options for women” and for his services to humanism and civil liberties.  I’m not aware of what he may have done for the latter two areas, but throughout Canada his name means one thing, legalized abortion – just like “Jane Roe” in the States.  Can you imagine “Roe” (of Roe v. Wade fame, the appellant being kept officially anonymous at the time) getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom – again, whatever you think of abortion?  Not even the most “liberal” US President would think of doing so, even if s/he wanted to; it’d tear the country apart.

Furthermore, using the Order of Canada to enshrine the abortion euphemism “health care options for women” in the national Honours system is not only offensive, it just demeans Honours; it sounds Nazi or Bolshevik, like something out of 1984.  OK, that opinion may depend on what you make of abortion in the first place.  And clearly I oppose the liberalization of abortion since the 1960s in the US and Canada and elsewhere.  But drawing back to the matter of the honour itself, millions of good, sincere, law-abiding, even progressive, Canadians – leaving to one side the hate-spewing anti-abortion extremists – might consider instead that he worked for decreased health care options for children!  Should someone get an award for that?!

As the newspaper article describes, Canadian Honours are supposed to be apolitical, non-ideological.  (So anti-abortion activists lamenting that it happened under a “Conservative” Party government don’t get it.)  Her Majesty’s Canadian Ministry, aka the government of the day, is supposedly not involved, and neither is The Queen herself AFAIK.  I don’t even know how much discretion the Governor General herself has in the face of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, before the fact anyway.  Honours are supposed to reflect Canada as a diverse yet unified nation.  This kind of thing just divides.  George W. Bush is ‘a divider, not a uniter;’ and so is this honour, for Canada.

That said, I’m not sure that, bestowed, it can or should be revoked just on account of the firestorm of criticism – for the very same, apolitical, reasons.  But it does raise a question, for good or for ill, about the people and/or the process that chooses honorees.  Britain’s recent cash-for-honours scandal was nothing new there,** and Canadians designed their Honours system in the 1960s explicitly to try to avoid scandal and the taint of politics, corruption, etc.  Furthermore, not only are honours in a Monarchy a national feel-good exercise; the Sovereign is fons honorum, the Fount of Honours, so in theory they reflect on her.  Scandal in honours dishonors The Crown itself, and thus symbolically the whole nation.

However you feel about abortion, this bestowal of an honour is dishonorable.

(*–I don’t know what George Parkin Grant thought of Dr. Morgentaler personally, but he bitterly opposed the idea of legalizing abortion, as a signal turn from ‘progressive conservative’ ideals.)

(**–It’s not frequent there, but not exceedingly rare either.)

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