It was perhaps appropriate that those paragons of the leftist media establishment in Canada, the Toronto Star newspaper and the CBC, would christen as a “secular saint” a woman who stood solidly for such “sacraments” of the left as abortion and homosexuality. Regardless, although she was praised for a number of truly good things she did, Canadians of conscience might be forgiven for asking how June Callwood’s concerns for the poor, sick and downtrodden squared with her support for the slaughter of the unborn and the destruction of the traditional family unit.

The journalist, author and social activist died April 14 at the age of 82 after a lengthy battle with cancer. She began her journalism career at 16 and went on to become a freelance writer, authoring a number of books and magazine pieces, and hosting several television series.

Her life was marked by a concern for social justice, as she saw it, as evidenced by her founding or co-founding of more than 50 organizations, including youth and women’s hostels. She is perhaps best known in this regard for founding Toronto’s Casey House, a hospice for those living with AIDS. Married to sports writer Trent Frayne, she mothered four children and was a grandmother to five.

Unfortunately, Callwood’s laudable endeavours were negated by her passionate involvement in a number of objectionable causes, most notably abortion “rights.” She was at the forefront of pushing for more abortion in Canada as a founding member of the Canadian Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws in 1972, of Canadians for “Choice” in 1989 and of The Issue Is “Choice” group. Other markers of her pro-abortion advocacy over the years included:

• 1984: Callwood complains at a meeting of the Empire Club of Canada that only 271 of 1,348 hospitals in Canada have abortion committees. Of these, 17 per cent have never approved an abortion and 33 per cent have approved less than 50 abortions a year. “Millions of Canadian women live in areas where abortions are not available,” she says. “That’s patently unfair.”

•1988: In a Globe and Mail column, Callwood implies that pro-life advocates tried to burn down Henry Morgentaler’s Toronto abortuary with a propane torch and attacked Morgentaler’s “handyman,” David Butt, with sticks. They half-blinded him, threatened his life, vandalized his vehicles and removed bolts from the wheels of one vehicle, she alleges. They also supposedly shouted “baby killer” at women entering the facility. Writing a response in The Interim afterward, David Dooley questions Callwood’s reliability as a reporter and cites her own fanaticism over the abortion issue.

• 1989: She calls preborn human beings of five months’ gestation “scraps of humanity” in a Globe and Mail column headlined, “No middle ground on abortion.” She also charges that, “The fanatical fringe of that (pro-life) side of the debate will continue to harass and beset those seeking and performing abortions.”

• 1992: Callwood exploits the still-unsolved firebombing of Morgentaler’s abortuary to raise funds for the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League. “Increasingly vicious anti-choice extremists bombed Toronto’s Morgentaler Clinic in May,” she writes in a letter to CARAL supporters. “To get what they want, they are using tactics we never thought we’d see in Canada … We must stop these terrorist tactics.”

• 1993: In another fundraising letter, she charges Canadian pro-life groups with being “the real threat … ‘Anti-choice’ groups will be campaigning to turn their dreams into our nightmare … They’ve gone even as far as threatening and harassing doctors and their families at home.”

• 1996: Callwood is listed among the financial supporters of the mayoralty campaign of virulently leftist and pro-abortion Toronto city councillor (now NDP leader) Jack Layton.

• 2004: She stands side-by-side with Morgentaler at a press conference to warn that abortion “rights” are at risk under a potential Stephen Harper-led Conservative government. “Stephen Harper is hoping we will let our guard down, but we must be vigilant and vote to protect the ‘reproductive rights’ we have fought so hard for,” she says.

• 2006: She repeats this ritual prior to the federal election, joining Morgentaler once more in an effort to “keep government and religious organizations from imposing their belief systems on peoples’ lives.” She says: “There we all were again, those of us who marched and tried to get Henry out of prison, saluting one another. It feels good to be united over something that is important. That kind of zest I haven’t felt in a long time.”

The Star reported in its obituary that Callwood always attended Toronto’s annual “gay pride” parade and that participants in the parade were said to have called out “June, June, June” as she watched the floats go by. The paper also related that, though she denied being part of an “elite,” she was known to have boasted of dining with former prime minister Paul Martin and of being able to coerce money out of almost any Canadian industrial leader.

Callwood’s passing generated a spirited debate over her legacy on the Canadian website of “principled conservatism,” One poster may have best encapsulated the views of pro-life and pro-family Canadians, however.

“On a personal level I extend my sympathy to Ms. Callwood’s family,” he wrote. “However, to be honest, she was a microcosm of the decline of Canada and particularly of the decadence and obtuseness of its chattering class. Good intentions are not enough, if they are channelled in the wrong places.”