Montreal’s Opposition party, Ensemble Montreal, wants to rename Parc de Beaujeu, east of Highway 25 in the Mercier neighbourhood, in honour of abortionist Henry Morgentaler. The small park in Tétreaultville, boasting few trees and sparsely furnished with several benches, is a few blocks from Morgentaler’s first abortion mill, which he operated illegally from a bungalow in the 1960s.
The motion was put forward last fall to the borough council by the councilor for district Louis-Riel in Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and leader of the official opposition party, Karine Boivin-Roy.
Since the district council approved the renaming of the park, the file was brought to Montreal’s toponymy commission, which gave a favourable recommendation. The motion is now in Mayor Valérie Plante’s jurisdiction. Her office is studying whether to bring the matter to Montreal’s City Council for a final vote.
After surviving the Holocaust and coming to Montreal to study and practice medicine, Morgentaler fought to change to Canada’s abortion law. He ran illegal abortion facilities in Montreal’s east end in the late ‘60s, his first being near Parc de Beaujeu.
Morgentaler confronted the federal and provincial governments, going to jail for repeatedly breaking abortion laws in hope of pressuring policy-makers to overturn Canada’s abortion laws. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Morgentaler ruled that Canada’s abortion laws were unconstitutional. In 2008, in recognition for his campaign to legalize abortion, Morgentaler was awarded the Order of Canada at the age of 90. Campaign Life Coalition launched a petition against the honour and got many MPs on record opposing it.
Councilor Julien Hénault-Ratelle, who represents the Tétreaultville district for Ensemble Montréal, believes that renaming the park would represent the “values” of Montrealers. “I think that in 2022, at this moment, it’s quite a symbol, with all of the debates in the States, to show what are the values of the city of Montreal and what the administration stands for,” he said.
The motion has met severe pushback from Georges Buscemi, president of Campagne Quebec-Vie.
“How macabre that children will be playing in a park that will be named after someone who killed 100,00 and who trained upwards of 100 people to do the same.” Buscemi continued: “Morgentaler is a mass murderer, who should not be rewarded. Will it be a memorial park? A mourning park? Will there be slides that cut children up into pieces?”
Buscemi has amassed 7000 signatures, many of them from Montreal, to present the committee with a petition to show opposition to the measure. He said that the renaming of the park “could be divisive.”
Goldie Morgentaler, the daughter of the Polish-born abortionist, now a professor at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, commented that her father “deserves recognition.”
The park is currently named after Jacques-Philippe Saveuse de Beaujeu, Lord of Soulanges and New Longueuil. He was a militia officer during the war of 1812, fighting against the annexation of Canada from the Americans, and was a member of parliament in 1814.