By Interim staffAfter dragging the matter on for a year, the Ontario Press Council has decided to not even a consider a complaint into an article and two columns by the Globe and Mail’s Heather Mallick, which, among other things, urged that Henry Morgentaler be given the Order of Canada, incorrectly described a 12-week-old fetus as a “dot,” labelled pro-life members of Parliament in good standing as “stooges” and “daft,” depicted abortuaries as places of merriment and music and suggested that pro-life Canadians are prone to violence.

In a March 5 letter, the OPC said it “saw the column as falling within the bounds of its policy statement, which says it believes it is appropriate for columnists to exercise wide latitude in expressing their opinions, no matter how controversial or unpopular the opinions may be.”

However, the original article, “Why doesn’t this man have the Order of Canada?” published in the Jan. 18, 2003 Globe, was neither a column nor an opinion piece. In fact, it was published in the form of a biography, complete with numerous photographs, on the front page of the newspaper’s Focus section. The intent was to portray Morgentaler as a hero, overcoming opposition from religion, politics, law and pro-life Canadians in his quest to win “rights” for women.

“Most people in his position would have received their Order of Canada years ago. His omission is puzzling,” wrote Mallick.

The article, and two subsequent columns under Mallick’s name, enraged pro-life Canadians, who wrote the Globe with communications of complaint and protest. Even then, however, the Globe emphasized “pro-choice” submissions in its choice of which letters were to appear in its print edition and on its website.

One complaint into the article and columns cited seven separate journalistic conventions that were violated by the Globe and Mallick:

  • The Globe erred in allowing Mallick, a self-professed “pro-choice” advocate who previously referred to Henry Morgentaler as “the hero of my youth,” to write a lengthy and intensive article on this controversial individual.
  • The Globe’s article, “Why doesn’t this man have the Order of Canada?” violated numerous standards of fair journalism, especially in that it presented only one side of a very controversial issue and failed to obtain even token opposing points of view, when representatives of those points of view were readily available and easily accessible.
  • Mallick used hateful, defamatory and inflammatory language in describing persons with a pro-life sentiment in such terms as “anti-choice” and “anti-choice fanatics.”
  • The Globe treated letters to the editor and e-mails to its web-based “Feedback” section unfairly and in a biased manner. It did this by accentuating responses from the “pro-choice” side of the debate and neglecting or ignoring input from individuals on the “pro-life” side of the debate.
  • The Globe allowed Mallick to abuse her “As If” column in the Feb. 1, 2003 edition in order to launch hateful, scurrilous and defamatory attacks on members of Parliament in good standing – Maurice Vellacott, Paul Steckle and Elsie Wayne. These MPs were given labels including “daft” and “stooges.”
  • Mallick totally mischaracterized fetal development in referring to a 12-week fetus as “a dot.”
  • The Globe showed bias by not allowing an article of any sort to be published from the pro-life side of the debate.

None of these points seem to have swayed officials at the Ontario Press Council, who took the view that “opinion” can wallpaper over – if not commit – a multitude of sins.