30,000 signatures presented to governor-general,
judicial review requested of McLachlin
On August 20, Campaign Life Coalition presented the signatures of 30,000 Canadians opposed to the awarding of the Order of Canada to Henry Morgentaler at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the governor-general.
Angelina Steenstra, national co-ordinator of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and a spokesperson for CLC on the Morgentaler issue, turned in thousands of pages of petitions signed by more than 30,000 Canadians expressing their opposition to awarding Canada’s highest civilian honour to the country’s most infamous abortionist.
The petition calls for reconsideration of Morgentaler’s appointment and a new process by which future appointments will be determined. CLC national president Jim Hughes told The Interim Campaign Life Coalition organized the petition to give a voice to the majority of Canadians who oppose the Order of Canada being debased by its association with an abortionist and to expose the extremely divisive nature of Morgentaler’s appointment to the order.
Surrounded by dozens of supporters outside Rideau Hall before presenting the petitions, Steenstra said Morgentaler’s Order of Canada should be revoked not only because of its divisiveness, but also because there is nothing honourable about abortion. “There is nothing heroic or award-winning about taking the life of an unborn child,” Steenstra said. “As a woman who has suffered an abortion, I know that to be true … Giving an abortionist Canada’s ‘highest’ honour is dividing the nation, contrary to the award’s original intent.”
Steenstra continued: “A simple common-sense test in choosing a winner is to ask whether a daycare center or an elementary school could be named after each winner. Imagine the ‘Henry Morgentaler Daycare Centre’ or the ‘Henry Morgentaler Elementary School.’ Somehow, this does not match with the historic honour of the award.”
When no official from Rideau Hall was available to accept the petitions, Steenstra symbolically laid the petitions at the foot of the gate entering the residence. Later, they were re-collected and sent by courier to the governor-general and prime minister’s offices.
CLC has reiterated its demand that Prime Minister Stephen Harper launch a formal review of the Order of Canada nomination process, in the words of Streenstra, “to prevent this kind of national division from ever happening again.”
A group of pro-life and religious organizations, including the Canada Family Action Coalition and REAL Women, wrote to the Canadian Judicial Council, asking it to investigate Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin’s role in the advisory council for the Order of Canada’s decision to support granting of the award to Morgentaler.
The letter of complaint said: “If Canadians believe they cannot receive unbiased, non-political decisions,” from the top court, “our judicial branch of government is compromised.” Citing seven concerns, they said her conduct “breaches the high standard of behaviour required to be a member of the judiciary.” They include not disqualifying a nominee to the order – Section 3(b)(ii) disallows a person who “has been subject to official sanction … by an adjudicating body, professional association or other organization.”
In 1976, the disciplinary committee of the Professional Corporation of Physicians of Quebec revoked Morgentaler’s licence for a year after finding him guilty of not doing the proper preparation work before committing an abortion or follow-up afterward. They also cite the fact he violated the “norms of society” by breaking Canadian abortion law for nearly two decades. They also charge McLachlin with promoting Morgentaler’s nomination and violating the norms of the order’s nominating process, including pushing aside the reported tradition of only naming unanimous appointments to the Order of Canada.
The groups called for McLachlin to be removed from the Supreme Court.
REAL Women stated in a press release: “Chief Justice McLachlin knew, or should have known, that her actions as chairperson of the advisory council would compromise the integrity of the judiciary, since legal actions dealing with Morgentaler have in the past, and will again, in the near future, be brought before the Supreme Court.”
Answering questions from reporters following an August Canadian Bar Association meeting, McLachlin said she did nothing wrong. The chief justice said her role on the advisory council is to chair meetings and that she normally does not participate in the discussions about individual candidates for the order. She decried the “misinformation” that has been reported about her role in promoting Morgentaler’s nomination. She added that contrary to public reports, she did not take part in the vote, let alone help usher his nomination through the process.
CLC’s Hughes said her comments demonstrate the need for more transparency in the process.
“If Chief Justice McLachlin wants to clarify her role in Morgentaler’s Order of Canada nomination, she should make the proceedings public,” he said.
In advance of the Canadian Judicial Council’s consideration of the complaint against McLachlin, Manitoba Chief Justice Richard Scott, chair of the CJC, said he didn’t think many Canadians would have a problem with McLachlin’s explanation of her role, but that politicians might want to reconsider having judges involved in commissions and other activities that might call into question their integrity and impartiality.