He was one of the towering figures on the pro-life scene in Canada, and now a long-awaited book is being written about him. Joe Borowski was centrally involved in many important life-related events until his death from cancer in 1996 at the age of 62. Although much has been written and said about him – and an annual award recognizing Canada’s top pro-life politician has been established in his name – the definitive story on his life and work has not been written until now.
The Interim Publishing Company Ltd., the owner of this newspaper, is providing the foundational funds for the book, with help from several Knights of Columbus councils that have donated money or made pre-orders.
Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes, who is slated to write the forward, said the idea for the book originated right after Borowski’s funeral, when Manitoba pro-life activist Niel Slykerman and Father Patrick Morand, Borowski’s spiritual director, broached the idea to him. Several attempts were made to have it written in subsequent years, but they all fell through.
Now, Lianne Laurence, a journalism graduate of the University of Regina and former managing editor of Toronto-based Catholic Insight magazine, has been commissioned to be the author. She said pro-life supporters can look forward to a very engaging account of Borowski’s life.
“Joe Borowski did heroic things,” she said. “He was truly a hero. He laboured indefatigably on behalf of his unborn brothers and sisters. That should be recognized. His life encompassed pivotal moments for pro-life.”
Laurence has so far interviewed a number of people who knew Borowski well, including his family, former NDP political mates Sid Green and Ed Schreyer (a former premier and governor-general), former MP Garnet Bloomfield, the current Manitoba minister of highways (Borowski’s former cabinet post), as well as two priests.
Of course, numerous pro-life activists have also been interviewed, such as Anna Desilets, Sister Rose Bouchard, Paul Formby, Gwen Landolt and Hughes. Other sources of information have been comprehensive scrapbooks of press clippings and photographs compiled by the Borowski family, and documents contained in the Manitoba legislative library.
Laurence, who began work on the project in January 2002, spent much of last winter doing research in Winnipeg, but has as yet been unable to make it to Borowski’s homestead in Wishart, Sask., where he was born and raised.
“I got the impression that a lot of people really admired him for his personality traits, even those from the NDP,” said Laurence. “A lot of people there still have high personal regard for Joe.”
Another thing noted by many of those who knew him was Borowski’s stubbornness. Father Morand described him as “a very honest, straightforward man who had the courage of his convictions – and stubborn. Very stubborn.”
But he was also admired for his reputation as being a champion of the underdog, which dated back to his days of union activism. His honesty, public speaking skills and ability to stand up to politicians were also cited as strengths.
Laurence said legal history and Borowski’s battles with abortion crusader Henry Morgentaler will figure prominently in a book that, at this point, is about two-thirds finished.
Although a title hasn’t been chosen as yet, Borowski’s well-known saying, “Don’t Ever Give Up,” or a phrase from his obituary, “No Ordinary Joe,” are possibilities. Neither an editor nor a target date for publication have been established, but Laurence envisions the book will be about 200 pages in length.
She hopes that the book will garner interest from publishers that have clientele beyond the pro-life community, because Borowski’s activities were of interest to the wider culture as well.