A man who was instrumental in the founding of Campaign Life (a predecessor to the current Campaign Life Coalition) in 1978 is being remembered as an individual who would do whatever he could for the pro-life cause.
Dr. Al Selinger passed away at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Care Centre August 6 at the age of 78. In addition to pro-life work, he was an instructor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education before moving to the Catholic separate school system in Ontario. In later years, he served as a special adviser to Scarborough-Agincourt, Ont. Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, helping ensure that pro-life and pro-family views were heard at the federal political level.
He was also a long-time member of the Knights of Columbus Catholic men’s organization.
“He was a stalwart supporter of the pro-life movement in any way he could,” said one of his colleagues in the early days of Campaign Life, Gwen Landolt. “Whatever he did, he did with his whole heart and soul. He was really an extraordinary man. It was a great honour to know someone of his integrity and principle. He would never compromise. It wasn’t easy for him to maintain his pro-life, pro-family position, but he always did.”
An example of the challenges Selinger encountered was when he attempted to produce a pro-life paper as part of his work at OISE. The management of the institute refused to allow him to do so, and that led to his departure for a remaining teaching career in the Catholic separate school system.
“They simply found him unacceptable because of his commitment to his faith and pro-life,” said Landolt. “He was a man of courage. He stood for what he believed and always tried to do what was right.”
In the pro-life sphere, Selinger attended many meetings, helped to form strategies and worked elections, among other things. Despite an advanced education, he was not above handing out leaflets if that was what the situation required. “Whatever he could do and whomever he could serve, he would do it,” said Landolt.
Paul Formby, another colleague of Selinger’s in the formative days of Campaign Life, remembered him as a “very strong fighter” for the pro-life cause. “He was a great asset in getting Campaign Life started. He was a good spokesperson and had that (Joe) Borowski sort of feistiness,” he said.
Selinger’s political acumen and strong will made him an effective figure in lobbying federal politicians on life issues. Formby and he worked extensively in that area for a time. But when it was time to unwind, Selinger was also a good socializer at the coffee shop or pub.
“He was a great person for company and conversation after the work was done,” said Formby.
Current Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes said Selinger’s political interests made him a natural when it came time to start up the Liberals for Life organization. Selinger served as one of its leaders during the early days of its existence.
Hughes credited Selinger with “always holding candidates’ feet to the fire” on life issues.
Selinger is survived by his wife of over 50 years, Georgette, children Debora, Janice and Julia and five grandchildren. After a funeral Mass at Epiphany of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church in Toronto, he was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery.