The Catholic Civil Rights League honoured Fr. Van Hee with the Archbishop Adam Exner Award for Excellence in Public Life, presenting him with a plaque at its annual dinner on Nov. 25. In a release, the CCRL stated Fr. Van Hee was honoured for his “regular prayerful protest to oppose abortion” on Parliament Hill where “he has kept faithful vigil” since 1989.
CCRL president Phil Horgan said, “We take this opportunity to recognize the persistent and prayerful witness of not only a Catholic priest, but an individual who has stood in silent support, no matter the weather or other impediments, to the cause of life.”
Fr. Van Hee protested that he had little in common with Archbishop Exner other than the fact they were both born in Saskatchewan. He said, “I am honoured and humbled to receive the Archbishop Exner Award for Catholic Excellence in Public Life, and to be associated with the many much more worthy former recipients,” after which he listed individuals such as Robert Walley, Donald DeMarco, Jim Hughes, Andrew and Joan Simone, Gwen Landolt, Fr. Alphonse de Valk and Michael O’Brien.
Fr. Van Hee was arrested in October 2018 for silently protesting near the Morgentarler abortuary in Ottawa and despite the fact he did not talk to anyone and his sign was about free speech and not abortion, he was charged with violating the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act — Ontario’s anti-free speech bubble zone law. The case is still before the courts.
The CCRL is an intervenor challenging the bubble zone law.