Outstanding pro-life Liberal Dr. Stanley Haidasz awarded highest honour granted to Roman Catholic laymen

Papal honours were bestowed in Toronto recently in recognition of over 40 years of dedication to not only the sanctity of life, but also social welfare and human rights.

The Honourable Dr. Stanley Haidasz was invested with the Silver Star as a Knight in the Order of St. Gregory the Great during a ceremony at St. Gregory’s Church on May 26.

Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic of the Archdiocese of Toronto awarded Dr. Haidasz with this tribute, the highest that can ever be given to a layperson within the Catholic Church. The award’s purpose is to call attention to a person who has done some extraordinary work for the Church.

No stranger to the pro-life movement, in his 20 years as a MP and 20 years in the Senate, Dr. Haidasz was continally on the forefront of attempts to pass pro-life legislation. Right up until his final speech to senators before his retirement in March 1998, he urged parliamentarians to continue to promote legislation that would protect the unborn and offer conscience rights for health care workers.

The award symbolized a great deal for Dr. Haidasz. He said it was an honour to be recognized for his labours.

“I feel proud at having been awarded this order by the Holy Father, because I think it’s a recognition of a parliamentarian and his research efforts,” he said. “We worked hard for … years fighting abortion to … defeat Mulroney’s bill in 1990.”

Dr. Haidasz grew up in a working class family in Toronto. He spent his summers working full-time to attend St. Michael’s College School. After receiving his BA in philosophy at the University of Ottawa in 1945, he returned to complete his medical degree. He graduated from the University of Toronto in 1951 and worked in the surgery department of Shouldice Hospital for several years.

During medical school the right to life played a very important part in his decision to become a doctor.

Hippocratic Oath

“Before we could receive our diplomas from the chancellor of the university we had to take the Hippocratic Oath,” he said. “We were taught that we were not to take a life.”

He found himself drawn into politics in the in the late 1950s and subsequently served five terms as a Liberal member of the House of Commons for Toronto-Trinity. Dr. Haidasz was later appointed as the first Multiculturalism Minister by Pierre Elliot Trudeau in 1972.

During his time in the Senate, Dr. Haidasz challenged the government to present a bill to defend innocent human life from willful destruction or exposure to avoidable harm. He also stressed the importance of defining human life in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“It was a great battle, and before I left I tried to leave the door open for the pro-life struggle,” he said. “It’s up to others to take over from here.”