Twice over the Summer Toronto city councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong refused to take part in a city activity honouring individuals who were pro-abortion.
In June, the Ward 34, Don Valley East councilor left the council chambers when two colleagues – former Communist Party head Paula Fletcher and long-time NDP activist Pam McConnell – introduced a motion offering condolences to the family of Henry Morgentaler and recognizing his “courage and determination” to fight “unjust laws” restricting abortion. Fletcher said Morgentaler is a “historic figure” in Canada and whether Minnan-Wong liked it or not, “the right to terminate a pregnancy is actually legal in our country.”
Minnan-Wong left the proceedings and, when asked why, told journalists that Morgentaler is “not someone who should be recognized or celebrated.” He said that Morgentaler is “a person who contributes to the death of thousands of unborn babies … I’ve held that position you know for a long, long time and it was a matter of principle for me.”
Fletcher said Minnan-Wong’s protest was “one of the rudest moments in council’s history.” He dismissed her criticism, saying “Councillor Fletcher is a great supporter of free speech until someone says something she doesn’t agree with.”
In August, Minnan-Wong opted out of officiating at the opening of Morton Shulman Ave., a new street name honouring a deceased physician and former provincial coroner who also served as an NDP MPP in the late 1960s, and openly advocated for liberalizing abortion law. Minnan-Wong told reporters, “after reading up about Dr. Shulman, I don’t feel that I am the right member of council to represent the city,” at the opening ceremony.
The Toronto Star editorialized against Minnan-Wong saying that his religious views conflicted with his responsibilities as chair of the city’s public works committee, but another city councilor, Shelley Carroll, was able to officiate in his place.
Minnan-Wong did not issue a press release or belabor his disagreement, saying he could not compromise his sincerely held principles but did not want to elaborate on the point out of respect to Shulman’s family. The Star later reported that the family was “not upset” with Minnan-Wong’s actions.