Canadian Cabinet Minister Kenney “Deeply Disturbed” that Abortion Doc Awarded Order of Canada

Thu Jul 3, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST

By John-Henry Westen

OTTAWA, July 3, 2008 ( - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper briefly signaled his displeasure with the nomination of abortionist Henry Morgentaler to the Order of Canada yesterday.  "My preference, to be frank, would be to see the Order of Canada be something that really unifies, that brings Canadians together," he said at a press conference.  That theme of divisiveness has been repeated by most Conservative MPs who have spoken on the matter since the announcement on Canada Day - July 1st.

Today Conservative MP Jason Kenney, a Minister in the Department of Canadian Heritage, spoke with about his reaction to the nomination.  "I’m deeply disturbed by this nomination," he said.  "It violates profoundly the spirit of the Order of Canada which is a symbol that is supposed to unite Canadians. Instead, the advisory council has chosen to divide Canadians."

Kenney added that "those members of the council who made this deliberately contentious choice were more interested in using the Order as a vehicle for their own political views on a contentious issue rather than as a unifying symbol of great achievements which is what the Order was created for."

Harper has distanced his Government from the decision saying, "I have to say this clearly: This is not a decision of the government of Canada."

Kenney concurred, noting further: "There is a provision in the Order which requires the Council to consider rescinding the Order from individuals who after their appointments end up with criminal records or reprimands from their professions.  When the constitution of the order was crafted, they didn’t even bother to make that apply to prospective nominees because it was at the time probably unthinkable that they would seriously consider a nomination for someone with such a background as this."

Morgentaler has been incarcerated for conducting illegal abortions prior to the Supreme Court’s striking down of the abortion law.  Moreover he had his licence to practice medicine suspended in 1976 by the Disciplinary Committee of the Professional Corporation of Physicians of Quebec. 

Catherine Dunphy’s 1996 biography of Morgentaler notes that the disciplinary committee "commented on ‘an attitude which is primarily directed to protecting his fees. No really valid interview is held before proceeding with the abortion. This behaviour confers a mercenary character on the doctor-patient relationship. This committee is incapable of reconciling this behaviour with the humanitarian concern that the accused invoked throughout his defence.’"

Kenny continued, "Obviously this individual has been nominated several times, and the council has seen fit to disregard his nomination in the past precisely because they understood how divisive it would be and how far outside the spirit of the Order it would be.  This is a deliberate rupture from the tradition of the Order and I think it is deeply regrettable and will make many Canadians feel that the Order has lost its symbolic importance to Canadians."

Kenney also addressed the "undenied" reports that the Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the chair of the council which decides who receives the award, railroaded the award to Morgentaler, dispensing with the need for consensus on the committee and permitting a rare recorded vote.  The Globe and Mail reports today that the panel was divided 7-2, with the two government members having cast the opposing votes.

"I am concerned by the undenied reports that the council departed from its usual consensus rule in this instance," said Kenney. "If that’s true it’s very troublesome because it seems to me that the consensus rule exists precisely to avoid divisive and disruptive decisions.  If anyone on this council made a power play to override the usual consensus rule that would be very regrettable indeed."

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