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Pro-life leader Gwen Landolt receives the Archbishop Adam Exner Award at the Catholic Civil Rights League dinner in Toronto on May 22, 2014. Tanya Granic Allen
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Catholic Civil Rights League honors pro-life crusader Gwen Landolt

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TORONTO – At its May 22nd annual dinner in Toronto, the Catholic Civil Rights League honored Gwen Landolt of REAL Women of Canada by presenting her with the Archbishop Adam Exner Award for Catholic Excellence in Public Life.

“[Gwen Landolt] was the one who raised the flag and the concerns about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was the lightning rod that sparked everybody, in the east at least, to get involved in the whole process."

With a background in law, Landolt has been active in the pro-life and pro-family movements in Canada for well over thirty years, having been a co-founder of Toronto Right to Life, the Coalition for Life, and Real Women of Canada.

When asked to comment on the significance of the award, Landolt told LifeSiteNews that her motivation has always been advocacy for the defense of life and family.

"My efforts over the years to promote the pro-life, pro-family cause were never motivated by any need to be recognized," she said. "It was only my wish to do something to stop the dark and dreadful things that were occurring in our society that motivated me."

"It has been a long and difficult journey," Landolt added, "but I could only do what I thought was right. It is reassuring, however, that my journey has been so kindly recognized by the Catholic Civil Rights League."

Landolt founded REAL Women of Canada in 1983 to be a voice in the public square for women who believe the family is the basic and most important unit in society. The word REAL is an acronym which means Realistic, Equal, Active, for Life.

"REAL Women speaks for women who support the values of traditional family and marriage. We believe the family is the most important union in Canadian society. We see the fragmentation of the family as one of the major causes of disorder in society today," the group's mission statement says.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews that Landolt was a “guiding light” in the launch of Campaign Life Coalition in the late 1970s, and was instrumental in recruiting him to get involved with the organization.

“She was the one who raised the flag and the concerns about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was the lightning rod that sparked everybody, in the east at least, to get involved in the whole process,” he said.

The largest pro-life groups at the time opposed the Charter because it did not include specific protections for the unborn and they believed it would be used to advance a liberal, pro-abortion agenda through the courts. In 1988, six years after the Charter passed, Canada’s Supreme Court invoked the Charter in overturning the country’s abortion law.

According to the Catholic Register, in presenting Landolt with the award CCRL president Philip Horgan said, “This is an important recognition of what we call excellence or public excellence in Catholic life and my sense is there has been no finer example of that over the last 40 years than Gwen Landolt.”

The Adam Exner Award was instituted by the CCRL in honor of Vancouver Archbishop Exner when he retired in 2004. 

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According to the League's website the award "recognizes outstanding leadership in a variety of areas, including education, philanthropy, life issues and social development." 

Hughes said receiving an award named after the Vancouver archbishop is “quite an honor” because of Exner’s deep devotion to the Catholic faith and the pro-life cause.

Archbishop Exner, he said, “was very helpful to us during the time of the Charter debate. He understood exactly what it was that we were concerned about.”

Previous winners have included the late Frederick W. Hill, Catholic philanthropist and chairman of the Hill Group of Companies; Jim Hughes, founder of Campaign Life Coalition; Fraser Field, founder of Catholic Educators Resource Centre; Dr. Andrew and Joan Simone, founders of Canadian Food for Children; broadcaster Michael Coren; artist and author Michael O’Brien; and pro-life writer and activist Father Alphonse De Valk, CSB.

Information about the work of REAL Women of Canada is available here.

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