By Patrick B. Craine and John-Henry Westen
TORONTO, Ontario, December 10, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Campaign Life Catholic (CLC), a branch of the pro-life organization, Campaign Life Coalition, has come under media fire in the last day following a controversy related to a donation they made this year to help another organization purchase figurines for a public nativity scene.
CLC Catholic had donated $5000 for figurines for a nativity scene erected by the Catholic lay movement, Gethsemane Ministries, in front of Toronto's Old City Hall courthouse. Affixed to the display was an 8 ½ X 11 in. laminated paper sign noting that the display had been erected by Gethsemane Ministries. The Catholic Organization's logo was the dominant item on the notice. The bottom three lines, in small plain text, stated, “Statues donated by Campaign Life Coalition Catholic in honour of the efforts of Pro-Life hero Fr. Ted Colleton.”
However, the issue exploded onto the national stage after a prominent Toronto blog reported on the sign in a story headlined: “Away in a Manger No Place for a Pro-Life Message.”
On Thursday all three major Canadian newspapers – the Toronto Star, the National Post and the Globe and Mail – as well as major television and radio stations, covered the last three lines on the notice on the crèche as a major news item.
The Star, Canada's largest circulation newspaper, featured the controversy as the lead story on its Toronto print edition's front page with a large photo of the nativity display and extensive text that continued onto another page. The Toronto Sun also interviewed Gethesmane Ministries on the controversy today.
The sign was incorrectly referred in most reports as being a plaque. To correct the unintended controvery Gethesmane Ministries simply sliced off the offending three lines from the bottom of the paper notice.
In what free speech proponent Ezra Levant, who is Jewish, called “a brazen act of censorship,” the City of Toronto caved in to media pressure and ordered the text refering to Campaign Life Catholic's contribution to be removed, apparently based upon a single complaint. East York resident Doug Macdonald had written to city councillor Sandra Bussin and Mayor David Miller to complain of “an overtly political group that's getting a city endorsement of their agenda.”
A statement from a city communications official indicated that the sign contravened Toronto's human rights policy, although it was unclear how.
''The nativity scene that is currently located on the front lawn of Old City Hall has been located there during the Holiday Season for the past 14 years,” the official stated. “A plaque had been erected, relating to 'Campaign for Life,' which wasn't approved as part of the permit and does not comply with the City of Toronto's Human Rights Policy. As a result, the plaque will be removed.”
Suresh Dominic, founder and head of Gethsemane Ministries told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) that CLC came forward with the donation after the statues had been vandalized. The statues were donated as “a gift,” he said, “for the people of Toronto to enjoy,” and there was “no intention of politicizing it.”
“We should recognize those who donate to us,” he continued. “It's only right. We call ourselves a multicultural society, but what message are we giving when we are forced to take down our simple acknowledgment to those who donate?”
“Not surprisingly, this violation of free speech is done in the name of 'Toronto's Human Rights Policy',” said Ezra Levant. “This would never be done to a Muslim or Jewish group – and certainly not a pro-abortion group. It's a sign of politically correct desperation: instead of debating their opponents, they want to silence them.”
Several news agencies have reported a comment from Catholics for Choice Canada coordinator Rosemary Ganley, who accused CLC of manipulating the Christmas season for its own ends. “Pro-life groups represent a very tiny but active group of Canadians who would use Advent and Christmas, which is a Christian festival, to promote their ideas through the sentimentality around that Christian feast,” Ganley stated. “I don't think it is appropriate in the pubic forum. … We are disappointed that it is there.”
Campaign Life Coalition President Jim Hughes pointed to what he called the “utter hypocrisy” of the government and the media. “In a country where despite massive public opposition, the highest national award was presented to notorious abortionist Henry Morgentaler last year, the media fusses over a tiny recognition to an elderly priest who has done so much for Canada? It's insane.”
Msgr. Vincent Foy, 94, another long-time pro-life hero who often worked alongside Fr. Colleton, told LSN that Christmas is by nature pro-life. “The message of Christmas is the greatest Life of all coming into the world, and it should be a model for all of us in promoting life,” he explained. “So the coming of Christ is the life message, really.”
Rather than denigrating CLC and its pro-life message, Msgr. Foy asked people to support the organization with a Christmas donation at this time of year. “Anything to promote Campaign Life is a good thing,” he said.
“I have the greatest admiration for Fr. Colleton of course and his tremendous work for life,” he added.
Donations to Campaign Life Coalition can be made here.
Those wishing to contact the Mayor regarding this incident may do so here:
Mayor David Miller
Toronto City Hall, 2nd Floor
100 Queen St. West
Phone: 416-397-CITY (2489)
E-mail: [email protected]