Henry Morgentaler named to Order of Canada
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, July 1, 2008 5:29PM EDT
The Governor General's Office announced Tuesday abortion rights activist Dr. Henry Morgentaler has been named to the Order of Canada.
Morgentaler is among 75 Canadians appointed for one of Canada's highest honours. The appointments -- which went into effect in April -- also include former prime minister Kim Campbell, former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, and former Vancouver mayor Philip Owen.
The Governor General's website states that Morgentaler was made a member of the Order of Canada for "his commitment to increased health care options for women, his determined efforts to influence Canadian public policy and his leadership in humanist and civil liberties organizations."
Morgentaler has been a controversial figure for decades, playing a key role in striking down Canada's abortion laws in 1988. He had been openly performing illegal abortions -- which had been only allowed on limited terms in some hospitals -- since the late 1960s. He now runs clinics across Canada.
While some consider Morgentaler a hero for his legal and political battles on behalf of abortion and women's rights, many anti-abortion activists consider him undeserving of one of Canada's most prestigious honours.
Feminist author Judy Rebick said Morgentaler's appointment was long over due.
"Certainly most women believe this is a huge victory, and he put his liberty and his life on the line to win it, and I think that should be recognized," she said.
"The abortion debate is over in this country, the pro-choice side won, and Dr. Morgentaler was a big part of that victory."
The Globe and Mail reported that his appointment divided the advisory committee, which chooses appointees. Maurice Vellacott, a Saskatchewan MP, told the paper most appointees are chosen unanimously, but he heard that was not the case with Morgentaler.
The appointment has outraged some conservative politicians.
"I can't believe that this was done on Canada Day, a day we should be coming together," Regina MP Andrew Scheer told CTV.ca on Tuesday afternoon.
"I think this actually debased the Order of Canada."
Scheer, a Tory who describes himself as "pro-life," said he's planning to call members of the advisory panel that suggested the appointment and ask, "Why did you do this?"
Scheer's party is also distancing itself from the appointment. Dimitri Soudas, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper told The Canadian Press, "The Conservative government is not involved in either deliberations or decisions with respect to which individuals are appointed to the Order of Canada."
"Rideau Hall makes these appointments based on the recommendations of the Advisory Council for the Order which is chaired by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.''
Recipients will receive insignia commemorating the honour at a ceremony to be held a later date.
With files from The Canadian Press