TORONTO - A Roman Catholic group is returning Orders of Canada bestowed on two priests to protest a decision to award the honour to Dr. Henry Morgentaler.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate says it is returning the honours given to Father Anthony Sylla of Edmonton in 1971 and to Father Michael Smith of Toronto in 1979.

Sylla was honoured for his work as a missionary in Western Canada and Smith was honoured for his work in helping war refugees.

The Roman Catholic group says it is astonished and outraged with the appointment of the abortion rights crusader and says awarding the honour to Morgentaler has damaged the award's reputation.

Morgentaler, now 85 and best known for getting Canada's abortion laws struck down, about 20 years ago, was named to the Order of Canada in October during a ceremony in Quebec City.

Others to have returned their awards in protest include Montreal Archbishop Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, former New Brunswick lieutenant-governor Gilbert Finn, B.C. priest Lucien Larre and members of the charitable group the Madonna House.