TORONTO, Ont. Nov. 27, 2009 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today expressed disappointment with the recent Federal Court decision striking the application of Frank Chauvin for judicial review of the decision awarding the Order of Canada to Henry Morgentaler in 2008.
Frank Chauvin, a retired Windsor police detective, was inducted into the Order of Canada in 1987, largely in recognition of his work in the support of underprivileged girls in Haiti. As a member of the Order of Canada, Mr. Chauvin took issue with the secretive process by which Morgentaler had been recommended by the Order’s Advisory Council, stating that this award was directly contrary to the high purpose of the Order of Canada to unite Canadians behind truly meritorious recipients.
League notes that all such appointments may now be immune to public scrutiny
Morgentaler’s appointment led to numerous previous recipients returning their honours, several petitions against his conferral, and a national outcry objecting to honouring Canada’s leading abortionist. It has been acknowledged as the most controversial appointment in the history of the Canadian honours system, with more than 100 Members of Parliament indicating their objection to the nomination.
Mr. Chauvin pointed out that according to various press reports Morgentaler had been previously nominated and passed over for the Order, was apparently recommended by the Advisory Council in 2008 by a majority vote rather than a unanimous vote, and that the Chair of the 11-member Advisory Council, Chief Justice Beverley McLauchlin, did not recuse herself from the nomination, despite the fact that Morgentaler is currently before the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench seeking a constitutional right to public funding of his private, for profit abortion clinics in that province. (On a previous occasion, the Chief Justice had recused herself from the deliberations of the Advisory Council of a previously inducted member of the Order in circumstances where that individual was before provincial courts on criminal charges.)
Impact of nomination
Morgentaler’s nomination effectively served to politicize further the Canadian honours system by taking sides on a matter of ongoing political, religious and social controversy.
Federal Court Prothonotary Kevin Aalto, in the written decision, noted that Morgentaler had been installed as a member of the Order by Governor General Michaelle Jean on April 10, 2008, following the Advisory Council’s recommendation. He struck out Mr. Chauvin’s application, ruling that it could not succeed in its objective to overturn a matter protected by royal prerogative. While acknowledging that the case was possibly justiciable (that, is, that there were objective legal criteria to assess), the court further stated that Mr. Chauvin did not have standing to bring the case, either in support of his personal interests or as a matter of public interest.
As the public announcement of such honours is only made several months after the instrument of the appointment has been sealed by the Governor General, the ruling effectively prevents any review of the activities of the Advisory Council, whose deliberations remain confidential.
“I have been quoted in the media as intending to return my award,” said Mr. Chauvin. “I may yet do so, but I first wanted Canadians to have a chance to take a close look at what can happen when an Advisory Council abandons a consensus model and uses the award to advance a highly divisive view, in this case the effective promotion of the tragedy of abortion in Canada.”
No decision has yet been made with regard to appealing the decision.
CCRL President Philip Horgan noted, “The impact of the current decision effectively ‘immunizes’ any possible challenge of an Order of Canada conferred by the Governor-General, and perhaps the deliberations of the Advisory Council itself. The Court’s ruling prevented even the disclosure of the records of the Advisory Council. The court case did reveal that Morgentaler was in fact made a member of the Order on April 10, 2008. Canadians only learned of the appointment on July 1, 2008, following the publication of the list of honorees that day. It appears that the only possible objection that could have been raised to the process would have been by a dissenting member of the Advisory Council itself. However, as those deliberations remain shrouded in secrecy, Canadians may never learn what happened on this or on previous occasions.”
The court cited the process for requesting the termination of Order membership as an avenue that Mr. Chauvin could have pursued before bringing this challenge. Mr. Chauvin noted, “The prospect of bringing an application to the very same Advisory Council to terminate the membership of Morgentaler from the Order, following their recommendation to give him the honour, is non-sensical. It is mystifying to suggest that this approach would have generated any response.
“In fact, I am aware that numerous complaints were filed with the Secretariat of the Order, including one from me. I am not aware that any of those complaints even received a response. I am still waiting for mine.”
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org