Toronto, ON October 25, 2019 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) is pleased to announce that it has chosen 84-year-old Jesuit priest Fr. Anthony Van Hee from Ottawa as winner of this year’s Archbishop Adam Exner Award for Catholic Excellence in Public Life.

In addition to 51 years as a Catholic priest, Fr. Tony has engaged in a regular prayerful protest to oppose abortion and in support of life, on Parliament Hill, which he commenced in September of 1989. He has kept his faithful vigil for over 30 years.

Fr. Tony was arrested on October 24, 2018 for silently protesting within 50 metres of the Morgentaler abortion clinic in Ottawa. Fr. Van Hee never spoke with anyone. He did not distribute anything. He made no mention of abortion or abortion related services. Fr. Tony simply wore a sandwich board. On the front was the sentence, “The Primacy of Free Speech Cornerstone of Western Civilization”; on the back, “Without Free Speech the State is a Corpse.”



Fr. Tony was charged with violating section 3(1)(e)(iii) of the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act which states:

3 (1) While in an access zone established under section 6 for a clinic or facility, no person shall,
(e) for the purpose of dissuading a person from accessing abortion services,
(iii) intimidate or attempt to intimidate the person, or

The CCRL is involved in a constitutional challenge to the controversial bubble zone law, under which Fr. Tony is charged.

The Exner award will be presented at the CCRL’s Annual Dinner on November 25 in Toronto at 6:30 pm at the Sala Caboto Ballroom at 40 Playfair Ave, west of Dufferin, south of Lawrence.

CCRL President Phil Horgan confirmed the League’s selection:

“We take this opportunity to recognize the persistent and prayerful witness of not only a Catholic priest, but an individual who has stood in silent support, no matter the weather or other impediments, to the cause of life.”

On receiving the Exner award, Fr. Tony said:

I have very little in common with Archbishop Adam Exner, but we were born 103 kms from each other. He was born in Killaly, Saskatchewan, in 1928, and I was born in Langenburg, Saskatchewan, in 1935. In the 2016 Census Killaly had a population of 77, Langenburg, a population of 1,165. However, I am honoured and humbled to receive the Archbishop Exner Award for Catholic Excellence in Public Life, and to be associated with the many much more worthy former recipients, such as, Doctors Catherine Ferrier, Robert Walley, Donald DeMarco, and Dr. and Mrs. Andrew and Joan Simone, Alex Schadenberg, Gwen Landolt, Fr. Alphonse de Valk, Michael O’Brien, Suzanne LaVallee, Jim Hughes, J. Fraser Field, and the late Frank Chauvin and Frederick W. Hill.

For Annual Dinner tickets, please email or call 416-466-8244 or 1-844-722-CCRL. Tickets are $125 each for individuals. We are offering a special rate of $1000 for a table of 10. We encourage organizations, or even groups of friends to save money and help the CCRL by organizing a table. With either option an RSVP is required by calling (416) 466-8244 or 1-844-722-CCRL or by emailing

About the Archbishop Exner Award

The CCRL established the Archbishop Exner Award in 2004 to honour Archbishop Adam Exner, OMI, Archbishop Emeritus of Vancouver, upon his retirement and to recognize outstanding achievement in advocacy, education, life issues, media and culture, and philanthropy.

Previous recipients include:

Dr. Catherine Ferrier, Catholic physician, Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia (2018)

Dr. Robert Walley, founder of MaterCare International (2017)

Alex Schadenberg, anti-euthanasia/assisted suicide activist (2016)

Dr. Donald DeMarco, scholar, writer, seminary professor, and pro-life activist (2015)

Gwen Landolt, long time national Vice-President of REAL Women of Canada, pro- life advocate, promoter of the family in national and international circles (2014)

Fr. Alphonse de Valk, CSB, pro-life activist, writer and editor (2013)

Michael D. O’Brien, artist and author, for creative work incorporating authentic Catholicism and Catholic teaching (2012)

Suzanne LaVallee of Quebec for leadership in education (2010)

The late Frank Chauvin of Windsor, Ontario, founder of Haiti’s first orphanage for girls and initiator of an application for review of the process by which Henry Morgentaler was awarded the Order of Canada (2009)

Dr. and Mrs. Andrew and Joan Simone of Toronto, co-founders of Canadian Food for Children, for services to philanthropy and international aid (2008)

Campaign Life Coalition President Jim Hughes of Toronto for service to the pro-life movement (2007)

J. Fraser Field of Vancouver, founder of Catholic Educators’ Resource Centre, for service to education (2006)

The late Regina business leader Frederick W. Hill for philanthropy and community service (2005)

About the CCRL

Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) ( 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. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

To donate to the CCRL, please click here.

For further information:

Christian Domenic Elia, PhD
CCRL Executive Director