TORONTO, Ont. Dec. 8, 2008 – The Oblate Fathers of Assumption Province have returned the Orders of Canada granted to two of their members, Father Anthony Sylla, OMI and Father Michael Smith, OMI.


In a letter to Governor General Michaelle Jean, Father Janusz Blazejak, OMI, said the appointment of Henry Morgentaler to the Order has both “stained our national unity and tarnished the honourable reputation of this award.


“Whatever one’s views on the status of the unborn, the fact that the Order of Canada was given to someone whose “unique” contribution to the Canadian body politic consists of the procurement of tens of thousands of abortions does poor service in view of the many people who have given of their lives dedicated to making Canada a better nation, as the motto of the Order properly invokes, through helping others live dignified lives and providing service that all Canadians can universally take pride in.”


Father Sylla received the award for his work with immigrants in the prairies in the early part of the 20th century. Father Smith is best known for his work in developing the largest parish-based credit union in North America, as well as for his work with senior citizens, married couples and families. Both are deceased.


“Both of these priests were outspoken in their commitment to the inviolable dignity of the human person from the time of conception to natural death. They would have been the first to acknowledge that their commitment to their fellow man outweighed the need for membership in an Order that did not hold to the ideals to which they committed their lives.”


A number of other Orders have been returned in protest of Morgentaler’s appointment, including that of Cardinal Turcotte of Montreal, and the late Catherine Doherty, founder of the Madonna House apostolate.


The League is currently supporting a court challenge to the award. Frank Chauvin, an Order of Canada member from Windsor Ontario, is seeking federal court review of the process by which the award was given. The challenge questions why the advisory council for the Order overlooked several norms that had been followed in the past (including the customs of unanimity, and not re-considerating previous nominees), as well as the role of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in chairing the council. Mr. Chauvin’s challenge states that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin should have removed herself from the process because Morgentaler is a litigant in a court case against the government of New Brunswick. A hearing is scheduled for January 8, 2009.


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