Four openly pro-life Christians were inducted into the Order of Canada at a Rideau Hall ceremony last month.
The most prominent was Preston Manning, one-time federal opposition leader. The others were Manning’s Reform Party colleague, Deborah Grey; and two nuns known for humanitarian work.
They chose to receive Canada’s highest civilian honour, despite the controversy over abortionist Henry Morgentaler’s appointment last July 1 — which led about a dozen Canadians, including Montreal Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte and two Polish Oblate priests, to return their medals.
“I was overwhelmed to be named to the Order of Canada,” said Sister Margaret Vickers, who received the honour for her lifetime service in Catholic health care as a nurse administrator.
“It was a very humbling experience. At the same time, I thought it brought an honour to our community, the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception and to my family and friends as well as to all my co-workers,” she said.
“I was asked several times to return my reward,” she said in a telephone interview from Vancouver — where she now lives, after serving in three New Brunswick hospitals run by her community. “But like Jean Vanier, I feel the award was not just for me but for everyone who touched my life during my journey. I can’t judge who receives it or who doesn’t receive it.”
Vickers said the letter Jean Vanier wrote to the father of a disabled son that was published in the November 29 Globe and Mail influenced her decision.
Vanier wrote that he did not want to enter into the painful discussion, and that he wanted his life to be a witness to the “importance and value of all life and particularly the life of people whose disabilities are apparent before birth.”
He added: “At the same time, I believe in the value of the Order of Canada… It is not up to me to judge who should be banned from receiving it. In no way can I judge intentions.”
Vanier noted that he was “proud to have received the Order of Canada. It was not just awarded to me but as a sign of the value of people with disabilities, who for too long have been pushed aside or hidden away in institutions or in their families.
“I am proud of the way federal and provincial governments and many private groups have fostered the growth of people with disabilities and helped them find their place through communities that welcome them with deep respect,” he said.
“Of course there is still a lot to be done, but we are on a road. My hope and my prayer is that the Order of Canada will continue to be awarded to those who struggle for justice and for peace and for a culture of beauty and truth, for a Canada not closed up in fear but open to all in our families, in our land, in our churches and in different religions so that all may grow in a love which is wisdom, compassion, understanding and comprehension,” he wrote.
The other nun who was inducted as a Member of the Order of Canada was Sr. Jeanne d’Arc Bouchard, C.Q., a nurse who devoted her life to helping those addicted to alcohol and drugs, founding the first structured hospital-based program in Quebec. Bouchard created and ran the Saint-Antoine unit at the Roberval hospital for 22 years.
Retired politician Deborah Grey, who was the first Reform MP in the House of Commons, and who served as Interim Leader of the Opposition, was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada, the second highest honour. She played a key role in the uniting of the Canadian Alliance (a successor to the Reform Party) and Progressive Conservative parties.
She disagreed with Morgentaler’s receiving an award, which was announced on her birthday, July 1. “I’m really glad my mother didn’t go see Dr. Morgentaler,” she said, pointing out her mother had given her the greatest gift of all: life.
“I didn’t like that he got the same honour and award,” she said. “There may be lots of people who disagree with my award as well.”
Grey, who retired from politics more than four years ago, still rides her motorcycle for various charity drives — which occasionally draws her into a similar controversy. She said sometimes the Hell’s Angels also participate and donate a few toys for the Christmas drive. She said some people ask her why she participates in events with them.
“I am not going to give up the motorcycle community for a few guys,” she said, noting the Hell’s Angels form a “very small minority.”
Regarding the Order of Canada, she concluded: “If everyone throws back their award, who wins?”
Preston Manning, the founder of the now defunct Reform Party, received the highest honour as a Companion of the Order of Canada. Among the 46 individuals honoured December 12 was hockey great Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter Gretzky, for his wide-ranging volunteer activities for various charities.
— Courtesy of Canadian Catholic News. Please do not reprint without permission.