Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Not much ground in that swell

It has now been a month since Henry Morgentaler was awarded the Order of Canada. It was long delayed, one assumes, by the controversy that everyone knew it would would bring. In the end, however, the expected outrage fizzled. A handful of editorials, a tiny demonstration, and so few emails and letters to the prime minister's office that even pro-life commentators could not disguise their disappointment.

Three awardees have returned their awards in protest: Lucien Larre, a Roman Catholic priest (July 4), Gilbert Finn, a Former Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick (July 9), and Frank Chauvin, a retired police detective and philanthropist (July 11). That is all, apart from three anonymous holders whom claims about to return their medals, and a handful of medals of the deceased. Of three thousand living awardees and a couple thousand more among the departed, that must be disappointing — all the more so given that the search engine at the Order of Canada page lists 90 Canadians have given the reward for their contributions to religion (here), and the awardees are well-populated with some figures such as Preston Manning and Deb Grey, both of whom are people of faith with long-standing social-conservative credentials.

Not that it is for lack of effort. A website was created to harass urge awardees to resign. But no one has resigned since that page was registered on July 12.

Then there's the list of MPs who disapprove of the award, a list kept at at (here). It amounts to 32 so far, out of 308 MPs. One in ten?

Even more disappointing surely must be the turn-out of Catholic Bishops. There are 88 Bishops in Canada. According to LifeSite, 12 have publicly condemned the Morgentaler award. That is roughly one in seven. This is better than the MP-turnout, but — come on, guys! — you're supposed to get all of the Catholic Bishops.

There were of course the petitions, one demanding that Morgentaler's award be revoked. It was immediately trumpeted as a success when on the first day (July 4), 2000 had signed it. But its progress is easily followed by the attention bloggers paid to it: by July 7, it had reached 5000; by July 10, 8828; by July 14, it had reached 11,468, and 13,744 by July 22. Today it stands at 15,036.

But realistically, this isn't much for a country of 30 million. The petition started out receiving only 7 or 8 signatures per riding per day and soon dropping from there to less than 1 signature per riding per day (see the chart to the left). And this assumes that all those signatures were legitimate, which is probably not the case (here).

Of course, this isn't a surprise if you look at Canadian opinion as a whole? Polls by the Ipsos Reid and Angus Reid suggest that Canadians support the award by a 2-to-1 margin.

Which brings us to another reason to be sceptical the phone-spam poll commissioned by Campaign Life and conducted by KLRVU. Can anyone really believe that 55% of Canadians disapprove of this award when only one-in-a-thousand award-holders care enough to renounce their own awards and only one in seven Catholic Bishops will bother to issue a press-release about it?

Update. A few more award holders have returned their reward are. The total list
  1. Lucien Larre (July 4),
  2. Gilbert Finn (July 9),
  3. Frank Chauvin (July 11),
  4. Cardinal J.-C. Turcotte (Sept. 11: Lifesite)
  5. Jacqueline Richard (cbc)
  6. Fr. Anthony Sylla (cbc)
  7. Fr. Michael Smith (cbc)
In addition to these, the medals of several other inductees have been returned:
  • the family of Alphonse Gerwing, who died in 2007, has returned his medal (July 21: Lifesite)
  • the medal of Catherine Doherty, who died in 1985, was returned by Madonna House, which she founded (July 7: Lifesite)
  • the medal of Monsignor A.J. Goski, who died 1987 (link) , was returned by his nephew (July 8: link)
Finally, according to Lifesite, three award-holders have informed them of their intention to return the award anonymously. (Possibly Richard, Sylla, and Smith?)