2005: Dr. Henry Morgentaler, C.M.
Born in Poland, survived the Holocaust and came to Canada at the end of World War II. After completing medical studies at the Université de Montréal, he opened a family practice in Montreal. As a Humanist leader, he promoted the idea that people had a right to control their own sexuality and reproduction, without interference by the state.
In 1967, he presented a brief on behalf of the Humanist Fellowship of Montréal to the House of Common’s Health and Welfare Committee, where he urged that Canada’s restrictive abortion law be repealed. In 1968, Dr. Morgentaler founded the Humanist Association of Canada, of which he is now Honourary President.
Dr. Morgentaler founded the Canada’s first abortion clinic in Montreal in 1968. In the following years, he challenged the criminal code in Canada by providing safe abortions for women in Montreal clinic, and later in Toronto and Winnipeg, in a campaign of civil disobedience to an unjust law. Dr. Morgentaler faced several trials and was acquitted each time by a jury; he went to jail for 10 months for his convictions when a jury acquittal was reversed by a higher court. His belief in a “Woman’s Right to Choose” or reproductive choice, eventually led to a change in the law. After years of struggle, the law against abortion was declared unconstitutional struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada on January 28, 1988.
Despite passionate responses to his actions, he continues to campaign province-by-province seeking to provide abortion services to women deprived of access, a struggle that continues to this day. Throughout his long campaign Dr. Morgentaler has received the loyalty and support of women’s groups across the country who lobbied governments and raised funds for legal fees. As an advocate for the right of patients to have meaningful choice in their medical care, he has faced formidable opposition, including threats to personal security.
In June of 2005, Dr. Morgentaler was honoured with a doctorate of law from the University of Western Ontario. He operated six clinics in Canada providing care for women in need of abortion and contraceptive services.
Dr. Morgentaler passed away on May 29, 2013 at the age of 90. He will be remembered for his lasting contribution to reproductive rights of women in Canada.
2016 Summer Conference
The Canada Project
Identity, Citizenship, and Nationhood in a Changing World
August 5-7, 2016
The YMCA Geneva Park Conference Centre, Orillia, ON