Megapundit: In search of "genuinely shared values"

Must-reads: Colby Cosh, Chantal Hébert and John Robson on Henry Morgentaler; John Ibbitson on Obama’s rightward drift.

All this over a little snowflake?
More mercifully intelligent discussion over Henry Morgentaler’s Order of Canada, and some of the other kind too.

The Montreal Gazette‘s Janet Bagnall believes Morgentaler deserves the award because “when a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy, she should have access to safe, legal abortion services,” and he was “instrumental” in making that a reality. (H.W. Fowler himself would struggle to find a superior example of begging the question, but never mind.) And she accuses pro-choicers who oppose Morgentaler’s investiture of hoping that “by not calling attention to [him] or abortion, a troublesome issue would stop causing division, maybe even that it would just go away.” It won’t, she assures us, and indeed, threats to abortion rights are all around. Well, all around the Maritimes, anyway: you can’t get an abortion on Prince Edward Island, apparently, and New Brunswick doesn’t pay for abortions performed in private clinics. Either of these, Bagnall says, citing the National Abortion Federation, “might lead to recriminalizing abortion.”

Canadians unsure if “a life of activism” should itself justify the award should consider Morgentaler’s “contribution to turning [the Charter of Rights] into a living document,” the Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert suggests, referring to 1988’s landmark R. v. Morgentaler decision. “It is hard to think of a Charter ruling that is as prominent in the annals of Canadian women’s rights,” she argues—but at the same time, neither that decision nor Morgentaler himself is responsible for Canada’s abortion regime. Indeed, Hébert rather cleverly suggests, if the OOC committee had really “wanted to celebrate our unrestricted abortion regimen,” it would have honoured “the anti-abortion lobby and its all-or-nothing approach to the issue” that shouted down the last attempt to recriminalize abortion, in 1993.

“Morgentaler risked imprisonment and assassination to establish ethical principles of which he was sincerely convinced,” Colby Cosh writes in the National Post—”principles that seemed outrageous when he started out but are now widely accepted.” That’s the best justification for his investiture we’ve seen yet, and it’s more than enough for Cosh to award Morgentaler “my Order of Canada.” The actual Order of Canada is a different story, however. Though he doubts the reasonableness of many who oppose the honour—”the idea that abortion is morally equivalent to murder is just as absent from the history of the world before the 1960s,” for one thing—Cosh thinks Morgentaler’s investiture “can only create the impression that the Order is being used to argue for a particular position in a controversy, rather than to reflect genuinely shared values.”

Not so, says the Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe. “The award speaks to … this nation’s tolerance of individuals and ideas that reach out to the nether regions of our traditional comfort zone,” she rhapsodizes. And furthermore, it “underscores the country’s willingness to stretch the ideological bounds of what it will accommodate.” Not politicians, of course, who were sent “scrambling for the exits.” And not the millions of Canadians who feel, as John Robson puts it in the Ottawa Citizen, that “widespread abortion is a transcendent horror”—for whom the award “symbolized a slap in the face from official Canada.” And not all the people who utterly despise those people. But… you know, all those other millions of Canadians—well, thousands at least, surely—who are pleased with Morgentaler’s award but oh so very tolerant of those who aren’t.

Robson hits the nail on the head when it comes to the “divisiveness” argument, we’d say—namely, that Morgentaler is uniquely divisive, given the sheer horrors his opponents believe him to have committed, and thus a very special case. “The closest analogy I can find to abortion is debates over slavery in Britain and the United States two to three centuries ago,” he argues. “It is the only other time essentially democratic societies were bitterly divided over a widespread practice that hinged on what, or who, qualified as a ‘person.'”

How do you solve a problem like Mugabe?
Even if Canada or some other nation summoned the courage to invoke the UN’s responsibility to protect doctrine, The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson says “a bunch of predominately white countries … would be manifestly unwelcome in Africa.” The fact is, only Zimbabwe’s neighbours can effect Robert Mugabe’s ouster. And unfortunately, Simpson argues, “no more feckless group exists in the world than the African Union.”

The Citizen‘s Dan Gardner has no good news to offer about Zimbabwe, but he assures us there’s plenty of good news to be had in Africa. We’re just not hearing about it because bad news offers more compelling narratives to journalists and their editors. At the most basic level, he notes, citing Freedom House’s rankings, “in 1976, there were only three free countries in Africa. In 2006, there were 11.”

Duly noted
Obama supporters outraged at their man’s changing positions on issues such as campaign financing from private money, the Second Amendment, NAFTA, withdrawing from Iraq and retroactive immunity from litigation for telecommunications companies under the Foreign Intelligence Services Act just need to get over it, says the Globe‘s John Ibbitson. “The base of any political party is more radical than the general public,” he notes, and “candidates appeal to that base when running for the nomination, then tack to the centre in the general election.” It’s a particularly awkward manoeuvre for Obama, he concedes, because he “has offered himself as a new kind of politician.”

Lorne Gunter, wishes Quebec City a happy 400th birthday. “The history of European settlement is littered with dashed dreams and communities that failed due to disease, starvation, war or aboriginal attack,” he writes in the Edmonton Journal. “On a young continent, the fact that a city has been thriving for four centuries is a remarkable milestone.”

Richard Gwyn, writing in the Star, believes much of the anti-Ottawa correspondence he got in reaction to his last column—which argued Stéphane Dion’s Green Shift was attractive not just as an anti-climate change initiative but as a national initiative of any sort—simply proves his point “about the fracturing of the Canadian community.” And as for the idea that controlling emissions is pointless because India and China will soon be flooding the atmosphere with carbon, Gwyn ripostes that “by that standard” we should stop handing out foreign aid, or voting for that matter. “If we, rich, comfortable and exceptionally lucky …, don’t step forward, no one will.”