Can anyone polarize like Henry Morgentaler?

Tease the day: The famed abortion activist divided the country for decades

Blaise Edwards/CP

Guys like Mike Duffy and Rob Ford have dominated the news, almost completely, for exactly two weeks. Throughout, nothing could dethrone the ongoing scandals in the Senate and Toronto’s city hall. That is, until Henry Morgentaler died yesterday of a heart attack. He was 90.

To call Morgentaler a polarizing figure is a massive understatement. As you’ve read for decades, and will read again today, Morgentaler fought tirelessly for abortion rights. He emerged as the symbol of the movement that coalesced around that crusade. He made friends who canonized him, and enemies who reviled him. None of this is news to anyone. We’re just reminding ourselves. Today’s newspapers are full of reminders. The Globe and Mail calls Morgentaler a “doctor of defiance,” and adds later that he was “fiercely articulate” and “obsessively determined.” The National Post remembers him as “the man who divided Canada.” The Toronto Star recalls that he was a “crusader.” The Ottawa Citizen‘s headline reads, simply, “he divides us still.”

Perhaps the most telling reaction to Morgentaler’s death came from a politician in Ottawa.

John McKay, a Liberal MP and staunch pro-life advocate who isn’t afraid to be vocal, spoke to reporters following yesterday’s Question Period. McKay spoke briefly. Given what he probably thinks of Morgentaler’s achievements, McKay’s words are probably best described as wholly diplomatic. The conservative Liberal certainly understands where the abortion debate stands in Ottawa—nowhere, officially—and what Morgentaler means to a lot of his party’s voters. He called the abortion crusader a “distinguished man,” but then lamented that he introduced “abortion on demand,” a pejorative if ever there were one. Morgentaler leaves “a mixed legacy,” McKay said, again following up with a lament that Canada “has yet to have a mature conversation about abortion.”

What does McKay feel about Morgentaler’s passing, one reporter wondered. “I don’t know,” McKay began. “He certainly ended up polarizing the debate, and I don’t know that that actually served us well.” Read that again. He didn’t condemn Morgentaler, not once. That’s about as tempered a response as you’ll get from anyone—especially a pro-life parliamentarian—about Morgentaler, a man at once touted as a hero and hated as a baby killer.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with fines levied against a number of political parties by the CRTC for illegal robocalls. The National Post fronts the death of divisive abortion activist Henry Morgentaler—hero to many, enemy to others. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with Mayor Rob Ford’s apparent knowledge of the whereabouts of a video allegedly showing his smoking crack cocaine. The Ottawa Citizen leads with RCMP Superintendent Bruno Saccomani‘s defence against allegations that he mismanaged the prime minister’s security team. iPolitics fronts the severance owed to Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff. leads with Morgentaler’s legacy. CTV News leads with the release from hospital of a Chinese baby rescued from a sewer.  National Newswatch showcases the Star‘s top story about the Ford video.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Khadr. After spending eight months segregated from other inmates in an Ontario prison, former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr was transferred to an Edmonton facility. 2. Child porn. Donnie Snook, 41, a former Saint John, N.B., city councillor, pleaded guilty to 46 charges, including sexual assault and possession, distribution, and production of child pornography.
3. Spending. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says the country’s biggest cities are spending money at a greater pace than population growth—an unsustainable trend. 4. Drugs. Jimmy Cournoyer, 33, from Laval, Que., admitted to a New York courtroom that he ran a continent-wide, $1-billion marijuana network that involved the Hells Angels and Rizutto family.

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