January 31, 2010
Today I wish to express my outrage at the Order of Canada for stripping Steve Fonyo of his membership. Many years ago a young Steve, (who is a cancer amputee like his hero Terry Fox) took it upon himself to complete Terry Fox’s dream of running across Canada to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. For this feat of courage, respect and stamina, Steve Fonyo was awarded the Order of Canada, our highest civilian honour. It was stated in the article that the decision to revoke the award was due to Steve’s troubles with drugs and the law over the past several years. How does the man’s current personal problems in anyway diminish his earlier accomplishment for which the honour was bestowed? If the Order of Canada is to be awarded only to people who have led a good life… then the Order of Canada should only be awarded posthumously. It was Aristotle, who said,” A man cannot be said to have had a good life until his life is ended”. I don’t know what troubles may have brought the boy to drugs and crime, I don’t know if one day he will be able to turn his life around, I do know it is not for me or anyone else to judge his failures. In the words of Jesus of Nazareth, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. I won’t even ask the committee who voted Steve Fonyo out of the Order of Canada to measure up to my standards of integrity. I will however put this question to each one… if you have broken any commandments, should you not step down and relinquish your own membership in O of C. For you to have broken moral (Judeo-Christian) law, as a sober responsible citizen, is far worse than the inadvertent transgressions committed by someone in the grip of a drug addiction. Shame on you all!
You might ask what this has to do with homelessness. Well, I may very well have crossed paths with Steve Fonyo in some of the places I frequent these days. As I have said before 30% of homeless are street people, (drunks, drug addicts, drop-outs) and very often criminals. Depending on the re-housing strategies of a particular province the percentage can go up to over 50%. I may have chatted in a soup line with Steve Fonyo… I have definitely met many young men like Steve. Starting out adulthood with so much promise and making a wrong turn, which leads them on a path of self destructive behaviours. Fortunately, it is a path and one can always change direction. Some of the best people I have met are recovered addicts now working with street people. Every human life is made up of moments, some are glorious and some ignoble. All any of us can do is live each moment the best we can. We must share our light and hope with those we touch. For one shining moment Steve Fonyo was a Canadian hero…. his spirit and courage touched a nation, and we are better for his having passed among us.