Vancouver When Father Lucien Larre decided to lead condemnation of the decision officially to honour the doctor who lobbied to have Canada's abortion laws changed, he was doing so at some risk. After all, Father Larre has a few skeletons in his own closet. The priest recently triggered an eruption of anger against the granting of the Order of Canada to Henry Morgentaler, who has been the subject of controversy for decades for his work to have abortion legalised. The Holocaust survivor said he had faced violent opposition before, mostly from the Catholic Church, 'fundamentalists and women opposed to women's rights'. 'I am very proud' of receiving the Order of Canada, he said. 'I was genuinely honoured.' It's a sure bet that Father Larre was also proud when he received the same award 25 years ago for his work with adolescents' drug and mental problems. But now he's not so sure. After the announcement about Dr Morgentaler's prize, Father Larre said he was sending his medal back to Ottawa, saying that he knew of no other way to protest. 'It's nothing, it's a worthless award. Although I have tremendous respect for the Order of Canada, I feel I have to return it.' In doing so, Father Larre has reportedly become the first person to return the honour to protest against its being bestowed on someone else. At least four other recipients followed him in returning theirs. But there was another reaction - the re-examination of issues that brought Father Larre notoriety in the 1990s. Wherever he goes, he acknowledges, he is known as 'that guy who used to abuse the children in Regina'. The priest, who moved to the Vancouver area in the 1990s, was charged with assault for slapping a woman and for forcing teenagers to ingest placebos to teach them a lesson about taking illegal drugs. He was acquitted on most of the charges, but convicted of two. The dredging up of the story has added an unseemly edge to the debate over Dr Morgentaler's investiture. But the fact that Father Larre was willing to risk further personal scrutiny provides a sign that the abortion debate is not over. The support thrown behind Father Larre's protest move reveals how quickly anti-abortion forces can muster an outcry - so much so that they believe there is hope in reversing the legal precedents that in effect legalised abortion in 1988. As for Dr Morgentaler's Order of Canada, it seems there's little chance the prize will be withdrawn. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper voiced his 'personal dissatisfaction' about the appointment, but he can do little, as the government has no formal role in the selection process. A committee, which includes the top judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, vets the nominations. And a new poll indicates two-thirds of Canadians support the appointment of Dr Morgentaler, who believed so strongly about his cause that he served jail time to protest against the laws at the time. The selection committee usually makes its appointments on safe choices, bureaucrats and journalists and those who have reached the pinnacle of their profession in the arts, law and medicine. Regardless of one's views, few have changed the social outlook of Canada more than Dr Morgentaler.