Gwen Landolt address those attending the Catholic Civil Rights League's annual dinner on May 24 after being named the 2014 Archbishop Adam Exner Award recipient. Photo by Evan Boudreau.

Pro-life and equality crusader Landolt honoured with CCRL award

  • May 22, 2014

TORONTO - Gwen Landolt is only the third woman to win the Archbishop Adam Exner Award since the Catholic Civil Rights League established the honour a decade ago.

“It is a great honour to receive this award from the Catholic Civil Rights League,” she said. “It is a great privilege that God gave me to this work. It is not so much me, I do think it is the blessings of God that gave me courage.”

On May 22 during the League's annual dinner, held at Spirale Banquet and Conference Centre and attended by about 75 people, Landolt received her award — kind of.

“We miss Joanne (McGarry) so much I actually have no award to give Gwen, because normally that was something Joanne did but we'll get you one,” said Philip Horgan, the League's president who's been filling in for McGarry as best he can since her sudden passing this April.

“This is an important recognition of what we call excellence or public excellence in Catholic life and my sense is there has been no finer example of that over the last 40 years than Gwen Landolt.”

Landolt, current vice-president of REALWomen of Canada, first became involved in the pro-life movement back in 1971. Eventually this lead to her connecting with Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition and 2011 recipient of the Exner award.

“I met Gwen first back in the mid-1970s,” said Hughes, who introduced Landolt during the dinner. “(She) came to me one day and said we're stringing this new plan of a political action pro-life organization to Toronto and we're thinking that you should head it up. Working with Gwen was quite an experience from dealing with members of the hierarchy (to) front page stories condemning us.”

Landolt's “new plan” of action was to establish Toronto's very own Right To Life organization.

A lawyer by trade, Landolt spent significant time during the 1980s expressing concerns that Pierre Trudeau's proposed Charter of Rights and Freedoms fell short by not protecting the right of the unborn.   

But Landolt, a mother of five, didn't spend all of her time on the pro-life frontlines. She also engaged in the full funding debates for Catholic schools in the mid-’80s and battled for female equality in the workplace during the ’90s.

And her trick to balancing a two-front war — abortion and equality — is simple; his name is Jack.

“It is because of my great support from my husband Jack, who is now in Europe unfortunately,” she said. “He has always supported me (and) I could never do what I've done without this support.”

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