Don't strip Lafleur of his honour

PETER WORTHINGTON

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

You don't have to be a hockey fan to sympathize with Hall of Fame hockey legend Guy Lafleur's anguish over his son's behaviour.

When his son Mark eventually pleaded guilty of assault with a weapon, making death threats, theft and dangerous driving and was sentenced to 15 months of community work while under curfew at home, it was relatively lenient punishment.

Guy Lafleur's error -- crime if you will -- was giving "contradictory evidence" under oath at a subsequent hearing. He said his son had respected a court-imposed curfew, and later admitted he'd driven the kid to a hotel, where his son spent two nights with a 16-year-old girl.

Lafleur, now 57, will be sentenced in June.

The Crown clearly isn't seeking the maximum 14-year penalty, and Lafleur will likely get a suspended sentence.

His guilt is his shame.

Where this case has gone off the rails is in speculation that Lafleur's Order of Canada and Order of Quebec may now be rescinded.

It's hard to believe the Governor General or Quebec Premier Jean Charest would be so vindictive.

So far, all the Order of Quebec's director general will say is that "it's a delicate situation." The GG's office says the Order's governing council "hasn't discussed the situation ... yet."

The root of such discussions is that three times the Order of Canada has been rescinded -- as if it were a bauble for good behaviour rather than for significant contribution to Canada.

Alan Eagleson was stripped of his Order after being found guilty of embezzling hockey players' funds; First Nations Chief David Ahenakew had his Order revoked for making offensive statements about Jews (a re-trial cleared him of "inciting hatred"). T. Sher Singh lost his OC when he was disbarred for professional misconduct and "misappropriating" a client's funds.

If the award can be removed so casually, what is the Order of Canada worth to begin with?

As I've written before, the Victoria Cross -- the world's most revered gallantry award -- used to be forfeited if a recipient was guilty of a crime.

MEDALS RESCINDED

In 1884 Fred Corbett, who won the VC with the King's Royal Rifles in Egypt, had his VC rescinded and service medals repossessed when he was sentenced to 28 days hard labour for fraud and being absent without leave.

James Collis' VC was presented in 1881 for service during the Afghan War. It was rescinded in 1885 when he was jailed for bigamy. When he died in 1918, his sister petitioned King George V to have it restored.

The King's response is something the Order of Canada people should consider: "... no matter the crime committed by anyone on whom the Victoria Cross has been conferred, the decoration should not be forfeited. Even were a VC to be sentenced, be hanged for murder, he should be allowed to wear the VC on the scaffold."

If the Order of Canada is to mean anything, it should be irrevocable as the Victoria Cross is. If someone has done service the country feels is worth honouring, it should not be subject to second-guessing or expediency.

Alan Eagleson's efforts in the unforgettable first Canada-Soviet hockey series, earned him the country's gratitude. That should not be obliterated by the stroke of a pen.

IGNORANT REMARKS

The same with David Ahenakew's lifetime work with Indians that now mean nothing because of his ignorant and stupid remarks to a journalist.

Whatever Sher Singh did on behalf of mediating race relations and reconciling different religions should not be discarded because of his subsequent disgrace.

As for Guy Lafleur, one hopes speculation of forfeiting his Order of Canada is journalistic hype for a slow news day.


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