Wednesday, April 07, 2010

How quickly we forget -- Steve Fonyo

Today's investiture of 43 persons into the Order of Canada reminded me of something I thought about during the recent Olympics -- the absence of Steve Fonyo as a participant in any of the ceremonies. Once upon a time, just like Terry Fox or Rick Hansen, he was good enough to be one of our heroes. But that was back when he was running across Canada on one leg and raising $13 million for cancer.

Only then, something happened. He screwed up. And more than once. But it seems to me he screwed up in some pretty human ways.

He fell for the lure of celebrity, got into bad drugs and too much booze, and got himself arrested more than once. He even did a bit of time. But, despite the superhuman feat he'd accomplished (running 7,924 km/4,924 miles across the country), his crimes were enough to have him divested of his Order of Canada.

As far as I can tell, only two other people have been stripped of this honour -- David Ahenakew and Alan Eagleson. Ahenekew lost his for making harshly anti-Semitic remarks, an action we've come to call hate crime. And anyone who watches hockey knows what Eagleson did to (and in the name of) the NHL.

The motto of the Order of Canada is 'They desire a better country.' As far as I can tell, Steve Fonyo hasn't done anything to indicate he doesn't still 'desire a better country.' He didn't try to get rich by stealing any of the millions he raised for cancer. He hasn’t insulted anyone for who they are. Fonyo hasn’t so much let his country down as Canada has let him down – by denying the value of what he did and reneging on the award he earned.

Freelancer Claude Adams has created an insightful radio documentary about Fonyo. Called "Journey to Normal", it was broadcast on CBC's 'The Current' on March 31st. If you click on this link, you can hear the whole show or just listen to the sections on Fonyo (part two and at the show's end).

Fonyo's story isn't a pretty one. But really -- if Terry Fox hadn't died of cancer, who's to say whether his life might not have had a few bumps too?


Smiling in America said...

I love this post Heidi -- I thought very similar sentiments when I saw Steve Fonyo voted of the Island. We all have things in our past we are not proud of -- but to use the lofty Order of Canada to publicly humiliate someone struggling -- it's pathos at its finest hour. Not Canada's finest moment.


Smiling in America said...

EEK! ... just realized I am not anonymous any longer. I started up a blogspot for my little journey here in America ... haven't posted yet, but I guess, like Fonyo, I am a member of the club now -- hope I don't get voted off too soon.

hg said...

Fonyo's absence from the Olympics was impossible to ignore, especially at the closing ceremony. But no, they'd already pulled the plug on his desirability as a celebrity. Not, as you say, Canada's finest hour.
And Smiling, please let me know when you make the first post on your new blog.
I'm not planning on voting you off any island. Thank you for the comment(s).

Anonymous said...

Hi There

I was just checking the internet for the usual good/bad stuff about either Steve or I when I ran across your blog. Let me say `Thank you`` for noticing that Steve was not in the names mentioned along with Rich Hansen or Terry Fox. Since becoming his wife I have taken notice vto the amount of times that when the topic of people that have raised money for charties Steve`s name never comes up!! Why. Go to the Canadian Cancer Society web site and in the search bar write ``Steve Fonyo`` and see what come up. NOTHING.. But put Terry Fox in and you can read pages and pages of stuff on him. This is just one example of how the Canadain Cancer Society has treated Steve since his run. Not that Ì am trying to step on anyone else but don`t you think Steve should get some recogintion too along with Terry fox or Rich Hansen names(sorry my question mark isn`t working).

Lisa Fonyo

hg said...

Thank you for your comments, Lisa. I also appreciate knowing that my remarks may well have made their to Steve.
His story takes on a whole new level of irony with some of the latest honourees for BC's highest award -- not only the not-so-honourable David Emerson, but the prizewinning liar of the decade, His Gordonness.