Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF) has been granted leave to intervene in Christian Medical and Dental Society et al v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. CLF will intervene jointly with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, advocating for freedom of religion, religious equality, and conscience rights for health care professionals. CLF’s proposed arguments are set out in further detail here.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has adopted (1) a Human Rights policy mandating effective referrals even if it conflicts with conscience or religious beliefs; and (2) a Medical Assistance in Dying policy that specifically requires effective referrals for assisted suicide. CLF supports CMDS in its position that, among other things, these policies violate religious freedom and equality, are not in the public interest, limit patient choice, and undermine the principle of state neutrality.
Derek Ross, CLF Executive Director and General Counsel, explains why CLF is intervening in the case:
“Professionals do not practice in a moral or ethical vacuum. To the contrary, a physician’s ethical framework does, and should, inform the care they provide. As the Canadian Medial Association has recognized, it is in a patient’s best interest and in the public interest for physicians to act as moral agents, and not as service providers devoid of moral judgement. There is a significant moral component to complex end-of-life care issues, the resolution of which often rightly lies within one’s conscience. In such instances, the law requires that health care professionals be afforded the right to practice in accordance with their conscience, and that right must be robustly protected.”
CLF is one of seven interveners who will present both written and oral arguments before Justice Nordheimer, the judge currently assigned to this matter, of the Ontario Divisional Court. The three-day hearing is scheduled for June, 2017.
As euthanasia has been introduced in Canada’s health care system, CLF has advocated for freedom of religion and conscience for health care professionals who object to participating in this practice. CLF has participated in consultations with provincial governments and Physicians’ Colleges across the country, explaining why forcing conscientiously objecting health care professionals to participate in facilitating the death of a patient would violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights legislation. These issues remain a concern, and CLF will continue to act in support of conscience protection.
In Quebec, CLF will continue its intervention in Saba c Procureure général du Québec, which challenges the constitutionality of the assisted suicide law in that province. CLF has been an intervenor in this matter since 2015 and will continue focusing on the right to freedom of religion and conscience.
For additional information or an interview, please contact:
Ruth A.M. Ross, Special Advisor
Christian Legal Fellowship