FREEDOM OF RELIGION

  • Submission to the Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights regarding Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act

CLF urged Parliament to protect religious expression, association, and peaceful assembly by retaining section 176 of the Criminal Code by considering (1) the necessity of section 176 in protecting Charter freedoms in ways that other Criminal Code provisions do not; and (2) Canada's international obligations to actively protect peaceful assemblies. CLF, an NGO with special consultative status with the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council, highlighted that Canada has committed itself - and has called on all other UN Members - to take positive measures to “respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely.”CLF's submission further explains that section 176 is not “unconstitutional”, “outdated”, or “duplicative of more general offences”. To the contrary, Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, have consistently applied the provisions currently found in section 176 and upheld their constitutionality. As CLF`s brief explains, a number of appellate judges have affirmed that these provisions are necessary for the realization of such fundamental rights as freedom of assembly and freedom of association. CLF’s submission concludes that section 176 is a constitutionally sound law, and that its repeal is not justified under any of Bill C-51’s stated objectives. Read CLF's full submission

  • Submission to the National Assembly of Quebec regarding Bill 62, An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for religious accommodation requests in certain bodies.

CLF raised concerns about the understanding and application of state neutrality in the Bill, noting that state neutrality is meant to encourage everyone to participate freely in public life, demands respect for – and not extinguishment of – religious differences. CLF also raised specific concerns about the Bill’s prohibitions on religious childcare institutions’ ability to teach “specific religious belief, dogma or practice” as violating Charter-protected religious freedom. It raises issues similar to those already decided by the Supreme Court in Loyola, which held that the government cannot dictate to a religious institution how to teach, or not teach, the very religious that animates its identity. CLF also noted the various Covenants, Conventions and Charters that protect the parental right to pass on beliefs to their children and urged the Assembly to reconsider the proposed legislation. Read the full submission in English or Français.

Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia 

CLF has been involved in many consultations on this issue. Here are our submissions to various bodies, in reverse chronological order: 

Additional information about the submissions to the federal and provincial advisory groups on the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia is given below. Explanations of the submissions to various physicians' colleges also appear below.

(Federal) External Panel on a Legislative Response to Carter v Canada

Parliament established an “External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada”(the “Panel”) in the summer of 2015. The Panel’s mandate was to consult with key stakeholders on issues that are fundamental to a federal legislative response to the Carter ruling and to provide a final report to the Ministers of Justice and Health.
CLF was invited by the Panel to engage in a direct consultation based on its interventions in Carter. CLF, represented by Executive Director Derek Ross and Associate Counsel John Sikkema, met with the Panel on November 7, 2015, making both oral and written submissions on a number of questions of law and ethics (written submissions available above).

CLF submitted that the broader ethical, moral, social, and cultural issues resulting from the legalization of physician-assisted suicide were not adequately addressed in Carter and need to be carefully examined before a new regime is introduced.  CLF stressed that more time is needed for this vital process and encouraged the panel to recommend that Parliament request an extension of time to do so. 

CLF also submitted that the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in Carter did not impose a value judgement that assisted suicide and euthanasia are good “services” for society that must be funded and facilitated by the government. Rather, the SCC ruled that a blanket criminal prohibition was a broader than necessary means for achieving Parliament’s legislative objective—which the SCC interpreted as protecting vulnerable persons from being induced to commit suicide in a moment of weakness. CLF’s submission explained that it remains open to Parliament to re-enact a complete ban pursuant to the objective of maintaining the longstanding legal principle of the inviolability of life (an issue which was not addressed by the SCC in Carter), and detailed why a complete ban remains the best option available.

Should Parliament choose not to (re)enact a complete ban, however, CLF submitted that Parliament retains jurisdiction over the “matter” of assisted suicide and must enact strict limits on this practice, along with comprehensive safeguards and oversight mechanisms, to protect the vulnerable in as much as this is possible. CLF also advocated for improved access to good palliative care for patients.

Finally, CLF advocated for the protection of physicians’ (and others’) freedom of religion and/or conscience by making it an offence to pressure a person to participate, directly or indirectly, in assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Provincial/Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying 

CLF was also invited by a group established by provincial/territorial governments - the Canadian Provincial/Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying – to participate in a separate consultation by completing a detailed survey. The survey contained questions on a wide range of issues including eligibility for “aid in dying”, how capacity should be assessed, the role of physicians and other health care workers, the role of health care institutions, conscientious objection, regulatory oversight, and various procedural matters.

The underlying premise of the survey, however, was that either the provinces or the medical regulatory bodies should develop legislation or policies to ensure “equitable access” to “aid in dying” as a medical service. CLF’s response to the survey (available above) emphasized that Carter required a limited exception to a Criminal Code prohibition, the parameters of which should be set out by Parliament, and that in light of the limited scope of its declaration (para 127), assisted death should be exceedingly rare. CLF also submitted that this process was premature in light of the fact that legislation has not yet been enacted by Parliament.

College of PHysicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan

On October 19th, 2015, CLF filed  submissions (available above) in response to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan’s (CPSS) consultation regarding the CPSS’s draft guidance document on “Physician-Assisted Dying”.  CLF’s submission explains why the document's definition of "physician-assisted dying" is problematic and why its requirements for providing "assisted dying" are inadequate for protecting vulnerable persons from abuse and error. CLF also urged the CPSS to make it clear in its future policies that no physician is required to participate in assisted suicide, either directly or by providing referrals.

In January 2015, the CPSS approved “in principle” a draft policy dealing with professional obligations that may violate physicians’ freedom of conscience and religion. Among other concerns, the policy, entitled Conscientious Refusal, seeks to impose a mandatory and rather extensive duty to refer.  

CLF made a written submission to the CPSS, urging them to modify their policy to reflect physicians’ constitutionally protected rights of freedom of religion and conscience when it comes to potentially controversial areas of treatment such as end-of-life care and abortions.

Pursuant to its initial consultation, the CPSS released a revised policy, entitled Conscientious Objection, for further public feedback. CLF filed a second submission, highlighting a number of outstanding concerns, available above. 

On October 19, 2015, CLF made submissions in response to another CPSS consultation regarding a new draft guidance document on Physician-Assisted Dying. CLF's submission (available above) explains why the document's definition of "physician-assisted dying" is problematic and why its requirements for providing "assisted dying" are grossly inadequate for protecting vulnerable persons from abuse and error. CLF also urged the CPSS to make it clear in its future policies that no physician is required to participate in assisted suicide, either directly or by providing referrals.

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba

CLF presented written submissions (available above) to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba (CPSM) in response to its draft statement on physician assisted dying. Our submissions to the CPSM explained the CPSM’s draft statement is premature, outside the CPSM’s jurisdiction, overlooks critical nuances with respect to the scope of the invalidation of the criminal prohibition on assisted suicide, and appears to be based on the false premise that medical colleges and their members have a positive obligation to provide or facilitate access to PAD. CLF urged the CPSM to wait for Parliament to clarify the scope of the exception to the general prohibition on assisted suicide. In addition to the foregoing points, which were similar to those CLF raised with the CPSS (Saskatchewan), CLF responded to six questions the CPSM asked in its consultation survey (see pages 4-8 of our submissions).

Of particular concern, under Question 1, was the CPSM’s inclusion of psychological suffering as a basis for providing assisted dying. Psychiatric conditions and mental illnesses, including major depression, would fall within “other situations where physician-assisted dying may be sought”—situations to which the Carter ruling does not apply (see para 127). The CPSM does not take into account the factual circumstances in Carter and the limited scope of the SCC’s declaration of the law’s invalidity.

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario 

The CPSO, the regulatory authority for physicians and surgeons in Ontario, invited feedback on its policy dealing with doctors’ professional obligations related to procedures that violate their conscience. The current CPSO policy imposes, among other things, a mandatory duty to refer in such instances. 

A preliminary consultation ended in August 2014. The CPSO released a revised version of the policy and conducted a second round of consultations ending on February 20, 2015. CLF filed submissions in both rounds of consultations, available here


Law Societies (re: Trinity Western University)

Law Society of the Northwest Territories

September 16, 2014: CLF submission to the Law Society of the Northwest Territories for consideration in the Executives review of accrediation of TWU's proposed law school program.

Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador

May 26, 2014: CLF submission to the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador for consideration in advance of a meeting of the benchers on June 6th to determine how the LSNfld will deal with graduates of TWU’s law school program.

Law Society of New Brunswick

April 11, 2014: CLF submission to the Law Society of New Brunswick for consideration in the review of accrediation of TWU's proposed law school program.

Law Society of Upper Canada

April 2014: Following a 28-21 vote to reject the accreditation of TWU's proposed law school, TWU announced that it will take legal action against the LSUC. 
     
Mar 26, 2014: CLF submission to the LSUC for consideration in the review of accrediation of TWU's  proposed law school program. 
     
A full listing of submissions made to the LSUC can be viewed here.

Law Society of British Columbia

April 11, 2014: LSBC votes 20 to 6 in favour of TWU. 

February 28, 2014: CLF submission to the Law Society of British Columbia as a part of the TWU consultation on the proposed new law school.

Nova Scotia Barristers' Society 

April 2014: Following a 10-9 vote to adopt 'Option C' (to accredit TWU graduates as long as the school makes an exception for law students so that they do not sign the controversial Community Covenant OR in the event TWU amends the Community Covenant), TWU announced that it will take legal action against the NSBS. 
     
Feb 10, 2014: CLF submission to the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society as a part of the TWU consultation on the proposed new law school.  


PROTECTION OF VULNERABLE PERSONS

Nov 11, 2016: CLF submission to Ontario legislature re best interests of the child