Ontario Judge Affirms “Reasonable Foreseeability” Requirement for MAID Does Not Require Imminent Death

Today, an Ontario judge granted that the death of the applicant, an 80-year old woman suffering from osteoporosis, is “reasonably foreseeable” within the meaning of s.241.2(2)(d) of the Criminal Code. [1] As such, the doctors who had assessed her eligibility for medical assistance in dying would not be criminally charged for assisting her death, even though her underlying condition was not, strictly speaking, a terminal illness.

The applicant had originally sought a declaration that criminal charges not be laid against any physician that provides her medical aid in dying. Ontario’s and Canada’s Attorney Generals argued that such a declaration should be refused because granting it would improperly interfere with the government’s prosecutorial discretion. Justice Pernell of the Superior Court of Justice conceded that Ontario and Canada’s position are correct, but rendered their argument “unhelpful” by characterizing the issue as solely one of statutory interpretation.[2]

Perrell J. determined that Canada’s euthanasia law does not require that people be dying from a fatal illness or disease to be “terminally ill”; rather it uses more flexible wording, merely that “their natural death has become reasonably foreseeable, taking into account all their medical circumstances”. He reasoned that natural death need not be imminent but merely that death connected to natural causes be reasonably foreseeable; this, he concluded, included the case at bar.  Furthermore, seeing that Parliament intended for the meaning of “reasonable foreseeability” to be assessed solely by medical professionals, he stated that it was not for the courts to grant approval to requests for medical assistance in dying nor to reevaluate doctor’s assessment for eligibility.[3]  

Pro-euthanasia advocates, however, maintain that the “reasonable foreseeability” requirements are still too strict and prevent patients with mental illness and non-terminal conditions from accessing physician-assisted suicide. Constitutional challenge seeking to strike down these safeguard provisions have been launched in both British Columbia (the Lamb litigation) and Quebec. While these requirements were enacted as protection for vulnerable patients, they are now being framed as discriminatory “barriers to access” to “a response to a need”. CLF is closely monitoring this litigation as it develops in both provinces.

[1] AB v Canada (Attorney General), 2017 CanLII 3759 (ONSC).

[2] Ibid at para 4.

[3] Ibid at para 66.

Federal Standing Committee on Health’s Report on Violent and Degrading Material (M-47) Ignores Harm of Material on Users

(Photo by Benson Kua, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10803582)

(Photo by Benson Kua, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10803582)

In March of 2017, Christian Legal Fellowship made written submissions to the federal Standing Committee on Health (Committee) regarding the public effects of online violent and degrading sexually explicit materials (Motion M-47). In its submissions, CLF recognized that though expression is a broadly defined freedom, restriction on the use of “violent and degrading sexually explicit material” is justifiable to the extent that such material can lead to a reasonable apprehension of harm. Evidence shows that those who view such material are either physically or psychologically harmed in that they are predisposed to anti-social behaviour, cognitive distortion, etc. CLF also submitted that it is within federal jurisdiction to legislate concerning “public health evils” under its criminal law power. Furthermore, morality is a legitimate legislative objective and should be an important consideration in legislation governing sexuality and sexual material.

Earlier today, the Committee released its report which, though mentioning public health effects of such material on children, unfortunately says little on its effects on adults. The report’s recommendations focus on how to address sexual health in the digital age in a way that educates children on “the different spectrum of sexual expressions and identities including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer, questioning, 2 spirited (LGBTQ2+) communities”.

Opposition members of the committee wrote a dissenting opinion that addresses the public health impacts of pornography not only on children but also on adults. Regarding the committee’s recommendations, the dissent opinion specifically cautions the federal government to respect parental choice and autonomy by making all guidelines for sexual health education available to parents so that they can utilize it as they see fit. It also urges the government to increase funding in researching the public health impacts of violent and degrading sexual material.

MAID Deaths on the Rise in Canada

Assisted suicide has been legal since June 2016 (December 2015 in Quebec), and the numbers of patients requesting and receiving assisted suicide are on the rise.

According to CBC, from June 17, 2016 to January 10, 2017, BC has reported 188 deaths from medical assistance in dying, with 77 of those patients residents of Vancouver Island, which itself has a population of only 760,000 and accounted for 2 percent of all deaths on the Island for that period.

Alberta posts weekly data regarding medical assistance in dying, and from February 6, 2016 (when MAID was accessible via court order) and April 10, 2017, 109 patients died from MAID. Data updated to February 28, 2017 reveal that 64 people have not met the criteria, 22 patients have had some sort of transfer to facilitate death, and the age of patients dying ranges between 63 and 88.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority reports that as of January 6, 2017, 24 patients have died from MAID in Manitoba, with 28 dying before completing the process, 14 actively being assessed, 18 declined (of whom 5 had solely mental health concerns) and 18 inquiries.

In Ontario, as of March 30, 2017, MAID has claimed the lives of 365 patients.

Quebec outpaces the rest of Canada with 461 patients dying from MAID. From December 2015 to June 2016, 166 patients died, and between June 2016 and December 2016, 295 patients died. This accounts for slightly more than half of the 721 requests for MAID by Quebec patients. Quebec’s law came into effect on December 10, 2015, which accounts for the higher number of deaths.

Not surprisingly, the numbers from the eastern provinces are much lower. As of October 16, 2016, the Nova Scotia Health Authority reported 16 deaths from MAID.  New Brunswick has approved 9 MAID requests, Newfoundland and Labrador have performed 4 assisted suicides, but neither PEI, the Northwest Territories nor Nunavut have performed any assisted suicides. In the Yukon, reports suggest one patient has died from MAID.

In total, it has been reported that 1,324 people have died by MAID in Canada within the first year of its legalization. By comparison, in Belgium, it was reported that 24 people died by euthanasia the first year the practice was legal. 

Nurse Acquitted from Charges of Manslaughter and Criminal Negligence Causing Death after Withdrawing Life Support without Doctor’s Authority

Nurse Joanna Flynn pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death after disconnecting a patient’s life support without doctor’s authority.

The patient, Deanna Leblanc was a 39 year-old  mother of two who had gone into cardiac arrest. She was resuscitated several times before being hooked to a ventilator in a hospital in Midland.  Although Midland doctors said that Leblanc was likely to have brain damage due to lack of oxygen, they indicated that there was too much uncertainty to make that diagnosis.

The Crown alleged that Flynn coerced Leblanc’s husband into agreeing to withdraw life support after informing him that Leblanc was “brain dead” and that her heart would burst if he did not permit Flynn to do so. Flynn denied the husband’s account of the events, claiming she had acted only after getting his permission. 

Flynn was acquitted earlier today after the jury heard evidence supporting the argument that Flynn was entitled to rely on what the doctors said about Leblanc’s condition and that there is no requirement to have a doctor’s order to terminate life support.

The legal fight around Leblanc’s death are not over, however. Flynn faces a disciplinary hearing at the College of Nurses and a labour arbitration with the hospital in addition to a civil suit launched by LeBlanc’s husband and two sons for $1.8 million.

University Pro-Life Club Seeks Court Order Against Campus "Security Fee"

Corbett Hall, University of Alberta, Edmonton

Corbett Hall, University of AlbertaEdmonton

In February 2016, UAlberta’s Pro-Life student club filed a court application against the University of Alberta in UAlberta Pro-Life v University of Albertachallenging the $17,500 “security fee” the school demanded the club pay in order to set up a peaceful display on campus grounds. The mandatory payment, the Pro-Life club argues, unjustifiably infringes on their right to religious freedom. University of Alberta claimed that the cost was the amount to cover the wages of security guards and police, barricade the venue, and pay for the potential havoc that may arise due to the display.

Unable to pay the fee, the Pro-Life club was forced to cancel its event. In fact, in the same event held by the Pro-Life club in 2015, a student-led mob blockaded and obstructed the club’s display. University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) did nothing to stop the blockade despite being notified in advance that a mob was being organized. In March of 2015, the club filed a formal complaint with UAPS against the mob organizers; in November of 2015, the UAPS decided that the University would neither prosecute or charge the students responsible for the blockade. The court application in this case also seeks a declaration that the UAPS’ decision is unreasonable. The hearing for this case is scheduled for June 8 and 9 in Edmonton.

 

Bill C-51 to Repeal Canada’s “Blasphemy Law”

On June 6, 2017, the federal government introduced Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act. This bill seeks to “ensure that Canada’s criminal justice system protects Canadians, upholds offenders to account, shows compassion to victims, and upholds the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Part of this was said to be achieved by removing obsolete or duplicate offences.

Apparently, one such provision is s.176 of the Criminal Code. This section is bifurcated – subsection (1) criminalizes the obstruction or violence against clergymen in the course of their duties and subsection (2) criminalizes the willful disturbance or interpretation of a service, thereby extending protection to participating worshippers. The alleged redundancy of s.176 is debatable – although violent forms of “obstruction” or “willful disturbance” would be covered by assault provisions in the Code, s.176 also protected clergymen and worshippers from non-violent forms of disturbance. Hence, if Bill C-51 passes and s.176 is repealed, there may be a noticeable effect on Canadian places of worship. Christian Legal Fellowship is monitoring the development of this legislation and intends to file a submission in response.

 

Ontario Bill 89 to Allow State to Take Away Children "Abused" on the Basis of Gender Identity

(Photo by Benson Kua, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10803582)

(Photo by Benson Kua, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10803582)

Early today, the Ontario government passed Bill-89, Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2017, which repeals and replaces the old Child and Family Services Act. This new legislation could permit the state to intervene in situation where families are not accepting of the child’s chosen gender identity and gender expression. The Minister of Child and Family Services, Michael Coteau, characterizes parental opposition to a child’s self-expressed gender identity as a form of abuse that justifies the state to remove that child “from that environment and place [them] into protection where the abuse stops”.

While most have celebrated this bill for shifting the legal paradigm to child-centred care in promotion of children’s rights and the best interests of the child, critics deem the bill “totalitarian”, a danger and threat to people of faith who have children, and a direct attack on parental authority. Petitions are currently calling for a repeal of this bill.

Judge Grants Church Interim Injunction to Prevent Dissolution over LGBT Ordination

(Photo by Ludovic Bertron from New York City, Usa - https://www.flickr.com/photos/23912576@N05/2942525739, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14831997)

(Photo by Ludovic Bertron from New York City, Usa - https://www.flickr.com/photos/23912576@N05/2942525739, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14831997)

Earlier today, Justice Burrows of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta granted Bruderheim Community Church (“BCC”) and the Bruderheim Moravian Church (“BMC”) an interim injunction. The effect of the injunction restrains the Board of Elders of the Canadian District of the Moravian Church in America from requiring BCC and BMC to vacate the land, the church, and associated buildings.

BCC was incorporated under the Religious Societies’ Land Act on April 4, 2017. BMC is not incorporated although it was once associated with the Moravian Church, Northern Province (“MCNP”).

In 2014, MCNP held a resolution by which “individuals regardless of sexual orientation and whether single, married, or in a covenanted relationship” could be ordained or become a member of the MCNP clergy. After a year of deliberation by the members of BMC, BMC decided they could not uphold the MCNP resolution and subsequently held a motion to disassociate from the MCNP. In March of 2017, the authoritative church body over BMC announced dissolution of BMC, after which BCC and BMC together applied for the interim injunction.

The injunction will last for eight months. Justice Burrows instructed the parties to approach the court by the end of June to settle a court date when the matter is to be argued. 

Swedish Court Rules Against Pro-Life Midwife

Swedish midwife Ellinor Grimmark is pro-life and refuses to perform abortions. Because of this, she was denied employment at several hospitals. Yet Sweden’s Labor Court ruled she had not been discriminated against and found her freedom of opinion and expression had not been violated. In addition to losing her court case, she was ordered to pay costs and damages of approximately $139,000 CAD to the local County Council. Her legal team is considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Manitoba’s Medical Assistance in Dying Act to Ensure Protection for Conscientious Objectors

In August of last year, Christian Legal Fellowship wrote to the Manitoba government, urging the legislature to protect health care providers from pressures to either perform euthanasia/assisted suicide directly or effectively refer patients requesting such procedures to a willing physician.[1] CLF argued that to mandate such participation would violate physicians’ Charter-protected right to conscience and religion. It would also penalize and exclude conscientiously-objecting physicians from medical occupations on the basis of their religion which amounts to discrimination and a violation of s.15 of the Charter.  

In May of this year, Manitoba held the first reading of Bill-34.[2] If it passes, this legislation will protect health care professionals who conscientiously object to participating, either directly or indirectly, in euthanasia/assisted suicide from being compelled to do so. Bill-34 also provides further protection from professional regulatory rules requiring participation.

[1] See < http://bit.ly/2tWFSpu >

[2] Bill 34, The Medical Assistance in Dying (Protection for Health Professionals and Others) Act, 2nd Sess, 41st Leg, Manitoba, 2017. 

New Brunswick Judge Grants Permanent Injunction Against Pro-Life Protesters

On May 12, 2017, a permanent injunction was granted to the plaintiff Vitalité Health Network by Justice Reginald Legér of the Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick to prevent the presence of  pro-life demonstrations on the property of the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst.[1] The permanent injunction follows from an interlocutory judgement that was previously granted to the plaintiff following an incident in September 2012 in which an ambulance was forced to come to an abrupt stop, purportedly due to the presence of pro-life protesters on the access road to the hospital’s emergency department. The defendants maintained that they had “nothing to do with the incident,” emphasizing that their “40 Days for Life” group primarily consists of senior citizens who seek to promote a pro-life message through silent prayer and vigil.[2]

Justice Legér acknowledged that the grant of a permanent injunction would infringe the defendants’ Charter right to freedom of religion, expression and assembly. However, he concluded that the plaintiff’s right to ensure “the safety of all hospital users” as well as “the good order and proper functioning of the hospital environment” ultimately took precedence over this right.[3] The court further rejected the defendants’ proposed compromise that would have seen a limited number of demonstrators allowed to protest for a set number of hours each day at a fixed location beside the hospital’s access road.

In late May, Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi promised to unveil legislation in the fall term that would create similar buffer zones around abortion clinics in Ontario, reflecting laws that have already been passed in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia. It is not yet known how large the Ontario buffer zones will be or what the severity of the penalties will be for protesters who violate them. Newfoundland and Labrador’s new legislation creates a 40-metre buffer zone around abortion clinics, while British Columbia’s legislation creates a 50-metre zone around abortion clinics and a 160-metre zone around the homes of abortion providers.

[1] Regional Health Authority A (Vitalité Health Network) v Godin, 2017 NBQB 93

[2] Ibid at para 74.

[3] Ibid at para 53.

Ontario Government Rejects Conscience Protection for Physicians

(Photo by Benson Kua, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10803582)

(Photo by Benson Kua, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10803582)

Bill 84 presented the Ontario government with the opportunity to protect physicians’ conscience rights. An amendment proposed by official opposition health critic Jeff Yurek would have ensured that participation in, and referral for, MAID is entirely voluntary. His amendments were rejected by the committee studying the bill. The committee heard oral presentations from 42 individuals and/or organizations, 31 of which supported conscience protection, including Christian Legal Fellowship and the Ontario Medical Association, among others. Mr. Yurek now plans to table a private member’s bill in May to protect conscience rights. CLF’s written submission to the committee can be read here and a video of its oral submissions viewed here

Saskatchewan Government to Invoke the Notwithstanding Clause to Permit Funding for Non-Catholic Students Attending Catholic Schools

(Photo by Marc Lostracci - originally posted to Flickr as Every Canadian Needs A Copy, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4522975)

(Photo by Marc Lostracci - originally posted to Flickr as Every Canadian Needs A Copy, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4522975)

In a lawsuit concerning the constitutionality of provincial funding to a Catholic school division in Saskatoon, Justice Leurer of the Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that public funding for non-Catholic students who attend Catholic schools is an unjustified violation of the state’s duty of religious neutrality: “The government’s decision to fund non-minority faith students at separate schools proves an obvious…public preference for the ideals of Catholicism and Protestantism shown to no other religion. This preference is neither trivial nor insignificant.”[1] Under section 1, Leurer J found that the government had failed to prove that funding non-Catholic students to attend Catholic school is not a pressing and substantial objective in a free and democratic society.

Following the decision, the Saskatchewan provincial government announced that it will invoke the notwithstanding clause to nullify the judicial ruling although the government has not specified the date of invocation. The notwithstanding clause permits provinces to enact legislation that may violate Charter rights, but only for a five-year period. Former president of the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association (SCSBA), Tom Fortosky, says he is grateful for the government’s decision to invoke the clause but still sees the need to appeal the decision to “resolve the issue for all time”. The SCSBA has filed for an appeal and anticipates a hearing sometime in 2018.

[1] Good Spirit School Division No. 204 v Christ the Teacher Roman Catholic Separate School Division No. 212 and the Government of Saskatchewan, 2017 SKQB 109 at para 388.

First Criminal Polygamy Trial in Canada Begins

While there have been a variety of court actions surrounding polygamy, the criminal charge has never been taken to trial. That is set to change with the trial of polygamist Winston Blackmore and James Oler, in Cranbrook, British Columbia. Blackmore is accused of having two-dozen wives over a 25-year period, and Oler of having four wives, in violation of s. 293 of the Criminal Code.

This case has been pending since 2007, when BC Attorney General Wally Oppal appointed a special prosecutor to review RCMP files on Blackmore and his religious community, known as “Bountiful”. This prosecutor recommended a constitutional reference rather than criminal charges. A second, and then third prosecutor was appointed, with the third agreeing to lay charges; however, those charges were stayed upon a finding that the prosecutors had been improperly appointed.

The constitutional reference case followed, in which the criminal prohibition was held to be a justifiable limit on the Charter rights of religious freedom and association. CLF intervened in that litigation, and the BC Supreme Court adopted a number of its submissions related to the harmful effects of polygamy.  The current, and fourth, prosecutor has had carriage of the criminal case since 2014. Blackmore’s lawyer has indicated that the defence will squarely raise the question of religious freedom and argue that Blackmore is entitled to an exemption of criminal prosecution on the grounds of his religious belief. The trial is expected to last several weeks. 

Supreme Court Grants Leave to Appeal in Religious Dispute

The Supreme Court has decided to hear the appeal of  Wall v Judicial Committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 2016 ABCA 255. Mr. Wall was a Jehovah’s Witness from 1980-2014, when he was “disfellowshipped”. He was disfellowshiped as result of his alleged drunkenness, verbal abuse toward his wife, and s refusal to shun his previously expelled 15-year old daughter, all actions for which he was deemed not sufficiently repentant. He appealed the decision through all available internal mechanisms, finally turning to the courts.

The majority of the Alberta Court of Appeal held that a court has jurisdiction to review the decision of a religious organization where there is an alleged breach of the rules of natural justice, or where all internal avenues of appeal have been exhausted; in such cases, the court can determine whether the internal decision was carried out in accordance with the organization’s rules and natural justice. More controversial was the majority’s opinion that Mr. Wall’s economic losses as a result of disfellowship were also reasonable grounds for court intervention because it interfered with his civil rights.

In a meticulously footnoted dissent, Justice Wakeling vehemently disagreed with the majority, finding that private actors are not subject to judicial review, and being a registered charity does not attract a significant enough public dimension to change the Congregation’s character from non-public to public. Even if it was subject to judicial review, the decision to expel Mr. Wall did not raise a justiciable issue, and constitutional principles give Congregation members the right to determine their membership. Finally, even if a large proportion of his real estate client base no longer does business with him, Mr. Wall’s property and civil rights are not affected by his expulsion.

This appeal raises several important issues - the ability of a religious community to define its own membership requirements, the immunity that protects religious communities when it acts to discipline or expel members, and the freedom religious communities have to create internal mechanisms and responses to address concerns of a spiritual nature. This will be an important case to follow as the outcome will significantly impact the autonomy and freedom of religious communities. 

Children Taken Away from Foster Home that Refuses to Affirm Existence of Easter Bunny

Derek and Frances Baars, a devout Christian couple that runs their own foster home, have filed for an application against the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society (CAS) for closing down their foster home in March 2016 on the grounds that the couple refused to lie to their girls about the existence of the Easter bunny. CAS support worker, Tracey Lindsay, was satisfied with the quality of care the girls had received but took issue when the Baars refused her request that they, as part of their parental duty, teach the girls about the Easter bunny in honour of “Canadian culture”.

In response to their refusal, Lindsay gave the Baars notice that the girls would be taken away and that their foster home would be shut down; she refused their request for a transition period of more than 24 hours. Aside from the apparent triviality of the issue at hand, Hamilton CAS has insisted that the foster home be closed down despite the fact that foster homes and foster parents are in severe shortage now.

Ontario Human Rights Commission Supports Religious Accommodation in Public Schools

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) issued a policy statement today emphasizing that the duty to accommodate creed-related needs to the point of undue hardship applies to education providers. Accommodation is appropriate where it results in equal opportunity to enjoy the same level of benefits and privileges experienced by others, or achieves equal opportunity and meets creed-related needs. The statement was largely in response to criticism of schools in Peel Region (GTA) for providing space to Muslim students for Friday prayers. 

EU Court of Justice Rules Employers Can Impose “Religious Neutrality” on Employees

Is a private employer allowed to prohibit an employee from wearing a religious symbol such as a headscarf in the workplace? Is it permitted to dismiss an employee who refuses to comply with such rules restricting the wearing of religious symbols?

In a preliminary ruling, the European Court of Justice has answered both questions in the affirmative, depending on the context. It held that an internal rule of an employer that prohibits all employees from visible wearing of any religious, political or philosophical sign does not constitute discrimination. However, the court also clarified that where no such internal rule exists, it is not a legitimate occupational requirement to demand employees remove religious head coverings in response to customers’ requests for “neutrality”.

The court was asked to provide a preliminary ruling on the proper interpretation of a Council Directive that established a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation. A female employee was fired because she wore a headscarf when interacting with a customer; the customer later complained that the wearing of a veil had “upset” a number of its own employees. The woman received a dismissal letter stating the company requires “discretion” as regards the “expression of the personal preferences” of its employees.

The Court held that Article 4(1) of Directive 2000/78 must be interpreted as meaning that the the wishes of a customer not to receive services from a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered a genuine and determining occupational requirement within the meaning of that provision. However, it did recognize that an employer could prohibit visual signs of religious belief as a bona fide occupational requirement in pursuit of a policy of “political, philosophical and religious neutrality” in its customer relations.Although it may constitute indirect discrimination, the court indicated  that discrimination could be appropriate and justified.

 

Peel District School Board Issues Fact Sheet on Religious Accommodation

In response to increasing criticism of its policy to accommodate Friday prayers for Muslim students, the Peel District School Board issued a 13-point Fact Sheet today on religious accommodation. The Board stated that it takes its legal obligations and commitment to genuine inclusion seriously. It sought to clarify important facts that are often misinterpreted. The Fact Sheet noted the following: the legal requirement for Ontario school boards to provide religious accommodation, that it has been taking place for over 15 years, that the Board does not favour one faith over another, and that religion does have a place in secular schools when accommodation is requested. Furthermore, it noted that Friday prayer does not negatively impact student learning, that staff will supervise but not interfere with the practice of faith, and that there is significant difference between the removal of the Lord’s prayer from school and Friday prayer accommodation.

Alberta Education Minister Orders Christian Schools to Allow Gay-Straight Alliances

(Photo by Ludovic Bertron from New York City, Usa - https://www.flickr.com/photos/23912576@N05/2942525739, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14831997)

(Photo by Ludovic Bertron from New York City, Usa - https://www.flickr.com/photos/23912576@N05/2942525739, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14831997)

Earlier today, Alberta Education Minister David Eggan issued a ministerial order to two Christian schools requiring that they permit students to form Gay-Straight Alliances (“GSAs”) or Queer-Straight Alliances (“QSAs”). The order stemmed from a legal opinion received by the Minister in November 2016 which recommended the schools’ accreditation be revoked at the end of the 2017 school year if the schools do not allow GSAs or QSAs. Through legal counsel, the schools responded by noting they currently comply with all legislative requirements (no students have sought to establish GSAs or QSAs), and referred to Loyola and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in support of religious schools and parental rights to choose education and transmit religious beliefs.