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Canada Nov. 9, 2018

Ontario MDs get good, bad news on conscience rights  

By Deborah Gyapong

Pro-life doctors are pleased the Ontario government is no longer intervening on behalf of the Ontario physicians college, which requires doctors opposing euthanasia to refer patients to physicians willing to perform the procedure. 

OTTAWA (CCN)—Ontario doctors suing the Ontario physicians’ college over conscience rights received good news Nov. 8 as the Province of Ontario dropped its intervention on behalf of the college.

“I don’t know exactly the details why the Attorney General decided to back off as an intervener, but it’s certainly encouraging for our side and we are hoping the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) will lose some of their support in this matter and their case will become weaker,” said Dr. Ryan Wilson, president of Canadian Physicians for Life, one of the applicants in the lawsuit launched by five Ontario doctors, CPL, the Christian Medical and Dental Society Canada, and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies.

“It is good in the sense that it communicates to the court that the government is not necessarily supportive of the Charter violations the policies cause,” said Albertos Polizogopoulos, the constitutional lawyer representing the applicants in the case scheduled for a hearing Jan. 21-22, 2019.

While the move indicates the Progressive Conservative government may not support the college’s position as he previous Liberal government did, Dr. Wilson remains disappointed the Ontario Attorney General has not introduced legislation to protect the conscience rights of health care workers, which Manitoba has done.

“This kind of case could never happen in Manitoba because health care workers are protected by legislation,” Wilson said.

While Premier Doug Ford and other leadership candidates supported conscience rights during last June’s election campaign, Canadian Physicians for Life, which represents thousands of physicians across Canada, is also disappointed the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party will not include a resolution to support health professionals’ conscience rights at its policy convention Nov. 16-18 in Toronto.

Wilson said the CPSO “is being far more aggressive than any jurisdiction in the country,” noting other colleges include conscience rights as part of their policy, though some are more vague.

“Ontario is the only one that says you have to either participate in or refer to someone who will participate” in euthanasia, abortion and other procedures, “and that’s why we feel so strongly this has to be opposed actively in the court as well as in the legislature.”

“The upcoming policy convention has been rigged,” said Jack Fonseca, senior political strategist for Campaign Life Coalition (CLC). “The corrupt, liberal-progressive establishment within the PC Party filtered out a grassroots policy on conscience rights, which had broad grassroots support, and to my knowledge had been submitted by many different PC members from different parts of the province.”

Fonseca said PC grassroots members told him the now nixed policy would have read: “The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario supports legislation to protect the conscience rights of doctors, nurses, and healthcare institutions to refuse to participate in, or refer their patients for, abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide.”

Jeff Gunnarson, the president of CLC, said at least 12 socially-conservative policy resolutions did not make it to the convention floor.

“We want to believe that Doug Ford – a man who is for the people - had nothing to do with the filtering of grassroots policies, and that it was party bureaucrats instead,” Gunnarson said in a release. “Regardless, he needs to fix it.”

Canadian Physicians for Life issued an open letter to the PC Party of Ontario and urged supporters to write their MPP in support of conscience rights.