We need, more than ever, to get serious about conscience rights in this country. In a recent decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal denied physicians accommodation for their conscientious beliefs. An Alberta MLA (Dan Williams) with foresight could see that that decision could mark the beginning of an assault on conscience and religious freedom in this country. He proposed legislation that would provide accommodation in keeping with the Charter. However, last night a legislative committee voted 8-2 against bringing the bill to debate in the house. This was due to misrepresentations by various activists that the bill would restrict access for those seeking abortion or medical assistance in dying.
It seems that the rights of conscience and religious belief in Canada are increasingly coming under review. The Ontario Court of Appeal expressed a troubling lack of respect for physicians with conscientious objections against being involved in medical procedures that are in violation of their views on fundamental human life issues. In essence, the Court suggested that if you cannot perform these procedures or assist in them (by referrals, etc.), then perhaps medicine is not for you. Now can you imagine that being said to any other group?
It is now past time for those sympathetic to physician with a conscience to speak up. We should not be hesitant to participate in respectful, courteous dialogue with our neighbours, our media, and our political leaders. Surely this country cannot continue on this road of disregarding the hard-won conscience rights that are foundational to our freedoms.
For more on the importance of this issue, see my op-ed, published prior to last night’s vote: https://www.thelawyersdaily.ca/articles/16897/ontario-court-of-appeal-decision-could-result-in-alberta-legislation-barry-bussey
For more on the committee’s decision, see this coverage: