About 30 protesters gathered in front of Queen's Park Nov. 30 to protest agains the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario's policy that would force doctors to provide abortion and assisted suicide referrals. Photo by Michael Swan

End 'effective referral' policy for doctors, protesters demand

  • November 30, 2016

Fundamental freedoms are threatened by a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario policy that would force doctors to provide an “effective referral” for services such as abortion and assisted suicide even if they believe it to be medically and morally wrong, former Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth told about 30 protesters gathered in front of Queen's Park on Nov. 30.

The protesters demanded the government overturn the CPSO human rights policy, which is currently before the courts.

“People don’t know, people are not aware, that freedom of conscience is no longer guaranteed in Canada,” Woodworth told The Catholic Register as the small band of protesters began walking from the provincial legislature to the College Street offices of the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Woodworth called the CPSO policies dictatorial.

“Authoritarian dictatorship can never rest easy with the freedoms guaranteed by the declaration of human right,” he said. “As long as free men and women owe their allegiance to the higher authority of their own free conscience or faith, they pose a threat to the absolute power of those who wish to rule over us.”

The College of Physicians and Surgeons maintains it has made ample allowance for objecting physicians and does not require they directly participate in abortion or voluntary euthanasia.

“The policy protects patient rights by ensuring that patients are not prevented from accessing care that is clinically indicated and legally available because a physician objects to that care on moral or religious grounds, while also respecting physicians’ right to freedom of conscience and religion,” CPSO president Dr. Carol Leet said when the new human rights compliance policy was launched in 2015.

Woodworth, who represented Kitchener Centre from 2008 to 2015, wants to see the provincial legislature step in and dictate a new policy to the CPSO.

“What I know from my training as a lawyer is that the College of Physicians and Surgeons is delegated authority from the legislature of Ontario,” Woodworth said. “They are subject to direction from the legislature. It is necessary for people to realize that we’re living in a country where freedoms are being taken away from all kinds of opponents of regimes – opponents of government agencies.”

The rally for conscience rights was organized by Woodworth’s own organization, the Democracy Defence Initiative. The DDI’s Facebook page has 125 likes and 11 active commenters.

The Christian Medical and Dental Society, representing about 1,600 mostly Evangelical physicians and dentists, with support from the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physician’s Societies, launched a court challenge to the CPSO policy in 2015.

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