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Ontario backs off doctors' conscience rights court battle

  • November 13, 2018

OTTAWA – Ontario doctors who are suing the Ontario physicians’ college over conscience rights received good news Nov. 8 when 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 (CPL), 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 who represents the applicants in the case scheduled for a hearing Jan. 21-22.

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

“This kind of case could never happen in Manitoba because health care workers are protected by legislation,”Wilson said. “So, in Ontario, we were hoping the same would happen under the Ford government.”

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.

“We tried to introduce a grassroots policy at the PC convention, to make it a party matter,” Wilson said. “It didn’t make it through the policy committee.”

That means it would not be heard on the convention floor or voted upon, he said.

“We found that quite outrageous,” Wilson said. “It’s something voters were told would be an issue and a Ford government would protect health care workers. It seemed very undemocratic for the policy committee to slash a resolution that had quite widespread support, especially among Conservative voters.”

Wilson points out the CPSO “is being far more aggressive than any jurisdiction in the country,” noting other colleges state 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.”

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.”

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