Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, B. C. Photo courtesy Delta Hospice

B.C. hospice loses appeal, mulls next step

By  Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • November 25, 2020

VANCOUVER -- The Delta Hospice Society is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada after a B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal of a lower court ruling that the society did not act in good faith in launching a mail-in vote proposing changes to its constitution and accepting some applications while denying others.

In a statement following the Nov. 13 appeal court ruling, the society’s board of directors said in a statement, “While respecting the authority of the court, our next step must be to seriously consider appealing.”

The board said it will be meeting with its legal team “immediately to exhaustively explore all possibilities for appeal.”

In June, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the society did not act in good faith when it launched the mail-in vote, with the accepted votes seemingly being in favour of members who were personally against assisted suicide.

The society, which runs the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, appealed that decision, saying it was being “mistakenly” treated as a public institution rather than a private one.

But the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the lower court ruling, saying in its decision the hospice board “acted contrary to the bylaws of the society, which gave no discretion to reject applicants for membership based on their apparent views towards medically-assisted dying.”

It also said it is “not the role of the courts to resolve the debate as to whether MAiD (medical assistance in dying) should be provided by the society.”

The Delta Hospice Society has been fighting to keep assisted suicide out of its 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta. Board president Angelina Ireland said a large influx of membership applications, 310 of which were denied, were part of a coordinated “hostile takeover” by members of the public who would like to see assisted suicide offered at the hospice. Currently it is not offered at Irene Thomas Hospice and patients requesting an assisted death are referred to other facilities.

The society’s proposed vote and constitutional changes were designed to formally recognize the society as one that operated on Christian principles and supported life until natural death, values held since its founding in 1991, Ireland said.

Chris Pettypiece, a member of the group Take Back Delta Hospice and one of three respondents in the case, said in a statement the dismissal was “a victory for our community” and “a victory for our human rights.”

“We will continue to take steps to ensure our community has a voice in the future of Delta Hospice society and hold the board accountable for good governance.”

But the board of directors, led by Ireland, sees the battle in the courts as an attempt to safeguard the society against “being overrun by ideologues seeking to impose medical assistance in dying” at the hospice.

“A related motivation is the need to protect all private institutions in Canada from being taken over and forced to conduct themselves in ways that are in complete violation of their understanding of their founding principles, purpose and conscience,” said Ireland.

Delta Hospice was founded in 1991 by Nancy Macey, who was personally opposed to MAiD. Assisted suicide was legalized in Canada in 2016, and Delta Hospice has been facing increased pressure to provide it on site since.

In February, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix told the hospice it will lose all government funding in 2021 because of its position on assisted suicide in the facility.

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