Photo courtesy Delta Hospice

Peter Stockland: Delta Hospice Society keeps up fight for life

  • October 22, 2021

The board of a hospice society in suburban Vancouver is fighting for its pro-life life this October. It is also already looking ahead to new life for palliative care in a continent-wide network of euthanasia-free care centres.

For the past several weeks, the board’s president, Angelina Ireland, and her team at the Delta Hospice Society have been scouring Canada and the U.S. to boost membership in advance of an annual general meeting where they will face ouster by proponents of medical assistance in dying (MAiD).

They won a victory this fall by ensuring voting membership at the AGM will be open to everyone, from anywhere, provided they joined by Oct. 22. (The AGM date will be set once the membership cut-off occurs.) Ireland acknowledges, however, that is no guarantee the current board will remain in place unless MAiD-free proponents have paid their $10 fee, signed up and take part in the virtual vote.

“We know our opponents are very smart and very motivated,” she told me in a recent interview. “They’re on a membership drive now, too. They want to overthrow the board to take over the Society. We have to rely on a grassroots effort from people who understand this is a showdown between a pro-life board of directors and people who want to elect a pro-death board.”

If she sounds both emphatic and hyper-cautious at the same time, it’s because the “showdown” could be the final battle for the hospice society board. Over the past few years, it has been driven from the 10-bed palliative care centre it fundraised for and built a decade ago. It also lost, thanks to the machinations of the local health authority, its hospice support centre. Now, its $4 million in assets are also at stake, all because it refused to allow MAiD to be performed at its Irene Thomas palliative centre.

From the very beginning of the infighting, the Society board emphasized that it was not trying to re-fight the legislative battle over MAiD. It always framed its position as a matter of choice: of providing end-of-life care to those who chose a MAiD-free environment. That was insufficient for those on the other side, including bureaucrats within the health authority.

Their very intransigence, though, was a catalyst for Ireland and other board members to begin thinking beyond their local hospice. They began to envision what Ireland calls a “sanctuary movement” for palliative care that would span the continent. It would, in effect, give new life to palliative care. It would place direction of centres in private hands with the express purpose of refusing to allow death by injection or other means.

“We’ve already built a hospice and we intend to build another hospice. But we also want to help other communities build hospices that are euthanasia-free and free from government control and intervention. They (the local health authority) stole 10 of our hospice beds because we refused to kill our patients. We want to help to create 10,000 hospice beds (throughout Canada and the U.S.) where euthanasia will not be performed.”

No one who has watched Ireland and her DHS colleagues overcome setbacks would bet against them finding a new path even if all goes wrong at the board vote. But protection of the Society’s assets is a major part of the “sanctuary” plans.

“Our opponents want to take over the remaining assets of the Delta Hospice Society and use them to further their death facilitation to support the government agenda around euthanasia,” Ireland says.

More, she believes, seizure of the assets by her opponents is intended to complete the silencing of the hospice society that has become a national voice for MAiD-free palliative care.

“We have a spot now in the public square to advocate for authentic palliative care against the machine. The machine is the government and its legislation. It is these (MAiD) activists. It is the media.”

That voice, Ireland insists, is calling Canadians and, indeed North Americans, to become involved. For the sake of the upcoming vote, yes. But infinitely more, for an enduring vision of life.

(Stockland is publisher of and a senior fellow with Cardus.)

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