Conscience work goes on as Parliament pauses

20 July 2021
Download the full, four-page PDF of the Aug/Sep 2021 issue, or read the main story below. Aussi disponible en français.

One of the most challenging Parliamentary sessions we can recall ended in June. Because of your partnership, the EFC was able to engage every step of the way with important issues such as conscience protection for medical professionals and major government bills on euthanasia and conversion therapy.

We also supported protection for children from online pornography, efforts to hold pornography sites accountable for hosting illegal content, reducing human trafficking, and more.

These unresolved issues require our continued attention. Conscience protection, for example, will be needed by more and more Canadians as Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) expands. Changes to the MAID law passed in March mean that people with mental illness alone will be eligible for MAID starting in March 2023. Even more health care workers will be asked to go against their conscience and participate in the ending of patients’ lives.

In May the EFC made a submission to a consultation on MAID policy in Ontario. The province has one of the least protective regimes for doctors in Canada, as does Nova Scotia. We shared our concerns about conscience protection and care of those who are vulnerable. We recommended specific changes to the policy.

During this entire process, we were reminded of how essential it is to have voices present in these dialogues that present a biblical view, with compassion, mercy and clear logic. We were able to remind the province’s regulatory body, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, that freedom of conscience is the first fundamental freedom in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and foundational to many other freedoms.

The College already has a statement that recognizes doctors have the right to limit the health services they provide for reasons of conscience or religion. The College does not require physicians who have a conscientious or religious objection to provide MAID under any circumstances.

The EFC supports that statement. However, the EFC urged the College not to require doctors to provide an effective referral for MAID.

The EFC has long advocated for strong, specific conscience protection for health care providers and institutions. No one should be compelled to participate in MAID against their conscience or deeply held beliefs or be screened out of health care training programs and medical schools because of their beliefs. Palliative care and hospice settings must also not be required to offer MAID.

We know health care providers within many fields, such as doctors, nurses, PSWs, pharmacists and administrators, who have deeply held beliefs that prevent them from participating in ending the lives of others through MAID.

EFC donors and friends are among those who work in medical fields. We know how complex and demanding such work is, and even more so during the pandemic. It is still more challenging now that MAID is expanding.

The government is able to make MAID available without compelling all practitioners or institutions to participate in it. It’s unnecessary to force MAID to be available in every hospice or palliative care bed. Regulations should allow room for individuals whose beliefs do not include MAID and institutions that have policies against MAID.

The EFC supports Bill C-268, a federal private member’s bill that would prevent medical professionals from being coerced to participate in MAID. Debate began in the House of Commons this spring. It will continue when Parliament resumes.

We will continue to work to protect conscience rights to ensure that not every doctor will be required to participate in ending the lives of their patients, and not every hospice or hospital be required to be a place where that happens. Thank you for your support and help in empowering us to do this important work.

How you can help

  • Become informed and equipped at on these issues and more.
  • Pray for your medical professionals. If you know their position on conscience issues, be sure to encourage them.
  • Pray for the work of the EFC, as we engage on issues like conscience protection.

Also in this issue: Indigenous relations update; Interview with David Hearn, chair of the EFC board; Updating you on Canada’s most immediate issues; Message from the President, Bruce J. Clemenger; Heart and hands: Insights from the work of Gina Waugh, director of affiliate and community relations; Warm words from a donor.