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The EFC seeks intervener status in medical student case

25 January 2021
Click the download button at the bottom of this page to view the full, four-page PDF. Aussi disponible en français. This issue also includes our 2021 Prayer Card, available in either English or en français.


The EFC is seeking intervener status in an upcoming case in Manitoba about a medical student who was suspended from his school because of his personal pro-life views on abortion.

Rafael Zaki is a Coptic Christian who attended the University of Manitoba Max Rady School of Medicine prior to his expulsion in August 2019 on grounds of non-academic misconduct. The misconduct charges stemmed from Zaki expressing his views (via Facebook posts) on abortion and the ownership of firearms.

In an affidavit filed to the Court of Queen’s Bench in Manitoba after his expulsion, Zaki wrote: “Being a Coptic Christian is the very essence of my being, and I cannot be separated from my faith.

He also pointed out in his appeal, which subsequently failed, that the University’s own policies do not permit it to regulate or restrict social media content posted by students, unless “matters regarding the University are a significant focus of the communication,” which they were not in Zaki’s case. He was sharing his own opinions against abortion.

Zaki was asked to apologize for the posts, which he did numerous times, but the problem for the university appears to be that Zaki did not actually change his opinions on these issues, which were defined as “misogynistic and hostile to women” and had a “negative impact on the learning and work environment.”

Zaki has commented about his own case. “The University breached my rights when it expelled me as a student from the College of Medicine when I would not change my core beliefs.” The Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship commented on the case in an open letter to the university: “It has long been accepted that evaluations of a person’s professional conduct are to be based on that person’s behaviour, not on his or her beliefs.... By expelling students because of their beliefs, the University of Manitoba appears to be prepared to reject this long-standing democratic freedom.”

It is very disturbing that a medical school would expel a student for being pro-life, even after he voluntarily removed the statements from his personal social media and met repeated requests for apologies. The issue for the school seems to be that he would not repudiate his deeply held, faith-informed personal opinions. The EFC is getting ready to appear before the courts as an intervener if granted that status, along with our partner in this case, the Coptic Church in Canada.

Last August, Zaki and his attorney filed a Notice of Application for Judicial Review at the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench. He was denied his request to keep studying while the case continues.

The EFC will be asking the court to consider if merely holding certain views on issues can become grounds for barring citizens from attending university. We will present the very serious and harmful implications to our society if what citizens think about abortion and issues like it make some of us ineligible for certain positions or institutions, whether they be a workplace or a place of study.

Meanwhile, the EFC team is also working on Bill C-6, the bill to ban conversion therapy in Canada, requesting amendments to the bill to safeguard religious freedom and expression by clarifying the definition of conversion therapy in the bill.

We are also working on Bill C-7, the expansion of medical assistance in dying, arguing for protections for vulnerable Canadians. And our work continues on pornography, religious freedom and other issues. Please see On Parliament Hill in this newsletter and visit our website anytime for more detailed updates on some of these issues.

How you can help

Please pray over the significant shifts in law and policy in our country. We need wisdom and discernment as we engage.

  • Donate to the work of the EFC for cases like the Rafael Zaki intervention, the outcome of which impacts the religious freedom of pro-life Canadians or anyone holding an opinion that differs from the mainstream.
  • Share this issue of Canada Watch with others who might be concerned about religious freedom in Canada.
  • Visit www.TheEFC.ca for updates often, and sign up there for our weekly email the EFC Update.

Also in this issue: EFC research team tackles two questions in early 2021 (Family Faith Formation; Small Churches); Partnership and ministry innovation portfolio expands; Updating you on Canada’s most immediate issues; Message from the chair of the EFC board; Heart and hands – Join us in prayer in 2021; Insights from the work of EFC information technology director David Auyeung.