By Canadian Catholic News with files from The B.C. Catholic
OTTAWA—For the second time in as many weeks, a pro-life private member’s bill will come up for debate in the House of Commons, with Saskatchewan MPs sponsoring both of them.
On Thursday, April 29, Conservative MP Kelly Block’s Bill C-268 to give health-care workers conscience rights protection from participating against their will in Canada’s “medical assistance in dying” (MAiD) system will see its first hour of debate.
Last week, another Saskatchewan MP, Conservative Cathay Wagantall, spoke in support of her private member’s bill to make abortions done on the basis of a baby’s sex illegal in Canada as Bill C-233 came up for debate in the House of Commons.
“Sex-selection abortion is wrong, it is a discriminatory practice on the basis of sex and it takes place in our country because we have no law against it,” Wagantall said April 14 during second reading of her proposed Sex Selective Abortion Act.
Next week’s debate on conscience protection comes following last month’s passing of Bill C-7, which makes it easier for Canadians to kill themselves with the help of a doctor.
Under the new law, individuals requesting assisted suicide need not be facing imminent death but can be on a “predictable trajectory” toward natural death. Two years from now it will also allow euthanasia for those suffering from grievous and irremediable mental illness.
A statement released by Block’s office said her proposed bill would “extend protections for medical professionals who have chosen to not take part, directly or indirectly, in medical assistance in dying or euthanasia.”
The bill would make it a punishable offence to use violence, threats, coercion, or intimidation to force a medical professional to take part in or refer a patient for assisted suicide. It also prohibits the firing or refusal to hire medical professionals if the sole reason is their refusal to take part in medical assistance in dying, Block’s office said.
“Freedom of conscience is one of the first fundamental rights laid out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and it is at the core of our Canadian identity,” Block said. “This private member’s bill is a response to calls from physicians and patients to ensure conscience rights for medical professionals.”
Conscience rights have been a key issue for many religious and civil groups who oppose legally-sanctioned suicide and its expansion. The Catholic Civil Rights League said “safeguards” to prevent abuse “have proven to be illusory.”
Canada’s Catholic bishops have joined with other religious organizations in opposing legally-sanctioned suicide in all its forms and have also spoken out in favour of conscience rights for health-care providers.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has also opposed Bill C-7 and called for “strong, clear conscience protection” in the Criminal Code.
“No one should be compelled to participate in practices to bring about the death of another person, against their deeply held beliefs,” an EFC letter to the government stated. “This essential protection is missing from Bill C-7.”
Block said her bill would protect the doctor-patient relationship “by ensuring doctors and other medical professionals are always able to recommend and provide the care they believe is best for their patient.”
The bill would provide for “a minimum national standard of protections for the freedom of conscience of medical professionals,” she said, “while respecting the jurisdiction of my provincial colleagues to expand on this bill.”