TORONTO, Sept. 2, 2008 – The Catholic Civil Rights League has serious concerns about some provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) response to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s draft guidelines on compliance with provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code. (League Press releases, Aug. 18)
The OHRC submission states among other things that doctors, “as providers of services that are not religious in nature, must essentially “check their personal views at the door in providing medical care.” This would mean, for example, that those who refuse on religious grounds to refer women for abortions or same sex partners for assisted reproduction would face human rights complaints for discrimination. Such a requirement is at odds with freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, Catholic teaching on the topic of religious freedom. (Evangelium Vitae (74)), and the Canadian Medical Association’s Code of Ethics as it pertains to abortion. (CMAJ, April 24/07)
The OHRC advises the College to amend its draft to state: “a physician’s refusal to provide a service or accept a patient on the basis of a prohibited ground, such as sex or sexual orientation, is prima facie discrimination, even if the refusal is based on the physician’s moral or religious belief. This means that the physician could be subject to a human rights complaint, in which a Tribunal or Court would then assess:
• Whether the physician’s actions can be justified as bona fide and are therefore not in violation of the Code, and
• Whether there are genuine competing rights claims, and, if so, how the rights of the parties may appropriately be balanced.
Officially intended to help physicians operate in compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code, the dialogue between the College, its members and the OHRC has included draft documents circulated with little publicity and short response times – indeed, public outcry helped persuade the College to extend its deadline for responses to Sept. 12 – and an apparent commitment to giving greater priority to individual requests than to religious and conscientious objection.
The League hopes physicians will respond forcefully to insist upon their religious freedom. Given the growth of medical technologies and the likelihood of further proposals for euthanasia and assisted suicide being put forward, ethical conflicts will undoubtedly continue to grow.
– OHRC: the New Inquisitors, article by Protection of Conscience Project
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org