Canadian physicians who uphold the natural family and the sanctity of all human life should beware: According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, they have no legal or constitutional right to go on practising medicine in accordance with their moral and religious beliefs.
In a submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) on Feb. 14, the Ontario Human Rights Commission specifically warned that under the Ontario Human Rights Code: “A physician’s denial of services or refusal to provide a woman with information relating to contraception or abortion, for example, would be discriminatory based on sex, as only women can become pregnant.” And that’s not all: The Commission also served notice that “the Code protections relating to sex also include gender identity and expression.”
In June, the CPSO passed along this warning to its membership. In a draft statement on “Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code,” the agency stated: “Physicians should be aware that decisions to restrict medical services … based on moral or religious belief may contravene the Code, and/or constitute professional misconduct.”
The Ontario Medical Association took strong issue with this warning, alleging that it “does not adequately inform physicians that their right to freedom of religion is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
The CPSO disagrees. In the final version of the policy on the Ontario Human Rights Code issued on Sept. 19, the Council of the CPSO still warns: “A physician who refuses to provide a service … on the basis of a prohibited ground such as sex or sexual orientation may be acting contrary to the Code, even if the refusal is based on the physician’s moral or religious belief.”
To illustrate the all-encompassing scope of the suppression of the conscience rights of physicians in the Ontario Human Rights Code, the CPSO states: “A physician who is opposed to same sex procreation for religious reasons and therefore refuses to refer a homosexual couple for fertility treatment may be in breach of the Code.”
The CPSO is right. It is naïve of the leaders of the OMA or anyone else to suppose that the rights of physicians to practise medicine in accordance with their moral and religious beliefs are protected by the Charter.
In a series of rulings, judicial activists on the Supreme Court of Canada have eviscerated the purported guarantees in Section 2 of the Charter of “a) freedom of conscience and religion” and “b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.” In the advisory submission to the CPSO, the Ontario Human Rights Commission pointed out: “The Supreme Court of Canada recognized in the Trinity Western decision that providers of public services are expected to essentially ‘check their personal views at the door” when providing their services.”
At issue in Trinity Western was a decision by the British Columbia College of Teachers not to certify a teaching course at Trinity Western University on the ground that the Evangelical Protestant institution requires students to affirm that same-sex sexual relations are sinful. In overturning this ruling, Canada’s top court ordained: “The freedom to hold beliefs is broader than the freedom to act on them.” The Court added: “Acting on those beliefs, however, is a very different matter…. Discriminatory conduct by a public school teacher when on duty should always be subject to disciplinary proceedings.”
The Ontario Human Rights Commission takes the view that provincial human rights codes apply no less to physicians than to public school teachers. Thus, under the laws and the Constitution of Canada, an obstetrician has a right to believe that abortion is a sin that can never be justified, but he has no right to act on that belief by refusing to perform an abortion on demand.
That’s simply outrageous. What more graphic illustration could we have of the urgent need for Parliament and the provincial legislatures to revive genuine freedom under law in Canada, by eliminating all the coercive powers they improvidently conferred upon the country’s totalitarian human rights tribunals.
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