Saturday, September 27, 2008

Human rights commission targets physicians

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

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.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

McCain's compassion for the neediest

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

Just as most liberals like to think of themselves as more idealistic and compassionate than conservatives, so most Canadians fondly suppose that Canada is morally superior to the United States. Yet as recent political events on both sides of the border confirm, neither assumption is true.

Consider, first, the fate of Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act. This private-members’ bill introduced by Conservative MP Ken Epp would make it a criminal offence for any person to kill a child before birth during a criminal attack on the mother. Such laws are commonplace in the United States, but under existing Canadian law, a person who deliberately kills a child in the womb by kicking, punching, stabbing or shooting the mother can only be charged with murdering or assaulting the mother.

Epp’s Bill specifically states that his Unborn Victims of Crime Act would not apply to “conduct relating to the lawful termination of the pregnancy of the mother of the child to which the mother has consented.” Nonetheless, most liberal and socialist MPs have joined with the so-called Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada in opposing the bill. In the words of New Democrat MP Alexa McDonough, these critics fear that the legislation “could become a thin edge of the wedge in the direction of recriminalizing abortion.”

To make matters worse, Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has acceded to these concerns. Last week, he proceeded, in effect, to kill Epp’s bill, by announcing plans for an alternative government bill listing pregnancy as an aggravating factor in the commission of an assault on an expectant mother. In explaining this point of this initiative, Nicholson said: “Let me be clear, our government will not reopen the debate on abortion.”

Here we see the implacable resolve of the leading Conservatives as well the great majority of Liberals and New Democrats: That Canada shall retain the ignominious distinction among the world’s democracies of having no law to protect the right to life of children in the womb.

Barack Obama, the Democrat with the most liberal record in the United States Senate, is no less callous. While serving in the Illinois legislature, he voted against a bill passed by the majority that banned horrific partial-birth abortions. He even went so far as also to vote against a bill that mandated physicians to provide medical care for living, breathing babies who survive a botched abortion.

In contrast, Republican Senator John McCain supported the enactment of both kinds of legislation on the federal level. And he has solemnly pledged: “As President of the United States, I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies.”

In a recent radio address, McCain insisted that Obama’s “extreme advocacy in favour of partial birth abortion and his refusal to provide medical care for babies surviving abortion should be of grave concern to reasonable people of goodwill on both sides of this issue. There is a growing consensus in America that we need to overcome narrow partisanship on this issue for both women in need and the unborn. We need more of the compassion and moral idealism that my opponent's own party, at its best, once stood for.”

Quite so. But what about Canada? Is there a growing consensus among Canadians about the urgent need to revive compassion and moral idealism for the protection of both women in need and the unborn in our country?

Evidently not. It seems that most Canadians, like most of our politicians, have no compunction about abandoning women struggling with a difficult pregnancy to the guilt and pain of abortion. And none of our major party leaders shows any disposition to safeguard the lives of even viable babies either shortly before or immediately after birth.

Our ancestors, both Liberals and Conservatives, would be appalled by such moral indifference. They understood the truth that we all have a moral obligation to help and defend even the last and the least and the most vulnerable of our fellow human beings -- including babies in the womb.