Canada’s politicians go MIA in debate over conscientious objection for doctors


Michael Cook

Conscientious objection to abortion and euthanasia has emerged as an election issue in Canada’s 2021 federal election – and politicians are refusing to defend it.

The pro-choice leader of the Conservatives, Erin O’Toole, has walked back from a promise in his party’s platform to “protect the conscience rights of health-care professionals.”

Does this mean that the Conservatives will defend the right not to refer patients for Medical Aid in Dying? O’Toole fudged an answer, but he was clearly not in favour.

The governing Liberal Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, jumped on an opportunity to score points: “Pro-choice doesn’t mean the freedom of doctors to choose. It means the freedom of women to choose. Leaders have to be unequivocal on that,” he said last week.

The politicians’ reluctance to support doctors who do not want to refer for abortion or euthanasia is mirrored in the reluctance of the professional associations to defend refusal to refer. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario requires doctors to provide an “effective referral” within a “timely manner” to another professional or agency, should they consciously object. “Physicians must not impede access to care for existing patients, or those seeking to become patients,” reads the college’s policy.

Quebec’s Collège des médecins du Québec says that: “In Quebec, doctors cannot abandon patients or even ignore their request by invoking conscientious objections, particularly in matters of abortion or medical assistance in dying, without referring them to another colleague. It is an ethical obligation.”

However, Colleges in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Manitoba all explicitly say that professionals who refuse to provide service are not required to make a referral. They cite the Canadian Medical Association’s Code of Ethics and Professionalism.

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If shamelessness is the key to success in politics, O’Toole is looking good

The Globe and Mail

Andrew Coyne

Nice guys, in Canadian politics, do not finish last: they do not even finish. Our political history is littered with the corpses of decent, principled leaders who never got a sniff at power, but were gutted and filleted by their less-encumbered opponents.

Parties in opposition tend to burn through one or two of the decent, principled types while they figure out what they stand for, before at last realizing that what they really stand for is power. Whereupon they promptly find someone sufficiently shameless to get them there. . . .

So Conservatives must be thrilled to find Erin O’Toole showing promise of the requisite shamelessness. . . continue reading

Erin O’Toole and conscience rights

Erin O’Toole asked to confirm that he will not force medical professionals to effectively refer for services

News Release


 ***Version française ci-dessous***

OTTAWA, ON (August 21, 2021) – Political pro-life organization RightNow is calling on Erin O’Toole to confirm that he will not force medical professionals to effectively refer for medically unnecessary procedures, such as physician-assisted suicide.

“Erin O’Toole promised to pro-lifers during the 2020 Conservative Party of Canada leadership race that he would protect conscience rights of medical professionals across Canada,” said Scott Hayward, Co-Founder and President of RightNow. “Now it appears with his comments yesterday in Winnipeg that his policy would require that medical professionals would have to refer patients to colleagues for medically unnecessary procedures, such as physician-assisted suicide.”

“Erin O’Toole has flip-flopped on a key promise he made to pro-lifers during the Conservative leadership race last year,” said Alissa Golob, co-founder of RightNow. “The Conservative Party is united on this point, having passed a motion at the policy convention that specifically states that medical professionals would not have to provide effective referrals when it comes to assisted suicide, and other procedures such as abortion.”

“I know that many pro-lifers were excited when this policy was announced on Monday as part of the party’s overall campaign platform. However, the conscience rights policy for medical professionals is essentially null and void if they must effectively refer for medically unnecessary procedures, such as physician-assisted suicide,” said Hayward.

 “Our organization is officially calling on Erin O’Toole to maintain his position during the last leadership race and to publicly clarify that an Erin O’Toole Conservative government will not require medical professionals to effectively refer patients for medical procedures, such as assisted suicide, with which they morally disagree”, said Golob.  

About RightNow:

RightNow is a not-for-profit organization committed to nominating and electing pro-life candidates along with educating and engaging pro-life Canadians on the political process. Regardless of faith, politics, or background, RightNow works with people across the country to stand up for human rights for all human beings.

Media Contacts:ALISSA GOLOB 587-435-0166
SCOTT HAYWARD 204-573-0296


  • In February 2020, Erin O’Toole stated the following in his Conservative Party of Canada leadership interview with RightNow, “Rights should not trump one another, we should respect the ability for us to have a society where all those rights are respected, and I would extend that to health care professionals. Not only do I think it is possible to do, but it must be done, because we must respect their religious and conscience rights, however they come to their position.”

    RightNow 2020 interview with Erin:
  • The Conservative Party of Canada policy declaration states that health care professionals do not have to engage in effective referrals, “The Conservative Party supports conscience rights for doctors, nurses, and others to refuse to participate in, or refer their patients for abortion, assisted suicide, or euthanasia.”

    Conservative Party of Canada policy declaration (policy no. 68):

Erin O’Toole et les droits de conscience 

L’organisation politique RightNow demande à Erin O’Toole de clarifier si la plateforme du Parti conservateur du Canada n’exigera pas que les professionnels de la santé fassent des aiguillages dans sa politique de conscience

OTTAWA, Ontario (Le 21 août 2021) – L’organisation politique RightNow demande à Erin O’Toole de confirmer qu’il n’obligera pas les professionnels de la santé à faire des aiguillages pour des procédures médicales qui ne sont pas nécessaires, comme le suicide assisté par un médecin.

« Pendant la course à la chefferie du Parti conservateur du Canada de 2020, Erin O’Toole a promis aux pro-vie qu’il protégerait les droits de conscience des professionnels de la santé de partout au Canada, » a dit Scott Hayward, co-fondateur et président de RightNow. « En raison de ses commentaires de hier à Winnipeg, il semblerait maintenant que sa politique exige que les professionnels de la santé aiguillent des patients vers leurs collègues pour des procédures qui ne sont pas médicalement nécessaires, comme le suicide assisté par un médecin. »

« Erin O’Toole a fait marche arrière en revenant sur une promesse clef faite aux pro-vie lors de la course à la chefferie de l’an dernier » a dit Alissa Golob, co-fondatrice de RightNow. « Le Parti conservateur du Canada est uni par rapport à ce point, ayant adopté une motion au congrès politique qui déclare précisément que les professionnels de la santé n’auraient pas à participer en faisant des aiguillages quand il s’agit de suicide assisté et d’autres procédures, comme l’avortement. »

« Je sais que de nombreux pro-vie étaient emballés quand cette politique fut annoncée lundi comme faisant partie de l’ensemble de la plateforme de campagne. Toutefois, la politique de droits de conscience pour les professionnels de la santé est essentiellement caduque s’ils doivent aiguiller leurs patients pour des procédures médicales qui ne sont pas nécessaires, comme le suicide assisté par un médecin, » a dit Hayward.

« Notre organisation demande officiellement à Erin O’Toole de maintenir la position qu’il avait lors de la dernière course à la chefferie et de clarifier publiquement qu’un gouvernement conservateur sous Erin O’Toole n’exigera pas que les professionnels de la santé fassent des aiguillages pour leurs patients quand il s’agit de procédures médicales auxquelles ils objectent moralement, comme le suicide assisté, » a dit Golob.

Au sujet de RightNow :

RightNow est un organisme sans but lucratif qui se dévoue à nominer et faire élire des candidats pro-vie, ainsi qu’à éduquer et mobiliser les Canadiens pro-vie au sein du processus politique. Peu importe leurs croyances religieuses, leur affiliation politique ou leurs origines, RightNow travaille avec des gens de tout le pays qui défendent les droits humains pour tous les êtres humains.

Coordonnées pour les médias :

ALISSA GOLOB 587-435-0166
SCOTT HAYWARD 204-573-0296


  • En février 2020, lors de son entrevue avec RightNow au sujet de la course à la chefferie conservatrice, Erin O’Toole a fait la déclaration suivante : « Les droits ne devraient pas avoir préséance les uns sur les autres, nous devrions respecter notre capacité d’avoir une société où tous ces droits sont respectés et c’est quelque chose que j’appliquerais à tous les professionnels de la santé. C’est non seulement quelque chose qu’il est possible de faire, mais c’est quelque chose qui doit être fait, parce que nous devons respecter les droits de conscience et les droits religieux peu importe comment ils sont arrivés à la position qu’ils ont. »

    L’entrevue de RightNow avec Erin:
  • L’énoncé de politique du Parti conservateur du Canada déclare que les professionnels de la santé n’ont pas à faire d’aiguillages : « Le Parti conservateur soutient la liberté de conscience des médecins, des infirmiers et autres personnes et leur droit de refuser de participer à l’avortement, au suicide assisté ou à l’euthanasie et d’aiguiller leurs patients vers de tels services. »

    L’énoncé de politiques du Parti conservateur du Canada (politique numéro 68):

Bill Undermines Conscientious Objection to VAD

CQ Today

Duncan Evans

Conscientious objection to voluntary assisted dying (VAD) may not be an option for Queenslanders if the state government’s bill to legalise VAD is passed in its present form, a leading healthcare provider has warned.

In a media statement released last week, Mater Board Chair Francis Sullivan AO said the proposed legislation would force Mater to allow assisted dying to take place at its facilities in direct contradiction to the moral ethos upon which the healthcare provider delivers patient care to Queenslanders.

“The proposed law will also compel Mater and other not-for-profit providers to allow doctors who are not known to our hospitals to enter our facilities to administer lethal doses to our patients,” Mr Sullivan said. . . . continue reading

A refreshing change on the campaign trail — crystal clear answers from a politician

Erin O’Toole is selling a plan he seems to understand back to front. And that is distressingly rare in Canadian politics

National Post

Chris Selley

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole used an interesting word this week, at least twice, while answering questions from reporters. The word was “yes.” It’s a simple word, but Canadian politicians will often turn rhetorical cartwheels to avoid using it (or its cousin, “no”). When a reporter concludes a question with “yes or no?” it’s a near-guarantee the response won’t contain either, let alone begin with it.

O’Toole has been asked repeatedly this week whether his support for a woman’s right to choose an abortion conflicts with his platform pledge to “protect the conscience rights of healthcare professionals.” His reasonable response: a “balanced approach” can accommodate both at the same time. Canadian society balances all kinds of competing rights every day.

On Friday in a very wet Winnipeg, though, he was asked directly whether a doctor with a conscientious objection to abortion would have to refer a woman to someone else willing to consult or perform it. “Yes,” O’Toole said, “they will have to refer, because the right to those services exists across the country.”

Crystal clear. . . . continue reading