Toronto, ON January 25, 2019 – The Catholic Civil Rights League
(CCRL) participated with oral arguments in the CMDS et al v. CPSO
hearing at the Ontario Court of Appeal on January 21 and 22. Individual
Catholic and Christian doctors and organizations had challenged the
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), which over the
course of the past three years had stipulated an “effective referral”
regime, forcing Ontario doctors who objected to morally objectionable
procedures to provide an “effective referral” to a willing doctor for
such services. Previously, doctors were relieved from any such
obligation. Ontario is the only provincial or territorial jurisdiction
which has made such demands of its doctors.
The Ontario Divisional Court had ruled in favour
of the CPSO, on January 31, 2018, despite finding that the religious
freedom of doctors had been infringed. The appellants and the League, in
conjunction with the Faith and Freedom Alliance and the Protection of
Conscience Project, had argued that such “effective referrals” made
objecting doctors complicit in the provision of the objectionable
procedures, such as abortion, or assisted suicide. The previous court
decision allowed the infringement as a modest incursion into the rights
of physicians, in the context of the ability of patients to access
publicly available “services”. Moreover, the court previously ruled that
objecting physicians could re-arrange their practice specialties to
“accommodate” such referrals. The doctors and their respective
In addition to the arguments presented by the
lawyers for the appellants, the CCRL and its partners raised the
particular arguments that such demands were in breach of the conscience
rights of Ontario doctors, as forcing individuals to do something that
they considered “wrong”, and was a form of enforced servitude.
Click here to view the CCRL’s written factum,
submitted in November 2018, which made reference to important principles
of law and philosophy, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., Jacques
Maritain, and others.
At the appeal hearings, held at Toronto’s
Osgoode Hall, arguments focused on whether the CPSO could justify its
referral policy as a “reasonable limit” on the rights of objecting
doctors. The CCRL’s lawyer, Mr. Emrys Davis, submitted that moral rights
are central to one’s sense of human dignity, and that it was
unacceptable to marginalize objecting physicians as religious
extremists. Moreover, given that the Ontario Medical Association
likewise opposed the “effective referral” regime, such concerns were
shared by a large numbers of Ontario doctors. The CCRL and its partners
argued that the referral requirement imposed the values of the state
upon individuals, forcing them to violate their own constitutionally
protected consciences, without justification.
The CPSO’s lawyers had suggested that objecting
doctors could go so far as to instruct an intake employee to make the
proposed referrals on their behalf. We argued that such doctors would
still be responsible morally to such a proposal, and would be left with
no meaningful choice. Telling an employee to commit an immoral act would
still offend the consciences of objecting doctors. The choice imposed
by the CPSO was either to violate one’s conscience, or become subject to
professional discipline for refusing to make such referrals.
In his closing remarks, Chief Justice of Ontario George Strathy thanked the many interveners for bringing their unique viewpoints and knowledge to the assistance of the court, which reserved its decision to a later date. The CCRL thanks the fine work of our lawyers at Bennett, Jones in Toronto, for its efforts on behalf of our interveners.
About the CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) (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. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
To donate to the CCRL, please click here.
For further information: Christian Domenic Elia, PhD CCRL Executive Director 416-466-8244 @CCRLtweets