Christian Medical Professionals support Alberta bill

News Release

Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS)

The Calgary and Edmonton Chapters of the Christian Medical and  Dental Society of Canada are in support of Bill 212, The Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act, which would protect healthcare workers’ conscience rights.

Increasingly, we hear of institutions and organizations placing pressure on healthcare     workers to act contrary to their convictions, especially as technological advances     challenge traditional ethical boundaries. Canada has a long history of recognizing the     rights of freedom of conscience; however, healthcare workers are feeling increasingly     vulnerable. Many are calling for explicit legislation to protect them from being required  to refer for or participate directly or indirectly in medical procedures or treatments  that violate their convictions without fear of discrimination, dismissal, or harassment.

Certainly, physicians and other healthcare workers must provide care in  life-threatening emergencies to all people regardless of ethnic origin, creed, etc.: this  is consistent with the Hippocratic tradition. Also in keeping with the Hippocratic tradition is the inviolable tenet that human life is sacred, regardless of stage.  Consequently, those who solemnly hold these principles must not be pressured to act contrary to them as they are foundational to the integrity of the profession and the trust of the public. In matters of choice, healthcare workers are positioned to fully inform patients of all their legal options, but they must not be obligated to participate in a patient’s choice of treatment.

CMDS desires an open discussion of the issue of conscience-protection legislation and, to this end, invites healthcare workers to bring their concerns to the attention of their professional organizations, politicians, and members of the public.

For further information: In Calgary, contact Dr. W. Joseph Askin at 236-1500 In Edmonton, contact Dr. Gunnar Myrholm at 465-0951

Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) #26, 7740 18 St. S.E. Calgary, AB T2C 2N5 Tel:  (403) 236-1500 Fax (403) 236-2839


In the True North Strong and Free

Project Letter to the Calgary Herald

Sean Murphy*

Twelve years ago, an editorial in the Calgary Herald1 expressed hope that a bill proposed by MLA Julius Yankowsky2 would ensure that health care professionals would not be forced to participate in procedures or services to which they objected for reasons of conscience.

The editorial cited the example of coerced participation of nurses in late term abortions at Foothills Hospital3 and the case of Maria Bizecki, a pharmacist facing discipline for refusing to dispense the morning after pill.4 The bill, said the editorial, was “a common sense compromise” that would respect freedom of conscience without preventing access to abortion or drugs. Yankowsky’s bill did not pass, but a common sense compromise was eventually worked out between Ms. Bizecki and her employer, the Calgary Cooperative Association.5

While Ms. Bizecki’s case was grinding slowly forward, she and Professor Donald De Marco met the Herald editorial board. Danielle Smith, then a member of the board, was at the meeting. So was Herald columnist Naomi Lakritz, who, at one point, personally congratulated Ms. Bizecki for her stand.6

Danielle Smith, now leader of the Wildrose Party, appears to be advocating the kind of compromise supported by the Herald when it expressed support for freedom of conscience for health care professionals. Ms. Lakritz, however, seems to have changed her mind.

“The word ‘conscience,’” she writes, “is now being used to advocate doing the wrong thing” – like refusing to dispense the morning after pill. (“Conscience rights is another way of allowing discrimination.”Calgary Herald, 10 April, 2012)

Ms. Lakritz is not alone in this belief. She reports that Alison Redford, the Premier of the province, is actually frightened by suggestions that at least some people in Alberta might refuse to do what they believe to be wrong. We are told that Liberal and NDP leaders also oppose freedom of conscience, and that the Alberta Party leader condemns protection of conscience legislation as “an exercise in exclusion,” a point apparently overlooked by those who drafted Section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to Ms. Lakritz, the Premier believes that suppression of freedom of conscience demonstrates respect for diversity, that people are treated with “dignity and respect” when they are forced to do what they believe to be wrong, and that threatening conscientious objectors with dismissal makes people feel “safe and included.”

We are not told if the Premier and other leaders opposed to freedom of conscience insist that their candidates sacrifice their personal integrity in order to run for office. Nor does Ms. Lakritz tell us if employees at the Calgary Herald must do what they believe to be wrong as a condition of employment or promotion.

She does, however, claim that those who, for reasons of conscience, refuse to provide a legal drug or service act wrongly and dishonourably because they thus treat some people “as though they were much less equal to others.” This is like saying that refusing to sell tobacco is wrong because it treats smokers “as though they were much less equal” to non-smokers, or that refusing to facilitate prostitution is dishonourable because it denies equality to ‘sex trade workers.’ Even if one accepts such a peculiar notion of equality, however, equality is not the only principle relevant to the moral evaluation of an act. Moreover, the mere legality of a product or service imposes no duty to provide it or to affirm its moral acceptability. Ms. Lakritz made this clear when she excoriated Henry Morgentaler and abortion rights groups for suggesting that Catholic bishops should ask people to stop protesting abortions – a legal, tax-paid service.

“[The bishops] are not exactly known for indulging in moral relativism,” she observed.

“What this society needs is more people like them who take a firm stand on issues and do not apologize for refusing to be swayed by whatever current compromise passes for morality.”7

It is a pity that Ms. Lakritz no longer believes this: that she now holds that such people are “truly disgusting,” and that personal integrity and courage are grounds for dismissal in the true north strong and free.

O, Canada.


1.  “Editorial, The Calgary Herald, April 11, 2000. (Accessed 2012-04-11)

2. Bill 212, Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act, 2000.

3. Ko, Marnie, “Personal Qualms Don’t Count: Foothills Hospital Now Forces Nurses To Participate In Genetic Terminations.” Alberta Report Newsmagazine, April 12, 1999

4. Mastromatteo, Mike, “Alberta Pharmacist Vindicated for Pro-Life Stand.” The BC Catholic, 3 November, 2003

5. Gerald D. Chipeur to the Calgary Co-operative Association Re: Maria Bizecki, 19 December, 2001

6. E-mails from Maria Bizecki to the Administrator, Protection of Conscience Project, 10 and April, 2012.

7.  Lakritz, Naomi, “Hypocrite Henry: Morgentaler exercises his own brand of violence.” Winnipeg Sun, 17 January, 1995 (Accessed 2012-04-13)

Project letter to the Edmonton Sun

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
25 April, 2000

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

Mindelle Jacobs cites Arthur Schafer, director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, to the effect that conscientious objectors should be driven out of the medical profession if they are unwilling to provide “perfectly legal services” to patients who want the services but can’t go elsewhere to get them. According to Jacobs, Alberta Pharmaceutical Association registrar Greg Eberhart has similar views (Pharmacists want right of refusal, Edmonton Sun, 16 April, 2000).

Well, perhaps they wouldn’t drive them out of the profession. Perhaps they’d just drive them out of the province, or out of the country. Freedom of conscience, if you insist, but not in my back yard.

Now, Jacobs is surely convinced of the truth of the moral vision she shares with Schafer and Eberhart, and of its fundamental importance. After all, she wants to impose that morality by denying conscientious objectors employment, or firing them, or forcing them to go elsewhere to make a living. One wouldn’t do such things unless the morality to be imposed was at least superior to the morality being suppressed, and unless one was also convinced of the necessity of forcing it upon others.

Unfortunately, Jacobs does not explain why her morality is superior to that of pharmacists like Maria Bizecki and Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience. Instead, she indulges in a bit of speculative scare-mongering. If “Bizecki and her pals”have their way, she wonders, “Where will it stop?”

One might also ask where it will stop if conscientious objection is suppressed. A recent bulletin from the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia (Vol. 25, No. 2. Ethics in Practice: Moral Conflicts in Pharmacy Practice) suggests the answer. Driven by the primary ‘ethical criteria’ of legality and consumer demand, the CPBC would require pharmacists to dispense drugs not only for abortion, but for euthanasia, assisted suicide and execution by lethal injection. Canada Safeway, apparently taking its ethical direction from such missives, entered the millennium by asserting that it has the right to ensure employees with religious scruples “promptly serve its customers” and not direct them to competitors for euthanasia drugs and abortion pills (Pharmacy Policies and Procedures, Section IV, Pharmacy Operations, Chapter 4, 1/1/2000, Page No. 16).

Alberta M.L.A. Julius Yankowsky has put forward a bill seeking limited legal protection of conscience for health care workers. The bill does not take any position on the morality or desirability of abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia or other controversial medical procedures. It simply recognizes that such procedures are morally controversial. It permits discussion and reasoned argument, but not discrimination or coercion.

Sadly, the reaction of Mindelle Jacobs, Arthur Schafer and Greg Eberhart to Mr. Yankowsky’s modest proposal demonstrates the need for such legislation.

Conscience Protection Bill Applauded


April 12, 2000

Canadian Physicians for Life

Canadian Physicians for Life applauds efforts before the Alberta legislature to grant protection of conscience to health care professionals who support the sanctity of life.

Recent suggestions by several regulating bodies that morally troublesome issues need only be referred to a colleague are oblivious to the principled objections of pro-life physicians. Increasingly exotic reproductive technologies may eventually offend even the most laissez-faire physicians.

There may come a day where no physician feels free from coercion to violate his or her  conscience.

Bill 212 is an amendment that, if adopted in the Alberta Legislative Assembly, will establish the rules up front. Health care professionals can confidently provide life-affirming care while retaining the choice of conscientious objection.

For further information Canadian Physicians for Life Administration Ph. (604)794-3772 Fax (604)794-3960 Email:

Pharmacists for Life criticizes BC College of Pharmacists

News Release

Pharmacists for Life (Canada)

Pharmacists for Life International/Canada opposes the  controversial policy decision by the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia in which pharmacists in that province will be facing increased pressure to be distributors of death-causing products and services.

Mr. Michael Izzotti, Coordinator of PFLI/Canada, stated in an information bulletin today that “to supply death causing products and services from a pharmacy (a health care facility) flies in the face of the promotion of appropriate practices the pharmaceutical profession has engaged in for the last 15-20years”.

Mr. Izzotti further stated that “the push by the College of Pharmacists of BC to pressure the professionals that they regulate to supply the controversial products and services that the College suggests, represents a travesty in  health care”.  This is in direct contradiction to the Hippocratic Oath which many noble and honorable medical practitioners have taken and are committed to follow.

A recent BC College bulletin article, “Ethics in Practice”,1 suggests that pharmacists may have a conscientious or moral objection to future services that “might expand to include, preparation of drugs to assist voluntary or involuntary suicide, cloning, genetic manipulation or even execution”. These products & services and some others mentioned in that article in fact are not  necessarily “recognized” nor “legitimate” services to be expected from a pharmacy.

In light of the above concerns, and considering that similar concerns are arising in Alberta,  PFLI/Canada extends it support to Alberta’s Bill 212 prepared by Julius Yankowsky, which would insure Human Rights protection regarding Freedom of     Conscience to all health care workers.  In addition, PFLI/Canada encourages federal     conscience legislation to be enacted.

Notes 1. Bulletin of the College of Pharmacists of B.C. Mar/Apr 2000, Vol. 25, No.2

For further information, please call Michael Izzotti, Coordinator PFLI/Canada Tel: (905)528-4828 Fax (905)528-5593 or Email-

Pharmacists for Life International (Canada) Information Bulletin April 12/00

Due to continuing discussions caused by a controversial policy decision by the College of  Pharmacists of British Columbia in which pharmacists in that province will be facing  increased pressure to be distributors of death-causing products and services, PFLI/Canada  felt it necessary to make these statements at this time. Pharmacists have traditionally been known, trusted and respected for being providers of life saving,     health-maintaining-and-restoring products and services, however, the College in B.C. is  now suggesting that pharmacists should be involved in the provision of products for ending the life of human beings as well.

The 1st week of May is the scheduled date for certain “trained” pharmacists to  be the providers of the abortifacient Morning After Pill with or without a prescription from a doctor. A recent BC College bulletin article, “Ethics in Practice”, suggests that pharmacists may have a conscientious or moral objection to future services that “might expand to include, preparation of drugs to assist voluntary or involuntary suicide, cloning, genetic manipulation or even execution”. These products  & services and some others mentioned in that article in fact are not necessarily  “recognized” nor “legitimate” services to be expected from a pharmacy.

To supply death causing products and services from a pharmacy (a health care facility)  flies in the face of the promotion of appropriate practices the pharmaceutical profession  has engaged in for the last 15-20years.  These appropriate practices include: encouraging pharmacists to provide more cognitive services, (e.g. being a drug information resource for the community, resolving drug related problems, providing increased patient counselling etc); other practices include, emphasis to provide greater communication with the public and to promote proper pharmaceutical care for all human beings especially those most vulnerable and needing our unique knowledge and     skills. These vulnerable people should include, the child in utero, the elderly and     disabled people.

The push by the College of Pharmacists of BC for pharmacists to supply the controversial products and services, noted above, represents a travesty in health care. It is in direct contradiction to the Hippocratic oath which many noble and honourable medical practitioners have taken and are committed to follow.

The policy decision, named above, of the College of Pharmacists of B.C. should be     withdrawn because it causes a negative influence on organizations who sponsor provision of  pharmaceutical services from their outlets, and a damaging and unhealthy image to our honourable and dignified profession.

It would be much appreciated if these organizations would rather continue to encourage and exhort practitioners in our profession to be the providers of proper pharmaceutical health care services to the public as they have done in the past.

For further information, please call Michael Izzotti, Coordinator, PFLI/Canada, 905-528-4828