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Conscience Rights for Physicians Must Be Legislated

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ottawa, ON — Arnold Viersen, MP for Peace River – Westlock, brought forward a motion today in the House of Commons to debate conscience rights for healthcare professionals. Today is one of only twenty-two opposition days allotted every year. On opposition days, opposition parties are able to set agenda for the day with a motion.

“I am deeply concerned that the failure to protect conscience rights of physicians and other health care professionals will lead to the discrimination of physicians who oppose assisted suicide and harm our healthcare system,” says MP Arnold Viersen. “Conscience rights for health care professional are a fundamental freedom under Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Bill C-14 does not protect these rights.”

MP Viersen’s motion:

That, in the opinion of the House: (a) it is in the public interest to protect the freedom of conscience of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional who objects to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying; (b) everyone has freedom of conscience and religion under section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; (c) a regime that would require a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional to make use of effective referral of patients could infringe on the freedom of conscience of those medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, pharmacists or any other health care professional; and (d) the government should support legislation to protect the freedom of conscience of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional.

“If Bill C-14 passes without legal protection for health care provider’s conscience rights, Canada will be the first jurisdiction in the world that has legalized assisted suicide without robust conscience protections for health care professionals,” says MP Viersen.

“The Liberals continue to emphasize that nothing in Bill C-14 can compel a healthcare provider to provide medical assistance in dying, but any province or employer could still compel healthcare professionals against their conscience rights,” says MP Viersen. “Despite the amendment to Bill C-14, healthcare professionals expressed concern at a Senate Committee this past week that conscience rights for healthcare professionals are still at risk.

“The government should strengthen Bill C-14 by adding codified protections for conscience as anticipated in Carter, similar to the recognition and protection of conscience and religious rights in the Civil Marriage Act.”

During the speeches, the Liberal and NDP MPs indicated they would be voting against MP Viersen’s motion to strengthen the protection of conscience rights for healthcare providers.

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