Action Needed to Respond to Ontario College of Physicians



August 15, 2008

Update> Deadline extended until Sept 12! Thank you to those who encouraged a deadline extension. For more information, go to the Canadian Physicians for Life Website.

ARPA Canada has learned just this afternoon that today is the deadline for responses to a controversial policy from the Ontario College of Physicians. This policy would impose a duty on Ontario’s physicians to abide by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ontario Human Rights Code. The College drafted this new policy as a result of changes to the Human Rights Tribunal which they expect will increase the number of complaints to the Tribunal from 150 to 3,000 per year.

The draft policy warns physicians that their religious beliefs may have to be put aside to ensure that they abide by the Code. “Physicians should be aware that decisions to restrict medical services offered, to accept individuals as patients or to end physician-patient relationships that are based on moral or religious belief may contravene the Code, and/or constitute professional misconduct.” Clearly this is partly in response to health care workers who refuse to provide drugs (such as abortion-causing pills) or services (such as abortion) for religious reasons.

Take Action

1) Send a fax or email to the College today (contact information is below) and urge them to extend the deadline. Apparently, very little notice was given about this. It was hidden on their website and a press release does not appear to have been sent out. You don’t need to provide an expert legal opinion. You can just let them know you are concerned about restrictions on religious freedoms.

Contact Information:

Andréa Foti
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
80 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2E2
Tel: 416.967.2600 ext. 387
Fax: 416.967.2644
Email: [email protected]

2) All Canadians – Use this story as an example and write your MP and MLA/MPP urging them to promote legislation that would protect the consciences of health care workers. One example is Bill C-537, a private members bill from Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott. Also urge them to take measures against the human rights commissions.

3) Pray that our health care workers may be able to continue to work and abide by their faith.

More information

Read a National Post article about this by clicking here.


Canadian Physicians for Life
PO Box 1289
Richmond ON K0A 2Z0
ph/fax: 613-728-5433

For Immediate Release

August 15, 2008

Proposed policy could severely limit freedom of Ontario physicians to practice according to conscience

(Ottawa) – In a letter today to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the president of Canadian Physicians for Life, Dr. Will Johnston, expressed concern over a draft policy relating to freedom of conscience and the lack of sufficient notice given by CPSO to all interested stakeholders that a consultation process, which officially ends today, has been underway since the end of June.

Canadian Physicians for Life is asking the College for a 90-day extension on the deadline “due to the importance of the issues at stake and the lack of opportunity interested stakeholders were given to comment on the proposal.”

The draft policy, that CPL only learned of late yesterday, would appear to severely limit the freedom of Ontario physicians to practice according to their conscientious/religious beliefs. The College apparently posted the draft policy document, “Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code” on its website at the end of June and had set a deadline of today for input on the proposal.

In his letter, Dr. Johnston expressed surprise that the College would not have been more proactive in soliciting input on a policy that could have profound impact on both individual doctors and on the profession as a whole. CPSO does not appear to have issued a news release on the consultation process, and pro-life physicians have been taken by surprise.

Dr. Johnston wrote, “The College must have been aware that groups such as Canadian Physicians for Life — which represents doctors from across Canada who respect the dignity of all human life, regardless of age or infirmity — would have concerns with the College’s view that “decisions to restrict medical services offered….that are based on moral or religious belief may contravene the [Ontario Human Rights] Code, and/or constitute professional misconduct.”

“Refusal on conscientious or religious grounds to refer a woman for an abortion could be deemed professional misconduct under this new policy,” Dr. Johnston said.

A similar requirement (that doctors must make abortion referrals regardless of their conscientious beliefs) was put forward in a July 2006 guest editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It triggered such a firestorm of controversy, that the Journal was compelled to publish a letter from CMA’s Director of Ethics stating that CMA policy did not require physicians to refer for abortions if it would violate their conscientious or religious beliefs.

Dr. Johnston concluded, “There could be serious problems with what the Ontario College is proposing and we need time to study the implications of this policy in detail. If doctors feel coerced into compromising their deepest convictions as a result of this policy, certainly that’s a problem—not only for the integrity of physicians, but also for the welfare of their patients.”

– 30 –
CPSO’s draft policy, “Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code” can be found at this link:

For further comment, please contact:
Will Johnston, MD, President
Canadian Physicians for Life
ph: 613-728-5433
email: [email protected]

Canadian Physicians for Life is an educational organization representing physicians who hold that reverence for every human life lies at the root of all medical tradition. Through the ages, this tradition has been expressed in the Oath of Hippocrates. It was rephrased in modern times in the Declaration of Geneva (1948), which says in part, “I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of conception; even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.”



Maurice Vellacott, MP


August 15, 2008

Andréa Foti

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

80 College Street

Toronto, Ontario

M5G 2E2


Dear Ms. Foti,

Canadian physicians have enjoyed a measure of freedom of conscience that other health care workers do not enjoy. I have been attempting to remedy that situation for many years through a piece of legislation that would secure this Constitutional freedom for all health care workers. The latest version of this legislation can be found on Canada’s Parliamentary website as Private Member’s Bill C-537, and which I’ve also attached.

Section 2 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of conscience for all Canadians. It is a tragedy and an embarrassment that provinces across Canada do not secure freedom of conscience for nurses, medical students and pharmacists.

It would be scandalous if Ontario, backed by its Human Rights Tribunal, chose to attempt to roll back this freedom of conscience for physicians as well. I hope that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario would not choose to prematurely concede to an anticipated order from the Tribunal to repeal physicians’ fundamental rights in Ontario.


In recent months Canada has witnessed a much more robust public debate about human rights than we have seen in many years. Ontario Human Rights officials are aware of this debate. It is clear that modern, Constitution-affirming Canadians recognize freedom of conscience as a fundamental human right. You would be on the right side of the issue if you also advanced and vigorously defended that position – for physicians and all other health care workers in Ontario.

Yours sincerely,

Original signed


Maurice Vellacott, MP




Freedom of Conscience, Human Rights Commission Email Us 

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