Feature: This week, a look at the theology that drives Christian opposition to euthanasia and support for palliative care. Our guest is Dr. Theodore Van Raalte, a professor of ecclesiology and ethics at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario.
ARPA lawyer presents to Ontario committee on bill extending gender ideology into family law: Debate on Ontario’s efforts to re-write child and family law is coming down to the wire.
Push for parental rights in Alberta continues: Another push for parental rights in Alberta’s education system.
WeNeedaLAW staff present to Parliament committee: A Parliamentary Committee has heard a call for improved maternity benefits.
Status of Women minister refuses to call sex-selective abortion violence against women: A testy exchange in Parliament’s Status of Women Committee on whether sex-selective abortion constitutes violence against women.
Debate on Ontario’s Bill 89 is coming down to the final stages. This bill, if passed, will replace the Child and Family Services Act. Among other things, it requires child protection workers, foster parents, adoption service providers, and judges to take into account and respect a child’s “race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, family diversity, disability, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”
Earlier this month, ARPA lawyer John Sikkema made a brief appearance before the Justice Committee at Queen’s Park. Sikkema says he only had five minutes to speak, so he focused specifically on why adding those definitions from the Human Rights Code to the law was “bad public policy.” For example, he says, gender identity is problematic because gender identity and gender expression involves “behaviours that parents might respond to differently depending on the circumstances and the child.”
The Committee started the wrap-up of its consideration of the bill last Thursday, and it’s headed back to the legislature soon. Sikkema says this is the stage that presents the best chance of getting amendments to the bill, and ARPA has picked two key points it would like added. You can see those points, and email your Ontario MPP, at this link. Sikkema also wrote a more extensive blog post about his appearance before the Committee, which you can see here.
Pressure is mounting on the Alberta government over those Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs. Blogger Theresa Ng, who’s been covering this issue ever since the introduction of Bill 10, is asking parents across the province to write to Education Minister David Eggen, and to ask him some specific questions about links to pornographic websites on a government-sponsored page; links that she exposed on her blog last month. She says the letters should be a maximum of one page, and ask the Minister for public assurances that “the people who were responsible for offering this sexually graphic material to children on that government-funded website are not still being entrusted with authority over our children and our education system through things like the curriculum rewrite and resources and teacher training.”
While the letter should be addressed to the Minister, Ng is asking that they be mailed directly to her so she can pass them on. She says last time they initiated a letter-writing campaign to the Minister, it resulted in up to 20-thousand letters, but the government barely acknowledged them because the letters were considered “private”; sent to the minister. This time, she says, she wants to deliver them herself.
Information on where to mail the letters is part way down the page at this link. She’s hoping to have all the letters collected for delivery by May 5.
We Need a Law has a new Administrative Assistant. Alicia Ibbitson has a background in medical research. She started her job earlier this month, but a week before she was officially on board, she appeared – by video link – as a witness before Parliament’s Human Services Committee. The Committee is looking at improvement to maternity benefits, and Ibbitson says there’s a tangible link to the abortion issue. “Twenty percent of women who seek to have an abortion state finances as their number one reason” for requesting the procedure, she says.
Her presentation focused on three areas. First was a call for a minimum amount to be paid out. “(For) some people, their maternity benefit is quite low; like $600 dollars a month, something you could just never live on.” She also suggested changes to the subsidy regime for women who choose to work part-time during their maternity leave, and changes to the paperwork involved in applying for the benefit. Expectant mothers, she said, should be allowed to fill out the paperwork during the third trimester of their pregnancy so there’s no waiting period once the baby is born. She says the last suggestion seemed to resonate with the Committee because it didn’t involve any extra government expense.
The Minister responsible for the Status of Women has refused to outright condemn sex-selective abortion as “gender-based violence.” The issue came up during a Status of Women Committee meeting in Ottawa – a meeting that was considering gender-based violence.
Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder asked Minister Maryam Monsef specifically whether she would make a connection between sex-selective abortion and gender-based violence. In an exchange that’s gone viral on social media (you can watch it here), Monsef responded that “violence comes at a spectrum; it can be physical, it can be psychological, it can be emotional, and it can be cyber.” When Harder pressed the question by asking whether the practice was “discriminating against girls”, Monsef shifted the discussion, saying “I think what you would like to speak to me about is abortion, and I believe that women have a fundamental right to be able to control their reproductive (systems).”
Harder tried again, asking whether the minister believed “that sex-selective abortion, as identified by the Canadian Medical Association (in a report) in 2012, (constitutes) gender-based violence. Yes or no?” Monsef responded that “any sort of gender-based violence is wrong”, and that women are “vulnerable to all sorts of violence.” But she refused to answer the question directly.
On the feature this week, a look at the theology that drives Christian opposition to euthanasia, and support for palliative care. Our guest is Dr. Theodore Van Raalte, a professor of ecclesiology and ethics at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario.
The audio is taken directly from the eighth instalment of ARPA Canada’s Palliative Care video series. You can find the full video series here.
How do we love our neighbour in a situation where love has been so redefined as to include putting people to death, whether voluntary or involuntary, euthanasia requested or not? Our practice of love would include taking jobs as nurses and doctors, if we can in good conscience continue, and doing palliative care. Our families should be a model of love. When one of our loved ones is in E.R. and we surround the bedside and sing some psalms and hymns, it should be a witness to the community that there’s a different approach to matters of life and death and that the sanctity of life ethic is robust and warm and it really is an ethic of love.
Let me give you an example. One of my colleagues had an uncle recently who went into cardiac arrest and went into E.R. While there, his condition did not improve and he was comatose and his heart rate was being monitored, his breathing was being monitored and the family gathered and his heart rate was at about 110 beats per minute. The family knew that he loved Psalms and singing so they did so around the bedside in the middle of the emergency room, and every time they sang the heart rate level went from 110 down to 80 invariably. Just to show that he was comforted. And this is the kind of thing that Christians want to do in palliative care. We don’t believe that it’s love to put someone to death, but it is loving to increase their comfort, decrease their discomfort, and just love them and be there.
I was ordained about 17 years ago and served as a pastor for most of those years except for a time when I was doing further study. And yes there were a good number of times where I was in hospice or palliative care tending to a parishioner. In every case that I can think of, they were surrounded with family and were blessed with a good number of children and grandchildren around them or, if they were younger, many siblings. And in each case the care of the hospital or the hospice was tremendous. It was extraordinary. They were really cared for and loved. The concern was to alleviate their pain and just provide them with the best atmosphere with their family around them.
When I think about something like end of life care, it’s not just that person’s suffering and pain. But my response to your suffering and your response to my suffering forms me. It’s not just about you experiencing pain and having it alleviated in some way, but what’s happening to me inside? How is my character being formed and developed in the midst of caring for someone who is in need? The way that we treat them doesn’t just reflect who we are, but forms and shapes who we are. And looking at us as not just blobs of material, but body/soul combinations in some holistic way, speaks to this and it speaks to palliative care, it speaks to end of life. I think it’s something that needs to recognized.
The legalization of assisted suicide is just another step in what seems to be a program of secularization. But it certainly does something to who we are as a society. It puts a chill into society. I would explain it this way. I go to a palliative care facility. If we take the example of British Columbia right now, palliative care facilities do not offer physician assisted death. They’re looking at offering that and some physicians are strongly opposed. Now they rightly point out that their patients are in an environment of care and trust. They trust that the sole purpose of the palliative care facility and the sole purpose of being in hospice is to be cared for, to feel worthwhile, to matter, and just to be loved and surrounded with love. As soon as you put in the option of physician assisted death, you’re now faced with the question, “does this doctor want me to live, or would this doctor rather have me die?” And it erodes the trust relationship that you would have with the doctor.
The lack of care for the marginalized, the poor, the underprivileged was a mark of pagan society for centuries. We really live in a Christianized society and so many of these good things have grown and developed out of a Christendom of sorts. So we can look back and see that in the Roman Empire, the church was the body that people began to recognize, cared for the exposed infants.
If anything is central in the Christian community, it’s the words of Jesus. And the Lord Jesus is the one who is known throughout the world as the compassionate teacher who laid down His life so that others would live. And in His ministry he once said – and I’m thinking here of Matthew 11 and I just have my Bible here – where Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” When I look around society, when I look inside myself: rest for our souls. What more do we want? We want peace. And there’s such a lack of it in this world. And Jesus invites people to Him and He is particularly looking out for the marginalized, the downtrodden, the poor, those without any means to care for themselves. And the Christian community adopted that as its ethic to such a degree that the Apostle John would write, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” And love in the Christian community is not just a feeling that I feel and tell you I feel it, but it is put into words and it is put into actions. And the legalization of doctor assisted suicide in Canada may lead to an increase in the level of care that religious facilities provide as an alternative so that people can go where they will be served by those who believe that love is of God.