In Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of conscience and religion is the first fundamental freedom listed, the first one the government promises to protect.
But now, activists are calling for that to be pushed aside in favour of something newer and more fashionable – assisted suicide.
The courts have spoken on assisted suicide, it's now legal. Parliament is moving forward.
However this attack on religious freedom does not pertain to whether you support assisted suicide or oppose it. It's about protecting the fundamental freedoms such as freedom of religion.
See, while the debate about assisted suicide is over, we as a country are still determining how to implement it. And some people, like the CEO of the activist group Dying with Dignity, think that the "right to assisted suicide" should trump the charters guaranteed right of religious freedom.
For example, the Toronto Sun ran an article which agreed with Dying with Dignity. They quote Shanaz Gokool, the CEO of Dying with Dignity as saying that religious hospitals, Catholic ones specifically, cannot be exempt.
“These institutions shouldn’t have the right to object. The Catholics may object. People have different beliefs, but should they have the moral right to refuse a charter right? It is the height of indignity to refuse those who meet the requirement.”
The Supreme Court may have struck down the old law banning assisted suicide, but that is not the same thing as establishing a right to assisted suicide.
Secondly, there is a Charter right to freedom of religion and yes, as has been demonstrated in Charter cases before, the Supreme Court, such as Loyola V Quebec, religious organizations can claim a charter right to freedom of religion.
In this case a Catholic high school challenged an order that they had to teach all religion from a neutral perspective by arguing that it infringed the schools freedom of religion. Here is part of the court’s ruling in favour of Loyola.
“Freedom of religion means that no one can be forced to adhere to or refrain from a particular set of religious beliefs. This includes both the individual and collective aspects of religious belief. Religious freedom under the Charter must therefore account for the socially embedded nature of religious belief, and the deep linkages between this belief and its manifestation through communal institutions and traditions.”
See, freedom of religion is not just an individual right, it's not as some would say restricted to freedom of how you worship, it's greater than that.
Simply put, hospitals should not be forced to perform assisted suicides.
If you believe in fundamental freedoms then you need to stand for religious liberty. Which means even if you believe that assisted suicide is just A-okay, then you still need to be willing to say we cannot force people or organizations to do it.
Religious hospitals – be they Catholic, Jewish, Presbyterian, Salvation Army – are not owned by the provinces. And doctors are free men and women.
Religious liberty needs to mean something. Freedom of conscience and religion needs to mean something. If we are willing to set that aside for this cause then we may as well perforate the whole Charter and put it on a roll because none of it will mean anything beyond what judges and the latest cause of the activists allow it to mean.
If you agree, sign the petition below.
Freedom of religion must be upheld and hospitals should not be forced to perform assisted suicides.