Reproduced with permission
Bill 207 enshrines “freedom of conscience and religion” – protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms– for Alberta’s health care providers. For many years, Premier Jason Kenney has consistently and publicly supported protecting freedom of conscience, so nobody should be surprised if he supports this Private Member’s Bill.
Bill 207 will not limit patient access to abortion. Firstly,
abortion does not require a referral, as any abortion clinic will tell
you when you call and ask. Secondly, even if abortion did require a
referral, if one physician refuses to provide such referral then the
patient would simply go to another doctor. Inconvenient? Yes,
absolutely. In a free country, the right to honour one’s conscience
trumps someone else’s interest in not being inconvenienced.
Forcing someone to do something that they believe to be wrong is
serious business. It is also a hallmark of totalitarian states. But in
free and democratic societies, the government will bend over backwards
to avoid coercing citizens to participate in what they see as evil. This
is why the Charter describes freedom of conscience and religion
as “fundamental,” and mentions it ahead of the freedoms of expression,
association and peaceful assembly.
When a democracy is at war, the pacifists who oppose killing
another human being will not be required by government to serve on the
front lines and shoot at foreign troops. A democracy can continue with
its war efforts without requiring every citizen to be willing to kill
Just because pork is legal and popular does not mean that all
butchers should be forced, by law, to sell it. Some Muslim and Orthodox
Jewish butchers will refuse to handle or sell pork, and no doubt this
refusal will inconvenience some customers. The disappointed customers
will need to go elsewhere, upon learning that the store they travelled
to does not carry what they want.
The BC Human Rights Tribunal recently issued a pro-freedom
ruling that female estheticians could refuse to wax the male genitalia
of Jessica (Jonathan) Yaniv, for religious and other reasons. Yaniv will
be inconvenienced by having to locate a waxologist who is willing and
able to provide a Brazilian bikini wax for male genitals. But not
forcing women to handle male genitalia is more important than sparing
someone the inconvenience of going elsewhere.
Put simply: in a free society, you do not have the right to
require other people to do things that they do not wish to do. In a free
country, nobody has a legal right to be free from the inconvenience of
needing to look elsewhere for a product or service. This respect for
freedom is consistent with – or is supposed to be consistent with – the
philosophy of the United Conservative Party.
Bill 207 protects doctors from being required to assist their
patients in committing suicide, as one example of a medical service that
some doctors see as wrong. Many non-religious doctors believe on
conscientious grounds that suicide is not a valid or legitimate medical
Providing a referral is active participation. This is why the
Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario prohibits doctors from
performing female genital mutilation (FGM) and also prohibits doctors
from referring for this medical service. If it’s wrong to remove
portions of a young girl’s genitals, then it’s also wrong to refer her
to another doctor who will provide that same service. As in Ontario,
Alberta’s College states that “no physician should perform such
procedures, irrespective of cultural norms in other societies, and no
physician should be complicit in allowing such procedures to go ahead.”
To refer for FGM is to be complicit in FGM. Requiring doctors to refer
for a service they believe to be wrong is to violate the conscience of
And yet the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons requires
doctors to refer for assisted suicide. Bill 207 addresses this problem
by protecting the fundamental Charter freedoms of doctors and other health care providers. A vote for Bill 2017 is a vote for freedom.