Project asks Canadian MPs, Senators to stop coercion in homicide, suicide

News Release

For Immediate Release

Protection of Conscience Project

“If it is ‘unacceptable’ for Members of Parliament to use physical force against each other, surely it is “unacceptable” for state institutions or others to use the force of law to compel people to be parties to inflicting death upon others, and to punish those who refuse.”

That is the message over 400 Canadian Members of Parliament and Senators returning to Ottawa will find on their desks in a letter from the Protection of Conscience Project.  The letters began to arrive Friday morning and should be waiting for MPs and Senators returning to Parliament to resume sitting on Monday.

The Project is proposing an amendment to the government’s Bill C-14, which is intended to allow medical and nurse practitioners to provide euthanasia and assisted suicide in accordance with the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General).

“Writing directly to individual legislators is a very unusual step,” said Sean Murphy, Administrator of the Protection of Conscience Project.  The letter was sent because of the gravity of the issue, and because the Project’s submission on Bill C-14 – like many others – was not distributed to members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights before it concluded its deliberations on the bill.

“Ironically, perhaps,” states the letter, “what the Protection of Conscience proposes is not a protection of conscience amendment.”

“Instead, the amendment is limited to the criminal law, which is strictly and fully within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada.”

In making the argument that the criminal law should prohibit coerced participation in homicide and suicide, the letter refers to the conduct of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the House of Commons on 18 May, which caused an uproar in the House and delayed debate on Bill C-14.

“The delay caused by the Prime Minister has made it possible to make this one last effort to reach legislators,” said Murphy, “and his conduct has enabled the Project to make its point in a very practical way.”


Sean Murphy, Administrator

Conscientious refusal to kill deserves the protection of law. Bill C-14 doesn’t provide it.

News Release
For immediate release
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Protection of Conscience Project

In light of the assisted suicide/euthanasia bill introduced by the government of Canada (Bill C-14),1 it is necessary to emphatically reaffirm that conscientious refusal to kill people is a manifestation of essential humanity that deserves the protection of law.

Notwithstanding the assurances of Canada’s Minister of Health,2 Bill C-14 does not provide that protection. The government is deliberately ignoring the ongoing coercion of health care providers to compel participation in euthanasia, and Bill C-14 will allow coercion to continue.

The bill follows upon a report from a parliamentary Special Joint Committee formed to advise the government on a legislative response to the Supreme Court ruling in Carter v. Canada.3 Bill C-14 does not incorporate the Committee’s more radical recommendations. It does not, for example, make euthanasia and assisted suicide available as therapies for mental illness.4

However, it does indicate that the government intends to pursue this and other Committee recommendations.5 Two of them assert the authority of the state to command the use of deadly force: not merely to authorize it, but to command it.

The Special Joint Committee recommended that physicians unwilling to kill patients or help them commit suicide should be forced to find someone willing to do so. It also recommended that publicly funded facilities, like hospices and hospitals, should be forced to kill patients or help them commit suicide, even if groups operating the facilities object.6

The federal government cannot do this because the regulation of health professions and health care institutions is within provincial jurisdiction. Hence, the Committee urged the federal government to “work with the provinces” to implement this coercive regime.6 Translation: get willing hands in the provinces to do the dirty work of coercion – and take the heat for it.

Now, the federal government can prevent such coercion because it has exclusive jurisdiction in criminal law. It can enact a law to prevent powerful groups, professions, or state institutions from forcing people to be parties to homicide and suicide. It can prevent those in power from punishing health care providers who refuse to arrange for their patients to be killed or helped commit suicide.

The federal government can do this, but Bill C-14 does not do it. Instead, it makes possible the coercive regime recommended by the Special Joint Committee.

And this is deliberate, because the Prime Minister and Minister of Health know full well that coercion and intimidation to force participation in euthanasia and assisted suicide are already occurring in Canada, notably in Quebec7,8,9,10 and Ontario.11 ,Their bill “works with” willing hands in Ontario and Quebec by allowing coercion and intimidation to continue – and to spread.

It is true that the bill’s preamble states that the government will “respect the personal convictions of health care providers.”

But – aside from the fact that preambles have no legal effect12 – what is that worth?

After all, the Special Joint Committee claimed that respect for freedom of conscience is exemplified by their recommendation that, “at a minimum,” objecting physicians should be forced to find colleagues willing to kill their patients.6 Behind this Orwellian perversion lies the Committee’s more astonishing premise: that the state can legitimately order people to become parties to homicide and suicide, and punish them if they refuse.

That is outrageous, indefensible and dangerous. It is not a mere “limitation” of fundamental freedoms, but an egregious attack on them. It is a grave violation of human dignity that deserves only the utter contempt of a free people.

The Prime Minister and a great many people in positions of power and influence need to be reminded of this as we approach the deadline for the proclamation of Bill C-14: the anniversary of the Allied landings at Normandy.

Whatever else it might decide about euthanasia and assisted suicide, parliament should make it the law of the land that no one and no institution in Canada can be forced to be a party to homicide or suicide, and no one will be punished or disadvantaged for refusing to do so.”13


S.T. Murphy, Administrator

1. Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying) (Accessed 2016-04-20) (Hereinafter “Bill C-14”).

2. “’Under this bill, no health care provider will be required to provide medical assistance in dying,’” Health Minister Jane Philpott told reporters Thursday. Laucius, J. “Groups worry new assisted-dying legislation doesn’t protect physicians’ consciences.” Ottawa Citizen, 14 April, 2016 (Accessed 2016-04-14) Emphasis added.  The statement does not mean that health care providers cannot be forced to become parties to homicide or suicide.

3. Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5 (Accessed 2015-06-27)

4. Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centred Approach. Report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician Assisted Dying (February, 2016) (Hereinafter “SJC Report”) p. 13-14; Recommendations 3,4, p. 45. (Accessed 2016-03-09).

5. Bill C-14, Preamble, final paragraph.

6. SJC Report, Recommendations 10-11, p. 36.

7. Supreme Court of Canada, 385591, Lee Carter, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, et al. (British Columbia) (Civil) (By Leave): Robert W. Staley (Counsel for the Catholic Civil Rights League, Faith and Freedom Alliance, and Protection of Conscience Project) Oral Submission, [455:48/491:20].

8. Canadian Press, “Gaétan Barrette insists dying patients must get help to ease suffering.” CBC News, 2 September, 2016 (Accessed 2016-04-20).

9. Robert Y. “L’objection de conscience.” Collège des médecins du Québec, 10 November, 2015. (Accessed 2016-04-20).

10. The Canadian Press, “Justin Trudeau, Philippe Couillard hail era of co-operation after meeting in Quebec City: Prime Minister praises Quebec’s approach on controversial topic of medically-assisted deaths.” CBC News, 11 December, 2015 (Accessed 2016-04-15).

11. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Interim Guidance on Physician Assisted Death (January, 2016) (Accessed 2016-04-15).

12. University of Alberta, Centre for Constitutional Studies, The Constitution: Preamble (Accessed 2016-04-15).

13. Submission of the Protection of Conscience Project to the Special Joint Committee on Physician Assisted Dying (31 January, 2016)

Redefining the Practice of Medicine- Euthanasia in Quebec, Part 4: The Problem of Killing


Impartiality, complicity and perversityThe original text of Bill 52 did not define “medical aid dying” (MAD), but it was understood that, whatever the law actually said, it was meant to authorize physicians to kill patients who met MAD guidelines.  The Minister of Health admitted that it qualifed as homicide, while others acknowledged that MAD meant intentionally causing the death of a person, and that its purpose was death.  Various witnesses in favour of the bill referred explicitly to lethal injection and the speed of the expected death of a patient.

Given the moral or ethical gravity involved in killing, it is not surprising to find serious disagreement about MAD among health care workers.  Conflicting claims made about the extent of opposition to or support for euthanasia within health care professions are difficult to evaluate, but a review of the transcripts of the legislative committee hearings into Bill 52 is instructive.

One physician member of the committee was shocked by the assertion that there is no  moral, ethical, or legal difference betwen withdrawing life support and lethally injecting a patient.  Hospices and palliative care physicians rejected participation in euthanasia.  Sharp differences of opinion among other health care workers were reported.  Support for killing patients by lethal injection was likened to support for the death penalty; that is, many more agreed with the act in principle than were willing to do the actual killing.  So marked was the evidence of opposition to euthanasia that doubts were raised about the possiblity of implementing the law.

Since the law was passed as a result of assurances from the Quebec medical establishment that it could be implemented, a committee member who is now a minister of the Quebec government warned that they would be called to account if it is found that few physicians are willing to participate.  This political pressure is likely to provide an additional incentive for the medical establishment to secure the compliance of Quebec physicians.

The introduction of euthanasia into Quebec’s health care system is to be accomplished using the structures and powers established by other Quebec statutes that govern the delivery of health care in the province, which have established a multi-layered and overlapping bureaucracy of committees, councils, commissions, boards, directors, examiners, coordinators, syndics and commissioners.  Physicians and other health care providers who object to euthanasia will find their working environments increasingly controlled by a MAD matrix functioning within this system, a prominent feature of which is an emphasis on patient rights.

Everyone authorized to enact or supervise adherence to policies or standards can become a MAD functionary, using codes of ethics, protocols, guidelines, directives, etc. to normalize euthanasia. Similarly, every disciplinary and complaints procedure can be used to force participation in MAD services.  Those who openly advocate refusal to provide or facilitate euthanasia can be fined from $1,500.00 to $40,000.00 per day under Quebec’s  Professional Code if they are deemed to have helped, encouraged, advised or consented to a member of a profession violating the profession’s code of ethics. [Full Text]