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Canada Goes Softly Authoritarian

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Wesley Smith wrote a thought provoking article that was published in the The American Spectator on October 3, 2019.

The article concerns issues of freedom of speech, religion, thought and action. The article has a wider focus than euthanasia, but I will only publish his comments on euthanasia, which were well said, especially considering the pressure on St. Martha’s hospital in Antigonish to provide euthanasia and the negation of physicians conscience

Wesley J Smith

rights in Ontario. Smith states:
Canada has become quietly authoritarian, its government and courts increasingly persecuting a cadre of its minority citizens. No, victims aren’t subject to arrest, nor are concentration camps being opened. Rather, this is a soft despotism — authorized by law — that compels victims to choose between their consciences and full participation in Canadian society.
Who are these wronged Canadians, you ask? Not racial minorities. Not refugees. Not sexual subgroups. Those vulnerable populations are amply protected and embraced in society. No, the victims of Canada’s soft authoritarianism are religious people who are being systematically and officially discriminated against because they refuse to violate their faith principles that conflict with reigning secularist dogmas.
Smith then writes about the imposing of euthanasia in Canada. He states:
The most explicit assaults on religious freedom have been mounted in the medical fields against Catholic (and other) religious professionals and institutions. The locus of the persecution has been the legalization of euthanasia. In 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court conjured a broadly defined right to be killed by doctors when diagnosed with a serious medical condition that causes “irremediable suffering.” Parliament soon passed a national law legalizing this form of homicide, subject to weak limitations. Since health care is administered at the provincial level, each of Canada’s provinces also passed euthanasia-enabling statutes.
That presented a significant problem for faithful medical professionals and church-affiliated institutions. Most notably, the Catholic Church forbids euthanasia. Thus, national legalization raised a crucial question of whether or not religiously dissenting doctors and Catholic medical facilities should be granted conscience exemptions from participation in doctor-administered death. The Supreme Court’s ruling left that issue for another day — as did the federal statute. Not so at the provincial level. After concentrated political pressure from religious organizations and citizens, most provinces crafted conscience exemptions allowing dissenting medical professionals to escape participation in euthanasia, while also publishing lists of M.D.s willing to administer “medical aid in dying” (MAID), the official euphemism for euthanasia in Canada.
… the province’s medical regulatory body, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. This ethics rule requires all doctors approached by a legally qualified patient for euthanasia to either kill the patient (pursuant to the law’s procedures) or provide an “effective referral,” meaning to personally procure a doctor or certified nurse practitioner that the dissenting physician knows to be willing to do the deed.
Perceiving such participation to be a grievous sin with eternal implications, some Catholic doctors sued, arguing that requiring them to be complicit in euthanasia violated the fundamental Charter right to “freedom of conscience and religion” — a protection more robust than the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s guarantee of the “free exercise” of religion.
Considering the explicit guarantee in the Charter — and given the unoppressive “list” alternative crafted in other provinces — the case appeared strong. But with Canada secularizing at Mach speed, the Ontario courts were far more interested in forcing faithful doctors to yield to contemporary secular values than in protecting their Charter right to religious freedom. Accordingly, a trial court and court of appeals both ruled that the right to “equal and equitable access” to all legal health care paid for by Canada’s socialized medical system, including euthanasia, abortion, and interventions for gender dysphoria — a right not protected in the Charter — trumps doctors’ enumerated “freedom of conscience and religion.”
Think about what this means. Unless the national Supreme Court intervenes, Ontario doctors face legal compulsion to be complicit in the taking of innocent human life. The only alternatives are restricting their practice of medicine to fields like podiatry in which such requests are unlikely or leaving the profession altogether. If that isn’t oppression, I don’t know what else to call it.
Smith is correct. Slowly but methodically, the government is imposing secular demands upon the culture and abrogating the rights of those who disagree. A pluralistic society is one where everyone has a respected and equal voice, whereas the Canadian governments are imposing a common belief system upon a country and thus reducing pluralism to authoritarianism.

Authored by Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition