By Hilary White

TORONTO, September 3, 2008 ( – Canada’s Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) has expressed “serious concerns” that a proposal by a government “human rights” agency will force physicians to “check their personal views at the door in providing medical care.” The CCRL warned that draft guidelines for physicians concerning Ontario’s human rights legislation would result in Human Rights Commission complaints against a physician who refused on religious grounds to refer women for abortions or same-sex couples for artificial reproduction.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has responded to a set of draft guidelines for doctors by Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, saying it was “pleased” that the draft policy addresses the “obligations of doctors to ensure that they do not make professional decisions based on their personal moral or religious beliefs.”

The OHRC also advised the College to amend its draft to state, “A physician’s refusal to provide a service or accept a patient on the basis of a prohibited ground, such as sex or sexual orientation, is prima facie discrimination, even if the refusal is based on the physician’s moral or religious belief.”

The OHRC openly asserts its bias against people of religious faith, saying they are culpable for “discrimination.” “The Commission has most frequently addressed situations in which actions based in religious belief have had a discriminatory impact on others relating to sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, or disability,” the submission said.

The OHRC suggested that the College take things a step further and include language on “gender identity” that addresses the “discrimination” experienced by “transgendered persons.”

The CCRL notes that the process of drafting the guidelines, while ostensibly intended to help physicians operate in compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code, has been held with “little publicity and short response times.” They added that it was only a result of a “public outcry” that the College extended its deadline for responses to September 12th.

The Protection of Conscience Project has added its own concerns that the guidelines will force physicians into an impossible moral dilemma. Sean Murphy, the Project’s administrator, said, “This is really an iron fist in a velvet glove.”

“These so-called ‘recommendations’ are backed up with the threat of prosecution before Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal.”

“Even at this point, the Commission’s statements suggest that it is open season on physicians,” said Murphy. “Activists will be encouraged to apply to the Tribunal to prosecute physicians who refuse to facilitate abortion or other morally controversial medical procedures, with the assurance that the Tribunal will decide in their favour.”

To express concerns to the College contact: [email protected]
  Andréa Foti
  College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
  80 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2E2
  Tel: 416.967.2600 ext. 387
  Fax: 416.967.2644
  Email: [email protected]

  See a copy of the draft policy here:

See related coverage:

Freedom of Conscience for Ontario Doctors: Public Comment Extended to September 12

Ontario Plan: Professional Misconduct when Doctors Fail to Refer for Abortion