Where Does Erin O’Toole Stand on Pro-Life Issues?

Erin O’Toole is now the Leader of the Conservative Party, after a competitive leadership race that featured two strongly pro-life candidates. Pro-life candidate Leslyn Lewis also had a high profile, winning almost 21% of the available points on the first ballot. It was a reminder that many voters care deeply about social & family issues, including abortion and euthanasia.

Where does Erin O’Toole stand on these issues? He has made statements on some pro-life topics, but we can also look to his voting record, since he has been in politics since 2012.

Inconsistent Record on Abortion

He’ll be the first to tell you: he’s pro-choice. “I won the leadership of the Conservative Party as a pro-choice Conservative MP, one with a strong mandate. That’s how I’m going to lead as the leader of the Opposition,” he told media in the days after the leadership results.

He has emphasized his willingness to accept other points of view, especially amongst other MPs when it comes to votes on moral issues. In an email to his supporters, he said he would allow MPs to vote according to their consciences on “moral issues” if he were to lead the government. Earlier this year, he told the Toronto Star that he would permit MPs to bring forward bills about issues such as conscience rights. However, he said that bills explicitly restricting abortion were a “line he wouldn’t cross.”

However, he did vote ‘yes’ in 2016 to Cassie & Molly’s Law, a proposed bill that would have made it a separate offence to kill or injure a preborn child while committing a violent crime against a pregnant woman. (The bill did not pass.)

Pro-life Canadians may be encouraged by his stance on overseas funding of abortion. In an interview during the leadership race, he said, “I do not think abortion services should be part of our foreign aid funding in any way.” Noting the limited resources that we have to offer, he asked, “Why would we ever earmark some of those funds for something that is not only divisive, but it’s almost a condescending foreign policy? We’re allowing an agenda to be advanced rather than advance direct help for the well being of people.” He noted how much good can be done by funding child and maternal health programs overseas, saying that adding abortion funding is “more politics than compassion.”

However, when it comes to abortion, he has said that he will not bring forward government legislation on the issue. In interview with the media, he has re-iterated that he believes abortion is a right, yet promises to work together with members of the party who have pro-life beliefs.

Strong Message on Euthanasia

When it comes to the issue of euthanasia & assisted suicide, his message is much clearer. He has been against euthanasia since it was first introduced to Canada, and voted against Bill C-14 (the 2016 euthanasia bill). In 2017, he told CTV News, “I do not think it is appropriate for society to make determinations on the quality of a life and to engage our public healthcare system to end that life.” He has advocated for better palliative care, and wrote a blog post warning about the slippery slope of euthanasia.

In his blog post, he emphasized the vulnerability of people who may be considering euthanasia, saying, “We must also remember that the citizen that may want to seek this final option is someone that is likely in a mental state of despair and fear from the pain and uncertainty that comes with a serious illness or debilitating condition.”

In his platform, he proposes conscience rights legislation for doctors and other healthcare professionals, ensuring they will not be forced to participate directly in euthanasia or make a referral. When a conscience rights amendment to Bill C-14 was proposed in 2016, he voted in favour of it, though it did not pass.

Support for Families

In his platform, O’Toole has proposed that the Canada Child Benefit should begin at the 7th month of pregnancy, rather than at childbirth, for a first child. This would allow new moms to prepare for their baby’s arrival by helping to cover first-time costs such as a car seat and crib.

In addition, his platform suggests that women who have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth should receive two weeks of paid parental leave. He also suggests a bereavement leave for parents who have lost a child shortly after birth.

Canada Summer Jobs Grant

In the past few years, pro-life groups have continued to be prohibited from receiving the Canada Summer Jobs grant, which would be used to hire summer interns to do work in the pro-life field. O’Toole promises to pass a law that would stop discrimination when it comes to government grants and government-funded programs. He specifically notes that ‘religion or religious belief’ should not prevent people from receiving a grant, and it may be that this could be extended to pro-life beliefs as well.

What Can We Do?

With an election possibly coming in the near future, there is a great deal pro-life people can do! Erin O’Toole has promised to listen to the grassroots, so it’s a great time to let him know how important pro-life issues are to you. The Conservative policy convention will be held in 2021, and O’Toole has pledged to allow members to determine the party policies at the grassroots level. At the last policy convention, pro-life voices helped to put forward a number of policies, including that the party condemns discrimination against girls through gender-selective abortion.

It’s important for pro-life people to continue sharing the issues that matter to them with the party leadership and encouraging their MPs to vote pro-life. You can also keep involved if you’re a member of the Conservative party. One way is to attend the policy convention as a delegate for your riding. You can make a great difference with your voice!

Take Action: Euthanasia Bill C-7

On Monday, February 24th, the federal government introduced new legislation, Bill C-7, that would expand Canada’s euthanasia law and make it the most permissive in the world.

As reported by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, this bill would eliminate the requirement that a person must have a terminal illness to qualify for euthanasia and assisted suicide.

This means that people with chronic illness and disability would now be eligible for euthanasia in Canada. Over this past year, we have been running local ads that ask, “Why assisted suicide for some, and suicide prevention for others?” We should be asking the same question about this bill.

If someone expresses a desire to end their life, we should respond with care and support, and ask what they are struggling with that makes them feel this way. We should provide them with suicide prevention resources, because their life is valuable. Why would our response be different just because a person has a disability or chronic illness?

Image of ad: 'Why Assisted Suicide for Some, and Suicide Prevention for Others?"
One of our pro-life ads currently running on Guelph Transit buses.

The bill would also endanger vulnerable people by permitting advance requests. Currently, doctors will ask a person if they still consent to the euthanasia just before the lethal injection is administered. This new bill would allow people to consent ahead of time, and eliminate the requirement to ask them just before being euthanized. As the EPC explains,

“Bill C-7 allows doctors and nurse practitioners to lethally inject an incompetent person, (advanced request) so long as that person consented to death by lethal injection before becoming incompetent.

This amendment to the law contravenes the Carter decision which required that a person be capable of consenting to die.

The goal of the euthanasia lobby was to amend the law to allow “advanced consent” for euthanasia. Canada’s Liberal government appears to be working closely with the euthanasia lobby.”
 
This means that a person might sign an advance request for euthanasia and then develop dementia at a later time. Then, when they no longer have the capacity to consent, a doctor could still euthanize them, not knowing if they truly consent at that moment.
 
A person may look ahead and, fearing the future, say that they want to be euthanized in certain circumstances. But how can any of us know how we will truly feel when facing unknown future circumstances?
 
It would be gravely irresponsible for the government to move ahead with this bill, since vulnerable people with no capacity to consent would be killed, with no way for doctors to know if they were doing so against the patient’s will.
 
Take Action: Email or write to your local MP to urge them to speak up against this bill in Parliament.
 
In Guelph, your MP is Lloyd Longfield.
E-mail: lloyd.longfield@parl.gc.ca
 
Mail can be sent to his Guelph office:
Lloyd Longfield
111 Farquhar Street
Unit 103
Guelph, ON
N1H 3N4
 
Or, send mail to his Ottawa office, postage-free:
Lloyd Longfield
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6
 
In Wellington-Halton Hills, your MP is Michael Chong.
 
Mail can be sent to his Fergus office:
Michael Chong
A-190 St. David Street South
Fergus, ON
N1M2L3
 
Or, send mail to his Ottawa office, postage-free:
Michael Chong
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

You can watch video of part of this week’s debate on this bill:

Part two of debate in the house begins approximately 9 minutes into this video:

Documentary Screenings: Fatal Flaws

We are excited to announce three local screenings of the new ‘Fatal Flaws’ documentary, which will take place in Erin, Fergus, and Guelph in September and October.

The documentary ‘Fatal Flaws‘ is a thought-provoking journey through Europe and North America that asks one of the most fundamental philosophical questions of our time: should we be giving doctors the right in law to end the life of others by euthanasia or assisted suicide?

Filmmaker Kevin Dunn uses powerful testimonies and expert opinion from both sides of the issue to uncover how these highly disputed laws affect society over time.

So far, this film has had a significant impact. “I had always hoped this film would be a game-changer,” says Kevin Dunn, director of the film. One impressive example of this happened in May of this year.

A screening of Fatal Flaws was held in Guernsey, in the Channel Islands, days before a vote on the issue of assisted suicide. If it had passed, Guernsey would have become the first location in the British Isles to legalize assisted suicide. One of the government representatives who would be voting came to a screening, and it completely changed his mind on the issue. As a result, assisted suicide was not legalized.

We are now facing the impact of legalized assisted suicide & euthanasia in Canada, and have seen almost 4,000 Canadians die as a result. The most recent government report on assisted suicide & euthanasia, detailing July to December of 2017, shows that over 1500 Canadians ended their lives with the help of a doctor during this span of time – a 30% increase from the last six-month period.

elderly women and younger woman holding hands
Seniors and those living with chronic illness and disability should receive support, companionship, and care during difficult times. The new Fatal Flaws film shows how legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia puts people in danger.

As we’ve seen in Belgium and the Netherlands, legalization of assisted suicide can often begin with stringent requirements that become broader as the years go on. In Canada, we may soon be faced with legalized euthanasia & assisted suicide for minors and those with mental illness.

A recent article from England highlighted the story of a man with Borderline Personality Disorder who is requesting assisted suicide from the Dignitas centre in Switzerland. He would not be the first person with a mental health struggle to have his life ended prematurely by Dignitas (see here and here).

That same article highlights the fact that, rather than just being a personal choice, this kind of decision can have a ripple effect on family, friends, and society:

“Suicide and assisted suicide or euthanasia are generally talked about as if they were completely separate, but as… testimony shows, someone taking their own life by any means has a devastating effect on family and wider society. In addition, contrary to what some people claim, legalising assisted suicide actually increases the overall suicide rate.”

It’s more important than ever to become well-educated on this topic, share information with friends and family, and become involved with protecting life in Canada.

The documentary screenings in Erin, Fergus, and Guelph this September and October are an excellent way to learn more about this important issue.  We encourage you to attend, and bring family and friends. Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition will be at the Guelph & Fergus screenings on October 18 & 20 to answer questions. For more information, contact our office.


Screening Information:

Erin: September 22  – St. John Brebeuf Catholic Church, 6:30pm, 26 Millwood Rd.  For information, contact the Right to Life office.

Fergus: October 18 – Fergus North Canadian Reformed Church, 7:30pm, 6534 1 Line, Fergus. Featuring guest speaker Alex Schadenberg. For information, contact the Right to Life office.

Guelph: October 20 – Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate (Parish Hall), 11:30am. Brunch & screening featuring guest speaker Alex Schadenberg. Tickets are $10 each. For information, e-mail the Basilica Catholic Women’s League at aflo@mgl.ca or call 519-824-7797.

Please note: these screenings have now taken place, but there may be more scheduled in the Guelph area for November 2018. Contact our office for information.

Primum Non Nocere – First Do No Harm

Guest Post by Dr. P.H. Ling, FRCS

Doctor assisted suicide is not health care; it is the premeditated and deliberate taking of a human life, no matter what euphemisms have been fabricated to assuage those who are tempted to believe, perversely, and generally without guile or malicious intent, that it somehow demonstrates respect for human life.

So far, much of the public awareness has centred on the rights (or even perceived obligations) of individual physicians to provide medically induced death, but more recently, hospitals and other health care institutions have exercised their right, on grounds of conscientious objection, to opt out of being forced to participate in such irrevocable acts. These rights of conscience are fully guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and there is rightly nothing ambiguous in the wording of the Charter.

“These rights of conscience are fully guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”

If much of the mainstream media were to be believed, most or all criticism of such institutions has implied that only Christian hospitals have been the obstructers. Yet, just prior to the federal passage of Bill C-14 (the “right to die” legislation passed by the current government), the Canadian Medical Association revealed that only 20 percent of all doctors, at most, would be willing to administer death to their patients, and that over twice as many – 42 percent – would actively refuse to do so.1,2 With 80 percent of doctors being unwilling, it is clear that the doctors’ collective reluctance to participate in the deliberate deprivation of human life extends beyond any one religious group.

“The Canadian Medical Association revealed that only 20 percent of all doctors, at most, would be willing to administer death to their patients, and that over twice as many – 42 percent – would actively refuse to do so.”

The authorities’ vague promises of safeguards are not reflected in the improvised, chaotic manner by which these new steps have been implemented. In Ontario, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, speaking on behalf the provincial government, has in fact expressed uncertainty over how to deal with hospitals that exert their right to eschew participation in medically assisted suicide.3 Even supporters of medically assisted suicide have expressed surprise that far more Canadians who have had their lives taken in this manner, did so within hospitals, rather than at home, as they had wrongly predicted.4 It is within this misread context of ad hoc erroneous assumptions that the said death legislation has been rushed through, so that people in a precarious and delicate state of mind can endure “death with dignity” – an abstract construct whose validity has yet to be affirmed by anyone subjected to this one-way journey.4

A growing number of seniors’ care homes, many without religious affiliation, have also objected to being pressured to participate in medical euthanasia, and surely the elderly are most at risk for coercive manipulations of this kind.5

elderly women and younger woman holding hands

Strangely enough, while the same federal Canadian legislation that opens the way to unclear parameters for the legal application of medical homicide protects participating health care workers from prosecution, it leaves a gap in the protection of health professionals who abstain on grounds of conscientious objection.6

In Canada, it is justly possible to express one’s moral and legal right, as a conscientious objector, not to participate in the slaughter of war. We have a moral duty to protect those who have sworn, in accordance with the Hippocratic Oath, that they will protect life and firstly do no harm. Ultimately, the human conscience cannot be suppressed, and our health care facilities’ moral stand is a collective manifestation of this refutation.

For more information on the campaign for doctors’ conscience rights in Ontario, visit www.canadiansforconscience.ca

References

  1. A Canadian Approach to Assisted Dying: CMA Member Dialogue Summary Report, 2016.
  2. Canadian Medical Association (CMA) Poll, as cited in Postmedia News (canada.com), Feb 8, 2013.
  3. CityNews (Toronto), April 14, 2016.
  4. Most of the Assisted Deaths in Ottawa Have Been in Hospitals. Ottawa Citizen, January 10, 2017.
  5. St Paul’s Hospital Among 12 Facilities Objecting to Assisted Dying. Saskatoon Starphoenix, December 7, 2016.
  6. Doctor-assisted Dying Bill Restricted to Adults Facing “Foreseeable” Death. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News, April 14, 2016.

 

Take Action: Opposing the Supreme Court of Canada’s Assisted Suicide Decision

On February 6, the Supreme Court made an irresponsible and dangerous decision by decriminalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia.

As you can see below, the Supreme Court’s decision would allow assisted suicide not just for those with a terminal illness, but for anyone with an illness, disease, or disability that is “grievous and irremediable”. This includes those with chronic pain, psychological suffering, and any kind of disability.

SCC Assisted Suicide Ruling
Click to enlarge

The Supreme Court has claimed that people who are unable to commit suicide due to the progression of their disease or disability may choose to commit suicide early, while they are still able, and thus the laws prohibiting assisted suicide infringe on their right to life (section 7 of the Charter).

In making this claim, the Supreme Court has effectively created a “right to die” out of the right to life.


Make Your Voice Heard

Parliament now has the option of invoking the notwithstanding clause, a mechanism which gives them the power to override the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Charter, and provides the government a temporary pause. Once the notwithstanding clause has been invoked, a Royal Commission can be formed to thoroughly investigate the impact that this ruling would have on Canadians.

elderly women and younger woman holding handsWe need to protect people with disabilities, elders who live with abuse, depressed and suicidal people, and all others who will be impacted. It is not safe to enable one person to be involved with killing another person.

Letter-writing is an effective way to reach those in Parliament who will be responding to this ruling soon: Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Justice Minister Peter MacKay, and your local Member of Parliament. We urge you to take action and write a letter to each of these individuals today. Note that letters sent to any of these individuals do not require postage.

To get started, have a look at the sample letter and talking points available on our website, or contact us for more information!