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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude

Special Joint Committee on Physician Assisted Dying Parliament of Canada (January-February, 2016)


Parliament HillContents

Special Joint Committee ReportClick to open report

In February, 2015, in the case of Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the criminal prohibition of physician assisted suicide and physician administered euthanasia, but suspended the ruling for one year to give federal and provincial governments an opportunity to draft new laws that conform to the decision.  In January, 2016, the Court granted an extension of the suspension to 6 June, 2016.  In the interim, it allowed euthanasia to proceed in Quebec under provincial legislation in force there, and allowed individuals seeking physician assisted suicide or euthanasia elsewhere to apply to a superior court to obtain authorization.

A special joint committee of the Canadian House of Commons and Senate began work in January and produced a first report in the last week of February.  With respect to freedom of conscience and religion, the report recommends that physicians unwilling to provide euthanasia or assisted suicide for reasons of conscience be compelled to find someone willing to do so.  It also recommends that all publicly funded facilities - not excluding objecting denominational institutions - be compelled to provide euthansia and assisted suicide.

The main report is followed by a dissenting report signed by four Conservative (C) Members of Parliament.  The dissenting report erroneously states, "Quebec physicians are free to act according to their conscience," and recommends the "Quebec model" that purports to accommodate freedom of conscience and religion.  The Quebec model has been rejected by many objecting physicians because it requires them to become parties to homicide by referring a patient to an administrator, who will arrange for euthanasia.

A supplementary opinion filed by two New Democrat (NDP) Members of Parliament states that legislation "must ensure that every eligible patient’s right to access medical aid in dying is upheld, and protect any healthcare professional who objects for reasons of conscience from disciplinary action."  However, the authors of the supplementary opinion do not dissent from the main report, so this must be understood to mean that objecting physicians who refuse to arrange for someone to kill patients or help them commit suicide should be disciplined.

In Canada, the federal government has no jurisdiction over the regulation of medical practice or the operation of hospitals.  This means that, if the Committee's recommendations are to be implemented, provincial governments and medical regulators will be left to deal with the most contentious issue: compelling unwilling physicians, health care workers and health care facilities to become parties to homicide and suicide.

Parliamentary Web Pages

Committee proceedings have not been transcribed verbatim.  On important points, transcripts on parliamentary web pages should be checked against the video to ensure accuracy. Edited video transcripts provided here have been checked against the edited videos.

French language materials

French language videos and transcripts can be found by using the links below to access the parliamentary English language page, and then clicking on the French language icon or link at the upper right corner of the parliamentary page.


Groups and individuals were heard during 10 Committee meetings, which are listed and outlined below.  The outline of each meeting includes:

  • Meeting number and date
  • Links to full videos and transcripts of the meeting
  • Witness list
  • Links to videos edited to show exchanges relevant to freedom of conscience
    • Links to transcripts for edited videos [EV Transcript]
  • Links to briefs submitted by the groups/individuals
    • Links to extracts from group/individual briefs relevant to freedom of conscience (Brief+)
Meeting No. 2:  18 January, 2016  |  Full Video Full Transcript
  • Department of Justice
    • Joanne Klineberg, Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section
    • Jeanette Ettel, Counsel, Human Rights Law Section
Meeting No. 3:  25 January, 2016 | Full Video | Full Transcript
  • Department of Health 
    • Abby Hoffman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy 
    • Sharon Harper, Manager, Chronic and Continuing Care Division
  • As an individual
  • Barreau du Québec
    • Marc Sauvé, Director, Research and Legislation Services
    • Jean-Pierre Ménard, Lawyer
Meeting No. 5:   26 January, 2016 | Full Video | Full Transcript
  • External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada
    • Benoît Pelletier, Member, External Panel
    • Stephen Mihorean, Executive Director, Secretariat
  • Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying
Meeting No. 6:  27 January, 2016 | Full Video | Full Transcript
Meeting No. 7:  28 January, 2016  | Full Video | Full Transcript
  • As an individual
    • Hon. Steven Fletcher
  • Council of Canadians with Disabilities
    • Dean Richert, Co-Chair, Ending of Life Ethics Committee
    • Rhonda Wiebe, Co-Chair, Ending of Life Ethics Committee
  • Dying With Dignity Canada
  • As individuals
    • Jocelyn Downie, Professor, Faculties of Law and Medicine, Dalhousie University
    • David Baker, Lawyer, Bakerlaw
    • Trudo Lemmens, Professor, Faculty of Law & Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto
Meeting No. 8:  1 February, 2016  | Full Video | Full Transcript
Meeting No. 9:  1 February, 2016  | Full Video | Full Transcript
  • Canadian Cancer Society
  • First Nations University of Canada
    • Carrie Bourassa, Professor, Indigenous Health Studies
Meeting No. 10:  2 February, 2016 | Full Video | Full Transcript
Meeting No. 11:  3 February, 2016 | Full Video | Full Transcript
  • Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience
  • Canadian Unitarian Council
  • Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
    • Dr. Tarek Rajji, Chief, Geriatric Psychiatry
    • Kristin Taylor, Vice-President, Legal Services 
  • Canadian Paediatric Society
    • Dr. Dawn Davies, Chair, Bioethics Committee
    • Mary J Shariff, Associate Professor of Law and Associate Dean Academic, University of Manitoba
  • Canadian Council of Imams
Meeting No 12:   4 February, 2016  | Full Video | Full Transcript
Edited Videos

The edited videos provided here focus on

  • terminology,
  • the continuing effects of the criminal law,
  • the exemptions to criminal prosecution required to allow euthanasia and physician assisted suicide under the terms of the Carter ruling,
  • jursidiction of the federal and provincial governments in relation to criminal law and freedom of conscience and religion,
  • freedom of conscience and religion for individual and institutional health care providers who object to providing or becoming parties to euthanasia or assisted suicide.
List of Edited Videos

Group/individual presentations

Multiple participant discussions

Briefs and oral submissions

144 groups/individuals Links to the full briefs are provided below.  Click on (Brief+) to see statements from a brief  relevant to freedom of conscience and religion for healthcare providers.  Click on [EV Transcript] to see transcripts from edited videos.

Five groups/individuals appeared as witnesses, but did not contribute briefs, nor did they make comments clearly relevant to freedom of conscience in health care.  They are marked with an asterisk.

Bold face identifies groups or individuals who appeared as witnesses.

  1. Abramson, Jana & Kenneth (Brief+)
  2. Adams, Andrew
  3. Advance Practice Nurses of the Palliative Care Consult Service in the Calgary Zone of Alberta Health Services
  4. Advocacy Centre for the Elderly
  5. Agger, Ellen (Brief+)
  6. Alakija, Pauline et al
  7. Alliance for Life Ontario
  8. Alliance of People with Disabilities Who Are Supportive
    of Legal Assisted Dying Society  [EV Transcript]
  9. Altschul, Denise
  10. Alzheimer Society*
  11. A Network of British Columbia Physicians (Brief+)
  12. Anglican Church of Canada
  13. Association of Registered Nurses of Prince Edward Island
  14. Baker, David
  15. Barreau du Québec*
  16. Bennett Fox, Sara
  17. Bracken, Susan (Brief+)
  18. Brienen, Arthur-Leonard (Brief+)
  19. BC Civil Liberties Association (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  20. British Columbia Humanist Association (Brief+)
  21. Brooks, Jeffrey (Brief+)
  22. Brzezicki, Barb (Brief+)
  23. Canadians Advocating for Ethical Hospice Care (Brief+)
  24. Canadian Association for Community Living
  25. Canadian Bar Association (Brief+)
  26. Canadian Cancer Society (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  27. Canadian Civil Liberties Association (Brief+)
  28. Canadian Coaltion for the Rights of Children
  29. Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (Brief+)
  30. Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops & Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (Brief+)
  31. Canadian Council of Imams (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  32. Canadian Federation of Nurses' Unions (Brief+)
  33. Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association [EV Transcript]
  34. Canadian Medical Association (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  35. Canadian Medical Protective Association (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  36. Canadian Nurses Association (Brief+)
  37. Canadian Nurses Protective Society (Brief+)
  38. Canadian Paediatric Society (Brief+)
  39. Canadian Pharmacists Association (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  40. Canadian Psychiatric Association*
  41. Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  42. Canadian Unitarian Council (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  43. Catholic Organization for Life and Family (Brief+)
  44. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  45. Centre for Inquiry Canada (Brief+)
  46. Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (Brief+)
  47. Chipeur, Gerald (Brief+)
  48. Christian Legal Fellowship (Brief+)
  49. Christian Reformed Churches in Canada (Brief+)
  50. Clay, Pat (Brief+)
  51. Clemenger, Lauren
  52. Coaltion of Healthcare and Conscience (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  53. College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta
  54. College of Family Physicians of Canada (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  55. College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia
  56. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia  [EV Transcript]
  57. College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia
  58. Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (Brief+)
  59. Congress of Union Retirees of Canada: Hamilton-Burlington-Oakville (Brief+)
  60. Council of Canadians with Disabilities [EV Transcript]
  61. Criminal Lawyers' Association [EV Transcript]
  62. Department of Health [EV Transcript]
  63. Department of Justice [EV Transcript]
  64. DisAbled Women's Network of Canada
  65. Downie, Jocelyn
  66. Dying with Dignity Canada (Jarrett) (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  67. Dying with Dignity Canada (Morris)  [EV Transcript]
  68. Dying with Dignity Canada (Smith) [EV Transcript]
  69. Dyment, Alan (Brief+)
  70. Dyrholm, Joan (Brief+)
  71. Eayrs, Jonathan (Brief+)
  72. Ells, Carolyn [EV Transcript]
  73. Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (Brief+)
  74. Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (Brief+)
  75. Evans, David
  76. External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response
  77. Farrow, Douglas (Brief+)
  78. Fernihough, William (Brief+)
  79. First Nations University*
  80. Fischer, Marilyn
  81. Fleming, Loretta
  82. Fletcher, Steven*
  83. Frazee, Catherine
  84. Frizzell, Sue
  85. Gobbi, Greg
  86. Goodwin, Lori RN (Brief+)
  87. Hammond, Katherine (Daughter of Margot Bentley)
  88. Hartman, James
  89. HealthcareCAN (Brief+)
  90. Hogan, Marcia (Brief+)
  91. Hogg, Peter [EV Transcript]
  92. Holmen, Denise
  93. Holub, Robert
  94. Hudgins, Janet
  95. Inch, Carolyn (Brief+)
  96. Indigenous Physicians' Association*
  97. Johnson, Shirley (Brief+)
  98. Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  99. Koch, Jule (Brief+)
  100. Kuchta, Gay (Brief+)
  101. L'Arche Canada
  102. Lemmens, Trudo
  103. Leung, Constant MD (Brief+)
  104. Lindstrom, Lena (Brief+)
  105. Living with Dignity (Brief+)
  106. Lods, Margaret
  107. Lovell, Jane (Brief+)
  108. Lydon, Patrick MD (Brief+)
  109. MacKay, John S. MD  (Brief+)
  110. MacLellan, Pat
  111. Mandel, Ezra (Brief+)
  112. Maple, Doris
  113. Marchand, Michelle (Brief+)
  114. Martin, Mary
  115. Maryon, Betty
  116. McPhee, Margaret (Brief+)
  117. Mental Health Commission of Canada
  118. Morison, Rhonda (Brief+)
  119. Mount, Balfour MD
  120. Munroe, Pamela (Brief+)
  121. Nurses Association of New Brunswick
  122. Perks, Allan
  123. Peterson, Heather (Brief+)
  124. Physicians' Alliance Against Euthanasia (Brief+)
  125. Protection of Conscience Project (Brief+)
  126. Provincial Territorial Expert Advisory Group [EV Transcript]
  127. Rankmore, Carol
  128. REAL Women of Canada (Brief+)
  129. Registered Nurses Association of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut
  130. Richard, Spencer
  131. Saba, Paul MD (Brief+)
  132. Salvation Army (Brief+)
  133. Santoro, Burrell (Brief+)
  134. Secular Connexion Séculière (Brief+)
  135. Seeley, Patricia
  136. Shapray, Howard QC
  137. Society of Rural Physicians of Canada [EV Transcript]
  138. Somerville, Margaret (Brief+) [EV Transcript]
  139. Squires, Collette (Brief+)
  140. Sullivan, William MD
  141. Sumner, Wayne (Brief+)
  142. Surgeon General, Canadian Forces Health Services Group
  143. Svec, Katherine Meaney (Brief+)
  144. Toujours Vivant - Not Dead Yet
  145. Underwood, Katherine
  146. UNICEF Canada
  147. United Church of Canada (Brief+)
  148. Vandenberghe, Joris
  149. von Fuchs, Ruth (Right to Die Society of Canada)  (Brief+)
  150. Walker, Ken MD (W. Gifford-Jones MD)
  151. Warren, John (Brief+)
  152. Widas, Mary
  153. Willoughby, Annette
  154. Wilson, John
  155. Wilson, Linda (Brief+)



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