Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Erin O'Toole on referral by practitioners opposed to euthanasia, abortion, etc.

Would-be Conservative Prime Minister: "they will have to refer"

Transcript of statements made during 2021 election media conference

Winnipeg, Manitoba
20 August, 2021

Sean Murphy*

Questions at 8:44, 10:03, 10:06, 10:52 [French], 21:00, 25:35, 26:50 [French], 27:50
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Figure 1: O’Toole, 2020


Q)     Liberals say doctors have a moral obligation to refer patients for services like abortion, gender affirmation surgery, medical assistance in dying. Not just an obligation to help or conduct these procedures, but to refer them as well, to refer patients to other professionals. So, do you support the rights of health care professionals to not have to refer these services? Yes or no.


A)    Let me repeat. I’m a pro-choice member of parliament. I’m a leader that will have that approach. I will always stand up for the rights of all Canadians, including women, including the LGBTQ community. I’ve served in the military, including here in Winnipeg, protecting rights of Canadians and that’s how I will lead as Prime Minister. There are some in our health care system — nurses, physicians — that have some discomfort offering specific services like medical assistance in dying, which is expanding right now in Canada. I think we can find a reasonable balance for those conscience protections while ensuring referring of those Canadians to the services is provided. I think Canadians want a reasonable approach here. That is what we will offer. But let me reiterate. I’m here to defend the rights of all Canadians and that will be my approach as Prime Minister.


Q)     [Faint question, apparently not heard] Will they have to refer?


Q)     Will they have to refer?


A)     [Begins answer in French] Comme j’ai dit . . . [not transcribed]. . . pour le service, oui. [As I have said . . .for the service, yes.]. Yes, they will have to refer because the rights to access those services exist across the country. And this is about striking a reasonable balance, and as we see medical assistance in dying expanded there are some concerns for some in our health care sector, and we can, we can balance those, those concerns off but not deny services. So that will be our approach. And I think Canadians want a reasonable approach. It’s upsetting that in a fourth wave pandemic called by Mr. Trudeau, almost every day he’s tried to divide and mislead Canadians. Canadians deserve better.


Q)     [Asked to repeat answer in French].

10:57 to 11:33

[Repeats answer in French]


Q)     You've spoken obviously about protecting conscience rights for health workers on abortion but the federal government obviously doesn't have jurisdiction over regulating health care. You said you'd do it the same way that the Liberal government did for conscience rights on medical assistance in dying. Which was, involved, obviously, sort of amendment to the Criminal Code. Are you saying that you'd amend the Criminal Code to deal with abortion in the context of your conscience rights policy?


A)     No, Ian. Let me, let me reiterate. I’m pro-choice and it’s very important for anyone who may be seeing me for the first time to know that I will always stand up for the rights of all Canadians. I, I think that’s important. That’s been my track record and I will do that. With, with some health care professionals who have some concerns particularly with the expansion of medical assistance in dying especially into mental health issues, which concerns a lot of people, we have to respect conscience rights but allow there to be referrals. Some professional bodies of physicians and, and surgeons and provincial bodies are already providing such conscience right protections. But this is important for us to get the balance without sacrificing the access rights for Canadians. I think Canadians want that balance. Some provinces already find it. It, it will be important for our government to find it.


Q)     Mr. O’Toole, today you stated your position on doctor referrals. But I just want to take you back to 2020 when you were running for the leadership of the Conservative Party you said you would have legislation for conscience rights for health care professionals but you added that you would put in that legislation that you would prevent health care professionals from carrying out or referring patients for services that violate their conscience. I just find that - - Has your position changed? And why?


A)     My position has not changed, Kevin. I’m pro-choice, as I’ve said repeatedly, and I’ll say every day in the campaign. I will always stand up for the rights of all Canadians. And that includes women, that includes the LGBTQ community, and that’s my track record. With some in our health care system, nurses, doctors, particularly with the expansion of medical assistance in dying, conscience rights are very, are, are becoming an important subject of discussion. Some professional bodies and provinces are already looking at this issue. We will work with them in that context, to, to, to make sure we can balance the conscience rights of those Canadians but to make sure that access is there for all Canadians to, to, healthcare services. That will be our approach, and I think Canadians want a balanced approach here.


[In response to request, repeats answer in French]


Q)    With respect, I wasn’t asking about your stance on abortion, sir. I was asking whether your position on whether doctors should refer patients to another physician if their conscience means that they don’t want to perform or refuse to perform a surgery or procedures. So, you know, in your leadership it does seem to say that, in your legislation that you were proposing when you were running for leadership of the party that you would want to prevent doctors from having to do that. Today it seems your position has changed. I’d like to know why.


A)     My position has never changed, Kevin. And it’s important for me to state that I’m pro-choice and I have a record very clear as an ally for the LGGTQ community, because out of the gate in this pandemic election that no one other than Justin Trudeau wanted — every day he’s been trying to divide people, whether it’s on the pademic itself or whether it’s on misleading people with respect to, to my record. My record is crystal clear. I will always stand up for the rights of all Canadians. I did that when I wore a uniform. I will do that as Prime Minister. And I think for some health care professionals that are, that are uncomfortable giving certain services we can respect their conscience rights while also making sure that Canadians can have access to those services. It’s about respect and balance. And this will be very different than Mr. Trudeau, who never tries to respect or find balance. And we see that with Jody Wilson Raybould, leaving politics. We see that with the litany of broken promises and with three personal conduct ethic investigations. We have a Prime Minister who is only centred on himself and his insider friends, has a track record of breaking the law and has no plan for the challenges our country has ahead of us. I’m telling Canadians we have a plan. It’s called Canada’s Recovery Plan. I will stand up for the rights of all Canadians. And with the job surge I announced today let’s get the country back to work.

Figure 2: Our Country: A call to take back Canada, p. 45 [emphasis added]

Figure 3: Conservative Party Policy Declaration, 19 March, 2021

Figure 4: Conservative Party Policy Declaration, p. 28 [emphasis added]