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Group petitions government to protect conscientious objectors

By Frank Flegel

06/29/2016

REGINA — There were 11 of them — three bishops representing the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Ukrainian faith communities, several Anglican priests and representatives from the Muslim and Jewish faith communities — and they all wanted the same thing from the provincial government: more palliative care available to people in the final stages of life, protection for health care workers and institutions who want no part of medically assisted dying laws and should not be forced to refer a request for medically assisted dying to someone who would carry out the procedure.

“We think it was one of the most Godly representative statements ever,” said Saskatoon Bishop Donald Bolen, one of the organizers of the group. It met June 21 with provincial Health Minister Dustin Duncan, Premier Brad Wall, Attorney General Gordon Wyant and the NDP Opposition caucus.

“We had a good hearing and we heard from the premier a commitment to every means possible to protect those conscience rights,” said Bolen. The meeting with NDP Leader Trent Wotherspoon and several members of his caucus focused mostly on palliative care.

“Everybody recognizes the cost involved but everybody recognizes the profound need if we really are going to give people a choice. If assisted euthanasia is not going to be forced on people, then there has to be good access to palliative care.”

Saskatchewan Ukrainian Eparchy Bishop Bryan Bayda said more members of other faith communities are expected to sign the petition. “I think that kind of appeal to what we have said in the statement is very profound and I think it will catch the attention of the members of the legislative assembly.”

The entire group was later introduced to the legislative assembly by Wall and. The premier, in his introduction, said the government would do what it can to protect the rights of those who do not want to be forced into carrying out medically assisted dying.

The issue was forced on the Canadian people through a ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada, which said it was against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian Constitution to deny anyone’s request for medical assistance in taking their own life. It set out the conditions under which the procedure can be granted and gave the federal government a year to enact a law. Bill C-14, the legislation legalizing the procedure, was approved by both the House of Commons and the Senate but gives narrower parameters that must be met. Groups favouring medically assisted dying argue C-14 does not go far enough and some aspects of it are likely to be challenged in court.

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