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Gagnon backs conscience provisions

By James Buchok


WINNIPEG — Archbishop Richard Gagnon is urging the faithful in the Archdiocese of Winnipeg to support a bill in the Manitoba Legislature that would protect doctors, nurses and other health care professionals from having to provide, refer, or assist in the provision of Medical Assistance in Dying against their conscience.

The “A Call for Conscience” campaign has been organized to back Bill 34, which is currently on the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba Order Paper and will soon be up for debate. The bill was introduced by Progressive Conservative MLA Kelvin Goertzen, Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living.

The campaign was started by the Coalition for Health Care and Conscience, a Canadian Christian-based organization.

“The opportunity for action is time-sensitive,” writes Gagnon in a pastoral letter. “I am asking you, the faithful of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, to take part in the efforts of contacting our MLAs to let them know that you support Bill 34, and that you would like them to do the same. This is an important issue for the future of health care in Manitoba and for the right of people of faith to freely practice medicine. Unfortunately, in Ontario, the College of Physicians and Surgeons has voted to make referrals for Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) a provincial policy. In Manitoba there is currently a great deal of pressure from powerful and well-funded advocates of assisted suicide and euthanasia to do away with the conscience rights of doctors and nurses as well. Support for Bill 34 is not a partisan issue as it is clearly about protecting the conscience rights of doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals from being forced to choose between their conscience and their career.”

A template for writing letters to members of the Legislative Assembly has provided in churches for the past three Sundays. “Better yet,” suggests the archbishop, “use the template as a model for your own personalized letter.” The letters will be forwarded to Micah House, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg Centre for Social Justice, for distribution to MLAs. Parishioners can also support the campaign by visiting their MLA personally to let their views be known.

Those who did not receive a template can send a letter to their MLA via the Coalition for Health Care and Conscience website. On the website, MLAs are found by entering one’s postal code. Users then enter their name and email and can send a prepared letter or modify the message with their own thoughts. By clicking “Write Your MLA and the Minister,” the email is sent to the MLA and the Minister of Health.

For those who want to learn more about the issue, the website also offers a three-minute video called Call for Conscience with several Canadian physicians sharing their concerns regarding conscience rights and their hope for Bill 34 to be passed. The video is also available via the Archdiocese of Winnipeg website.

“Lastly, and most importantly,” writes Gagnon, “I ask for your prayers for the success of this campaign, that our Lord Jesus Christ may aid our province of Manitoba to continue to be a place where the diversity we celebrate as a society makes room for people of conscience and of faith. It is my hope that many of you will participate in this collective effort, in communion with other Manitoba dioceses and with other Christians in our province as well as people from various faith backgrounds, who share our values of respect for life. “


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