Statement on Ontario Court of Appeal ruling on conscience rights



May 15, 2019

Rev. Dr. Andrew Bennett, Director of the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute, has released the following statement regarding today’s Ontario Court of Appeal ruling on health care workers’ conscience rights:

“Today’s decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal is a significant setback for the cause of conscience rights. Freedom of conscience is a fundamental freedom held by virtue of being human and is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To demand that health care workers go against their consciences for the provision of a medical service is a violation of the human dignity of those workers. There is no freestanding Charter right to any medical service in Canada. The only Charter right at issue in this case was the freedom of conscience of health care workers.

The Court’s decision treats health care workers as merely servants of the state whose conscience rights are secondary to the demands of patients. Is it not the responsibility of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to protect its members’ human rights? As regulators in other provinces have done, the College could create an online referral system, which would direct patients to a physician who would provide a demanded medical service while still preserving the fundamental freedom of conscience of all health care workers.”

Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus - Director of Communications
613-241-4500 x508

About the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute

The CRFI researches Canadian religious freedom issues in order to educate Canadians and to strengthen the national network of religious freedom advocates. Central to the Institute’s work is the understanding that religious freedom is the fundamental right of all people, their communities, and their institutions to live out their most deeply held beliefs in both public and private contexts without interference from the state or other authorities. To learn more, visit the Cardus website.


Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society's institutions can work together for the common good.