Controversial ‘conscience rights’ bill sparks online petitions

Susan Thompson
For the Lakeside Leader

The Peace River MLA who introduced the ‘conscience rights’ bill has been seeking support for the bill through an official petition.

Dan Williams introduced the private member’s Bill 207 on Nov. 7. It proposes to allow doctors and other health care providers to refuse services that go against their ‘conscience’ or religious beliefs, without also needing to refer the patient to another health care provider.

On Nov. 13, Williams shared a petition in support of his bill on his official social media, saying, “Show your support for conscience rights for health care workers.”

The petition states, “We, the undersigned residents of Alberta, petition the Legislative Assembly to pass legislation that will commit to law the Section 2 (a) right to Freedom of Conscience in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms for health care workers.”

The petition has so far garnered over 200 signatures.

Meanwhile, two other petitions against the bill have been circulating online through the website, change.org. Those petitions have been shared by constituents in local social media groups and in response to news articles on the bill.

The ‘Stop Bill 207’ petition, started by Evan Brunner, has over 5,800 signatures. It states, ‘Sign this petition to let the Government of Alberta (know) that we will not tolerate an infringement on our right to adequate, effective and timely medical care. Access to these services is legal in Canada and the ‘personal beliefs’ of medical professionals should not be allowed to infringe upon these rights. Let the UCP government know that these subtle attempts to undermine our rights will not be tolerated.”

Brunner says he will be forwarding the petition to MLAs as well as the members of the special committee reviewing the bill.

A separate petition started by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has over 16,000 signatures. It states, “The petition signers ask the members of the Alberta Legislative Assembly to oppose and defeat Bill 207, which it calls the ‘Abandoning Patients Act.’

“The bill contravenes patients’ rights and is unconstitutional,” it continues. “It must be opposed and defeated.”

All private members’ bills are submitted to a special committee for review.

Bill 207 was sent to the government’s Standing Committee on Private Bills for review on Nov. 18.

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