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Pro-family group petitions Canadian Parliament

CANADA (BP) — A conservative, pro-family women’s group in Canada wants greater protections for Christians’ religious freedom and rights of conscience.

REAL Women of Canada says religious freedom has eroded as Canada has sanctioned things like gay marriage, so the group recently launched a petition to present to Parliament.

“What we’re seeing now is lack of respect for Christians,” REAL Women of Canada researcher Diane Watts said. “[T]hey’re facing fines in human rights courts.”

She said defendants in those trials are required to pay their legal expenses, even if the accusations against them are false or charges eventually get dropped.

“There’s still a veneer of thinking that Christian rights are protected,” Watts said. Many Canadians don’t know their rights of speech and conscience won’t be protected until someone complains and takes them to court.

In 2008, a member of the Pride Center of Edmonton accused the publisher of Catholic Insight magazine of making derogatory comments about homosexuals, according to Catholic News Agency. Charges were eventually dropped, but only after the magazine spent $20,000 in legal fees, Watts noted.

She cited numerous examples of attacks on Christians’ freedoms, including a bishop who was taken to court over a pastoral letter opposing gay marriage, a Knights of Columbus group tried for refusing to rent its hall for a lesbian wedding, and attempts to refuse accreditation to Christian law students. Watts said many also are concerned that doctors who oppose euthanasia may face discrimination after Parliament recently approved it.

Those incidents convinced the REAL Women of Canada board to file the petition. It calls for an amendment in the criminal code regarding “medical assistance in dying” and in the Civil Marriage Act “to provide Christians and their faith-based institutions protection from its provisions that are contrary to their religious and conscience beliefs.”

It also calls on Parliament to institute a review process for new legislation “to ensure it does not impinge upon the religious rights of Christians in accordance with the historic continuity of the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

The petition will be presented by MP Michael Cooper of Edmonton in the House of Commons once it has enough signatures, probably in the fall.

Although not a part of the petition, other organizations in Canada are concerned about Christians being forced to violate their conscience or intimidated by legal challenges.

In February, a group of thousands of Canadian physicians complained that legalizing physician-assisted suicide could force them to participate or refer patients to doctors willing to kill, Huffington Post Canada reported.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, said the policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario puts “great pressure” on doctors with personal or religious objections to euthanasia.

Canada’s Parliament approved Bill C-14 in June, permitting medically assisted suicide to anyone whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable,” Life Site News reported. A spokesman for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition called the bill “horrific.”