Conservative MP’s bill on conscience rights fails but gets Poilievre’s support

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OTTAWA – Almost all Conservative members of parliament voted in favor of a bill they say will protect the conscience rights of health care professionals when it comes to medical assistance in dying.

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The private member’s bill was defeated in the House of Commons on Wednesday by 203 votes to 115, despite having the support of most Tories, including their new leader Pierre Poilievre.

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The bill was introduced by Kelly Block, a Conservative MP from provincial Saskatchewan who hails from the social conservative wing of the party, which champions the issue of conscience rights.

The governing Liberals and NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs voted against proposed legislation that sought to change the Criminal Code to protect health professionals from having to “directly or indirectly” be involved in medical aid in dying.

The Conservatives saw 114 votes in favor of the bill. The House of Commons website shows no votes registered for Melissa Lantzman, one of the party’s two deputy leaders, and MPs Eric Duncan, Dave Epp and Richard Martell.

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Kevin Vuong, an independent MP from the Toronto Center riding of Spadina-Fort York, also supported Block’s bill and appears to be the only non-Conservative to do so.

Block’s proposal would make it a crime to intimidate or fire a health care worker who refuses to provide medically assisted death or make a referral for the service.

The Liberal government has long said there is nothing in its legislation that compels a health professional to “provide or help provide” the procedure if it conflicts with their personal beliefs.

The Ontario Court of Appeal also ruled that allowing doctors to refuse to provide referrals would stigmatize already vulnerable patients and limit their access to medical services.

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However, many Conservatives oppose the federal Liberal government’s handling of the medical aid in dying regime and believe there are not enough protections for people on health care.

Block released a statement after Wednesday’s vote, saying there was growing concern among medical professionals that they “may be forced to participate” in the procedure, given plans to expand it.

The Campaign Life Coalition, an anti-abortion group which supports Tory MPs who also oppose the procedure, applauded Block’s proposal after it failed on Wednesday.

Proponents of conscience rights have been clear in the past that they believe they should apply to a range of medical services, including abortion and sex-reassignment surgery.

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