Catholics fight back!

The Catholic Church in Quebec is fighting back against the government’s encroachment on religious freedom, filing a lawsuit to challenge a law that seeks to force their palliative care facilities to provide euthanasia.

Canada’s leading Catholic news outlet, The Catholic Register, reports that in 2016, the Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal signed a lease for a community organisation - Maison St-Raphaël - to convert an old church building to a 12-bed palliative care centre and use it to provide free palliative care to those in need. In addition to the generosity of many Catholic donors and volunteers, the Archdiocese’s agreement to lease the property - valued at $10 million - for a nominal annual rent of $1 meant that palliative care could be provided at no cost.

St. Raphael Palliative Care Home and Day Centre is one of only four palliative care centres in all of Quebec that wants to opt out of having euthanasia on site. When the Archdiocese entered into the lease in 2016, and when the facility opened in 2019, the law did not require palliative care facilities to also provide euthanasia. But a law change in December 2023 is seeking to force all facilities to provide euthanasia, or face closure.

Essentially, the Quebec government would prefer to close a facility providing free palliative care than have anything get in the way of a pro-death ideology.

But instead of acquiescing to the law’s demands, closing, or suffering sanctions, the Catholics are putting up a fight. There is no way that they are letting the government force a facility built with the donations from the Catholic faithful for the express purpose of offering palliative care to kill their patients instead.

In a lawsuit filed on 2 February, the Catholic Archbishop of Montreal, Archbishop Christian Lépine, is arguing that this is an encroachment on religious freedom.

In a media release issued after the lawsuit was filed, the Archdiocese had this to say:

“[The] new law significantly undermines the exercise of the right to freedom of religion and conscience, as well as the right to the peaceful enjoyment and free disposal of one's property, guaranteed by the Canadian Charter and the Quebec Charter.”

If the Archbishop is successful, the implications could be far-reaching.

Notably, the euthanasia and assisted suicide laws in South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales are just as oppressive; they too require Catholic and other religious aged care facilities to allow euthanasia on site. Perhaps the Canadian case will inspire some legal action here too.