The Delta Hospice Society has won a major victory in its fight to stop euthanasia from entering the future hospice it hopes to build.
In a vote on April 2, 76% of society members voted to retain the current pro-life board and to pass an amendment to the society’s constitution codifying its rejection of euthanasia and medical assistance in dying (MAID).
“This is a victory for the pro-life nation,” society president Angelina Ireland told BC Catholic after the meeting.
While the vote does not reverse the damage done by Fraser Health’s takeover of the company’s Delta facility last year, it does present a positive vision for the future.
“It’s important to move forward with a clear vision for the organization,” Ireland said. “We have heard the will of the members: 75% is an overwhelming majority” and effectively blocks the attempted takeover of the company by the pro-euthanasia advocacy group Take Back Delta Hospice.
More than 3,100 members of the hospice society voted in favor of constitutional and statutory amendments that included a commitment to “a traditional understanding of the principles of hospice palliative care, which excludes medical assistance in dying (MAID)”, prohibiting any “MAID-related activity” by the society, and requires that all new candidates and renewing members “demonstrate a commitment to this traditional understanding of the principles of palliative care”.
Challenging the society’s pro-life ethos was Take Back Delta Hospice, which describes itself as a grassroots community initiative aimed at protecting the integrity of the Delta Hospice Society, though its ties to national euthanasia organizations like Dying with Dignity indicate that it is far from being a base. movement. He also recruited euthanasia supporters nationwide in his bid to take control of the council.
Even before the general meeting, the management of Take Back Delta Hospice had already formed a separate palliative care society called Heron Hospice Society. As such, Ireland believe the group was never concerned with the health and welfare of society, but was simply trying to grab assets.
“It was personal,” Ireland said. “In some ways they had already won” when Fraser Health took over Irene Thomas Hospice, the company’s Delta facility. She said that if the Heron Hospice Society wanted to build a hospice, “it has to do its own job.”
Ireland said the election victory is an example of what pro-life Canadians can achieve when they come together and she hopes it gives courage to Canada’s pro-life movement.
“We are powerful – when we come together we are a force. We are more influential than people think,” she said.
“Palliative care is about ordinary people,” she said. “For all their [pro-euthanasia] the rhetoric – “you’ve lived a good life, they’re wasteful eaters, it’s about health care” – that’s not people’s point of view…people want palliative care. MAiD is government-focused.
In an observation that seems particularly acute at a time when COVID has unveiled fundamental health care staffing and funding issues, Ireland pushes the issue further. “[The government] is bankrupt, they have found that it is easier to kill someone than to pay. Because an acute [palliative] medical bed is very expensive, there are huge savings to be made with MAiD,” she said.
While the current situation may seem to paint a grim picture for the future, there is hope in the hospice society’s immediate plan to find land for a new facility.
“We heard what the members want,” Ireland said. “We have a mandate to move forward… We have already built a hospice; we’ve done all the work, so we can build another one.
The last two years have also taught the hospice some hard lessons, and Ireland wants people to be aware of the potential risks.
“We would never make any deals with the government again,” she said.
“On private land, it will be interesting to see if the government will try to impose [its will] on individuals,” she said.
And that’s the heart of the matter, say the supporters of the hospice / or the defenders of life. Even though proponents of euthanasia say they simply want to give people a choice, the seizure of the Delta facility shows that the weapon of government will be used to intervene when possible.
When Fraser Health took control of the hospice, Health Minister Adrian Dix made it clear that euthanasia would not be forced on anyone and that the seizure was simply to ensure access to euthanasia for vulnerable people . Yet the government viewed the Delta Hospice Society as a hindrance rather than an organization with a legitimate set of opinions on palliative care.
Ireland believes that if this clear example of government overreach doesn’t wake people up, the future will present a series of growing challenges for pro-lifers. Today it is seizing a facility on government-loaned land, but tomorrow the government may push its agenda into the private sphere, including people’s homes.
“When in Canada do people finally say ‘enough?’ asks Ireland; “Eventually the government might come into your house and tell you, as a private citizen, to perform MAID.”
Still, the results of the meeting offer hopeful respite for the time being. In a world where pro-lifers often feel perpetually on the defensive, Ireland and many in society are enjoying a victory and looking forward to building something beautiful and new.