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B.C. court deals blow to Delta hospice’s attempt to restrict medical assistance in dying, say supporters

Medical aid in dying was legalized in Quebec in 2014 and then across Canada in June 2016.
Medical aid in dying was legalized in Quebec in 2014 and then across Canada in June 2016. Getty Images

Supporters of access to medical assistance in dying (MAiD) say they have won a major court victory against the Delta Hospice Society.

Chris Pettypiece, a former society board member, says the B.C. Supreme Court has ruled to scuttle the current board’s plans to become a faith-based organization, as it sought to block MAiD at its facility.

“It’s a total victory relative to the petition we filed with the court we won on all counts without exception,” Pettypiece told Global News.

READ MORE: Delta Hospice head says B.C. policy could force people ‘into euthanizing themselves’

“We are highly concerned with the lack of justice in the court system today,” said Delta Hospice Society president Angelina Ireland in a statement.

The court’s ruling was delivered orally on Friday. Global News has not been able to independently review it.

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The society has been embroiled in a lengthy dispute with the B.C. government and local community members over its stance against providing MAiD.

LISTEN: Nurse at Delta Hospice speaks out

MAiD was legalized in Canada in 2016, and B.C.’s Ministry of Health says it will defund the organization next February unless it makes the procedure available on-site. Staff at the hospice would not be required to perform the procedure.

Delta Hospice Society loses provincial funding over assisted dying fight
Delta Hospice Society loses provincial funding over assisted dying fight

Health Minister Adrian Dix gave the requisite one-year defunding notice in February, saying the money covers 94 per cent of costs for the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice on land that is owned by the Fraser Health Authority.

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The society’s board had sought to hold an extraordinary general meeting on Monday, at which it planned to amend the organization’s constitution to transform it into a “Christian community that furthers biblical principles,” including the sanctity of life.

READ MORE: Hospice’s refusal to provide assisted death causing ‘anxiety:’ B.C. mayorFaith-based organizations in B.C. are not legally required to permit end-of-life procedures on-site but must provide a referral and transport to another facility.Delta residents accused the board of rejecting their society membership applications in advance of the vote, in order to control the outcome. Ireland has denied those allegations, claiming memberships were rejected at random in order to keep the organization small.In a recent interview with CKNW Radio, Ireland had argued that MAiD goes against traditional, Christian principles that she says underpin hospice care.“Palliative care is actually rooted in Christian moral teaching as far back as 2,000 years ago,” Ireland told CKNW’s Lynda Steele.Speaking at a rally Saturday in which supporters announced the decision, Delta Mayor George Harvie said he was “totally committed to getting rid of” the society’s board.“We will not tolerate losing the opportunity for choice in our precious Delta hospice.”LISTEN: Conversation with Delta Hospice Society president Angelina IrelandPettypiece said Friday the court ordered that the upcoming meeting be cancelled, and that the board does not have the right to screen memberships.He says it further ruled that Ireland and the board had acted in bad faith to manipulate the vote, and that all rejected applicants must be accepted.“The board members are still in place. There’s work ahead of us to run with the court’s ruling, instead of the very specific and exclusive agenda that the board was trying to implement,” he said.
READ MORE: A hospice must provide a medically-assisted death if a patient asks: Fraser Health

The board must also provide a list of all society members, and all rejected applications to petitioners, Pettypiece said.

Global News has requested comment from Ireland, the Delta Hospice Society and B.C.’s Ministry of Health.

-With files from Robyn Crawford