Skip to content

Court tells hospice society that refuses to allow assisted death to stop meeting

DELTA, B.C. — A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has cancelled a pivotal meeting on Monday for a hospice society in Delta, B.C., that does not allow medical assistance in dying.

DELTA, B.C. — A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has cancelled a pivotal meeting on Monday for a hospice society in Delta, B.C., that does not allow medical assistance in dying.

One of three former board members of the Irene Thomas Hospice who petitioned the court to stop the meeting says the judge gave them a "complete victory."

Chris Pettypiece said Sunday the judge also ruled that the current board acted in bad faith to manipulate a vote by rejecting applications for those who wanted to be members of the Delta Hospice Society.

Pettypiece said Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick ordered on Friday that the current board provide a list of rejected memberships and ruled it must accept memberships for those who were turned away.

"We're delighted with the outcome," Pettypiece said. "I think while it's a complete victory in the context of our petition, it's the start of a longer journey, or it's the next important step and milestone in a longer journey."

Hospice society president Angelina Ireland didn't return requests for comment, although her affidavit to the court in response to the petition said the society's leadership has worked towards changing its constitution to reflect its Christian character.

Ireland's affidavit said the fact that there is a dispute between two groups is not enough for the court to interfere.

She said the society's bylaws provide full discretion to its board members to approve or reject membership applications.

"Nowhere in the bylaw is it set-out that the directors must accept all applicants or that the role of the board concerning membership is purely administrative," her affidavit said.  

B.C.'s Health Ministry announced last year that it was withdrawing $1.5 million in annual funding, covering about 94 per cent of the cost to run the facility, because the society won't comply with provincial policies on medical assistance in dying.

Pettypiece, who sat on the society's board from 2011 to 2019, said the dispute goes back to 2016 when the federal government introduced the law for medically assisted death.

Those opposed became dominate on the board and ousted anyone who didn't align with their ideals, he said.

"There was a stacking of membership that caused a balance of opinion in the membership that isn't representative of the community.

"I think what we're seeing today is an informed community who now sees what's happened and is rejecting that and pushing back and taking back ownership of what they believe is a community asset and resource."

Delta Mayor George Harvie, MP Carla Qualtrough and local members of the legislature Ian Paton and Ravi Kahol sent a joint letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix earlier this month requesting a meeting to discuss concerns about the hospice.

Delta's elected officials were united in voicing concerns about the society's changes to its constitution, while seemingly thwarting the efforts of citizens to have a say in the direction of the society, said a joint statement the politicians at the beginning of June.  

Ireland said in an earlier interview that politicians who disagree with the Christian basis of the society's stance against medically assisted death should build another facility to provide the service.

Pettypiece said the court's decision means now is the time for those in the community to get involved, become members and attend the next general meeting.

"This is about an attempt to take away choice from people and I think that's wrong. I don't deny people's rights to believe in whatever they want to, but I think the problems here, the matter of social justice, is the attempt to prevent others from accessing services that they should be able to."

He said he thinks trying to control that through language about the rights of a society is disingenuous.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2020.

Terri Theodore , The Canadian Press

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks