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Port Stanley News RSS Feed  Regional OMA's Policy Will Suppress Doctors' Freedom of Speech


Concerned Ontario Doctors
OMA's Policy Will Suppress Doctors' Freedom of Speech

Toronto, ON (February 13, 2018) - "I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it" is a foundational principle of democracy.

In November, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) drafted a Code of Conduct Policy for its members that threatens to stymie criticism from doctors. None of the other provincial/territorial associations have such a policy.

The OMA ignored a previous call to survey members prior to developing any such policy. Its first iteration was not shared with doctors. Some guidelines for conduct included: "Does it align with OMA values?… How will it reflect on the OMA and the profession?… behaviour that is passive in expression, but aggressive or harmful in intent…" These broad and vague principles leave an uncomfortable amount of room for interpretation in the policy's application.

After Concerned Ontario Doctors, a grassroots organization with voluntary physician membership, exposed the code of conduct, the OMA made some minor, cosmetic changes. Nonetheless, the sinister intent and processes remain unchanged. Moreover, the OMA plans to discipline its members through its CEO's office under a veil of secrecy for any words (verbal, written, published, or social media comments) or actions that it deems to be hurtful or false.

This policy contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The OMA exists for the sole purpose of being the legal negotiating body for Ontario's doctors and to advocate for their interests.

It has absolutely no mandate to police its members, who are compelled to join it and pay dues. This role is already filled by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), our legal regulatory body, in addition to the Hippocratic Oath we all take and Canada's legal system with regard to slander and libel or criminal activity.

In June, doctors gave up their right to strike and engage in job action – in perpetuity – by ratifying a binding arbitration agreement with the Ontario government. But the OMA and provincial Liberals wish to take this one step further and block public criticism of them from physicians.

OMA President Dr. Shawn Whatley previously stated: "We're a democratic organization and we want everyone to feel that they can express their opinion in whatever way they want." Yet board directors and staff have reported dozens of its own members to the CPSO for investigation, merely for expressing differing opinions. And now the organization that supposedly represents doctors has a formal process through their CEO's office to investigate members, which includes a "fact-finding" review.

Seventy-six percent of doctors say they do not trust the organization, according to a recent survey. With their unearned moral superiority, how does the OMA have the right to become judge and jury with a forced membership?

The OMA is a 138-year-old bureaucracy with an administrative staff of approximately 300. It is accountable to no one, and is a tool for the Ontario Liberal government, which ensures the organization's survival through mandatory, legislated membership dues of $54 million annually. The end of mandatory dues is supported by two-thirds of Ontario physicians in two independent surveys.

Forced dues foster an environment where collaborators within the organization stand to benefit at the expense of doctors and patient care.

Free speech is the right from which all other rights develop. With forced membership and imposed muzzles, the OMA has revealed its Orwellian colours. The organization is set to soon implement their draconian code of conduct policy. Doctors will effectively be silenced from being advocates for their patients, profession, and Ontario's healthcare system. Physicians deserve an organization that democratically represents them, or at the very least, does not police them. Patients deserve doctors that can speak out against bad government policies impacting the 14 million patients of Ontario

The OMA should dispense with a code of conduct entirely. Forcing any group of people to toe the party line is unconstitutional and degrading to Canadian democracy.

Patients must speak out and defend their health care. Please sign our petition today: www.CareNotCuts.ca/ProtectHealthcare

Background: Concerned Ontario Doctors is a grassroots not-for-profit organization of physicians across Ontario advocating for a patient-centered, sustainable, accessible and quality healthcare system. We stand united in our belief that unilateral actions by any government will undermine our ability to deliver timely and quality patient care. More information can be found at www.CareNotCuts.ca, Twitter: @OnCall4ON, Storify: OnCall4ON, Instagram: OnCall4ON, and Facebook: We Are Your Ontario Doctors.

Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 February 2018 10:35:24 AM EST

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