Bishop's Distinguished Lecture

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The University of Victoria Catholic Chaplaincy is pleased to announce that Stephen Point has accepted our invitation to present the 2016 Bishop's Distinguished Lecture.

7:30pm Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016
David Lam auditorium
Maclaurin Building
Admission by Donation

Steven L. Point (Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl): Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia (2007 to 2012); provincial court judge; Truth and Reconciliation Commission Honorary Witness; politician.

A member of the Skowkale First Nation, Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl was first elected as chief at age 23 in 1975 and served as chief for a total of 15 years on several occasions after that. From 1994 to 1999 he was tribal chair of the Stó:lō Nation and Grand Chief of Stó:lō Tribal Council.

Steven L. Point is past director of the First Nations Legal Studies program at the UBC Faculty of Law. He left that post in 1994 to manage the Lands Department of the Stó:lō Nation. On 15 Feb 1999 he was appointed a provincial court judge.

In 2005 Steven Point was appointed chief commissioner of the British Columbia Treaty Commission and held that position until he was named the province's 28th Lieutenant Governor. On February 20, 2014, he was re-appointed as a provincial court judge.

Closely following her Victoria visit, Dr. Somerville has had published in the Globe and Mail an article that neatly complements her presentation for the annual Bishop's Lecture.

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What the top court left out in judgment on assisted suicide


Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015 8:00AM EDT

Last updated Monday, Oct. 26, 2015 6:09PM EDT

Margaret Somerville is founding director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University.

A major post election issue is what to do about the Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment in the Carter case last February, which struck down the Criminal Code’s prohibition of assisted suicide to allow physician-assisted suicide for certain people in certain circumstances. This ruling represents a seismic shift in foundational Canadian values of much greater import than what we decide about the niqab.

A central question in legalizing physician-assisted suicide is where the balance between respecting individual rights to autonomy and protection of the “common good” (protection of others and society, including its important values) should be struck. In this case, there was almost no such balancing.

Rather, both the trial court and the Supreme Court focused almost exclusively on the rights of individual persons, so that the factual findings and legal reasoning were intensely individualistically based.

There was heavy emphasis on the suffering of people who had “bad deaths” and both courts ruled that the potential risks and harm to people of legalizing physician-assisted dying – that is, what is required to protect them and the common good – was a “theoretical or speculative fear” that could not outweigh the individual’s right to autonomy with respect to deciding what should happen to his or her own body and life.

Both courts adopted a narrow definition of Parliament’s purpose in prohibiting assisted suicide (namely, that it was to protect a vulnerable person in moments of weakness from acting on suicidal ideation) and concluded that an absolute prohibition was not needed to achieve this. Indeed, the courts accepted the evidence of plaintiff Gloria Taylor, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, that she did not need this protection as showing that she and people like her did not – that is, they were “not vulnerable.”

Consequently, the absolute prohibition of physician-assisted suicide, which the Supreme Court ruled breached all Section 7 Charter rights to “life, liberty and protection of the person,” was overbroad in relation to implementing Parliament’s purpose, and so was not “in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice,” and therefore unconstitutional.

But was the court correct in its assessment of vulnerability? Prof. Henk ten Have, a physician-ethicist at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, recently published a paper proposing that vulnerability is an innate human characteristic that we all experience throughout our lives, because it “comes from the social dimension of human existence.” In short, we are not free-floating autonomous atoms.

Vulnerability is linked to dependence on others. We are all interdependent, which means we are all vulnerable. This is not necessarily bad, as we might at first assume when we hear the word “vulnerable.”

For example, researchers in psychology have found that recognition of such dependence is a necessary condition for experiencing gratitude. We recognize that we need the other person and are grateful to him or her for fulfilling our need, which can be distinguished from being grateful for whatever it is that they have given to us.

So, has the emphasis on individual autonomy and its priority over other values caused us to lose our capacity for gratitude? Moreover, has this loss created a culture of individual entitlement? Has it resulted in converting privileges into rights? Has it meant a loss of bonding to others, the glue required for the social cohesion that enables us to form a society?

I suggest that the Carter judgment reflects such characteristics.

The Supreme Court saw the antidote to suffering as recognizing individuals’ right to autonomy and its use to consent to the infliction of death. An alternative is a communal response of providing fully adequate palliative care, which affirms our bonds with those who are in need and are especially vulnerable.

In balancing autonomy with conflicting values, the Supreme Court failed to consider what is necessary to protect the “common good,” to protect all of us as vulnerable people by upholding “respect for life” (a preferable term to “sanctity of life”) in society as a whole.

I suggest it requires, as it always has until now, the prohibition of intentionally killing an innocent human being or helping them to kill themselves.

Somerville Lecture follow up.

Thanks to the hard work of Leah Wilcock, Secretary and Coordinator, this year's Lecture was highly successful. Attendees were generous with their financial donations.

Dr. Somerville was welcomed by Advisory Board Chair Mr. Wendell Clanton, with additional remarks offered by Mary Anne Waldron, Professor of Law, His Excellency Gary Gordon, Bishop of Victoria, and Fr. Dean Henderson, Chaplain. 

Many  thanks to all who attended and those who participated in the Q&A section of the evening.

An informal gathering of students and others was hosted by Fr. Harrison Ayre at a local restaurant for those who wished to discuss the content of the Lecture. Fr. Harrison is the host of the popular Theology On Tap presentations held at the Guild Pub on the third Monday of each month. Click HERE to visit the Theology On Tap (ToT) website:

2015 Bishop's Lecture Oct. 22nd 2015

Click HERE for additional details.

Margaret  Somerville AM, FRSC, DCL.

McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law

The University of Victoria Catholic Chaplaincy is pleased to announce that Dr. Somerville has accepted our invitation to present the 2015 Bishop's Distinguished Lecture: THURSDAY October 22nd 2015, 7:30pm, David Lam Auditorium, MacLauren Building, University of Victoria, parking lots E and 6. Admission is Free. Donations gratefully accepted.

Margaret Somerville is the founding director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, where she holds the Samuel Gale Chair in the Faculty of Law and is a professor in the Faculty of Medicine. As a consultant to numerous government and non-governmental bodies, she has worked with the World Health Organization, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO. She has received a number of honorary doctorates in law and is the recipient of many awards, including the Order of Australia.

Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, will receive the 2015 Templeton Prize on May 18th at St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

Visit the BC Catholic for additional details: Click HERE

Templeton site:

Visit the L'Arche Canada homepage: Click HERE

London, U.K., March 11, 2015 – Jean Vanier, the founder of L’ARCHE, a ground- breaking international network of communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers, has been awarded the 2015 Templeton Prize.

Valued at £1.1 million (about $1.7 million USD), the Prize is one of the world's largest annual awards given to an individual. It honors a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works. Vanier joins a distinguished group of 44 former recipients, including Mother Teresa, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and the Dalai Lama.

When he founded L’ARCHE in France in 1964, Vanier, now 86, discovered that those people whom society typically considers of least value, enable the strong to recognize and welcome their own vulnerability and to grow in their humanity. Five years later, the first Canadian community, L’ARCHE Daybreak, was founded in Richmond Hill, Ontario. In 1972, Vanier co-founded Faith and Light, which is now a world-wide network supporting families with members who have an intellectual disability.

Worldwide, there are now 147 L’ARCHE communities in 35 countries on 5 continents. Twenty-nine communities are in Canada, spread from Comox Valley, BC, to Cape Breton, NS.—excerpt from L'Arche site.

New website!

Faith In The Public Square

Hosted by:

Prof. Josephine Lombardi, Professor of Pastoral & Systematic Theology, St. Augustine's Seminary. 

Description from the website [ About ]:

Thought provoking exchanges between field experts and honest commentary on the future of faith in the public square.

Q&A — Pose your tough questions to our speakers and hear them dazzle you with their insight.

The Faith in the Public Square series is about addressing the challenging and contentious questions that pervade our society today. Whether at our places of worship, our offices, or even a coffee-shop, we are constantly having to balance competing rights claims in our complex multicultural society. For many, finding expression of one’s faith in the public square can seem a bewildering prospect, but as our speakers are often quick to remind us it is by no means an impossible task.

To contribute to this discussion, the Archdiocese of Toronto and St. Augustine’s Seminary organized a special colloquium on the subject of Faith in the Public Square. This event is part of a series of celebrations marking the 100th Anniversary of St. Augustine’s Seminary.

Dr. Taylor's lecture to a crowd of 300 was an outstanding success. Prior to the Lecture, Board Members gathered with Dr. Taylor, Bishop Gary Gordon and friends for a delicious dinner held at the University Club. A special note of thanks to Leah Wilcock for her indispensable contributions to the success of the evening.

Left to Right: Dr. Christine Jones, Bishop Gordon, Dr. Charles and Aube Taylor, Debrah Higgins-Tully and Dr. Jim Tully, Fr. Dean Henderson (Chaplain), Mary Ann Waldron, Dr. Jens Zimmerman, Dr. Mike Roney, Wendell Clanton (Advisory Board Chair) and Leah Wilcock.


The Chaplain is pleased to announce that Charles Taylor will give the 2014 Bishop's Lecture.

The Lecture date is November 27, 2014.

Title: Secular Futures

Location: University of Victoria, MacLauren Building, David Lamb Auditorium

Dr. Taylor is a winner of the prestigious Templeton Prize and the Kyoto Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Philosophy. He is the author of several influential books including A Secular Age, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity, Modern Social Imaginaries, A Catholic Modernity? and has penned numerous published articles.

ALSO: The UVic Department of French will be sponsoring a talk by Dr. Taylor at 2p.m. on Nov. 27th. Location: UVic Centre, Room A180 (Senate Chambers). Title: Le Rapport du Québec au fait Français au Canada.

FYI: 2014 Firth Lectures: Taylor

Professor Mary Anne Waldron, the featured speaker at the 2013 Bishop's Distinguished Lecture, has an article in the February 2014 issue of Convivium Magazine entitled Campuses, Courts and Culture Wars.

CLICK HERE to visit the Convivium page.

Mary Anne Waldron is Professor of Law at the Univeristy of Victoria, Victoria, B.C., Canada.

Professor Waldron is the author of the ground breaking book Free To Believe: Rethinking Freedom of Conscience and Religion in Canada.