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MB College of Physicians Proposes Sweeping Restrictions on Availability of Circumcision-B'nai Brith Expresses Profound Concerns

July 13, 2021

[Editor's note: The Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons is proposing to ban doctors from performing Jewish ritual circumcision in homes and synagogues. Below is a letter sent by Bnai Brith objecting to the proposal. All comments can be filed by any member of the public by no later than July 16, 2021 to  [email protected]. To the best of my knowledge it appears that according to the proposal a non-medically trained mohel could continue to perform Jewish ritual circumcision in homes or symagogues etc, but doctors couldn't. ] 

 

July 12, 2021
Dr. Jacobi Elliot and Dr. Anna Ziomek
President and Registrar/CEO
The College of Physicians & Surgeons of Manitoba
1000-1661, Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, MB
R3J 3T7

Dear Dr. Elliot and Dr. Ziomek,   

I am writing to you on behalf of B’nai Brith Canada, a leading Jewish human rights organization and opponent of antisemitism. The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada operates an anti-hate hotline, which receives complaints about antisemitic incidents, and publishes our Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, the only report of its kind in Canada. I hope that all is well with you and your family during these unusual times.

We at B’nai Brith were surprised and disturbed to hear today of the College’s proposal to ban male circumcisions, including for religious purposes, in any non-hospital setting. Please consider this letter to be B’nai Brith Canada’s official feedback on this horrifying proposal, which would constitute a significant and unjustified impingement on Jewish Manitobans’ right to religious freedom, and would potentially spark a legal challenge.

Firstly, we have serious misgivings with the way in which this potential change has been rolled out. We learned of the proposal just today from a Winnipeg mohel, i.e. a qualified performer of Jewish ritual circumcisions. Despite the obvious and serious effect this would on Manitoba’s Jewish community, B’nai Brith was never consulted, and we understand that the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg was not either. This constitutes a serious breach of the College’s duty to consult populations affected by its dictates, particularly religious minorities.

On a substantive level, any move to ban circumcisions outside of hospitals would have a significant and entirely negative impact on Jewish religious observance in Manitoba. For Jews, male circumcisions, typically performed on the eight day after an infant’s birth, are a critically important lifecycle event, rather than a mere medical procedure. The family celebrating the circumcision will usually host a seudat mitzvah, or ritual meal, in their home or a local synagogue, immediately following the circumcision itself. Blessings are recited before, during and after the circumcision, often along with remarks by a rabbi or other religious official.

To state the obvious, Jewish circumcision rituals of this sort cannot properly be carried out in a hospital. Thus, requiring all circumcisions to take place in a hospital materially interferes with Jewish religious observance.

What makes this all the more bewildering is the apparent lack of any justification for taking this radical and unilateral step. We are not aware of any other Canadian provincial regulatory body – at least not in provinces with a significant Jewish population that bans circumcisions in any non-hospital setting.

Nor are we aware of any pressing medical or other public policy justification for this proposed change. In particular, we are not aware of any recent mishaps stemming from Jewish ritual circumcisions in homes or synagogues – not in Manitoba, or anywhere else in Canada, for that matter.

We are aware of other incidents, more broadly speaking, regarding ritual circumcisions in Manitoba. For example, we understand that a physician was disciplined by the College in 2018 with respect to certain Muslim ritual circumcisions that he had performed. However, the core issue in that case seems to have been practitioner (in)competence, rather than location, and at least some of those circumcisions were performed in a “Medical clinic” within the meaning of the new proposed Standard of Practice.

In fact, on that occasion, Dr. Ziomek told CBC that this was “the first instance of malpractice related to circumcision College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba has dealt with in at least two decades.” In other words, the proposed Standard of Practice appears to be a draconian “solution” in search of a problem.

Please let us know as soon as possible how the College intends to address this matter. We fully expect the College to comply with its obligations under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and rescind the proposed Standard of Practice, or amend it to exclude ritual male circumcisions.

Sincerely,

?

Michael Mostyn,
Chief Executive Officer
B’nai Brith Canada

Direct contact: 416-633-6224, ext. 104
[email protected]

 
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