Vancouver Coastal Health has agreed to change its policy to permit healthcare professionals to opt for a secular addictions treatment option. The move comes as part of a settlement agreement with Byron Wood, who had filed a human rights complaint after being forced to attend religious based Alcoholics Anonymous by the health region.
The BC Humanist Association had been following Byron's case and has been campaigning to ensure people have access to secular and evidence based addictions treatments.
Parts of the settlement agreement remain confidential but Byron told CBC News that anyone working for VCH will not be required to attend AA or similar religious-based treatment programs "if that approach to treatment conflicts with their religious or non-religious beliefs."
Byron Wood told CBC News:
I'm really happy about the outcome — it means that VCH employees are not required to attend 12-step rehab centres, 12-step meetings, or participate in any 12-step activities if they object for religious reasons.
The 12 steps are a religious peer support group, not a medical treatment. They shouldn't be imposed on anyone.
Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:
It takes a lot of courage to stand up for your convictions and to fight, as Byron did, for six years against an injustice. He should be commended for this victory.
At the same time, we still maintain that the default should be secular and evidence based treatment programs. Public bodies in particular have a duty of religious neutrality that should preclude them from sponsoring religious based programs.