The Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute came about as a result of discussions, dating back to 1998, among some Toronto-area physicians and lawyers, ethicists at the three Catholic hospitals of Toronto, University of St. Michael’s College, Regis College, St. Augustine’s Seminary, and the Canadian Association of the Order of Malta. This group felt that it would be helpful to create a centre or institute to help enhance Catholic research and communications in the area of bioethics in a way that would be of service to Canadians generally. In particular, it was felt that there was a need to foster collaborative, integrated research and to communicate the fruits of that research in ways that are accessible to Canadians of all backgrounds. The group also stressed the need for a proactive approach to bioethics by Catholics, academically credible research, and stronger links across the country among academics, clinical ethicists, and workers in health and pastoral care. In February 2000, the group submitted a proposal for the CCBI to the Archdiocese of Toronto. In the summer of 2000, under the direction of His Eminence Cardinal Ambrozic, the Archdiocese of Toronto agreed to provide sufficient funds to organize the proposed institute, to fund its activity during the first year, and to provide significant annual support thereafter. With this support assured, an office was established on the campus of the University of Saint Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. A director, Dr. William Sullivan was appointed effective January 2001 to begin the process of Canada-wide consultations that would help to shape the Institute’s vision, mission and activities. The first meeting of Catholics involved and interested in bioethics was held on June 22-24, 2001. In March 2001, the Institute became formally affiliated with the University of Toronto through the University of St. Michael’s College.
The CCBI officially opened on November 16, 2002, with the support of many Canadian bishops, national Catholic lay organizations and academics from across the country. The CCBI is taking a year to sponsor a few, focused research projects that relate to human reproduction, genetics and health economics, gathering information for a national database of resources in Catholic bioethics, and consolidating the advice of national taskforces that are helping to form a research strategy and a mission and vision for the CCBI. A successful first research think tank, called Quodlibet 2002, was held June 10-13, 2002 in Guelph, Ontario on “Human Genetics in the Context of Health Care Reform”. It involved forty scholars from across Canada and the U.S. The proceedings will be submitted for publication to the University of Toronto Press. On July 26, 2002, the CCBI and the Order of Malta sponsored an international meeting of three hundred enthusiastic university students for a discussion of “Catholic Bioethics: Building a Culture of Life” during World Youth Day 2002.