Canada Could Soon be the Only Country With No Legislated Restrictions on Assisted Suicide

International   |   ARPA Canada   |   May 18, 2015   |   10:12AM   |   Ottawa, Canada

The annual March for Life, held in cities across Canada today, has increased significance for all Canadians this year. The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in February to strike down our nation’s laws against assisted suicide makes the March all the more pressing for its participants.

The Supreme Court gave Parliament just 12 months to pass legislation. “Failing to pass legislation will mean that Canada has no restrictions on physician-assisted suicide beyond the vague parameters the court set out in its judgment,” says Mark Penninga, the executive director of ARPA Canada. “Although a small number of other jurisdictions allow assisted suicide (including the Netherlands, Belgium, Washington, and Oregon), the practice is strictly regulated.”

The federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay has indicated that no legislation will be introduced prior to the federal election. Penninga explains, “With there being very little time between when a new cabinet is formed after the election and the February 6, 2016 deadline set by the Court, it is imperative that this government does all it can already now to ensure that Canada does not allow death-on-demand.”

Penninga goes on to say, “The only realistic option that exists now is to invoke Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to provide enough time to do proper consultations and pass legislation that upholds the intrinsic value of human life.”

ARPA, which stands for the Association for Reformed Political Action, recently published a policy report for Parliamentarians on this matter, urging them to “not cross the sacred line” where some individuals are permitted in law to kill other individuals simply because they do not feel they possess sufficient physical or mental health.

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“This is a rare instance where it is realistic that the opposition parties can work with the governing party to pursue a common objective. New Democrat and Conservative MPs share and have expressed serious concerns with the Supreme Court decision,” adds Penninga. “Their positions are consistent with their repeated opposition to the numerous private member’s bills which have sought to legalize assisted suicide or euthanasia.”

“Although the federal government will be very hesitant to invoke the notwithstanding clause, it was placed in the constitution for exactly this purpose,” Penninga explains. “The protection of human life is not an arbitrary or partisan issue. MPs from all parties can agree that it takes time to draft and pass a proper and thorough response to the Supreme Court’s decision. A couple of months simply doesn’t cut it.”

“Parliament must do what it can to uphold the sanctity of human life. The Supreme Court has ushered in an era in Canada where human life is now trivialized and human value is now dependent on what people think about themselves or others. Parliament has the means to correct or mitigate the harm of this terrible error, and it must seize the opportunity.”