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Press Release: Will the throne speech address assisted suicide?

For immediate release from the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada

December 5, 2019

Will the throne speech address assisted suicide?

OTTAWA, ON – Advocates for persons with disabilities will be tuned in to the throne speech to see if or how the returning Liberal government will address the issue of assisted suicide.

“Will the government promote suicide prevention or suicide assistance?” asks André Schutten, Director of Law and Policy with the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada. “Will this government signal to people with severe disabilities or diseases that it wants to provide help in the way of palliative medicine and other supports to prevent suicides, whether medically assisted or not?”

“ARPA Canada affirms the equal dignity and worth of every human being,” says Schutten. “Sadly, in just the last few years, we’ve seen the rapid deterioration of this fundamental value: that you matter because you’re you; that despite disease and disability, you have value and deserve quality care and concern from your neighbours, your government, and your country.”

ARPA Canada has been an active voice on the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia for over a decade and was one of the interveners in the Carter case at the Supreme Court of Canada. In the landmark decision, the Supreme Court struck down the absolute prohibition on assisted suicide. After 16 months of careful deliberation and broad consultation with many experts, spanning two Parliaments, the Liberal government passed Bill C-14, legalising assisted suicide in certain circumstances. The requirements included that a person requesting “assistance in dying” must have “a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability,” and be in “an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability” and “their natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.”

In September of this year, a mere three years after that law was passed, a Quebec lower court judge, in a case called Truchon, struck down the restriction that assisted suicide only be available in circumstances where death is “reasonably foreseeable”. The Attorney General of Canada did not appeal the decision.

“Instead of defending legislation enacted by Parliament, as it ought to have done, the Attorney General simply deferred to a lower-court judge’s opinion that the law is unconstitutional,” says John Sikkema, a constitutional lawyer with ARPA Canada.  “Now, it appears the government will use the Truchon ruling as a pretense for expanding assisted suicide.”

“It will be interesting to see how Members of Parliament respond to the Prime Minister’s and Attorney General’s stated intention to expand access to assisted dying,” Schutten comments. “Opposition to further loosening Canada’s assisted suicide law in response to Truchon may be motivated by the belief that ‘assisted death’ is unethical, by concern about devaluing the lives of sick and disabled people, and by a desire to defend Parliament’s role and responsibility against activist judges,” he added.

ARPA Canada has published several articles on the subject of assisted suicide, from op-eds to Supreme Court Law Review essays. ARPA Canada’s legal team also presented to multiple Parliamentary committees and panels during the drafting and consultation process for Bill C-14, the euthanasia law. You can find ARPA Canada’s policy report on assisted suicide and euthanasia online.

For in-person (Ottawa) or telephone interview requests, please contact André Schutten directly: 613-297-5172

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