Christian Groups Concerned Over Quebec's Recent Passing of Assisted Suicide Bill, Fight To Come

( [email protected] ) Jan 05, 2016 01:59 PM EST
Christian Groups in Canada welcome the government request for a further six-month extension of the suspension of Supreme Court ruling on assisted suicide. They have concerns that proper safeguards in criminal law have not been put in place to protect the vulnerable and elderly.
Philippe Wojazer / Reuters

It may seem that there's a big difference between, "physician-assisted suicide" and "Act of respecting end-of-life care," but both phrases amount to the same thing. 

The latter represents the wording in Quebec's Bill 52, enforced last December, which led to the Supreme Court of Canada striking down the provision in the criminal code that made assisted suicide illegal. 

The assisted suicide debate has been heating up in both the US and Canada in recent years.

Shortly after the bill was tabled in 2013, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada released a paper on the "Euphemisms for Euthanasia." One of its concerns, as stated by EFC president, Bruce Clemenger, is that the "sensitive" rewording may pave the way for more states and provinces to consider it a more viable option. The paper emphasized the need for greater access to palliative care for those who need it.

This landmark decision was made on the basis that it was contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, thus paving the way for Canadian adults of sound mind, but undergoing intolerable suffering, to have the right to physician-assisted suicide.  

In an interview with CBC, the head of Dying with Dignity, Wanda Morris, acknowledged the unique approach to the legislation.  "Quebec was a groundbreaker in terms of saying, "We're not talking about assisted suicide or homicide....but we're talking about end of life: this is a natural extension of palliative care, so it needs to come under provincial legislation."

It is precisely on the point of "provincial jurisdiction" that the Canadian-based Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF) takes issue. When Canada's high court struck down the provision in the criminal code of Canada, it gave Canadian adults who are of sound mind, but suffering intolerably, the right to a doctor's assisted suicide. The court suspended its ruling for 12 months, so the government had time to create a new constitutional law to replace the old one. The federal law remains in force until at least February 6th, if not longer, now that the federal government has asked for an additional six-month extension.

Wanting to implement its own law, Quebec is now seeking an exemption from the criminal code if the government gets an extension of its existing law. According to their recent press release, as one of several intervenors, the CLF finds the two laws to be in conflict. It welcomes the government request for an extension and will "focus its submission on opposing Quebec's exemption request in light of Parliament not having sufficient time to address unanswered questions around criminal law on assisted suicide and euthanasia."

Another major concern stated in the CLF press release regarding Quebec's exemption request is Quebec's assuming it can draw the lines of criminal and non-criminal boundaries when those decisions belong to parliament alone. "CLF underscores concern that assisted suicide and euthanasia should not proceed until full consideration of the appropriate criminal law safeguards necessary can be given to protect the vulnerable and elderly from abuse."

Tags : Assisted Suicide Christian Groups Bill Passing, Quebec Bill 52, End-of-Life Care, Physician-assisted suicide