Quebec's attempt to oust federal govt over assisted suicide troubling

Hugh Scher

Hugh Scher

This article was published by Advocate Daily on December 10, 2015

A national approach to the regulation of assisted suicide is the only way to avoid an inconsistent patchwork quilt of assisted suicide laws across the country, which could leave Canadians at risk, says Toronto health, human rights and constitutional lawyer Hugh Scher.

The Quebec Court of Appeal has said it will hear arguments from all sides later this month on a provincial law allowing euthanasia following a recent Quebec Superior Court decision — D'Amico c. Procureure generale du Quebec — suspending key aspects of the legislation.

The Quebec euthanasia law is now in a state of flux until the Dec. 18 appeal hearing.

News of the appeal came just days after Justice Michel Pinsonnault ruled that key pieces of the Quebec law, which were adopted in June 2014, clash with existing federal criminal laws against homicide. In permitting the appeal to proceed next week, the Court of Appeal was clear it was making no ruling on the appropriateness of the order of the Superior Court to suspend its operation.

The judge noted that last February’s Supreme Court of Canada decision carving out exceptions to the Criminal Code prohibitions that ban physician-assisted suicide — Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5 — gave Parliament one year to legislate new rules to give effect to the ruling. Ottawa has since asked for an extension, which would bump the response time from one year to 18 months.

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