Without true north, the Supreme Court of Canada’s compass is pointless

By Don Hutchinson

We have a compass on the dashboard of our Jeep. It’s a good old-fashioned oil filled ball compass. I stuck it there shortly after we moved from Toronto to Ottawa because my “personal positioning system” occasionally got confused with the transition from decades in a water-to-the-south city to driving in a water-to-the-north city.

We have since acquired a GPS unit; but the compass stays. Why? It’s my experience that when the compass and the GPS are in disagreement, the compass is right. GPS units are notorious for being more disoriented than even I can be. But a compass is continuously reliable once it is fixed to true north. Without true north, the compass is pointless.

[February 6’s] decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter assisted suicide case gives every indication that the Court is practising orienteering based on a “personal autonomy positioning system.” Abandoning constitutional true north, the role of its decision as a legal compass is unpredictable. The guidance provided in this case resembles dire true stories of GPS units gone awry.

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