By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
On February 6, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada's assisted suicide law giving Canada's parliament 12 months to fill the legislative void.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) responded to the Supreme Court decision by explaining how the decision wasirresponsible and dangerous to Canadians. We urged our supporters to lobby the Justice Minister and the government toGive us time by establishing a committee to examine the issues and by using the notwithstanding clause to gain the necessary time to bring forth a law to protect Canadians.
Currently EPC has distributed more than 160,000 Give us time! postcards on the issue.
Justice Minister Hon Peter MacKay, who is not running in the fall election, has acknowledged that the government "needs more time" to legislate on assisted suicide. The Canadian Press reported:
The federal government will need more time to deal with the Supreme Court's decision on doctor-assisted death, and asking for an extension would be a perfectly reasonable request, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Tuesday.
MacKay, who is not seeking re-election this October, said he suspects it is "very likely" the government — be it Conservative or otherwise — will need more time to address the decision, which came down in February.
In finding that Canada's prohibition on physician-assisted suicide was a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the high court gave Parliament one year to deal with the issue in legislation.
MacKay said there is "no guarantee" the court would be willing to grant an extension, but he said it would be a "reasonable request." He also insisted the next government would address the issue because of the legal void it creates.
"To do otherwise, I think, would be dangerous and irresponsible,"
According to the Globe and Mail MacKay said that a legal void on assisted suicide is "dangerous and irresponsible." MacKay said:
It “leaves a lot of people vulnerable, particularly persons with disability, persons with advanced Alzheimer’s.”
Toronto Human Rights Lawyer, Hugh Scher, who also acts as legal counsel for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition toldadvocate daily that:
“It’s completely understandable in light of the present election season that it would be very difficult – if not impossible – to craft an appropriate regime that responds to the Supreme Court’s directives relative to questions about euthanasia or assisted suicide,”
The failure to provide sufficient time to craft an appropriate response to the court ruling would otherwise leave a legislative vacuum that would basically allow assisted suicide on demand without any modicum of safeguards or regulations that would protect vulnerable people from the risk of serious abuse or otherwise prevent the serious risks of harm that have been seen in some other jurisdictions.
MacKay also stated that the Canadian government will establish a committee to examine the assisted suicide very soon. Scher also stated to advocate daily that:
It seems to me the federal government is intent to take action on this item, which would be in-keeping with both the ruling of the court but also the concerns and interests of Canadians across the country,
I think realistically, the notion that the government should be prepared to enact legislation by judicial decree in the context of the legislature breaking for an election is unreasonable
The Canadian Medical Association responded by stating.
Dr. Chris Simpson, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, said his organization would support extending the deadline in order to "get this right."
Simpson said the CMA has started its own broad consultation process, which involves speaking to regulatory bodies and patient groups.
"We will offer all the work that we have done to government when they are ready for us to enter into their consultation process," he said.
"The generous interpretation, I think, of what we have heard from them so far is that they do intend to consult and we are still optimistic that will happen."
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is achieving its goals. We asked for a proper consultation on the issues be held and that the government use the notwithstanding clause to give Canada time to properly fill the legislative void caused by the Supreme Court of Canada who dangerously put the lives of Canadians at risk by legislating from the bench when striking down the assisted suicide laws.