Thursday, June 09, 2016

State of Affairs: Canada's Medical Aid in Dying Legislation

I have explained on this blog (just see the entry below) how Canada's Liberal government's draft legislation aims to deprive Canadians who are not terminally ill, but who are eligible for medical aid in dying, of their Charter rights. A fairly large number of constitutional law experts, including the lead counsel in the Carter case that led to the Supreme Court judgment, warned the federal government that its legislation would be contested in the courts and would eventually be thrown out by the Supreme Court. Government apparently thought it could thumb its nose at the judgement by redefining clear Supreme Court of Canada criteria and pretending that black is kinda white. Since then two Canadian courts have heard cases where competent patients who are not terminally ill appealed to receive medical aid in dying. Government lawyers in both cases were sent packing and told in no uncertain terms that their insistence on the eligibility standards expressed in the draft legislation is unacceptable because these standards are unconstitutional

Yesterday the Canadian Senate weighed in and removed the terminal illness threshold the Liberals were so keen on, precisely because the majority of Senators realised that the legislation proposed by the federal government is unconstitutional. Our Justice Minister meanwhile insists that her (unconstitutional) 'balance' is just right, and waffles a bit about not further defined 'vulnerable' people that would be best 'protected' if her government's proposed restrictive regime was passed by the Senate. It's only mildly amusing that she deploys the same vacuous rhetoric here that the previous Conservative government deployed.

The question is why the Liberals would engage in that sort of thing. There are persistent rumours that there are a fairly large number of religious conservatives in the Liberal caucus who care more about their religious beliefs then about Canadians' constitutional rights. This in turn forced the Trudeau government to try to legislate hard-right on this issue, to the dismay of virtually every relevant legal expert in the country. What does surprise is that these folks seem to think that their personal beliefs somehow trump their obligation to legislate in line with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in line with the criteria the Supreme Court spelled out.


  1. I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with an explanation for the Liberals' very conservative attitude to restricting MAID to persons close to death. No one seems to know why they have taken this totally unexpected hard line, retrogressive approach.

    I didn't think the Liberals would be influenced by outdated religious views on this issue. But that seems to be the only logical reason for their intransigence. How very disappointing that is to a largely secular Canadian public license. They gave no hint of this in the election campaign.

    Only a very conservative religious mindset could believe that there is nobility in the willingness to tolerate endless suffering with no hope of eventual relief.

    I resisted religious domination from a very young age and I'm not about to give in now.

    We must insist that Bill C-14 be amended to ensure its compliance with the Constitution.

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