Although Canada’s Constitution defends the right to life, Canadian courts keep mandating more death.
The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) definitively ruled in 1993 that a ban on euthanasia protected vulnerable people in a constitutionally justified way. In 2015, the court changed its mind and forced the legalization of euthanasia. Last September, a Quebec court ruled that the law was still too restrictive. Now the federal government is holding hearings on how to change it. This sequence of events shows that the Constitution does not defend rights; it only empowers judges to remake Canada in their image.
For many years, legislators, the courts, and the public prohibited euthanasia. The Constitution guarantees “life, liberty, and the security of the person,” not specifically a right to death. Early in the 1990’s, Sue Rodruiguez, who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), wanted to be euthanized and challenged laws that prevented that. But in a five-to-four decision, the SCC upheld the ban.
Justice John Sopinka penned the decision and said the law was acceptable since the legislative “purpose extends to protecting the life of the terminally ill.” He said there was “no halfway measure that could be relied upon with assurance to fully achieve the legislation’s purpose … to discourage the terminally ill from choosing death over life.”
A dissenting Justice Beverley McLaughlin said this was unfair, since able-bodied people could kill themselves whenever they wanted to. She added, “it does not accord with the principles of fundamental justice that Sue Rodruigez should be disallowed” euthanasia just because some people might suffer “an act of killing without true consent.”
What is “fundamental justice”? The Charter of Rights and Freedoms tells us the basis in its opening words, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.” In this worldview, God is the author of life and death. The Old Testament, sacred in the theistic religions, views assisted suicide as murder.
Most judges have rejected these foundations, leaving their sense of “fundamental justice” to their own liberal moral compass. They declare conservative precedents to be outdated and replace them with more liberal laws. So it was, and is, with euthanasia.
Like Sue Rodriguez 20 years prior, Gloria Taylor was a British Columbia woman with ALS. But when she challenged the ban on euthanasia, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith struck down the law. Smith used interpretive gymnastics to rule that for Taylor, euthanasia “may shorten her life. Ms. Taylor’s reduced lifespan would occur if she concludes that she needs to take her own life while she is still physically able to do so, at an earlier date than she would find necessary if she could be assisted.”
The B.C. Court of Appeal overturned Smith’s decision, but the SCC agreed with it. Led by McLaughlin, who by then was Chief Justice, the judges ruled unanimously that Parliament should legalize euthanasia for the terminally ill within one year.
Remember back in May 2016 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nudged Conservative Whip Gordon Brown and accidentally elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau on the floor of the House of Commons as MPs gathered for a vote on the assisted-dying bill? It happened because the prime minister was eager for MP’s to get back to business lest they miss the court-imposed deadline for new euthanasia legislation.
Now parliamentarians are rushing again—and not even for a federal judge. In accordance with the Carter decision, federal law states that euthanasia should be restricted to circumstances where death is “reasonably foreseeable.” Last September, Justice Christine Baudouin of the Superior Court of Quebec said that was too restrictive. The judge gave just six months for the law to change, despite the upcoming federal election.
The re-elected Liberal government will consult Canadians for just two weeks on a literal life-and-death issue. In the past, judges have struck down pipelines for inadequate consultations with First Nations, even though they lasted for months. So continues the farce that has already made doctors responsible for one of every hundred deaths in Canada.
Current consultations ask Canadians whether they would endorse euthanasia for minors, for the mentally ill, and for those who want to authorize it in advance (lest they be unable to at some point later). Imagine parents who plead with doctors not to kill their suicidal teenager, but have a medical and legal establishment tell them, “It’s their right and you can’t stop it.”
When the SCC heard the Carter case in 2015, Professor Etienne Montero of Belgium warned that euthanasia is a slippery slope, where the acceptable criteria keep expanding and enforcement for wrongful deaths becomes difficult. Unless politicians are willing to listen to people and not just judges, this horror is a foregone conclusion.
Lee Harding is a former political staffer, taxpayer advocate, and think tank researcher. He is now a columnist based in Saskatchewan.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.