Recently released statistics and anecdotal accounts have caused anti-euthanasia activists increased concern, as they believe medically assisted death is not only permitted, but encouraged.
Medically assisted deaths in Quebec rose to 2,426 in the year ending March 31, an increase of 37 percent over the year before, and represented 3.3 percent of all deaths. The statistics were made public by the province’s commission on end-of-life care, which submitted its report to the Quebec parliament on Oct. 20.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said the increase is only slightly higher than rates in the rest of Canada. Since medical assistance in dying (MAiD) became legal in 2016, the number of Canadians who opted for the procedure rose from just over 1,000 in 2016 to 7,595 in 2020, according to Health Canada.
Schadenberg said MAiD has gained momentum since the Liberal government introduced and passed legislation to expand the scope as to who can receive the procedure.
“In the discussion leading up to Bill C-7, all of the cultural taboos about killing people with disabilities or extending this to people with mental health issues and things like that, it was breaking down the negativity or the concept of maybe it’s not a good idea to do this to anyone for any reason,” he told The Epoch Times.
“The more we talk about it, the more it will happen. The more people will promote it, the more people will think it’s fine and the more people will die this way. … In a sense, death is becoming an industry. The fact is that all these things have moved our social mores.”
Schadenberg has been a vocal opponent of euthanasia since the initial bill for its legalization was debated in 2016. In recent months, he helped steer a former pro-life leader from following through with MAiD after he received a phone call from the man’s wife.
“She’s calling me up all upset, saying, ‘My husband would have never supported this, never. What’s happening?’ And we had a long discussion. She found out that the one nurse in palliative care had spoken to him for two hours in the middle of the night, convincing him that it was the right thing to do,” he said.
“They say this is all about freedom and choice and autonomy, and yet you’re getting calls like this.”
Angelina Ireland, president of the Delta Hospice Society, is fundraising for a new private facility after the society’s former facilities, Irene Thomas Hospice and the adjacent Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care, were seized by the B.C. government due to their refusal to offer MAiD on-site. The facilities it built were on land owned by the health authority.
“It’s like one big killing free-for-all,” Ireland said, regarding societal trends on assisted death.
“They can kill you at your home, the hospital, long-term care facility, hospice, and now the funeral home. But if one actually wants to live—that’s a lot more difficult. With the firing of thousands of health-care workers across Canada, we cannot so easily access even routine surgeries and tests for our own well-being. Where are the priorities?”
‘More Disposable, Less Valuable’ Lives
Amy Hasbrouck, a Quebec resident and executive director of Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet, a project of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, said the disabled have actively opposed euthanasia for over 35 years.
“Consciousness was made during the landmark case when Robert Latimer killed his 12-year-old daughter, [Tracy]. And while the court engaged appropriately by convicting and sentencing him to the usual sentence, the amount of public support he received for his desire to have a more lenient sentence was really shocking to those with disabilities,” Hasbrouck said in an interview.
“We’re accustomed to being considered more disposable and less valuable, but we were fairly surprised that people were so overt in their declarations that Tracy’s life was not worth living.”
The Truchon decision in Quebec in September 2019 legalized euthanasia for the disabled across Canada, a decision Hasbrouck believes did more to devalue people with disabling health conditions than empower them.
“The judge, basically, instead of saying, ‘You’re right. That’s the problem of our public policies and the way we treat disabled people. We need to do things differently,’ she said, ‘Oh, yes. You’re right. You should have the right to be killed by the state because, of course, you wouldn’t want to go into a nursing home,” Hasbrouck said.
“So the judge’s solution was, they would be better off dead.”
In 2020, Jonathan Marchand, a Quebec City man with muscular dystrophy, camped out in a makeshift cage in front of the Quebec National Assembly for five days to protest his confinement in a nursing home due to the lack of independent living options for people with disabilities.
“Quebec resisted and dragged their feet. And ultimately, they allowed Jonathan to create a program for himself, but they refused to extend the pilot project to other people. … [Yet] it costs less for somebody to live in the community than for the person that lives in an institution,” Hasbrouck said.
“It became much more apparent during the COVID pandemic that society in general considered disabled people [and the elderly in nursing homes] as a disposable population. Those are trends that we have seen most recently that are very worrisome.”