Death with dignity?
Speaking in the House of Commons on Oct. 31, Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde said that “the Parliament of Canada and its members cannot dither any longer and expect the courts or government to make the necessary changes to the Criminal Code to recognize the right to die with dignity for the people of Quebec and Canada.”
There are several things wrong with that statement. First, the Constitution of Canada provides in section 91(27) that the criminal law comes within “the exclusive legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada.” It follows that neither the courts nor the government has authority to change the Criminal Code in relation to murder, assisted suicide or any other matter.
But of course, the Constitution as written and originally understood means nothing to the Supreme Court of Canada. Under the pretence of upholding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the judicial activists on this court have taken it upon themselves over the past 25 years to change the law to suit their personal ideological preferences.
Thus, in a five-to-four ruling in the 1993 Rodriguez case, the Supreme Court of Canada came within one vote of striking down the section in the Criminal Code that provides that anyone who aids, abets or counsels a person to commit suicide is guilty of an indictable offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin was one of the four dissenters. She held that the prohibition on assisted suicide in the Criminal Code violates “the right to life, liberty and security of the person” as guaranteed in Section 7 of the Charter.
In the meantime, the federal Liberals have packed the Supreme Court of Canada with more left-wing secular zealots. When assisted suicide comes back before the court, there is no reason to fear that a majority of our robed dictators will agree with McLachlin’s farcical notion that the right to life guaranteed in the Charter implicitly includes the right to death by euthanasia.
Nonetheless, Lalonde wants Parliament to pre-empt the court by amending the Criminal Code to provide that charges of murder or assisting in a suicide cannot be brought against any one who, acting in good faith, kills or assists in the killing of an apparently lucid person who wants to be killed, even if that person is not terminally ill.
Lalonde points out that the Netherlands and Belgium already have such a law on their books. In the name of death with dignity, she insists that the Parliament of Canada should likewise authorize the deliberate killing of suicidal persons by means of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
In response to Lalonde, Canadian Conservative MP Jason Kenney denounced her bill as “an attack on the inalienable dignity of the human person, which is the foundational premise of any culture which merits to be considered a civilization.” He noted that “any coherent understanding of human rights, including the right to self-government, is grounded in the inviolable dignity of the human person.”
Under the terms of Lalonde’s bill, the Criminal Code would only authorize a person to kill another person if the latter is an adult who has twice asked to be killed “while appearing to be lucid.” Kenney points out that these so-called safeguards are useless – once any form of euthanasia is legalized, the practice will soon spread, as it has in the Netherlands, to the deliberate and involuntary killing of innocent babies and mentally confused adults.
Paul Macklin, parliamentary secretary to Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, spoke for the Martin government in the debate. Unlike Kenney, he did not express any forthright opposition to Lalonde’s bill in principle. Instead, he suggested that it was “being introduced prematurely” without adequate prior consultation and adequate safeguards against the murder of the physically and mentally ill.
Clearly, Macklin and his boss, Cotler, are hardly less willing than Lalonde to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. But can we not, at least, count upon our ostensibly Catholic prime minister to thwart this latest attack on the inalienable dignity of the human person – the foundational premise of our Judeo-Christian civilization?
Alas, no. By sanctioning abortion on demand, Martin has demonstrated that no regard for inalienable human dignity can trump his reliance on sordid political expediency.