Ottawa appeals B.C. assisted suicide ruling
Waiting until the second-last business day to file, Canada’s federal government appealed the June 15 decision of B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith overturning Canada’s ban on euthanasia and assisted suicide. Smith claimed that Canada’s Criminal Code prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide violated the Charter rights of those seeking assistance killing themselves and those who help them carry out their lethal wishes. The justice also argued the Criminal Code provisions violated disabled persons Section 7 rights of life, liberty, and security of the person.
On July 13, the Friday before the July 16 deadline to appeal Smith’s decision, federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced the Conservative government sought to stay the ruling which urges Parliament to change the law to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide within the next 12 months and gives an immediate exemption to Gloria Taylor, an ALS sufferer who is challenging the assisted suicide law.
Nicholson said in a statement, “the laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including those who are most vulnerable, such as people who are sick or elderly or people with disabilities.” The minister added, “the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged the state interest in protecting human life and upheld the constitutionality of the existing legislation in Rodriguez (1993).”
Nicholson noted that just two years ago Parliament overwhelmingly defeated a bill that sought to legalize euthanasia. The campaign in the courts began after Canada’s Parliament rejected a bill to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2010, by a vote of 228 to 59.
The BC Civil Liberties Association launched the case in April 2011 claiming that Canada’s provisions against euthanasia and assisted suicide are unconstitutional since they violate the “right” to die. The suit was launched on behalf of the family of Kay Carter, who died by assisted suicide at the Swiss Dignitas suicide center in January 2010. Taylor, who was given the exemption to seek assisted suicide, was added as an additional plaintiff in August, which allowed them to fast-track the case because she had been told in January 2010 she only had a year to live.
On July 12, Campaign Life Coalition delivered petitions with the signatures of hundreds of Canadians urging the government to appeal the Smith decision. After hearing the government filed the appeal, CLC national president Jim Hughes said “we applaud Justice Minister Rob Nicholson for upholding Canada’s law which protects vulnerable people from assisted suicide and euthanasia.” He added, “across the nation, elderly and disabled citizens will breathe a sigh of relief; after all, they are the primary targets of the suicide lobby.”
CLC national organizer Mary Ellen Douglas said she was “glad to see the government assert its parliamentary authority over this activist-judge,” Lynn Smith.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, which intervened in the case, issued a statement saying the EPC was “pleased that Justice Minister Nicholson appealed the disturbing decision by Justice Smith,” adding “it needs to be overturned because legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide is simply not safe.
The EPC will seek to intervene in the appeal.
The Globe and Mail interviewed Taylor about the government’s appeal and she said she was disapointed. Although she has no intention of seeking assistance in killing herself immediately, she is thinking about it but admitted: “I’m not there yet, so I don’t know. It’s kind of a personal thing and I’m just thinking on it, still.”
Taylor also said she thinks euthanasia will eventually be permitted if “we all collectively keep the faith and believe in God,”
– with files from LifeSiteNews.com