Lawyers’ Joint Statement – An Open Letter To Parliament Re: Bill C-7

No longer limited to hastening death, Bill C-7 embraces
MAiD as a means of terminating an otherwise viable life….
Bill C-7 thus affirms a very dangerous stereotype:
that a life with a disability may not be worth living.
 

 

October 14, 2020

Dear Members of Parliament and Senators:

The Law is a Teacher. The ideas enshrined in our laws represent our societal standards, shape and transmit our cultural attitudes, and inform our individual perceptions. While just laws uphold and reinforce our core democratic commitments, unjust laws erode them. We are deeply concerned that Bill C-7 will have the latter effect.

In its current form, Bill C-7 undermines our constitutional commitment to the equal and inherent value of all lives, as well as our ongoing struggle to meet Canada’s international commitments to persons with disabilities. Perhaps most concerning of all, Bill C-7 eliminates key statutory protections that help protect those considering MAiD[1] from being euthanized against their true wishes.

Bill C-7 Reinforces Negative Stereotypes of Canadians with Disabilities

By legalizing euthanasia for people who are not dying, Bill C-7 does not just expand MAiD; it fundamentally redefines it. No longer limited to hastening death, Bill C-7 embraces MAiD as a means of terminating an otherwise viable life – but only the life of someone with an illness or disability, for whom death itself is rendered an appropriate therapeutic response to suffering. 

Bill C-7 is therefore premised on the notion that suffering associated with a non-life-threatening illness or disability is worse than any other type of suffering, and should, in some cases, be alleviated through a premature death – with social, legal, and governmental support. Bill C-7 thus affirms a very dangerous stereotype: that a life with a disability may not be worth living. 

When the law entrenches – even implicitly – the idea that life with a disability is an inferior existence, it exacerbates systemic discrimination and undercuts social support for one’s choice to live with dignity (especially if such support is perceived as costly or burdensome). It also erodes our societal commitment to the full inclusion and equal participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of Canadian life. 

This commitment is fundamental to both our constitutional order and established international norms. Singling out non-life-threatening illness and disability as the eligibility criteria for assisted death undermines section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ protection against state action that directly or indirectly stigmatizes persons living with illness or disability, or that would “write people off because of their impairment”. 

For other groups protected by section 15, the obstacles they face are understood to be externally caused: the result of social barriers, insufficient supports, and public stereotypes. In those contexts, the law seeks to eliminate external causes of suffering but would never countenance eliminating the person who is suffering as a legal solution. This is as it should be. 

We are deeply troubled, however, that this is not so with respect to disability under Bill C-7. If this Bill passes, Canadian law will explicitly single out life with an illness or disability as the only kind of existence which justifies state-sponsored termination. The Bill therefore contradicts a core premise underlying our entire legal system: that all lives have equal value.

Bill C-7 Undermines our International Commitments 

Canada’s commitments to the equality and inclusion of persons with disabilities are also enshrined internationally, and we are especially concerned that MAiD is being prioritized when the government “still lags behind in the implementation of its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.[2] Our governments have yet to address this and other major concerns stressed by the UN Special Rapporteur after her visit to Canada over a year ago, including her comment that she is “extremely concerned about the implementation of the legislation on medical assistance in dying from a disability perspective.” This was before Bill C-7 was introduced.[3] We share the Special Rapporteur’s concerns, which will only be compounded by Bill C-7’s drastic reconstruction of MAiD.

Offering MAiD in the absence of guaranteed access to meaningful supports and care options which could alleviate a person’s suffering presents as cruel.  This situation, already facing many Canadians, also undermines the rationale of free choice upon which the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter decriminalized the blanket prohibition of MAiD in the first place. A choice cannot be truly free if there is no realistic alternative: it is a Hobson’s choice, the illusion of choice. 

Responding to Truchon

We appreciate that, with Bill C-7, Parliament is responding to the findings of the trial judge of the Quebec Superior Court in Truchon. However, that judgment focussed primarily on the Charter rights of the two plaintiffs who were seeking MAiD, and not the Charter rights of those who could be negatively impacted by the far-reaching effects of a widely-expanded euthanasia regime. 

A fundamental purpose of the criminal law is the protection of society, especially society’s most vulnerable. Reasonable limits on such exceptional exercises of individual liberty as access to MAiD are justified when they conflict with society’s fundamental commitments and place the lives of vulnerable Canadians at risk. Societal interests were largely ignored in Truchon because of the court’s narrow reading of the law’s purpose, but this does not render them irrelevant. Parliament’s institutional role is distinct from the judiciary’s; Parliament cannot legislate solely in the interests of those seeking ready access to MAiD. Dialogue, rather than dictation, between the judicial and legislative branches is required to ensure that an appropriate balance is struck: one which respects the Charter rights of everyone, including those with disabilities who choose to live with dignity.

Bill C-7 Significantly Reduces Protections in Place for Vulnerable Persons

If enacted, Bill C-7 will jettison important safeguards that were put in place to protect the vulnerable. In this regard, this Bill goes much further than responding to the concerns of the court in Truchon.

Nothing in that decision called for the elimination of such important safeguards as the current 10-day ‘reflection period’ to ensure that a MAiD request is fully considered, nor the requirement for two independent witnesses to corroborate the validity of a request. Under Bill C-7, only one witness will be needed, including, for the first time, someone who is paid to provide health or personal care services to the patient. This amendment raises serious concerns about conflicts of interest and/or undue influence, especially in cases where the witness may be a patient’s sole translator and/or care provider. 

Similarly, Truchon never even considered the allowance of MAiD by advance requests, which Bill C-7 will permit, in certain cases, with minimal guidelines or safeguards. As noted by the Expert Panel Working Group of the Council of Canadian Academies, permitting advance requests for MAiD introduces the risk that some patients may be euthanized against their wishes, and there are no preventative measures capable of eliminating this risk.[4] Since that report, data from Quebec has revealed that over 300 patients who made a written request for MAiD subsequently changed their mind. This risk is elevated insofar as Bill C-7 provides that advance requests may be carried out on incapacitated patients unless they positively demonstrate refusal “by words, sounds or gestures”; and yet, “involuntary” resistance “made in response to contact” will not suffice to halt the procedure. How many patients might be unable to express such a change of mind after making an advance request, due to a loss in communicative or other capacities? Bill C-7 thus opens the Criminal Code to allowing, for the first time, the possibility of non-consensual homicide of an innocent victim.  

We must prioritize our commitment to the equal and inherent dignity of all human life

In its current form, Bill C-7 reinforces the notion that life with a disability may not be worth living or protecting, an attitude that will influence the thinking of millions of Canadians and others around the world who are facing difficult decisions in the allocation of limited resources.

History remembers how a society values the lives of its citizens, especially in difficult circumstances. We currently find ourselves in such a moment. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed several troubling gaps in the long-term care systems that elderly Canadians and those with disabilities depend on. Yet we are encouraged that Canadians have united in response to both COVID-19 and these deficiencies with a renewed commitment to protecting human life, no matter the cost. This commitment underlies both our response to the current global pandemic and our health-care system, and it must remain the foundation for Canada’s approach to MAiD.  

Respectfully submitted,

  1. Derek Ross, LL.B., LL.M, Lawyer (London, ON)

  2. Robert Reynolds, B.C.L., Lawyer (Montreal, QC)

  3. Hon. David C. Onley, CM, OOnt

  4. Benjamin Ferland, J.D., Lawyer (Edmonton, AB) 

  5. Sarah Mix-Ross, M.S.W., J.D., Lawyer (London, ON)

  6. Ruth A.M. Ross, LL.B., Lawyer (London, ON)

  7. Daniel Santoro, LL.B., Lawyer (Toronto, ON)

  8. Deina Warren, LL.B., LL.M., Lawyer (Oakville, ON)

  9. John Sikkema, J.D., LL.M., Lawyer (Ottawa, ON)

  10. Geoffrey Trotter, LL.B., Lawyer (Vancouver, B.C.)

  11. André Schutten, LL.B., LL.M, Lawyer (Ottawa, ON)

  12. Philip Fourie, B.L.C.,LL.B., M.Env.Mgmt. (Dist.)

  13. John Lockhart, Lawyer (Mississauga, ON)

  14. Albertos Polizogopoulos, LL.B., Lawyer (Ottawa, ON)

  15. Faye Sonier, LL.B., Lawyer (Ottawa, ON)

  16. Jad Debs, J.D., Lawyer (Ottawa, ON)

  17. Tabitha Ewert, J.D., Lawyer (Ottawa, ON)

  18. Edward Choi, JD, LLM, LLB, BBA, Lawyer (Markham, ON)

  19. Walter Thiessen, Lawyer (Winnipeg, MB)

  20. Shane B. Janzen, Archbishop – ACCC/TAC (Victoria, BC)

  21. Jason E. Tremblay, Law Student (Ottawa, ON)

  22. Marie-Louise Fast, LLB (Richmond, BC)

  23. Daniel J. Mol, Barrister & Solicitor (Alberta)

  24. Luke A. Johnson, LL.B., Lawyer (Surrey, BC)

  25. Bruce Bos, Lawyer (Guelph, ON)

  26. Jeannette Savoie, LLB, LLM, Lawyer (Oak Point, NB)

  27. Danny Gurizzan, Lawyer, i.B.B.A., J.D., L.L.M.

  28. John C. Knibbe, Lawyer (Calgary, AB)

  29. Elias Munshya, Lawyer (Calgary, Alberta)

  30. Shawn M. Smith, Lawyer (White Rock, B.C.)

  31. Gerald Kent, retired lawyer (Cranbrook, B.C.)

  32. Christopher Hiebert, B.A., M.A., J.D., Lawyer, (Niagara, ON)

  33. Winston Sayson, JD, QC (retired, Richmond, BC) 

  34. Stephen C. Woodworth, LLB., Retired (Kitchener, ON)

  35. Timothy Stonhouse, Lawyer (Victoria, BC)

  36. Earl Phillips, Q.C., (Vancouver, BC)

  37. Jonathan Ng, Lawyer (Toronto, ON)

  38. Eric Vandergriendt, J.D., Lawyer (Surrey, BC)

  39. Joshua Tong, J.D., Pastor (Richmond Hill, ON)

  40. Michael Menear, LLB (London, ON)

  41. Andrew Davis, LL.B, Lawyer (Regina, SK)

  42. Kenneth Koprowski, B.A., LL.B., Deputy Judge O.S.C.J.(Retired) (London, ON)

  43. Elizabeth Swarbrick, LLB, lawyer (Almonte, ON)

  44. Suzanne Chiodo, Lecturer in Law, Oriel College, University of Oxford (UK)

  45. Coralei Still, B.R., B.Sc., B.Sc.N., M.A., J.D. Candidate 2021 (Surrey, BC)

  46. Jeffrey S. Lowe, B. Comm, LLB, Lawyer (Vancouver, BC)

  47. Robert David Onley, J.D., Lawyer, (Ottawa, ON)

  48. Thomas M.J. Bateman, Professor of Political Science, St Thomas University Fredericton (NB)

  49. Shawn Knights, Barrister and Solicitor (St. Catharines, ON)

  50. Stephen Penney, Solicitor (Cambridge, ON)

  51. Frank de Walle, Lawyer (Lethbridge, AB)

  52. Jay Spiro, Lawyer (North Vancouver, BC)

  53. Kelicia Letlow-Peroune (Toronto, Ontario)

  54. Faith Paul, Lawyer; (Toronto, ON)

  55. Renée Short, LLB, Lawyer, (Airdrie, AB)

  56. Ubanna Okebugwu, LL.B, Lawyer (Pickering, ON)

  57. Walter Kubitz Q.C., Barrister and Solicitor (Calgary, AB)

  58.  Fr. Evo DiPierro, J.D. (Dalhousie) 2002, Retired Member of N.S. Bar Society (Louisbourg, NS)

  59. Patrick Delaney, J.D. candidate, (Fredericton, NB)

  60. Christopher Taucar, Lawyer and University Lecturer (Vancouver, BC)

  61. Barbara Wallace, LLB, Lawyer (Waterloo, ON)

  62. Kristin Debs, Lawyer (Ottawa, ON)

  63. Richard M. Harding, B.A. J.D., Lawyer (Retired) (Calgary, AB)

  64. K.R. Davidson, LL.B, MBA, Lawyer (St. Catharines, ON)

  65. Alexandre N. Khouzam, LL.L., DIPL. D.N., D.E.S., Avocat, Conseiller Juridique (Montreal, Quebec)

  66. Philip E. Carr, LL.B., retired lawyer (Calgary, AB)

  67. Paul D. Mack, B.A., LL.B, LL.M., Lawyer (Oshawa, Ontario)

  68. John E Humphries, Lawyer (Peachland, B.C.)

  69. Stephanie Fong, J.D., J.D., Lawyer (Toronto, ON)

  70. Michael D. Carter, Lawyer (White Rock, BC)

  71. Matthew J. Marquardt, J.D., Lawyer (Toronto, ON)

  72. Joseph P. Hamon B.A. LL.B. C.S. Cert.CFM (Combermere, ON)

  73. Jennifer Park, J.D. (Coquitlam, BC)  

  74. Michael H. Murray, Lawyer (London, ON)

  75. Randy Schliemann, B.Sc., J.D., Lawyer (Toronto, ON)

  76. Rhys Volkenant, J.D., Lawyer (Vancouver, BC)

  77. Gleb Malinovsky, Lawyer (Okotoks, AB)

  78. Brian L. Prill, LLB, LLM, Lawyer (Mississauga, ON)

  79. Ken Volkenant, Lawyer (Surrey, BC)

  80. Brayden Volkenant, Lawyer (Surrey, BC)

  81. Tyler Koverko, J.D., Lawyer (Toronto, ON)

  82. Esther O. Abraham, Lawyer (Retired) (Mississauga, ON)

  83. Michelle Hol, B.Sc., JD, Lawyer (Goderich, Ontario)

  84. Shawn Leclerc, J.D., Lawyer (Lethbridge, AB)

  85. Crystal Law, J.D., Lawyer (Vancouver, BC)

  86. Philip Watts J.D., LL.M., Lawyer (Winnipeg, MB)

  87. Tina Z. Wang, J.D., Lawyer (Toronto, ON)

  88. Garifalia Milousis, J.D., Articling Student (London, ON)

  89. Moyosore Balogun, LL.B., LL.M., Lawyer (London, ON)

  90. Leah Baxter, Law Student (Windsor, Ontario)

  91. Rebecca Blain, M.A., J.D., Student at Law (Calgary, AB)

  92. Brendan Bernakevitch, J.D., Lawyer (Regina, SK)

  93. Nicole Scheidl, LL.B., LL.M., Lawyer (Ottawa, ON)

  94. Vivian Clemence, J.D., Lawyer (Timmins, ON)

  95. Jeremy Taitinger, LLB (Edmonton, AB) 

  96. Andrea Dickinson, Lawyer (Toronto, ON)

  97. Evelyn Lee, Law Student (Toronto, ON)

  98. Peter Luttmann, J.D., Lawyer (Windsor, NS)

  99. Henry W. Sykes QC, LLB, LLM, Lawyer (Calgary, AB)

  100. Shannon Peddlesden, JD, Student-at-Law (Calgary, AB)

  101. Jean Rhéaume, LL.B., LL.M., LL.D., Lawyer (Ottawa, ON)

  102. Czarina Pacaide, J.D., Lawyer (Vancouver, BC)

  103. Monika Hanna, LL.B., Lawyer (Toronto, Ontario)

  104. David Gileff, Lawyer (Vancouver, BC)

  105. Jason Poettcker M.A., J.D., Lawyer (Winnipeg, MB)

  106. Barry W. Bussey, PhD., Lawyer (ON)

  107. John W. Veldkamp, LLB, Lawyer (Edmonton, AB)

  108. Ola Oraka, Law Student (ON)

  109. Geoffrey F. Cauchi, LL.B., CIC.C, Lawyer (Mississauga, ON)

  110. Donald E. L. Hutchinson, B.A., J.D., Lawyer (Ottawa, ON)

  111. Luke J. Effa, J.D., Lawyer (Vernon, BC)

  112. Akingbade S. Oluwarinu, LLB., LLM, Lawyer (Victoria, BC)

  113. Mike Jehu, M.A., J.D. Candidate (North York, ON)

  114. Nathan Wiebe, J.D., Lawyer (Edmonton, AB) 

  115. Kevin Marshall, Lawyer (Toronto, ON)

  116. Kenneth Friesen, LL.B., Lawyer (Toronto, ON)

  117. Peter Trieu, Lawyer (Calgary, AB)

  118. Rachelle Pearce, J.D., Lawyer (Toronto, ON)

  119. Robert D Evans LL.B., lawyer and judge (retired) (Edmonton, AB)

  120. Brian Derrah, BT, BA, MA, LLB, retired lawyer (Mt. Pleasant, NB)

  121. George R. Ingram, Lawyer (Cambridge, ON)

  122. Savannah van Dongen, J.D. (Portage la Prairie, MB)

  123. Joel Yinger, J.D., Lawyer (Brantford, ON)

  124. Madlen Bauer, Law Student (Winnipeg, MB)

  125. Philip J. Dougan, Lawyer (Vancouver, BC)

  126. Andrew Lawson, Lawyer (Morinville, AB)

  127. Chantel Morrison, JD, Lawyer (Mississauga, ON)

  128. Kevin Kok, Law Student (London, ON)

  129. Darren L Richards, Lawyer (Edmonton, AB)

  130. Raylene Rosenau, Student-at-Law (Olds, AB)

  131. Molly Naber-Sykes, QC (Calgary, AB)

  132. Daniel N. Tangjerd, Lawyer (Saskatoon, SK)

  133. Adora Nwabuoku, Lawyer (Mississauga, ON)

  134. Waldy Derksen, Lawyer (Winnipeg, MB)

  135. Jennifer Suzor, Lawyer, Accredited Mediator (Windsor, ON)

  136. Jonathan Carlzon, Lawyer (Edmonton, AB)

  137. Ben Heath, B.A., J.D., Lawyer (Brampton, Ontario)

  138. Michael J. Collins, Lawyer (Ottawa, ON)

  139. Fraser Genuis, JD., Lawyer (Edmonton, AB) 

  140. Vicky Chan, J.D. (Toronto, ON)

  141. Melissa R. Scott, B.A., J.D., Lawyer (London, ON)

  142. Stanley Mayes, Lawyer (Chatham, ON)

  143. Michel Racicot, Lawyer,  B.A., LL.L., E.P.B.A. (Columbia U.) (Sainte-Thérèse, QC)

  144. George Gunnink, Lawyer (Surrey, BC)

  145. Yue (Roger) Song, LLM, J.D., Lawyer (Calgary, AB)

  146. James Simpson, J.D., Articling Student (London, ON)

  147. Adam Van Noort, JD, Lawyer (Surrey, BC)

     


[1] In Canada, euthanasia/physician-assisted death (“medical assistance in dying” or “MAiD”) was legalized in 2016 and involves the termination of a patient’s life at the patient’s request, typically through a lethal injection. It is not to be confused with the voluntary withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, which has always been legal. MAiD remains a controversial practice, and is opposed by many in the international medical community.

[2] United Nations, End of Mission Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, on her visit to Canada (Ottawa: 12 April 2019)

[3] The Special Rapporteur’s final report, published after the Truchon decision, repeated these concerns and also noted that “[t]he recent judgment of the Superior Court of Quebec might put additional pressure on persons with disabilities who are in a vulnerable situation due to insufficient community support. As many persons with disabilities said during the visit, they are being offered the ‘choice’ between a nursing home and medical assistance in dying.”

[4] Council of Canadian Academies, “The State of Knowledge on Advance Requests for Medical Assistance in Dying: The Expert Panel Working Group on Advance Requests for MAID” (Ottawa, 2018), at 171-173, online: <https://cca-reports.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/The-State-of-Knowledge-on-Advance-Requests-for-Medical-Assistance-in-Dying.pdf>. 

 
 
Statement is available at the Christian Legal Fellowship website.
 
 
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Lawyers’ Joint Statement – An Open Letter To Parliament Re: Bill C-7

  1. Zeta MacDonald says:

    Thank you for speaking for many of us who share these concerns!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *