By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News
[Ottawa – CCN] – Canada’s Catholic bishops say it is “not too late to reconsider” and stop the expansion of legally-assisted suicide/ euthanasia in Canada.
The bishops are calling on all Catholics and Canadians opposed to expanding the medical assistance in death system (known as MAiD) to speak out against Bill C-7 as the federal government has now been given until Feb. 26 to bring federal law in line with a Quebec court decision from 2019. That Quebec court ruling declared making a person wait until their death is already “reasonably foreseeable” to access medically-assisted death is unconstitutional. Bill C-7 passed third reading in the House of Commons and is now before the Senate.
Canada’s bishops are hoping that the additional time to consider proposed changes in Bill C-7 that was granted by a Quebec court on Dec. 17 will persuade the country’s politicians to pull back from making it easier for Canadians to kill themselves with the help of a doctor.
In a strongly worded statement released Dec. 18, the executive committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) called on Canadian politicians to reconsider changes to assisted-suicide/euthanasia rules, which the bishops say are being rushed.
“Over the course of the past several months, there has been significant debate among Canadians over Bill C-7. Among the amendments that are being introduced, it seeks to expand access to euthanasia by eliminating the ‘reasonable foreseeability of natural death’ criterion. This would allow those who are not dying to request and obtain euthanasia or assisted suicide in Canada,” the CCCB’s Dec. 18 statement said.
“The Catholic Bishops of Canada remain steadfastly opposed to all forms of euthanasia and assisted suicide. We are especially concerned by the accelerated and reckless pace in which the Government is attempting to pass Bill C-7,” the CCCB statement said.
“Despite the numerous warnings by disability organizations and physicians about the devastating consequences of Bill C-7, the truncated and flawed legislative process has overstepped legitimate democratic debate, while simply racing to meet a provincial court deadline rather than taking the time to deliberate fully the implications of Bill C-7.”
Concerns about the constitutionality of the bill and the impact Bill C-7 will have on disabled Canadians – which passed third reading by a two-to-one margin in the House of Commons Dec. 10 but which was still in the committee review stage in the Senate before another extension was granted to change the law – have been the key focal points of euthanasia opponents during the ongoing debate over Bill C-7.
“We welcome this decision by the court, which will give Parliament the time it needs to complete its consideration of the proposed legislation, which is of importance to many Canadians and families across the country,” federal Justice Minister David Lametti said when Parliament was given more time to change national law.
“We know Canadians, especially those who are suffering intolerably and would become eligible for MAID under the proposed changes, are anxious to see the proposed amendments come into effect. The Government of Canada remains committed to working with Parliamentarians to respond to this important court ruling as quickly as possible.”
While MPs representing all parties in the House of Commons passed Bill C-7 by a two-to-one margin on Dec. 10, which along with eliminating the need for a person’s death being reasonability foreseeable to qualify for medically-provided death, Bill C-7 would also eliminate or ease some of the other safeguards in the law such as lowering the number of witnesses needed when a person consents to euthanasia/assisted suicide, the bill was under review by the Senate when the latest timeline extension was granted.
Bill C-7 would also eliminate a 10-day waiting period to perform an assisted suicide after consent is given and opens the door to allowing for advanced directives that could see a person be put to death even if they are mentally incapable of consenting when they actually receive medically-provided euthanasia.
Critics of expanding the euthanasia/ assisted suicide system say that hearings at the committee level in both the House of Commons and the Senate show that there is no real consensus among Canadians (as the federal government claims), to make significant changes to the medically-provided death system before a promised five year review of the system and palliative care options in Canada is undertaken.
“Throughout the testimonies given at both the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, it became evidently clear there is no consensus in Canada on the proposed expansion of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, despite the Government’s claim to the contrary in order to justify the passing of Bill C-7,” Canada’s bishops said in their Dec. 18 statement.
“We ask our legislators, both in the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada, to conscientiously rethink this current legislation and the amendments being considered in advance of the formal parliamentary review,” the CCCB said.
“It is not too late to reconsider Canada’s approach to euthanasia and assisted suicide, in order to ensure an ethical response, one that promotes the inherent dignity of each human person when faced with the profound questions surrounding what it means to be human, the quality of life, human suffering, death and dying.
“We are encouraging the Catholic faithful of Canada, other religious communities, and all people of good will to become better informed on the content and grave moral implications of Bill C-7, and to address their objections and concerns directly to their local member of Parliament and the members of the Senate,” Canada’s bishops said.
Video of Bishop McGratten statement to committee: