By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News
[Ottawa – CCN] – Making it easier for people to kill themselves with the help of a doctor and opening the door for the mentally ill to legally commit suicide is demonstrating that once you allow euthanasia to take root, it can’t be stopped from taking the lives of more and more Canadians.
Critics of Canada’s system of medically-provided euthanasia / assisted suicide continue to warn that this is the “slippery slope” that will see the number of people put to death in Canada through “Medical Aid in Dying” (MAiD) continue to go up in the future.
Despite a plea from a Conservative senator just before the final vote on Bill C-7 in the Senate on March 17, senators agreed to expand the euthanasia/ assisted suicide system by a vote of 60-25. The final Senate vote followed a House of Commons vote in which most of the governing Liberals and Bloc Quebecois MPs voted in favour of Bill C-7.
Conservative Party Senate leader Don Plett called on all senators on March 17 to reject Bill C-7 but he failed to sway most of his colleagues.
“If there was ever a time to exercise sober second thought, it is now,” Plett said during debate in the Senate.
“It is not often that we can truly say that with this vote we have the opportunity to save lives, to prevent the unnecessary premature death of the vulnerable, to offer hope to those who have lost it. But today we do,” said Plett.
With Bill C-7, the previous requirement for a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable in order to be eligible for medically-provided euthanasia / assisted suicide will no longer be in effect, which is a direct response to the 2019 Superior Court of Quebec Truchon ruling.
But the changes to the euthanasia system in Bill C-7 go far beyond just responding to the Quebec court ruling.
Along with there now being a two-tier approach to safeguards based on whether a person’s natural death is reasonably foreseeable or not, Bill C-7 will allow the mentally ill to access medically-assisted suicide.
At first the federal government wanted to block the mentally ill from being eligible, but some senators, including some Conservative senators, demanded the mentally ill be eligible – that will take effect in 24 months after a review establishes protocols and safeguards surrounding how medically-assisted suicide will be made available to people who have a mental illness.
“Canada is the prime example of the slippery slope,” said Euthanasia Prevention Coalition president Alex Schadenberg.
“The EPC is warning the world not to follow Canada’s lead. In less than five years Canada, has legalized killing by euthanasia and expanded it to include people with mental illness,” he said.
“The good news is that Bill C-7 activated thousands of Canadians from different perspectives” during the debate and has forced many Canadians to consider the ramifications of how euthanasia has been expanded in Canada, Schadenberg said.
“People with disabilities, Indigenous people, medical and mental health professionals and many others are committed to reversing the euthanasia trend,” he said. “These are diverse, effective and committed allies.”
But despite the vocal opposition to changing the medically-assisted death system from the Catholic Church and civil organizations such as the EPC, the federal Liberal government is “glad” that the changes are now in effect.
“It has been a long process, and I am glad that the wait is over. The revised law respects the autonomy and freedom of choice of all Canadians to decide for themselves when their suffering has become intolerable, while protecting the vulnerable,” said Justice Minister David Lametti, who is Catholic.
According to the federal government, there are still a number of issues surrounding the MAiD system that are still to be determined and critics of the euthanasia/assisted-suicide system will have further opportunity to address those issues in the future.
“The Government of Canada recognizes that other important outstanding issues related to MAiD must still be explored. Areas such as the eligibility of mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, palliative care and the protection of Canadians living with disabilities will be considered during a parliamentary review of the MAID legislation that would begin within the next 30 days,” a statement from the Ministry of Justice said.
“The committee responsible for the parliamentary review process will be required to submit its report to Parliament no later than one year after the start of the review.”