Gloria Taylor’s lawyer Joseph Arvay tells reporters his client is relieved with the court’s decision. Photo by Nathan Rumohr

Tragic ruling in B.C.

  • June 19, 2012

And so it begins.

The B.C. Supreme Court has overruled Parliament to decree it lawful for a doctor to kill Gloria Taylor. Canada’s first legal physician-assisted suicide will occur when (and if) Taylor decides to proceed, despite Criminal Code statutes forbidding assisted suicide and valid concerns that Canada is on a slippery slope towards indiscriminate euthanasia.

According to the legal logic of Madam Justice Lynn Smith, a disabled person’s constitutional rights must include an equal opportunity to commit suicide. Suicide is legal in Canada but aiding suicide is not. But when illness or disability makes someone physically incapable of killing themselves, they deserve a helping hand,  Smith ruled.

It is an odd and disquieting decision. Although she suspended the ruling for one year to allow for appeals and for Parliament to re-write the law, Smith granted Taylor a constitutional exemption for a physician-assisted death. Taylor is terminally ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease. But regardless of whether she finds a doctor to end her life, this is a tragic court decision that should be federally appealed and legislatively opposed.

Canada’s highest court and parliamentary lawmakers have consistently renounced state-sanctioned killing of adults since ending capital punishment in 1976. A decade ago, the Supreme Court ruled against assisted suicide in a 5-4 vote. Two years ago, Parliament overwhelmingly rejected a motion to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller rightly asserts that the latest court decision is “extremely flawed and dangerous.” The ruling, he said, “sadly reflects a distorted view of equality rights that emphasizes autonomy over human dignity and the value of life.”

The B.C. decision marks a backward step in the moral evolution of Canada. State-sanctioned killing should never be tolerated, for any reason. As soon as society starts to quantify the value of certain lives it devalues all of humanity. From conception until natural death, all life demands equal respect, dignity and protection.

And society has an irrevocable duty to watch over its most vulnerable citizens. The B.C. court failed this standard. The legal gymnastics employed one day to champion state-sanctioned suicide on equality grounds for the terminally ill will another day become the rationale to euthanize the aged, infirmed, physically disabled or mentally handicapped.  

Taylor deserves our compassion and prayers. She has a dreadful disease. But when a court grants a legal exemption for a doctor to kill her, the decision has broad and dangerous implications for society.

The B.C. court has gotten this wrong. If the Supreme Court fails to undo the decision on legal grounds, Parliament must fulfill its moral duty to keep state-sanctioned killing out of Canada.


"Letters to the editor" from the June 24th 2012 edition of The Catholic Register

Christian pride

Re: “Anti-bullying clubs should recognize the dignity of all” (June 10):
Thank you Ms. Lawrie for your spiritually creative comment. Your voice should have been heard before the debate on anti-bullying clubs began. It should not be attraction that matters, but the person and the respect every person deserves because they are a person. I hope our students, their families and society at large will learn how to respect (each other), no matter what colour, language, size, nationality or orientation.
We respect differences. We also respect the decision of the government. This is the “pride” of being true Christians.
Fr. Gianni Carparelli,

What’s in a name?

Cardinal Thomas Collins rightly indicates (June 3) that one expects something different from different-named political parties and different-named school clubs. Similarly, should one not expect a group named the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) to follow and teach the Catholic teachings in the Catholic school system? Since OECTA supports students naming clubs GSAs, are the students being taught Catholic teachings?
Marg Nixon,
Barrie Ont.

Bravo for premier

I applaud the premier for his amendment to Bill-13. If Catholic schools truly want to be a support for gay youth, I can’t understand how GSA clubs would be in conflict with Church teaching.
Regarding the Church’s hold on its “constitutional guarantee” for Catholic education, I think it is naive to think legislation can’t be passed that would change the status quo. One needs only recall the voter backlash from a previous provincial election when the then  Conservative leader John Tory proposed to fund all religious education.
Peter Caldana,
Mississauga, Ont.

Casting aspersions

Re: “Mocking freedom” (June 10):
I am surprised The Catholic Register can cast aspersions on Dalton McGuinty while it continues to walk on its own soft ground. I am not an expert on education but I do know that responsible pedagogues root their methods in an interactive environment — i.e. teacher and the student engage in discussion.
Our Church, however, can hardly be accused of encouraging intellectual interactivity. According to our Catholic catechism, “The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely . . . to  the Pope and the bishops in communion with him.” Should our Church consult its followers it might find less-than-strong support on a number of issues: e.g., Bill 13.
Brad Sinclair,
Scarborough, Ont.

Crux of the problem

Re: “Catholic education is safe” (June 10):
The article mentions that Catholic students supporting GSAs trumped the objections of trustees and others. This is just as ludicrous as President Obama reversing his position from anti-same-sex “marriage” to pro-same-sex “marriage” after consulting with his children.
The government is now enabling and empowering students on crucial moral issues when students should be receiving direction from our Catholic school system. Give credit to Cardinal Collins for exposing the crux of the problem — Bill 13 “is an infringement on religious freedom.”
Jean Witherspoon,
Scarborough, Ont.

Not to be

Re: Bill 13 becomes law (June 10):
I had hoped we might uncover a mini Thomas More but, alas, it was not to be.
Eugene Murphy,
Peterborough, Ont.

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