Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Sept. 24. CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout

Care, not killing

  • November 5, 2015

Most of Canada’s incoming parliamentarians were on the campaign trail in September and probably missed the inspiring address Pope Francis gave to U.S. Congress. If so, that’s a shame. His speech was made for America but a perfect fit for Canada.

Francis pulled few punches when he reminded U.S. politicians they are called to serve, not be served, and they hold office to advance the common good, not seek personal gain. He couldn’t have been more clear in using language that, if you replace Congress with Parliament, should resonate in Ottawa as the new Liberal government settles in.

“Your responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation,” he said. “You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.”

Those words are apropos for the new parliament. Canada, like the United States, faces several social and economic challenges. Francis mentioned religious freedom, native rights, employment, refugees, the environment and respect for life. All of those apply here, but none moreso for Justin Trudeau’s nascent government than the fundamental issue of life.

One month from now, Quebec doctors will have a green light to help patients commit suicide. Two months later, all Canadian doctors will be invited to follow suit. Quebec has declared assisted suicide a health matter and therefore within provincial jurisdiction and outside the Criminal Code of Canada, a code which, in any event, the Supreme Court has ruled must be amended to permit assisted death. It’s a mess.

What will happen on Feb. 6 when assisted suicide becomes the law across Canada is unclear. The Liberals have indicated they’ll seek the Court’s indulgence for an extra six months to craft legislation. The Court is under no obligation to say yes. But even a six-month moratorium won’t fix the problem because no legislation can reverse the Court’s mortifying decision to inflict assisted suicide on Canada. The only way to block assisted suicide at this stage would be for Parliament to invoke the notwithstanding clause. If that hope ever existed, it evaporated on election day.

Canada, to its shame, is barrelling towards a day when doctors will have a legal right to kill some patients. Which patients will die and how they’ll be killed remains to be seen. The new government will make those decisions. But we urge MPs to make assisted suicide as difficult to obtain as legally possible.

Pope Francis reminded Congress of a politician’s obligation. “Legislative activity is always based on care for the people,” he said.

And care does not include killing.

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