Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti, left, has no plans to expand assisted suicide in the near future. Wikimedia Commons

Editorial: A sound decision

  • February 21, 2019

As the saying goes, no news is good news.

So we commend Canada’s new justice minister for deciding to stick with the hum-drum of the status quo and refusing to expand euthanasia and assisted suicide to a wider circle of people.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, justice minister David Lametti said he has no plans to humour euthanasia activists by loosening up the existing law. Not now, anyway. He said it will be status quo for this election year and probably until at least 2021, when the new law is five years old and there is sufficient data for Parliament to properly review it.

Calling the criminal code changes passed in 2016 “an important balance” and an appropriate “first step,” he said that until the impact of the new law is fully assessed, “it’s too early to do anything else.”

The stand-pat sentiment is refreshing from a minister whose government often seems hell-bent on making Canada the place in the world least respectful of the sanctity of life. His stance is also surprising, given that he voted against his own government in 2016 because he believed amendments to the criminal code that opened the door to euthanasia did not go far enough.

Writing on Facebook back then, Lametti said he opposed the legislation because he felt it was too restrictive and “at serious risk of being found to be unconstitutional.”

That “unconstitutional” mantra has been taken up by several groups which want medically-induced death available for some minors, adults with mental illness and people whose death is not imminent but assert a right to give advanced consent to be euthanized in the future. When Lametti was promoted from the backbenches to replace ousted justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould in a January cabinet shuffle — and on the heels of three government reports that studied the potential impact of expanding euthanasia — it seemed a good bet the new minister would move the needle in the expansion direction, particularly concerning advanced consent.

Instead, he has shut the door and while he hasn’t throw away the key, he will pocket it during an election year.

None of this means the debate will die. Court challenges to contest the limitations of the existing law are inevitable. The matter of who can consent to death by doctor seems destined to eventually wind its way back to the same Supreme Court that struck down the total ban on assisted suicide four years ago.

Lametti may already be anticipating that day and suspecting the justices will second his own opinion that the current law is too restrictive. In other words, as happens so often now to the detriment of society, when it comes to this important social issue unelected judges, not politicians, may well have the last word on who qualifies to be killed.

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