Kevin Dunn has made several films about euthanasia. Mickey Conlon

‘Press the pause button,’ filmmaker urges

By 
  • March 15, 2020

Instead of going all in on expanding assisted suicide, Canada should have the full discussion that was promised when legislation was forced upon the country by the Supreme Court five years ago, said filmmaker Kevin Dunn.

That discussion was supposed to begin in 2021, five years after Parliament passed Bill C-14, which amended the Criminal Code to legalize assisted suicide under specific criteria. Since June 2016 so-called medical assistance in dying has been available in Canada.

Yet Canada is now preparing to expand the law to comply with a Quebec court ruling from last September that said existing regulations are too restrictive. On Feb. 24, legislation was tabled to amend the Criminal Code further to, among other changes, remove the requirement that death be reasonably foreseeable.

“Let’s have a real discussion instead of railroading and ramming through legislation just on the whole idea that we have to be the most progressive society in the world,” said Dunn, who spoke to an audience at the Catholic Pastoral Centre in the Archdiocese of Toronto March 4.

“Press the pause button on this and let’s have a discussion. You promised it to us, let’s have a real discussion.”

Dunn is an award-winning filmmaker and speaker who is on an international speaking tour with his talk, “Living, Dying and the Power of Presence.” In it, the Hamilton, Ont.-based Dunn shares personal testimony and clips from his films, Fatal Flaws and The Euthanasia Deception. His films discuss the ethical landslide around assisted dying laws and their affect on society.

The biggest problem surrounding the issue is the lack of knowledge, said Dunn. Most people think these laws affect only those in their last days, when death is inevitable. But it goes so much beyond that, especially if the courts are going to rule that laws are too restrictive. If people understood that, said Dunn, it would be a totally different situation.

“These laws are about people with disabilities, these laws are about the dignity of the human person,” he said. “These laws hit us when we’re at our lowest, when we need support, we don’t need suicide.”

Those fighting against assisted suicide find themselves at a disadvantage, said Dunn. The churches, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and disability rights groups are not being heard because they aren’t allowed a seat at the table. “We have to fight these laws … it’s our call as Catholics, as Christians,” he said.

Even when the government opened up the process for public input — an online survey that took place over a two-week period — the questions were skewed to assume a general acceptance of assisted suicide. That only adds to the misinformation, Dunn said.

“It’s about what we put into law,” said Dunn. “And if we extend these laws to people with mental illness, we’re going to have abuse.

“Let’s fix the system before we even start to talk about expanding these laws.”

That’s a conversation that needs to include the Church, disability rights’ groups and others that so far have been shut out, said Dunn.

As for assisted suicide opponents, they must become “prophets of hope” who carry each other’s burdens, said Dunn.

“We have to become the power of presence in the lives of people around us,” he said.

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