A woman holds a sign during a rally against physician-assisted suicide on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in this file photo. CNS photo/Art Babych

Bishops’ plea: ‘It’s not too late’

  • December 22, 2020

OTTAWA -- Canada’s Catholic bishops say it is “not too late to reconsider” and stop the expansion of medically-assisted suicide in Canada.

The bishops are calling on all Catholics and Canadians opposed to expanding the medical assistance in dying (MAiD) system to speak out against Bill C-7 after the federal government was given until Feb. 26 to bring federal law in line with a 2019 Quebec court decision.

Bill C-7 had passed in the House of Commons Dec. 10 but had not made it through the Senate by the Dec. 18 deadline the court gave the government to pass legislation, prompting the request for another extension, which a Quebec court granted Dec. 17 (it’s the third time an extension has been granted).

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is hoping the additional time to consider proposed changes will persuade the country’s politicians to pull back from making it easier for Canadians to kill themselves with the help of a doctor. In a strongly worded statement released Dec. 18, the executive committee of the CCCB called on the government to reconsider changes to MAiD they believe are being rushed.

“It is not too late to reconsider Canada’s approach to euthanasia and assisted suicide, in order to ensure an ethical response, one that promotes the inherent dignity of each human person when faced with the profound questions surrounding what it means to be human, the quality of life, human suffering, death and dying,” the bishops said.

“Despite the numerous warnings by disability organizations and physicians about the devastating consequences of Bill C-7, the truncated and flawed legislative process has overstepped legitimate democratic debate, while simply racing to meet a provincial court deadline rather than taking the time to deliberate fully the implications of Bill C-7.”

Concerns about the constitutionality of the bill and the impact it will have on disabled Canadians have been the key focal points of MAiD opponents.

“We welcome this decision by the court, which will give Parliament the time it needs to complete its consideration of the proposed legislation, which is of importance to many Canadians and families across the country,” Justice Minister David Lametti said.

“We know Canadians, especially those who are suffering intolerably and would become eligible for MAiD under the proposed changes, are anxious to see the proposed amendments come into effect. The Government of Canada remains committed to working with Parliamentarians to respond to this important court ruling as quickly as possible.”

The bishops counter, however, saying hearings at the committee level in both the House of Commons and the Senate made it “evidently clear” that there is no real consensus among Canadians, as the federal government claims, to make significant changes to MAiD before a promised five-year review of MAiD and palliative care options in Canada is undertaken.

Bill C-7, along with eliminating the need for a person’s death being reasonably foreseeable, would also eliminate a 10-day waiting period to perform an assisted suicide after consent is given and opens the door to advanced directives that could see a person be put to death even if they are mentally incapable of consenting.

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