February 15, 2024

Verbatim: Overview of the legal action filed Feb. 2, by Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine


Overview of the legal action filed Feb. 2, by Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine to prevent Quebec forcing MAiD into a palliative care centre in former church still owned by the Archdiocese.

  1. lnterested by the plight of people at the end of life, the Roman Catholic Church (“Church”) is firmly committed to promoting better access to quality palliative care in order to respond to their suffering by alleviating their pain and offering them support and comfort in the final moments of their lives.
  2. Because of its beliefs in the sacred and inviolable nature of human life and its inalienable dignity, the Church is opposed to any form of euthanasia ....
  3. On the strength of these convictions, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Montreal (“Archbishop”) encouraged and supported ... the conversion of a former church, Saint- Raphaël-Archange parish in Montreal, into a palliative care home.
  4. This project led to the creation in 2008 of a community organisation, (“Maison St-Raphaël”).
  5. As a testament to the Church’s charity, an essential aspect of the Catholic faith, the Archbishop’s support for the Maison St-Raphaël project was aimed at improving the Montreal community’s access to quality end-of-life care, while reflecting and respecting Catholic beliefs in this area.
  6. In order to carry out the project, the plaintiff Les Œuvres de charité de I’Archevêque catholique romain de Montréal (“Œuvres”) transferred the use of the former church to Maison St-RaphaëI, under an emphyteutic lease providing for a symbolic annual rent of one dollar, on the express condition that medical assistance in dying would not be administered there at any time.
  7. When the lease was signed in March 2016, the law allowed Maison St Raphaël to choose whether or not to offer medical aid in dying on its premises. This was still the case when it opened in 2019. The mission of Maison St-Raphaël is therefore to offer free palliative care, but not (MAiD) ....
  8. However, the Łoi modifiant la Loi concernant les soins de fin de vie e/ d’autres dispositions législatives, LQ 2023, c. 15 (“Amending Act”), passed on June 7, 2023, introduced legislative changes now preventing hospices from excluding medical aid in dying ... as of December 7, 2023.
  9. By forcing hospices to offer medical aid in dying, without regard to their mission and values, the legislative amendments significantly interfere with the exercise of the right to freedom of religion and conscience guaranteed in section 2a of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Canadian Charter”) and section 3 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (“Quebec Charter”)....
  10. In this case, the plaintiffs find themselves deprived of the ability to express their beliefs by supporting the development of palliative care, unless they resign themselves to assisting in the administration of medical aid in dying....
  11. The applicants are faced with an insoluble dilemma: either give up their support for Maison St-Raphaël and thereby abandon a project that bears witness to the faith and commitment of the Catholic community, or allow their property, a former church, to be used to commit what they consider to be morally unacceptable acts.
  12. This is a serious infringement of the right to freedom of religion and conscience...
  13. Moreover, the application of the amending Act amounts in practice to appropriating the building belonging to the Charities in order to administer medical assistance in dying, against the wishes of the plaintiffs, which contravenes the right to peaceful enjoyment and free disposition of property recognized by section 6 of the Quebec Charter.
  14. Consequently, the plaintiffs are asking this Court to declare the recent legislative amendments requiring hospices to offer medical assistance in dying to be constitutionally invalid and therefore inoperative.
  15. Lastly, the plaintiffs ask this Court to stay the application of the legislative amendments in question during the course of the proceedings, which will prevent serious and irreparable harm from being caused even before the serious issues raised by this appeal can be decided on the merits....

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