Canadians with Disabilities Celebrate Ruling Against Assisted Suicide

October 10, 2013

The British Columbia Court of Appeal ruling in Carter v. Canada opposing assisted suicide is being celebrated by Canadians with disabilities.  The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), two of Canada’s largest organizations representing persons with disabilities and their families are pleased and relieved with the decision. 

CCD and CACL would urge the Supreme Court of Canada to refuse leave to appeal this decision.  The Carter case, because of the inadequacy of its record, is not the case on which this issue should be decided. 

The Supreme Court of Canada in the Rodriguez case got our message. They were entirely focused on the threat to persons with disabilities and thus denied Sue Rodriguez’s request for assistance to end her life. 

CACL and CCD intervened in this appeal in order to ensure that the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in Rodriguez not be overturned and to oppose any change in the Criminal Code that would enable a system of physician-assisted suicide.

“We are of no illusion that this debate is over in Canada,” said Amy Hasbrouck, Coordinator of Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet – a project of CCD.  “Public dialogue around assisted suicide has been polarized and forceful. It is our fear that in this debate, the concerns of Canadians with disabilities and their families about the grave risks that would occur by introducing a system of assisted suicide are not being heard.”

“The result of this appeal does offer some temporary relief, though we know the debate is far from over. The public needs to hear and understand the perspectives and concerns of people with disabilities on this issue because it impacts all of us and is potentially catastrophic,” said Laurie Larson, President of CACL and mother of two adult sons with disabilities. “I can assume that it will be some time before my sons might personally experience the threats that we are concerned about, but I know that it is likely that my husband and I won’t be around at that point to fight for them and help them navigate pressures that would be the result of introducing a system of doctor assisted suicide.”

“This decision gives us a welcome reprieve, an opportunity to reflect deeply about human dignity and how it is best protected at end of life.  People with disabilities have a vital role to play in the larger conversation that must unfold from here" said Catherine Frazee former Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. 

“The Carter judgment endorses the effectiveness of safeguards in other jurisdictions but did not have either a fulsome review of this issue or take into account recent evidence which counters this view.  As such the case is not a good basis for a Supreme court review” said Tim Stainton, Chair of CACL’s Ethics and Values Committee.

Interviews can be coordinated with CCD Spokespersons by contacting Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator 204 947-0303 or 204 981-6179 cell, or Spokespersons may be contacted directly. 

Amy Hasbrouck Coordinator of Toujour Vivant-Not Dead Yet – a project of CCD 450 921-3057 available to do interviews in either English or French

Nancy Hansen 204 474-6458 Member of CCD’s Ending of Life Ethics Committee

Jim Derksen 204 786-7937 Member of CCD’s Ending of Life Ethics Committee 

Interviews can be coordinated with CACL Spokespersons by contacting Tyler Hnatuk 416 709-3429:

Laurie Larson (President, CACL; Parent of two adult sons with disabilities)

Catherine Frazee (Former Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and longtime disability rights advocate)

Tim Stainton Chair of CACL’s Ethic and Values Committee

David Baker, Legal Counsel (bakerlaw) 416 533-0040 Ext. 222

CCD and CACL seek to ensure:

That the rights of person with disabilities and elderly persons are protected and that the Criminal Code prohibition against assisted suicide is upheld.

That allowing a few people the privilege of controlling the time and manner of their death does not justify the danger it would pose to many more elders and persons with disabilities.