Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vellacott urges use of “notwithstanding clause” on assisted suicide

Vellacott urges use of “notwithstanding clause” in face of Supreme Court allowing doctors to use lethal injection on their patients

For Immediate Release February 10, 2015

OTTAWA –In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Carter case, in which the Court gave Parliament one year to enact legislation in light of the Court declaring unconstitutional the Criminal Code provisions that “prohibit physician‑assisted dying for competent adults who seek such assistance as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring and intolerable suffering,” MP Maurice Vellacott said:

I am deeply concerned and saddened by the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize in some circumstances what it calls “physician-assisted death.”

How we respond now to this landmark decision will affect the people of Canada and the values we hold dear for years and decades to come. We are at a turning point in our history. In responding to this decision, we are called upon to grapple with tough questions about our nature as human beings and as social beings, questions about the sanctity of human life, compassion, hope, autonomy, fear and despair.

The road ahead for Canada in the aftermath of this life and death decision imposed on us by the Supreme Court is unclear. Many are fearful of what lies ahead for them, that protections on which they once relied will be gone. The medical profession is looking to Parliament to set parameters on the power the Court has now given them to help their patients end their lives.

Given all the stakeholders who will need to be consulted on this emotional and sensitive issue, and given the profound consequences for individuals, for the medical profession, and for society, it defies understanding why the Supreme Court would give Parliament only one year to respond with new legislation.

Canadians are divided on this issue which involves the deliberate taking of human life. No major political party is united on this issue. All parties support access to palliative care for all Canadians who need it. If ever there was a time to take back the political principle of “the supremacy of Parliament,” the time is now.

As such, I am calling upon all party leaders to set aside their partisan differences and unite in support of using the Charter’s section 33 “notwithstanding” clause in order to give Parliament the time it needs to conduct broad enough consultations to discern: how we can implement a plan to provide the resources and substantial palliative care to significantly alleviate suffering so that requests to die will be reduced to a minimum; and how to provide appropriate parameters and safeguards in response to the Supreme Court’s decision.

Now is the time for Parliament to act with courage, for the sake of all Canadians, and for the future of Canada. Let us not look back years and decades from now with regret that we didn’t take the time to get it right when we had the chance.

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For further information and comment, call (613) 992-1966 or (613) 297-2249; email: maurice.vellacott.a1@parl.gc.ca