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Religious Tolerance logo

Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) in
Canada: the Carter v. Canada lawsuit

Part 8 of thirteen parts

2013-OCT: The case is appealed
to the Supreme Court of Canada.
2014-JAN-16: The Supreme Court
of Canada
accepts the appeal.
CBC-TV panel debates PAS.
2 news releases before the hearings.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2013-OCT-28: The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) pleaded with the Supreme Court of Canada to fast-track Carter v. Canada:

The BCCLA asked the Supreme Court of Canada to expedite their decision whether to accept or refuse their appeal of "Carter." They also asked the High Court that, if the appeal is accepted, that the High Court also expedite the hearings and ruling. 1

BCCLA lawyer, Grace Pastine, said that the appeal:

"... is a matter of extreme urgency."

They noted the "cruel predicament" faced by so many Canadians who are in agony hoping for a future court decision that would allow them the option of legal physician-assisted suicide, a "Death with Dignity."

Elayne Shapray is a British Columbia woman who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Wendy Stueck, writing for the Globe and Mail newspaper, said:

"Wearing a red sweater, sitting in a wheelchair and speaking in a voice that was at times barely audible, Ms. Shapray described MS as an 'interminable' disease that has taken her ability to move, sleep without pain, or hug her grandchildren.

'I am essentially a prisoner in my own body,' Ms. Shapray said at a BCCLA press conference. 'My MS now impacts my life to the point where I no longer consider my life worth living unless I also possess the means to leave it at a time of my choosing'..."

Intervenors in the B.C. case, including the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, want to see the criminal prohibition upheld and say changing the law would pose a risk to vulnerable people, including those who are elderly or disabled." 1

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2014-JAN-16: The Supreme Court of Canada finally agreed to hear the appeal of Carter v. Canada:

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association who filed "Carter" during 2011-NOV issued a statement saying:

"The case seeks to allow seriously and incurably ill, mentally competent adults the right to receive medical assistance to hasten death under specific safeguards."

However, the federal Government, under the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada takes a dim view on "Death with Dignity." They maintain that the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling over two decades ago is the final word on the subject. By a 5 to 4 vote, the High Court had upheld the ban on assisted suicide on 1993-SEP-30. 2

The Supreme Court of Canada scheduled hearings on the new case, starting on 2014-OCT-15.

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2014-OCT-13: A panel debate on assisted suicide two days before the High Court hearings began:


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2014-OCT-15: Hearings before the High Court begin:

  • The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) who originally filed the case in the British Columbia Supreme Court, commented on the hearing:

    "The Supreme Court of Canada is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case. After decades of work on the issue, and years in the lower courts, the BCCLA and our clients will take our fight for the right to die with dignity to the highest court in the country." 4

The BCCLA issued a media advisory just before the hearing, stating that:

"The BCCLA is the civil liberties watchdog responsible for launching the case.The BCCLA’s lawsuit argues that the laws are unconstitutional because they deny individuals the right to have control over choices that are fundamental to their lives and prevent unnecessary suffering. The lawsuit also claims that the laws restrict the liberty of physicians to deliver compassionate end of life care to incurably ill patients. The laws deny equality to the physically disabled by criminalizing a choice -– the choice to end suffering through suicide -- that is available to the able-bodied.

Grace Pastine, Litigation Director for the BCCLA said,

'We are looking forward to making our case to Canada’s highest court. This has been a grueling legal battle and we are hopeful that the court will agree with us that seriously ill Canadians deserve a dignified and peaceful exit, rather than being forced to live in fear about how they will die. The federal government has no place at bedsides of seriously ill Canadians who have made firm decisions about the amount of suffering they will endure at the end of life. Now is the time for Canada’s highest court to decriminalize physician-assisted dying and give seriously ill patients the compassion and dignity they deserve'." 5

  • The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, a conservative Christian group, testified against allowing physician assisted suicide on the first day of the hearings. They issued a media release, stating that:

    "Nothing in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms compels the legalization of the private killing of citizens, ..."

    "The EFC agrees with the previous Supreme Court ruling that the right to life in the Charter is a life-affirming principle that promotes the enhancement and protection of life, not its removal. ..."

    “ 'Our laws and our health care system are committed to protecting life,' says Bruce Clemenger, President of the EFC. 'Striking down the ban on assisted suicide will erode this basic trust. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to any exemptions made to the existing protections offered by current laws. The European experience shows that once one life can be taken the ‘safe guards’ that were intended to keep euthanasia / assisted suicide rare and exceptional don’t hold'."

    "The EFC also argues that, in stark contrast to suicide, assisted “suicide” is a social act where someone aids and abets the killing and in which all of society is complicit through legal sanction.

    'We must respond to suffering with dignity-affirming treatment, not with killing,' says Clemenger.  'Palliative care and as much personal and community support as possible should characterize our response to those nearing the end of life'." 6

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Wendy Stueck, "Right-to-die activists want top court to prioritize assisted-suicide appeal," The Globe and Mail, 2013-OCT-28, at:
  2. "Supreme Court agrees to hear appeal in B.C. right-to-die case," The Globe and Mail, 2014-JAN-16, at:
  3. "Supreme Court to debate assisted suicide," CBC > You Tube, 2014-OCT-13, at:
  4. "Carter v. Canada," British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, 2016, at:
  5. "Media Advisory: BC Civil Liberties Association, plaintiffs and family of Gloria Taylor head to Supreme Court of Canada in landmark assisted dying case," British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, 2014-OCT-13, at:
  6. Rick Hiemstra, "Charter affirms life, not its removal, says the EFC," Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, 2014-OCT-15, at:

Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics  > Assisted Suicide > Canada > here

or: Home page > "Hot" topics  > Suicide menu > Assisted Suicide> Canada > here

Copyright © 2016, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-FEB-28
Latest update: 2016-FEB-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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