Ottawa lacks both the legal power and probably the political will to stop it
By Link Byfield
Oct 16, 2013
|Palliative care: Quebec will have
‘terminal palliative sedation’ instead.
Pro-life Christians probably heaved a breath of relief last week when British Columbia’s highest court, in a two-to-one ruling, reversed a lower court decision and upheld a federal law criminalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia. It will go next to the Supreme Court of Canada. Before it gets there, however, the Province of Quebec may render the issue moot by legalizing the practice – not by declaring it legal but by refusing to prosecute it.
Unlike in the United States, the enactment of criminal law (principally the Criminal Code) in Canada is exclusively federal; however, the ten provinces have the exclusive constitutional right to prosecute it. Criminal Code section 241 makes it a crime punishable by up to 14 years to “counsel,” “aid” or “abet” a suicide, and the Conservative federal government of Stephen Harper has stated repeatedly it does not intend to change this. Quebec’s devious dodge Bill 52, now before the Quebec legislature, is the “Act Respecting End-of-Life Care.” If passed (as looks almost certain) it does not explicitly allow a doctor to kill a patient, or help a patient kill himself. Instead it allows the doctor to allow “terminal palliative sedation” and “medical aid in dying” without defining either one.
Quebec is arguing that these are aspects of health care, an exclusively provincial field of jurisdiction. Quebec says that because the words “euthanasia” and “assisted suicide” do not appear in its new Act, therefore the federal Criminal Code is not being breached. Fatuous? Yes, but that doesn’t mean Quebec won’t get away with it.
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