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Physician-assisted dying: Request to Supreme Court of Canada to extend time for federal, provincial and territorial response
December 3, 2015 – Ottawa, ON – Department of Justice
Today, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced a major step forward on the important issue of physician-assisted dying. In order to engage and consult with Canadians on this complex and personal issue, the Minister filed a motion for a six-month extension of the suspension by the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) of the effects of its decision in the Carter v. Canada case.
Canadians have made it clear that they are looking for a real conversation about personal choice, health care and end-of-life-care, and strong protection of the vulnerable. This brief extension, to August 6, 2016, is necessary to ensure that the federal government and the provinces and territories also have the necessary time to continue the good work that is under way and responsibly prepare for the full implementation of the Carter decision.
Following through on its commitment to Canadians, the Government will establish an all-party special parliamentary committee to make recommendations on a federal government response.
While it is true that an extension of the suspension will mean that some Canadians will have to wait to access physician-assisted dying, it is necessary - and responsible - to ensure that sufficient protections are in place across the entire country.
The extension, if granted by the SCC, will allow all parliamentarians to study the issue and engage with Canadians in a meaningful way. The Government's response will follow quickly, and will be informed by the extensive work of the federal external panel, the work undertaken by the Quebec government in developing its own important legislation, the provincial-territorial expert advisory group, and medical colleges and associations, as well as by all parliamentarians and their essential consultations with Canadians.
In Canada's federal system, there is a role for the federal, provincial and territorial governments. Across the country jurisdictions are at various stages of legislation and policy development. Some provincial governments have expressed an interest in having more time to align their respective responses to the SCC's decision in Carter. However, the federal government acknowledges the leadership that Quebec has demonstrated with the consultative nature of its approach and passage of end-of-life legislation. As such, the Minister has been actively and recently engaged with her Quebec counterpart in developing the federal approach.
The Government of Canada is committed to taking action at the federal level and is moving forward in a thoughtful way to respond to the SCC's judgment, while ensuring collaboration with provinces and territories.
"Physician-assisted dying is a complex and deeply personal issue for Canadians of all ages and backgrounds. The federal government's response will affect all of society. That is why we are firmly committed to including Canadians and taking the time to develop a thoughtful, sensitive, and well-informed response. We recognize both a person's right to make fundamental decisions about his or her life and the need to protect those who are vulnerable."
The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
- On February 6, 2015, in Carter v. Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously declared that Criminal Code provisions against consenting to die and assisted suicide are unconstitutional, as these provisions prohibit physician-assisted dying for competent adults who are suffering from a grievous and irremediable illness, disease, or disability.
- The Supreme Court suspended its declaration for one year, until February 6, 2016, to give Parliament and the legislatures an opportunity to develop an appropriate response to physician-assisted dying and to put in place a carefully designed and monitored system of safeguards to protect vulnerable persons.
- Media Relations
Department of Justice
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