OTTAWA (CCN) — Canada’s Catholic bishops and the Canadian Organization for Life and Family (COLF) have released their submissions to a federal consultation on euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The interventions of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and COLF opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide were submitted in October to the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada, a consultation set up by the Conservative government last summer.
On Oct. 20, the day after his Liberal party won a majority government, Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau told journalists he looked forward to seeing the consultations, promising his government would “abide by the Supreme Court decision and ensure that both vulnerable Canadians are protected and Canadians’ rights and choices are also defended. That’s the balance we’ll be striving for.”
After striking down some of the Criminal Code provisions against assisted suicide in the Feb. 6 Carter decision, the Supreme Court gave Parliament a year to craft new legislation before its decision came into force.
“Obviously this is an issue that is both sensitive and personal for many Canadians,” Trudeau said. “I ’ve always supported the Supreme Court in its decisions and we will be moving forward as is responsible to respond to the Supreme Court decision.”
COLF and the CCCB urge the federal government not to adopt either euthanasia or assisted suicide.
“Our awareness is shaped by humanity’s thousands of years of reflection and by our actions as Christians in following Jesus,” said the CCCB’s consultation signed by CCCB president Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby. “He showed most fully what it means to love, to serve, and to be present to others. His response to the suffering of others was to suffer with them, not to kill them.”
“He accepted suffering in his life as the pathway to giving, to generosity, to mercy. One does not have to be a believer to recognize in Jesus’ life and action a supreme example of humanity,” Crosby said. “The values of Jesus of Nazareth are the basis for our views on assisted suicide. Canada has nothing to fear in committing itself to these profoundly human and life-giving values. Similar values are shared not only by other Christians but also other world religions as well as men and women of goodwill without religious faith.”
Crosby pointed out the CCCB has been reiterating over the years “our continued opposition to efforts to implement any form of euthanasia and assisted suicide.”
The Catholic bishops invited Canadians to “build a culture of life,” promote good palliative care, and better health care for those with chronic conditions.
The intervention explained Catholic teaching, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, categorizes assisted suicide and euthanasia as “moral and social” evils and forms of murder. The bishops also stressed the importance of conscience rights for any health professionals who might be pressed into an assisted suicide or euthanasia regime.
COLF began its intervention with a warning of the risks of legalizing so-called “medical aid in dying,” as seen from the experiences of Belgium and the Netherlands.
“By legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide — which allows one person to kill another or help that person commit suicide — we would diminish the respect due to human life and erode the basic trust essential to the functioning of any society: the assurance that human life will always be protected,” said COLF director Michele Boulva. “If we allow assisted suicide or euthanasia for those terminally ill or not — when requested on the basis of unmanaged suffering, autonomy or individual self-determination over life itself — how can we refuse it to the depressed, the disabled or the frail? “
“In this context, the elderly and the vulnerable risk being pressured to consider the option of an early death; the so-called ‘right to die’ could soon become a ‘duty to die,’ ” she warned. “And such pressure is likely to increase as health care resources decrease. Thus ‘aid in dying’ will become the most deceptive form of violence, the ultimate abuse of seniors already subject to physical and psychological violence.”
Boulva warned Canada’s” civilization is at a turning point.”
“If we really believe in the equality of all Canadians, we will work to ensure their equal protection by maintaining the legal prohibition of killing. Only in this way can we maintain the fundamental trust required for us to live together.
After Trudeau and his cabinet are sworn in next month, there will be little time to craft legislation before the Supreme Court’s Feb. 6 deadline. Many groups, including the CCCB and COLF have called for the use of the notwithstanding clause to suspend the court’s decision for five years.