OTTAWA (CCN) — On June 1, the day after the Liberal-dominated House of Commons sent assisted suicide Bill C-14 to the Senate, hundreds of people protested against euthanasia on Parliament Hill.
Several Senators spoke briefly to the crowd, among them Betty Unger, Norman Doyle, and Tobias Enverga.
Unger told the crowd she never imagined in her four-and-a-half years in the Senate she would be dealing with an issue so “heart wrenching.”
“I am completely opposed to the idea,” she said. A former nurse, she said there can be no euthanasia without a “serious option for assisted living, not assisted dying.”
Senator Tobias Enverga issued a challenge to the far larger crowd on the Parliament Hill lawn for the weekly Yoga on the Hill taking place while the anti-euthanasia demonstration gathered near the steps to Centre Block.
“You guys love life!” he said to the yoga practitioners, urging them to recognize “all life matters.”
He promised to do his best to make sure the bill doesn’t pass unless it “goes through the tiniest hole in the needle so all life not intended to be killed will not be killed.”
Organized by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, the Quebec grassroots organization Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance Against Euthanasia, the rally also featured speakers from the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice and the Catholic Women’s League.
“Stop Bill C-14 and save lives,” said Dr. Paul Saba of the Coalition of Physicians.
“They do not have to follow the Carter decision,” he said. “Otherwise, get rid of Parliament and replace it with the Supreme Court.”
Physicians’ Alliance president Dr. Catherine Ferrier said the 766 doctors she represents, who work in palliative care, psychiatry and family medicine, are “worried about our patients.”
“We have always had people who wanted to die,” she said. “We called them suicidal.”
The doctors considered it their “job to help them,” she said. “Most get over and they are glad they are alive.”
“Now they are killing suicidal patients,” she said, noting how recently some Quebec doctors were not reviving people who had attempted suicide.
Ferrier said Canadians are being told Parliament has no other choice, either pass the bill or face a legal void after the Supreme Court’s Carter decision. “Parliament could have recriminalized euthanasia and assisted dying by reinstating the Criminal Code provisions. They chose not to do that,” she said.
“We’re also told Canadians want euthanasia and assisted suicide,” she said. “That’s not true.” She noted most Canadians “do not even know what the debate is about.”
She urged doctors to resist and to try to find the best alternatives possible for their patients. “Don’t ever get used to it. History will judge us. A generation will come and look with horror at what we have done as a solution to suffering.”
Catholic Women’s League president Barb Dowding said her organization, representing 83,000 women, and the largest women’s group in Canada is opposed to both euthanasia and assisted suicide. She urged policy steps to protect the most vulnerable. Her organization is pushing to “make palliative care part of the Canada health act,” she said.
Valleyfield Bishop Noel Simard said he was present to show solidarity with those present and vulnerable Canadians. He stressed quality palliative care is the answer to end-of-life suffering, not euthanasia and assisted suicide. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are a threat to our shared life, he said in French.
“We can’t abandon disabled people to the back wards where the only alternative seems to be an assisted death,” said Not Dead Yet’s Amy Hasbrouck. “Assistance to live! Not assistance to die.”
She urged the adoption of safeguards such as a vulnerability assessment, guaranteed palliative care, home access modifications and personal assistants so disabled persons can have real autonomy instead of facing life in institutions, and an arms-length prior review before an assisted death can take place.
MPs Bev Shipley, Harold Albrecht, Brad Trost and Garnett Genuis also spoke against Bill C-14.
“Whatever happens we have to be in this fight for the long haul,” said Genuis, who called bill “a fundamental injustice against the innocent.”
He urged people to get involved in politics, join riding associations and even consider running for office.
“They are turning a criminal activity into health care paid for by Canadians,” said Shipley.