Thursday, March 23, 2023

Quebec leads the way in killing! Stop Bill 11.

By Gordon Friesen
President: Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Gordon Friesen
Some people are vaguely aware of the fact that Canadian euthanasia policy has been (largely) determined by provincial legislation passed in the Province of Quebec (2014). This political reality stems from the fact that Quebec legislators used their provincial Health competency to outflank the Federal criminal prohibition of homicide, and implement euthanasia unilaterally. It is from that point, that the dominoes began to fall.

Even more important, however, is the fact that when Federal legislators actually decriminalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2016, this was done using the term "Medical Assistance in Dying", of which the medical component was a nearly empty vessel, designed simply to accommodate the more detailed practical implementation policies already laid down in the Belle Province.

In other words, the essence of our present euthanasia policy, for better or for worse, was unquestionably hatched in the Province of Quebec.

However, my goal is not to stoke division, nor to indulge in any gratuitous Quebec-bashing. If things are what they are, it is very much the fault of the Canadian government, and especially that of other Provinces, for not properly representing their own constituents. For if it is the elected deputies of other jurisdictions who have been too cowardly (or too lazy) to defend the interests entrusted to them, how can we condemn those of Quebec for defending their own?

I simply wish to point out that things might have been very, very different; and that, indeed, they may still be, without changing either Federal or Quebec Law, depending only on the political will of leaders in other Provinces.

And how might things be different, one might ask?

To be clear: short of recriminalizing euthanasia (which is an exclusively Federal power) all Provinces may regulate the practice as they see fit (in virtue of the same Health competency invoked by Quebec). This means, for instance, that euthanasia could easily be excluded from public institutions, and that public funds could easily be denied to that use.

Without presuming of specific intention, however, the main point is that any Province may, at any time, adopt province-specific legislation on this subject; and that far from appearing as a villain in this respect, Quebec appears as a shining example to her more submissive provincial counterparts. For not only did Quebec first write a medical law in contradiction with federal criminal provisions, but now (since the Federal government has shown itself determined to delve into the medical details of eligibility through C-7 and subsequent review) Quebec is also poised to reposition herself, with regards to those criteria, by both forbidding that which the Federation has since accepted, and by authorizing that which the Federation has deliberately denied!

In other words, without going further into the details: Quebec has no compunction, whatsoever, about repeating her original contrarian coup, and is presently at work on QC Bill 11 "An Act to amend the Act respecting end-of-life care and other legislative provisions". 

There is, therefore, a sort of ongoing statutory ping-pong, between Ottawa and Quebec, in which Quebec is very much exploiting the initiative of legislative "fait accompli" and to which Ottawa will be forced, once again, to lamely respond, in order to maintain the fiction of federal uniformity in healthcare.

But uniformity is the last thing we might expect (or wish for) in the realm of euthanasia!

There is no common medical position on that subject. Jurisdictions all around the world have wildly differing interpretations. There is no reason why the other Provinces of Canada should simply adopt the Quebec interpretation (along with any periodic unilateral updates, to that interpretation, which might find legislative expression in that Province).

To repeat the essential point: every Province has exclusive competency in the field of Health, and is therefore free to define the medical status and implementation of euthanasia any way they please. All they have to do, is man up and do it.

Gordon Friesen is a disabled individual who has followed the assisted death question closely since the early 1990s. Gordon lives in Montréal QC.

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