Correspondence from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Editor’s note. Last January the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear an appeal of a lower court decision which had rejected an attempt to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. This is the latest twist in the lawsuit launched by the family of Kay Carter, a woman who died by assisted suicide in 2010 in Switzerland.
Thank you for your correspondence concerning euthanasia and physician‑assisted suicide. I regret the delay in responding.
Many Canadians are concerned about this complex ethical, legal, and medical issue. We recognize that people have widely divergent and strongly held views about this issue.
As you know, the Criminal Code prohibits the practices of euthanasia and physician‑assisted suicide in Canada. These laws exist to protect all Canadians, including the most vulnerable members of our society, such as those who are sick or elderly and persons with disabilities.
We believe that the provisions prohibiting a medical professional, or anyone else, from counselling or providing assistance in a suicide are constitutionally valid. As you know, in April 2010, the legalization of euthanasia and physician‑assisted suicide under certain conditions was debated in the House of Commons. A majority of Parliamentarians voted against changing our criminal laws. I personally voted against this bill.
As you may be aware, on January 16, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada granted leave to appeal the decision of October 10, 2013, by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), which found that the prohibition against physician‑assisted suicide was unconstitutional. Please be assured that the Government of Canada will vigorously defend the constitutionality of the existing laws in this area before our country’s highest court.
Thank you again for writing.
The Honourable Peter MacKay