Canada’s new euthanasia law is a matter of life and death for people with disabilities

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Bill C-7 passed into law on March 17, thereby expanding Canada’s euthanasia (MAiD) law to include people with disabilities or chronic conditions who are not dying, and people with mental illness alone. 

It’s important to remind people of how Bill C-7 undermines Canada’s global human rights commitments.

Dulcie McCallum is a human rights lawyer and was special adviser to Canada’s Delegation to the UN Ad Hoc Committee to negotiate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Steve Estey is a longtime human rights advocate and activist and was a member of Canada’s delegation to the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee which drafted the CRPD between 2002 and 2006.

They explain in an article published by iPolitics how Bill C-7 is counter to Canada’s Human Rights commitments. 

McCallum and Estey wrote:

The value of Canada’s stock on the global human rights market is about to plummet. In what could be considered a perverse sense of timing, the House moved for closure on Bill C-7 – which proposes fundamental changes to criteria for medical aid in dying (MAiD) – on the very week that marks the eleven-year anniversary of Canada ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

As the special advisers to, and members of, Canada’s delegation to the United Nations when negotiating the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we feel compelled to speak out because Canada is on the threshold of committing a serious legal breach.

They then explain why Bill C-7 represented a human rights violation:

Bill C-7 will, if passed, make it entirely legal to end a person’s life simply because they have a disability. The fact that Parliamentarians cannot see that Bill C-7 turns the right to equality and non-discrimination on its head is of grave concern.

This legislative initiative reinforces negative stereotypes and perceptions about people who live with a disability or who are aging, giving us a law that is predicated on discriminatory and harmful ableist and ageist criteria. The legislative drafters have penned a cruel twist into the Criminal Code by deeming ease of access to medical assistance for people with a disability as a benefit.

McCallum and Estey go on to explain that others have warned the government about the violation.

We are not the first to warn the Prime Minister that this legislation is in direct contravention with international law. A cohort of UN Special Rapporteurs and experts have issued a global expression of alarm. Their statement, issued early this year, said in part; “Disability should never be a ground or justification to end someone’s life directly or indirectly.”

The international experts went on to make the specific point that if the law allows this differential treatment, it would “institutionalize and legally authorize ableism” in direct contravention of the Convention.

McCallum and Estey point out that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau considers himself a staunch supporter of human rights and yet his euthanasia (MAiD—Medical Assistance in Dying) law is in direct contravention of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.