April 21, 2012

Rodriguez - Worst decision in 30 years

On the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms a poll by the Globe and Mail of its readers shows that 82% of them disagree with the Supreme Court's ruling in the Sue Rodriguez case.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To mark that anniversary, Globe and Mail justice reporter Kirk Makin whittled down three decades of cases heard by the Supreme Court about issues relating to the Charter into 30 important rulings that have shaped rights in our country.

The cases ranged broadly, from assisted suicide and evidence disclosure to abortion and same-sex equality. The Globe invited readers to vote on whether each case improved or diminished Canada.

For the most part the readers agreed with the views of the Supreme Court but the one that elicited the strongest negative reaction of the readers was the case of Sue Rodriguez v B.C. Attorney General. 82% of the Globe’s readers think that the Court was wrong in its decision.

In 1993, Sue Rodriguez wanted to die with dignity. The 42-year-old mother from British Columbia suffered from ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and her condition was deteriorating quickly. Soon, she would lose the ability to walk, eat and even talk.

Her quest to die at the time of her choosing, once her quality of life was sufficiently diminished, sparked a national debate about physician-assisted suicide as her case made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada. But five of the nine judges disagreed with her and upheld the federal law banning assisted suicide.

This, according to an informal survey of Globe readers, was the worst decision the country’s top court has made in the 30 years of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Perhaps reflecting those strong feelings, this legal issue continues to be the subject of strong debate both outside and inside the courtroom. Assisted suicide was brought back to a B.C. courtroom again late last year, when Gloria Taylor, 63 and also suffering from ALS, asked the B.C. Supreme Court to grant her the right to let a doctor help her end her own life. The decision on this case is expected within the next two weeks.

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