A Timely Call to Action

On the same day the new Liberal government was sworn in, DWD Canada supporters renewed their call for strong, compassionate leadership on physician assisted dying.

It was the most memorable changing of the guard in recent Canadian history.

In a pageant of pomp and circumstance, incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet were sworn in at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall on November 4. 

As fate would have it, DWD Canada’s National Day of Action fell on the same day. We picked the date in early summer, when suggestions of a Liberal majority would have been written off as far-off fantasy. 

So, as Trudeau and his ministers smiled for the cameras, DWD Canada supporters across the country urged the new government to focus on the incredibly important work ahead. Cries of “What do we want? Leadership! When do we want it? Now!” reverberated in all 10 cities that participated in our National Day of Action. We renewed our call for politicians from all levels of government to ensure that patients facing unendurable suffering have fair, safe and timely access to physician assisted dying come Feb. 6, 2016, when the Supreme Court’s landmark Carter v. Canada ruling is set to come into effect.

Steven Fletcher: Unwavering support

In Ottawa, former MP and new DWD Canada patron Steven Fletcher — once the House of Commons’ most powerful advocate for choice — energized the crowd on Parliament Hill. “We have come so far, but our work is not yet done,” said Fletcher, who became a quadriplegic as the result of a 1996 car accident. 

“We must continue the fight until peace of mind at end of life is a reality for all.”

Supporters in Vancouver heard from Elayne Shapray, whose decades-long battle with Multiple Sclerosis led her to speak out for the right to a peaceful death. “The time for debating this decision is over,” she said. “It is time to enact this decision, without delay. 

“No more committees, no more discussion, no more fear tactics intended to stall and put barriers in the way of individual freedoms.”

Action across the country

In Toronto, DWD Canada Disability Advisory Council member Linda Jarrett hit home why physician assisted dying is a compassionate option for patients with debilitating chronic diseases.

“I love life,” said Jarrett, who also has MS. “But I am in a position where I know that the end of my life is something that I can’t tolerate. And when the time comes, I want the right to have a doctor help me out of this life.”

A number of speakers raised the spectre of the provincial medical regulators creating new rules that will unfairly limit Canadians’ access to their right to die with dignity. 

“We cannot let the rules for physician assisted dying be written by unelected, unaccountable bodies,” said DWD Canada CEO Wanda Morris, to resounding cheers from the Toronto crowd.

The Day of Action was intended not only to send an urgent message to our elected officials; it also served as a rallying cry to remind supporters of the important work to be done in the months ahead.  

“We have come so far, but we need to be steadfast and we need to continue the fight,” Morris said. “We as Canadians deserve choice at end of life. 

“And with your support, we are going to get it.”

(Photo credit: Patti Loach)

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