Defending access to quality end-of-life choice and care for over 40 years.
For over 40 years, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) has been defending access to quality end-of-life choice and care. The road to choice has been long and winding – full of challenges and setbacks, progress and triumphs. Who we are today is the result of years of persistent and passionate advocacy by pioneers from coast-to-coast.
On March 9, 2023, legislation to extend the temporary exclusion of eligibility for MAID where a person’s sole medical condition is a mental disorder (Bill C-39) received Royal Assent.
On February 15, 2023, the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying tabled its Final Report of the Parliamentary Review.
On February 2, legislation was tabled by the government that would extend the sunset clause on MAID for those whose sole underlying condition is a mental disorder until March 17, 2024.
Bill 38 was tabled in Quebec to allow people with severe and incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s to give prior consent to medical assistance in dying.
Dying With Dignity Canada’s Cowichan Chapter is established.
The Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying is reestablished and begins work on the Statutory Review of the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to Medical Assistance in Dying and their application (the Parliamentary Review).
The Parliamentary Review of medical assistance in dying – initiated in June to study issues such as advance requests, mental illness, and mature minors after the passage of Bill C-7 – ended when Parliament was dissolved as a result of the federal election.
An expert panel on MAID and Mental Illness was announced in August to establish and consider protocols, guidance and safeguards for those whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness and request MAID.
Bill C-7, an act to amend the criminal code (medical assistance in dying) received Royal Assent. This amendment removed the reasonably foreseeable death requirement, and allowed for waiver of final consent (Audrey’s Amendment), among other changes.
Dying With Dignity Canada’s Greater Toronto Area Chapter is established.
In February 2020, the federal government introduced Bill C-7, an act to amend the criminal code (medical assistance in dying). They requested and were granted several extensions to bring the federal medical assistance in dying law into compliance with the provincial ruling in Quebec. In August 2020, parliament prorogued and Bill C-7 died on the Order Paper – but it was reintroduced in October 2020.
DWDC conducted a national survey through IPSOS that found 70 per cent of Canadians strongly supported removing the requirement that a person’s death be ‘reasonably foreseeable’ for them to be eligible for MAID.
DWDC celebrated its 40th anniversary. It was a busy year for the organization navigating COVID-19 restrictions, moving all work, programming and, most notably, Independent Witnessing online.
Jean Truchon, living with cerebral palsy, and Nicole Gladu, living with post-polio syndrome, launched a constitutional challenge to the reasonably foreseeable death requirement in Bill C-14. Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin ruled that restricting eligibility for medical assistance in dying to people whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Dying With Dignity Canada served as an intervenor in support of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) at the Superior Court level, arguing that the effective referral rule is critical to upholding Ontarians’ right to access assisted dying, as well as their dignity and privacy rights.
Dying With Dignity Canada’s Prince Edward Island Chapter is established.
Audrey Parker, a Halifax woman who spent the last weeks of her life raising awareness about the challenges facing Canadians who had been assessed and approved for MAID, died with medical assistance. A flaw in Canada’s assisted dying law led her to end her life earlier than she would have wanted. In the final weeks of her life, Audrey called on federal lawmakers to amend the country’s assisted dying rules, so that no other Canadians become faced with the painful choice she had to make.
The Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (CMDSC) v College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO): The CPSO created a policy requiring clinicians who oppose MAID to make an “effective referral” to a non-objecting provider or agency. The CMDSC claimed that this policy violated their freedom of religion. The Supreme Court of Ontario found that it was a violation of freedom of religion but that the infringement was justified. This ruling only applied in Ontario.
Julia Lamb, a 25- year-old woman living with spinal muscular dystrophy, launched a constitutional challenge to the reasonably foreseeable death requirement in Bill C-14. The Attorney General found evidence that Julia’s death would be reasonably foreseeable once she refused preventative care and care for resulting pneumonia. The case was adjourned in September 2019.
On June 17, 2016, Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying), received Royal Assent. Bill C-14 legalized and regulated medical assistance in dying with strict eligibility criteria, legal safeguards, and a 10-day waiting period.
Dying With Dignity Canada’s Niagara Region Chapter is established.
Gloria Taylor, living with ALS, and Kay Carter, living with spinal stenosis, brought forward a constitutional challenge to argue that their Section 7 right to liberty and security of person were infringed. The Supreme Court of Canada agreed and declared that s. 241 (b) and s. 14 of the Criminal Code of Canada were invalid.
Dying With Dignity Canada’s Victoria Chapter is established.
Bill 52 – An Act Respecting End of Life Care passed into law, allowing adult residents of Quebec suffering unbearably with an incurable or terminal illness to receive physician assistance at end-of-life.
Members of Parliament Steven Fletcher and Manon Perreault tabled two private member’s bills on assisted suicide. The first bill sought to allow doctors to help people end their lives under certain circumstances. The second bill would set up a commission to monitor the system.
Quebec’s Bill 52, which would have legalized assisted dying in Quebec, died without becoming law when the government called an election.
The Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear the appeal of the Carter case by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA).
Dying With Dignity Canada’s Ottawa and Winnipeg Chapters are established.
Dying with Dignity Canada commissions Ipsos to conduct a public perceptions study around the issue of assisted dying in which 84% agreed that a doctor should be able to help someone end their life if the person is a competent adult who is terminally ill, suffering unbearably and repeatedly asks for assistance to die.
Dying With Dignity Canada’s Edmonton and Vancouver Chapters are established
The BC Court of Appeal overturned the BC Supreme Court decision in the 2012 Carter Case, stating that the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1993 decision in Rodriguez was binding.
Quebec tabled right-to-die legislation in the National Assembly. The legislation would require the patient to state their intention to die in writing, have a doctor agree, and then have a second doctor confirm medically aided death is the only way to end the patient’s suffering.
The BC Supreme Court ruled that the right to die with dignity is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This decision was appealed by the federal government.
Three pilot Chapters were established in Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Calgary, Alberta, and Grand River, Ontario.
The Royal Society of Canada released a report titled “End-of-Life Decision-Making in Canada: The Report by the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision-Making,” saying that euthanasia should be made legal in Canada and that Canadians should have more discussions with their families about their wishes at end-of-life.
The BC Civil Liberties Association filed a lawsuit to challenge the laws that make it a criminal offense to assist seriously and incurably ill individuals to die with dignity. The challenge sought to allow seriously and incurably ill, mentally competent adults the right to receive medical assistance to hasten death under specific safeguards.
The Quebec legislature mandated a Select Committee on Dying with Dignity to consult the public in that province on the topic of dying with dignity.
Member of Parliament Francine Lalonde introduced Bill C-384, which was identical to Bill C–562. It was defeated on April 21, 2010, by a vote of 228 to 59.
Member of Parliament Francine Lalonde introduced Bill C-562, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity). Bill C-562 died on the Order Paper with the dissolution of Parliament.
Bill C-407, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity) was introduced by Member of Parliament Francine Lalonde. It was given one hour of debate in the House of Commons and died on the Order Paper in November 2005 with the dissolution of Parliament.
A pilot project for the DWDC Client Support Program was completed, and the Board of Directors decided to make it a permanent department.
The Senate Subcommittee studying developments with respect to the unanimous recommendations made in Of Life and Death in 1995 submitted its report, entitled Quality End-of-Life Care: The Right of Every Canadian.
The Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide issued its report entitled Of Life and Death.
A Special Senate Committee was established to examine and report on the legal, social, and ethical issues relating to euthanasia and assisted suicide.
In a five-to-four decision, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by Sue Rodriguez –a BC woman living with ALS – in which she challenged the validity of the Criminal Code prohibition on assisted suicide under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Dying With Dignity was incorporated as a registered Canadian Charity.
Along with a handful of fellow advocates, Marilynne Seguin, a registered nurse, co-founded the grassroots organization, Dying With Dignity (“Canada” was added to the name years later).
Dying With Dignity Canada advocates for assisted dying rules – and other end-of-life options – that respect the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Empower. Inform. Protect your rights.