DWD Canada demands answers about plan to consult Canadians on assisted dying

Dying With Dignity Canada is urging the federal government to come forward immediately with its plans to hold a public consultation on physician assisted dying.

In the middle of June, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Ottawa would be announcing “very, very soon” its plans to consult Canadians about their views on assisted dying. Nearly a month later, and with the pre-election campaigning season now well underway, Canadians are still waiting for clarity on how their elected officials will respond to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Criminal Code ban on assisted dying.

“We need answers now,” DWD Canada CEO Wanda Morris said on Tuesday. “The federal government has already waited five months to address the Supreme Court’s ruling. By continuing their inaction, Ottawa is creating additional fear and uncertainty for individuals who are already experiencing horrific suffering.”

Because legislation can be introduced either federally or provincially, many provinces are waiting to see whether the federal government will legislate before finalizing their own plans. “The federal government is complicating matters for the provinces by indicating it will take action, and then failing to do so,” Morris said.

The leading organization helping Canadians to avoid unwanted and unnecessary suffering at end of life, DWD Canada launched a petition Tuesday to demand the federal government make a clear statement on whether it intends to hold an open, thorough and well-publicized public consultation on choice in dying. In addition, the organization is calling on federal lawmakers to resist asking the Supreme Court to delay the implementation of its decision in Carter v. Canada beyond the current Feb. 6, 2016 deadline.

“The Supreme Court gave Parliament more than enough time to prepare,” said Morris. “Canadians shouldn’t be denied their right to peaceful death simply because politicians in Ottawa don’t want to take on a sensitive issue ahead of an election. Now more than ever, it’s time to prioritize people over politics.”

If the government abandons its plan to survey Canadians about their views on assisted dying, DWD Canada will hold a consultation process of its own, Morris said. The organization will be asking for public input on its draft framework for legislation on assisted dying, she said. A final version, updated with the public’s input, will be delivered to Parliament soon after the fall election.

“While we don’t have the resources of a national government, we do recognize the urgent need to have a rich public conversation about how assisted dying will be administered in this country,” Morris said. “We will do our best to ensure ordinary Canadians have the opportunity to make their voices heard.” 

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