Ottawa can introduce 7 witnesses in Quebec challenge to Bill C-14, judge rules

Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) will be allowed to make arguments in the case of two Quebecers who have gone to court to challenge aspects of Canada’s federal assisted dying law, a judge has ruled.

However, Justice Christine Baudoin, of the Superior Court of Quebec, has refused to allow DWDC, along with five other groups that have been granted intervener status in the case, to introduce expert witnesses or other new evidence in the case.

The federal government had applied last year to introduce 12 witnesses as part of its defence. But in her February 1 ruling, Baudoin said a maximum of seven of Ottawa’s proposed witnesses would be allowed to provide testimony in court.

The applicants in the case are Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu, two Montreal residents who live with severe degenerative medical conditions and who want to access medical assistance in dying (MAID). However, they have been told they are not eligible for access under Bill C-14, Canada’s federal assisted dying law, because neither satisfies a key requirement in the law: that their natural death be “reasonably foreseeable.”

Truchon and Gladu are arguing that this provision violates their Charter rights because it forces them to live in a state of intolerable suffering against their will. They are also challenging aspects of Bill 52 — Quebec’s assisted dying law — because it limits MAID access to patients who are terminally ill.

As an official intervener in the case, DWDC will be making arguments in support of Truchon and Gladu’s position. The organization has long argued that Bill C-14’s “reasonably foreseeable” requirement risks violating the Charter and does not comply with the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Carter v. Canada. DWDC will be participating in the case as part of a joint intervention with our Quebec sister organization, L’Association québécoise pour le droit de mourir dans la dignité (AQDMD).

“Not only is Bill C-14 unconstitutional, it results in unnecessary and intolerable suffering for people who should have qualified under the Carter decision,” DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool said last fall. “We know that millions of Canadians supported the Supreme Court’s eligibility criteria and now millions are left out in the cold because of inequitable and inconsistent access across the country.”

Baudoin has not yet set a date to hear arguments in the case.

More information about Thursday’s decision is available in a French-language report published by The Canadian Press.

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