Friday, July 31, 2015

Harper puts politics before democracy - Even in matters of life and death

Guest Post by Elizabeth Jane Banks

On Friday July 17, the Federal Government made a long-awaited announcement regarding the implementation of physician-assisted dying. As Justice Minister Peter Mackay had promised, the government has convened an external panel to consult with Canadians and make recommendations to government.

 The three-member panel includes two individuals who were expert witnesses for the Crown in the Carter Case regarding the right to die with dignity.

Dr. Harvey Chochinov and Dr. Catherine Frazee both argued against the right of Canadians to have access to physician assisted dying.

 Dr. Chochinov, the panel chair, is a well-known palliative care physician who claims that assisted death is unnecessary and Canada should instead simply focus on improving palliative care. He wrote about his views in this recent editorial for the National Post.

 Dr. Catherine Frazee served as Co-Director of the RBC Ryerson Institute for Disability Studies Research & Education. In an opinion piece for the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Dr. Frazee argued that legalizing assisted dying would put pressure on individuals with disabilities and might result in their being coerced into choosing an assisted death.

The third and final member of the panel, Mr. Benoît Pelletier, is a University of Ottawa law professor, a constitutional expert, and a former cabinet minister in Jean Charest’s provincial cabinet. 

Although an Ipsos Reid poll conducted last October found that 84% of Canadians, including the majority of supporters of all political parties, believe physician assisted dying should be legal, that means nothing to PM Harper. Once again we see him subverting democracy. Now he shows he’s even willing to play politics in matters of life and death.

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