MONTREAL, QC January 16, 2013 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today expressed its opposition to the Quebec government’s plan to introduce legislation permitting euthanasia in specified, limited circumstances.

A “select” panel of three lawyers has recommended the change in cases where a patient is close to death and unable to endure the physical or psychological pain, and makes the request clearly in writing. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in Canada under the Criminal Code, but Quebec junior health minister Veronique Hivon said January 15 the panel determined that provinces have the legal jurisdiction to legislate in matters of health and that the legislation, which she hopes to present in this legislative session, would clarify how acts to end a life could be lawful.

“It is interesting that this announcement coincides with news from Belgium that that country’s euthanasia law has just been used to end the lives of two twin brothers who were not terminally ill but feared going blind. In the League’s opinion, any liberalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide laws leads inevitably to the abuse of such laws, targeting the ill and the disabled,” said Joanne McGarry, League executive director.

The Quebec Select Committee on Dying with Dignity received 427 submissions in hearings across Quebec during 2011. About 60 per cent of the presenters opposed euthanasia, while 99 per cent supported improvements to palliative care.  At the time of its report in March, 2012, many pro-life groups expressed concerns that the report’s euthanasia recommendations were not in keeping with the views of many of the presenters (Anti-euthanasia groups reject report calling for legalization, Catholic Register, March 28, 2012).

In the League’s view, much of Canadians’ reported acceptance of euthanasia is driven by misinformation as to what is legal now, and the absence of palliative care facilities in many parts of Canada. On the first point, it is already legal to refuse treatment, and to address pain management even if possible secondary effects could result in shortening life. A commitment to palliative care could go a long way to addressing the fears of extended, futile treatment or uncontrolled pain that often lie behind the belief that euthansia can be acceptable.

On the other hand, to make a direct, intentional act of killing legal would change the traditional healer role of the doctor, and create serious pressures on the religious and conscientious freedoms of doctors and other health care professionals. As has been observed in the few jurisdictions that currently allow euthanasia or assisted suicide, it can also lead to diminished respect for the lives of the very ill, the frail elderly and seriously disabled.   
The League remains concerned that ongoing debate and discussion about end-of-life care sometimes  ignores the legitimate, if not majority, views expressed by so many groups in the past who have asserted respect for life of all Canadians, including the ill and disabled.  The reliance upon certain previous reports, which have been shown to be expressions of euthanasia advocates, is an improper basis upon which to proceed.

The League made a submission to the federal inter-party Committee on Compassionate and Palliative Care that was established after the vote on Bill C-384, which had called for liberalization of assisted suicide laws. In the brief, the League recommended a strong commitment to improving palliative and other end-of-life care, pointing out that fear of being a burden to family members and of not having adequate pain relief and other  care are both major reasons why some people believe euthanasia and assisted suicide must be available. The committee’s final report in 2011contained many similar recommendations.  
–          Legal experts open the door to ‘assisted’ dying, Montreal Gazette, January 16, 2013
–          Legalizing euthanasia would leave the vulnerable unprotected, Alex Schadenberg, National Post, March 28, 2012
–         Margaret Somerville on the right-to-die debate: ‘If it’s not killing, what is it?’, National Post, January 17, 2013

About CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League ( assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

For further information:
Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244;