Bill C-7 Shatters Illusions Regarding Canada’s Commitments to Persons with Disabilities

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Medical Assistance in Dying, Charter of RIghts and Freedoms, Persons with Disabilities, Canada


On December 3, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the NDP and Liberals voted to move Bill C-7, which offers assisted suicide to people with disabilities, to third reading. The Bill is framed as a mere “extension” of medical assistance in dying (MAiD), consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and compelled by a Quebec Superior Court decision. It is none of these things.

The Bill would introduce assisted suicide not for those who are dying or other Canadians, but only for people with disabilities who experience “intolerable suffering”. It thereby directly violates s 15 of our Charter because it denies people with disabilities equal protection of the law by removing an important safeguard—the reasonable foreseeability of death—provided to everyone else in this country. It falls embarrassingly short of Canada’s international obligations regarding the rights of people with disabilities.

It is a cruel charade to pretend that a trial court decision by a single judge requires an emergency response by federal legislation. This government has actively fought multiple rulings by the Canadian Human Rights Commission and even the United Nations regarding findings of discrimination against Indigenous children and women. Yet it has immediately capitulated to a lower court ruling that people with disabilities are entitled to access to assisted suicide. Given that the current regime of MAiD has already saved the federal government $87M in health care costs, one might be forgiven for wondering whether the federal response here is driven by crass economic calculations.