"Canadians Should not be Provided Public Support to Kill Themselves"

Toronto and Winnipeg: October 14, 2014

“Living with a disability is not worse than death.  People who are misled into believing it will be should not be offered public support to kill themselves”, say two leading disability rights organizations who oppose attempts to strike down statutory provisions designed to prevent counselling or assisting anyone, disabled or not, to die.

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear the appeal in the Carter case October 15th in which it is being asked to strike down these protections, but only for disabled people.  The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) are the organized voice of Canada’s disabled citizens. They will appear in court to oppose efforts to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia.

“Nobody in Canada needs to be left to face death in pain, nor should they have to feel their lives are a burden for others”, says Jim Derksen of CCD. “We join with others who are demanding adequate end of life care instead of putting public resources into financing physicians to deliver assisted suicide/euthanasia programs,” said Derksen.

In jurisdictions where assisted suicide/euthanasia is legal the leading reasons given for dying are not pain related, but rather “losing dignity and autonomy” and “becoming burdensome for family and friends”.  “To endorse these as valid reasons to die can only reinforce and entrench fear of disability and prejudice about the value of disabled people’s lives”, says Catherine Frazee, former Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

“We are concerned that countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands see nothing wrong with euthanizing children and people with mental disabilities”, said Laurie Larson, President of CACL. “We are also concerned that the average annual growth in death rates in these countries is increasing by 48 and 64% respectively.

CCD and CACL wish, in constructive ways, to bring public attention to the complexity of this issue.  There is a need for a fulsome understanding of the potential impact of any change in the law.  As, well there is a need to bring into focus the extent of unmet need for palliative care.  Over 70% of those dying in Canada are not accessing palliative care, despite the wish of the majority of Canadians to die at home with support.  If this unmet need were addressed, the demand for assisted suicide would diminish dramatically. 

Yes Canadians want to be compassionate but we believe they also want to be fair and ensure that vulnerable people, needs are met and that they are not put at greater risk. 

To learn more you can access the CCD/CACL factum submitted to the Supreme Court here (link to our factum) or contact:

Laurie Beachell, CCD at 204-947-0303  or  204 981-6179

Michael Bach, CACL at: 416-209-7942

To learn more regarding the increasing rates of assisted suicide/euthanasia in permissive jurisdictions including Belgium and Netherlands, please see:

Reasons for Judgment of the British Columbia Supreme Court dated June 15, 2012 (link to judgment)

Steve Doughty, “Don’t Make Our Mistake,” Daily Mail, July 9, 2014 (link to article)

Julia Nicol, Marlisa Tiedemann, and Dominique Valiquet,“Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: International Experiences,” Library of Parliament Research Publications, April 8, 2011 (link to publication)

Johannes JM van Delden et al., “Trends in end-of-life practices before and after the enactment of the euthanasia law in the Netherlands from 1990 to 2010: a repeated cross-sectional survey,” The Lancet, July 11, 2012 (link to publication)

To learn more about the unmet need for palliative care see