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Op-ed: Canada Should be Caring, Not Killing

The following op-ed, written by executive director Mark Penninga, was published in the Interior News on February 25, under the title: “Canada Should be Caring, Not Killing”. It was written in response to the BC Civil Liberties Association’s praise for the Carter decision.

I was at the Supreme Court hearing on October 15th and was able to listen to Joseph Arvay of the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) make the case for state-approved killing. Like their full-page opinion piece in the Interior News, their arguments were laden with misinformation and rhetoric. In many ways the pro-euthanasia lobby is a wolf in sheepskin, claiming to be about dignity and compassion but ultimately denying what we all need most – love and care.

Mr. Arvay argued before the court that Parliament has been unable to deal with this issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia so it is time for the court to take the lead. What he failed to acknowledge was that Parliament has examined this issue at least six times, and has always voted against changes to the law. It is not that they were unable or unwilling. It is that the BCCLA, and the Supreme Court judges, were simply unhappy with Parliament’s leadership.

Just in this past year, there was almost unanimous support for a motion by NDP MP Charlie Angus to promote a national palliative care strategy. When Bulkley Valley ARPA met with Mr. Angus and our MP Nathan Cullen in Ottawa, Mr. Angus was clear that the direction our nation needed to go was promoting palliative care, not killing. This is clear leadership from Parliament. The Supreme Court is supposed to interpret the law that Parliament has made.  

One of the supreme principles of law has always been that it is wrong to intentionally kill innocent human life, regardless of how justified we feel. When our society decides that worth or dignity is lost when we aren’t able to live as we please (because of illness or disability etc.) then what we are really saying is that our value comes from what we can do, and how we measure up to someone else’s measuring stick. This is a violation of fundamental human rights.

We don’t have to look hard into history to find examples of millions of lives that have been killed because some humans believe that other humans don’t measure up, and would be better off dead.

In this decision, our court has crossed a line. The value of human life has moved from objective (based on simply being human) to subjective (based on how someone feels about themselves or someone else). Once this objective line is crossed, it is impossible for any Parliament or legislature or court to come up with new standards which will be able to withstand future challenges. This court has said euthanasia should be possible for adults who are suffering. But why should they have to suffer? And why should they have to be adults? Just last year Belgium widened their law to include children.

Recently a 63 year old gentleman from the Netherlands was approaching retirement and could not stand the thought of life without his job. His answer to the problem was to request that the state kill him. How did his society respond? His colleagues threw him a party at his favourite tea house and gave him trinkets to “take with him.” The next day he was killed. This may sound extreme but it is a logical progression once society determines that the right to life is subjective.

I’m not advocating that human life has to be sustained through all medical means possible. There are times to stop active treatment. There is a fundamental moral distinction between letting natural death take its course, and killing someone. But I am advocating that Canadian society put more emphasis on caring for those who are suffering and dying – being a neighbour to each other in our most difficult times. Palliative care goes a long way in this direction. But the only ultimate answer to death is spiritual, and found in Jesus Christ. This isn’t something that can be legislated.

The court gave Parliament only one year. We will be looking to Nathan Cullen and all MPs to pass a law quickly which upholds life to the greatest extent possible.

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