4 October, 2019

Hon. David Lametti, MP. Attorney General

Cc:

Right Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada,

Hon. Carla Qualtrough, MP. Minister of Accessibility, Liberal Party of Canada

Dear Minister Lametti,

Re: Advocates Call for Disability-Rights Based Appeal of the Quebec Superior Court’s Decision in Truchon & Gladu

We, the undersigned members and supporters of the Canadian disability community, are deeply troubled by the Quebec Superior Court’s decision of Truchon c. Procureur général du Canada. As you are aware, the decision has struck down the “reasonable foreseeability of natural death” criterion of Canada’s medical assistance in dying legislation. As Attorney General of Canada, we urge you to file an appeal of the decision immediately. 

We find this decision to be concerning for the following three reasons:

  1. It fails to respect Parliament’s authority to balance the interests of individuals with the interests of society[1], effectively limiting Parliament’s capacity to pursue social targets such as substantive equality and inclusion.

Justice Christine Baudouin arrives at the conclusion that the end-of-life criterion violates section 7 and section 15 of the Charter by rejecting a key objective of Parliament, erasing any need for a section 1 analysis of reasonable limits. Parliament outlined the following societal objective in the preamble of the legislation:

It is important to affirm the inherent and equal value of every person’s life and to avoid encouraging negative perceptions of the quality of life of persons who are elderly, ill or disabled.

In fully rejecting this objective, the court has limited the authority of Parliament to govern toward an inclusive and equitable Canada. This is a dangerous precedent. Parliament intentionally included the end of life criterion in the legislation as a way of achieving the above objective. Is it reasonable for Parliament to limit the individual interests of Truchon and Gladu (autonomy) in order to promote the interests of society (equality and inclusion)? Without an appeal, we may never know. The Supreme Court must weigh in on this flawed analysis.

  • The decision will entrench stereotypes and exacerbate stigma for Canadians with disabilities, contributing to the adversity and oppression experienced by this vulnerable group.


Without the equalizing effect of the end-of-life criterion, which guarantees that the common thread between all persons who access an assisted death in Canada is that they are all dying, persons with disabilities will be able to gain access ultimately because they have a disability. A worse stereotype couldn’t be institutionalized in law – that disability-related suffering, largely caused by lack of support and inequality, justifies the termination of a person’s life.

Canada must avoid sending a message that having a disability is a fate worse than death. Canadians with disabilities are already bombarded daily with reminders that they are unwelcome and under-valued. We must not compound this harm by entrenching in law the message that others who share their condition will receive our full support if they choose to die prematurely. This message fits too neatly into the stereotype that a life featuring disability is a bad life, full only of suffering and pity. Such a narrative already exists. Canada must appeal the decision to prevent additional stereotyping and stigma, and to substantively protect the section 15 Charter rights of persons with disabilities.

  • Without the end-of-life criterion in place, Canada’s medical assistance in dying legislation will further violate article 10 of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Article 10 of the CRPD reads as follows:

States Parties reaffirm that every human being has the inherent right to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.

By offering medical assistance in dying to persons with disabilities on the basis of disability, Canada would be further violating international law. If every Canadian who suffers cannot access a medically assisted death, and yet a Canadian who suffers and has a degenerative disability can, it is precisely their disability status that sets them apart.

Canada is already not taking necessary measures to ensure the effective enjoyment of life by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others. There is case after case of Canadians whose medical and support needs are not being met, causing them to consider, if not seek out, death. [2]

Canada’s medical assistance in dying regime already concerns the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, who shared at the conclusion of her study visit to Canada that she is “extremely concerned about the implementation of the legislation on medical assistance in dying from a disability perspective” and this is before the end of life criterion was struck down.

Minister Lametti, as Attorney General of Canada, we urge you to appeal this decision up through to the Supreme Court. Not to do so, we believe would be a failure on the part of your government to defend persons with disabilities from significant and tangible harm. After extensive consultation by Parliamentary Committees and public debate, your government crafted this legislation intentionally and purposefully. We trust that as Attorney General you will take the steps needed for its vigorous defence. Canadians’ human rights are at stake.

Signed,

  1. Council of Canadians with Disabilities
  2. Canadian Association for Community Living
  3. ARCH Disability Law Centre
  4. People First of Canada
  5. Canadian Mental Health Association
  6. Canadian Disability Studies Association / Association candienne d’études sur le handicap
  7. Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society
  8. L’Arche Canada
  9. Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship
  10. The DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada / Réseau d’Action des Femmes Handicapées du Canada (DAWN-RAFH Canada)
  11. Barrier free Canada – Canada sans Barrières
  12. Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet
  13. Communication Disabilities Access Canada
  14. Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians
  15. Société québécoise de la déficience intellectuelle / Quebec Intellectual Disability Society
  16. NWT Council for Disability
  17. Independent Living Centre London and Area
  18. British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society
  19. Inclusion Selkirk
  20. National Network for Mental Health
  21. Families for a Secure Future
  22. Citizens With Disabilities – Ontario
  23. Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities
  24. Collectif des médecins contre l’euthanasie / Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia
  25. Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador
  26. Interdisciplinary Master’s Program – Disability Studies, University of Manitoba
  27. Nova Scotia Association for Community Living
  28. Fredericton Association for Community Living
  29. Disability Alliance BC
  30. Inclusion BC
  31. Resila INC
  32. Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy
  33. Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
  34. Community Inclusion Society
  35. Association for Reformed Political Action
  36. Bridges to Belonging Waterloo Region, Ontario
  37. Body BRave
  38. Community Living Victoria
  39. Community Ventures Society
  40. Inclusion Alberta
  41. Bethesda
  42. Disability Rights Coalition of Nova Scotia
  43. Living with Dignity / Vivre dans la Dignité
  44. Community Living Ontario
  45. The Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities Inc.
  46. Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion
  47. Christian Medical and Dental Association of Canada
  48. Prince Edward Island Association for Community Living
  49. posAbilities Association
  50. New Brunswick Association for Community Living
  51. Inclusion Saskatchewan
  52. Inclusion Winnipeg
  53. Community Living Manitoba
  54. Canadian Physicians for Life
  55. Keremeos Measuring Up Team (British Columbia)
  56. Disability Studies Program, Kings University College at Western University
  57. Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter)
  58. Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians and Societies
  59. PLAN
  60. PLAN Edmonton
  61. PLAN Calgary
  62. PLAN Okanagan
  63. Bridges to Belonging (Waterloo)
  64. Christian Legal Fellowship / Alliance des chrétiens en droit
  65. Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living
  66. Inclusion Yukon
  67. Autistics United Canada
  68. Law, Disability, & Social Change Project

[1] https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cp-pm/just/06.html

[2] Think of Sean Tagert, Archie Rolland, Natalie Jarvis, and Arleen Reinsborough as examples. Read more here:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/als-bc-man-medically-assisted-death-1.5244731
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/lung-transplants-atlantic-canada-toronto-financial-cost-1.5047818
https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2019/01/20/hamilton-senior-in-unbearable-pain-wants-assisted-dying-to-save-her-from-nursing-home.html