Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Catherine Frazee waits to testify at an inquiry in Halifax on June 4, 2018.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Catherine Frazee is a professor emerita at Ryerson University School of Disability Studies and advisor to the Vulnerable Persons Standard.

A consequential law is proceeding swiftly in Parliament, but mostly under the radar of Canadians, who have a lot on their minds these days.

Bill C-7 will amend our current medical assistance in dying (MAID) law by creating a separate pathway to assisted death for persons who are not dying and may have decades still to live, provided such persons have some form of disabling medical condition.

Story continues below advertisement

The bill will guarantee their choice for medically-assisted dying when suffering is intolerable, to forfeit whatever years of life remain, and to recruit a willing Canadian physician to cause their death.

As someone who has lived for 67 years with a degenerative medical condition, I am alarmed at how easily, when we are not paying close attention, a human-rights norm can be toppled.

Bill C-7 begs the question: Why us?

Why only us?

Why make medically-assisted dying easier only for people whose bodies are altered or painful or in decline? Why not everyone who lives outside the margins of a decent life, everyone who resorts to an overdose, a high bridge, a shotgun carried out to the woods? Why not everyone who decides that their quality of life is in the ditch?

Catherine Frazee asks why Canada's lawmakers rise to defend the human rights of able-bodied citizens seeking suicide but change the narrative when those seeking end-of-life are living with a disaibility.


Surely, loudly and clearly, the answer rises up in each of our throats. That’s not who we are. We dial 911, we pull you back from the ledge and, yes, we restrain you in your moment of crisis, autonomy be damned. We will get to the heart of the problem that drove you out into the woods and we will beckon you back toward a life that is bearable.

Unless, of course, your suffering is medical or disability related. Then, and only then, there will be a special pathway to assisted death. Death on demand, essentially.

Story continues below advertisement

Universality is the bedrock of our health care commitments. Why then does Bill C-7 depart so radically, dropping the threshold for MAID for one social group already known to bear the risk of suicide at rates well in excess of the non-disabled population, but not for others who suffer and die before their time?

What is it about disability that makes this okay?

And why such breathless confidence that Bill C-7 will bring no harm to disability communities? Honestly, I do not know. But as we marshal our evidence for the legal challenges that will follow if this bill is passed, this is what we hear in reply.

Some say that the suffering of a disabling medical condition is unlike other suffering, somehow more cruel than the overwhelming pain of any healthy, non-disabled person who turns to a premature death by suicide. But there is no evidence to support this ableist stereotype.

Some say that the suffering of disability defies all hope, as it did, they claim, for Jean Truchon, a man with cerebral palsy whose case before a Quebec lower court paved the way for Bill C-7. But the deprivations of institutional life that choked out his will to live were not an inevitable consequence of disability. Nor were the pandemic restrictions that curtailed all time with loved ones in the weeks prior to his final decision to die.

Did we learn nothing from Archie Rolland’s harrowing struggle, and his final cri de coeur, before assisted death: “It’s not the ALS that’s killing me.” Have we not heard the clear-eyed analysis of Scott Jones, who struggles with suicide every day, not because of paraplegia, but because “society disables me, isolates me and cages me in.”

Story continues below advertisement

Some say that the suffering of disabling conditions falls strictly in the domain of medicine. But the agonizing quest of Sean Tagert, who died by MAID last August, teaches us otherwise. Mr. Tagert fought to the bitter end against the threat of transfer to an institution four hours away from the home where he cared for his 11-year-old son. He called the bureaucratic denials of needed home care a “death sentence,” just days before his assisted death.

Some fall back on the mantra of choice. They say that not everyone wants to “live that way.” But not everyone wants to live with the indignities of poverty either. No one wants to live under threat of racial or gendered or colonial violence. No one wants to live hungry, incarcerated, abject or alone.

Will our lawmakers carve out other shortcuts to assisted death for those who do live in such conditions or will you rise to the defence of human rights?

Of course you will rise to the defence of human rights.

Now, I respectfully urge that you do the same for persons with disabilities, for with Bill C-7, our equality is – right now – on the line.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies