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Gloria Taylor arrives at British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday December 1, 2011. The B.C. Supreme Court will announce on Friday, June 15, 2012, its landmark decision in the B.C. Civil Liberties Association death with dignity lawsuit.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Death and the law

Kudos to the B.C Supreme Court for striking down the ban on physician-assisted suicide. Madam Justice Lynn Smith is bang on in her opinion that the Criminal Code's provisions "unjustifiably infringe the equality rights" of Gloria Taylor. Now Ms. Taylor, among others, may to some extent be in control as to the manner and timing of her demise.

Let's hope the government(s) involved have the courage not to contest this ruling – although, if it does go to Canada's highest court, a proper decision will give all Canadians more control over their lives.

'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Peter D. Hambly, Hanover, Ont.


Whether someone should be allowed to ask for assistance to end his or her life is a very complex issue, and we as Canadians should give this careful consideration. However, the question of physician-assisted suicide is quite different. Will the relationship I have with my patients change if we both know that I can help them die when things get tough? Will I enjoy the same level of trust? Perhaps this role is best left to someone other than a physician.

Palliative Care focuses on "living," not dying from a life-limiting illness. Patients and their loved ones are all supported. With the appropriate care, a good and meaningful life can be maintained until the end without any need for suicide. Unfortunately, the necessary resources for such care are not available in all parts of the country.

Ensuring that everyone in Canada has access to good quality palliative care will eliminate the need for assisted suicide in terminally ill patients.

Hershl Berman, MD, Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto


As a physician, it is not that I am so against assisted suicide, but rather that I am in opposition to doctor-assisted suicide. Where did the concept of doctors being experts in life-taking ever arise?

If there is such concern over the suffering of loved ones in terminal states, then let a family member be the one to pull the plug, or more directly, push the plunger. Perhaps it is time to recognize a new profession in our country – in Europe, there are those whose full-time occupation is to assist in life-ending procedures (non-physicians).

If access to assisted suicide is to become a constitutional right, leave the doctors where they belong – saving lives, not ending them, something that they are neither qualified for nor trained to do.

Gerald P. Reardon, MD, Halifax


Conduct unbecoming

During the marathon voting session on the omnibus budget bill, Conservative MPs were cheering, applauding themselves. Some even exchanged high fives before each vote – over what? That it was a foregone conclusion how the voting would go, thanks to their majority?

One amendment was an attempt to monitor the use of pesticides on the nation's food chain. They were congratulating themselves on endangering Canadians. I'd like to "retweet" what Liberal MP Wayne Easter sent out: "What country is this?"

David Shaw, Toronto


The imminent closure of the Experimental Lakes Area, a unique environmental laboratory consisting of 58 lakes in northwestern Ontario, is a disgrace. The importance of this national treasure to the advancement of freshwater science cannot be overstated. For decades, at a relatively small cost, the priceless science produced from the program has formed the basis for sound public policy.

Since the federal government will not listen to reason, I have a proposal. I suggest concerned citizens pool their resources and purchase the ELA. The land can be held in trust for Canadians and a nominal research program can be maintained until a more scientifically enlightened government is voted into power. If someone with the connections and expertise can get this started, just tell me where to send the cheque.

Jayson Laplante, Stonewall, Man.


Bearing the risk

The goal of local accountability and ownership in overseas development assistance is a good one (Succeed By Success – editorial, June 15). But tying aid money to results transfers all the risk to those who are most vulnerable.

Some extremely poor governments, with limited domestic resources or access to external finance, would not have the cash to pay upfront. Meanwhile, politicians of donor governments will be tempted to seize upon cash-on-delivery aid because it relieves them of all responsibility.

Development is a risky business, especially in a climate-changed world. Risk should be fairly shared among donors and recipients, all of whom benefit from development.

Robert Fox, executive director, Oxfam Canada


Roma persecution

The article No Real Refuge in Canada (June 15) makes the case that Roma refugee claimants will be adversely affected by Bill C-31. That is true enough, but overlooks how these refugees are faring under the current law.

Roma refugee claimants in Canada are primarily from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, and the rejection rate for each of these countries in 2011 was over 90 per cent. It is the Immigration and Refugee Board, the independent tribunal that adjudicates refugee claims, which clings to the fallacy that persecution is unlikely in EU democracies.

Max Berger, immigration lawyer, Toronto


A different world?

Too bad it wasn't Jeb Bush who ran for president instead of his brother (Bigger Tent Needed – editorial, June 14). What a different world we might live in today. Jeb Bush reminds us all that there are still credible voices of reason within the GOP. Many bipartisan compromises must be made in the U.S. in order to right the ship: If Mitt Romney is elected president, we can only hope he has the fortitude to lead his party to make them. If Barack Obama returns to office, we must hope the opposition realizes the folly of its direction and changes course toward the centre for the good of their country.

Wayne Newman, Vancouver


Not the West's job

Why is it always assumed that it is the West's job to intervene in Muslim conflicts (How Can The West Stop The Slaughter In Syria? – June 14). After the debacles in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, it's time we drop our pretence of moral authority and mind our own business for once.

You'd think we might have learned a thing or two after backing the mujahedin "freedom fighters" against the secular Russian-backed regime in Afghanistan, only to get the Taliban and 9/11 for our efforts. Will we ever learn?

Jan Burton, Toronto



Surely, you jest. Rich Coleman is really the B.C. Minister of Energy, Mines and Liquor Distribution Branch?! (Shipping Wine – letter, June 14). Perchance some officials had had a wee nip when they decided to group these responsibilities in the same ministry. Explanation, please.

Ann Sullivan, Peterborough, Ont.