NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says more Canadians must have access to medically assisted death, going the furthest of the major party leaders in his response to a Quebec court ruling that struck down restrictions limiting it to terminally ill patients.
Canadians who need to make the decision to seek an assisted death “for their dignity” should be able to make that choice, Mr. Singh said while speaking outside a hospital in Brampton, Ont.
“Right now, the criteria being too narrow, doesn’t allow access to this decision for a lot of people," he said.
“I am open to looking at ways to making sure the access is improved and that we do it in a way that respects the dignity of someone to make that choice.”
Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin released the decision on Wednesday, which happened to coincide with the official start of the 40-day election campaign.
Justice Baudouin singled out a portion of the federal assisted-dying law as unconstitutional – the requirement that patients’ deaths need to be “reasonably foreseeable.”
She also suspended her ruling for six months to give legislators the opportunity to deal with its impact while exempting the two plaintiffs to allow them to move ahead with seeking access to medically assisted deaths.
When the Liberals introduced the assisted-dying legislation, legal experts warned it was not in keeping with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that struck down the ban on physician-assisted death.
The Liberal government maintained, however, that its approach struck the right balance.
“It falls to Parliament not only to respect the court’s decision but also listen to the diverse voices and decide what the public interest demands,” former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said in 2016.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould, who resigned from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet in February over the SNC-Lavalin controversy, is running in this election as an independent in a British Columbia riding.
On Thursday, Mr. Trudeau echoed the need to strike the right approach – between protecting the “most vulnerable” while respecting peoples’ rights and choices.
The Liberals welcome the fact a court has pronounced itself on this, he said, adding the party looks forward to reading the judgment very carefully to determine next steps.
“We always knew, however, that there would be a continued evolution and reflection in the courts and in society about the next steps to take,” Mr. Trudeau said at a campaign stop in Victoria.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called the Quebec Superior Court’s decision a “very important ruling” on Thursday, adding it will change the lives of many Canadians.
“As we said when this bill was brought forward by the Liberal government, this is an issue with many different aspects to it so we will continue to review the ruling and we will have something official to say on that,” Mr. Scheer said in French in Toronto.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said Thursday she agrees with the court’s decision, adding that the law, in its current form, does not respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Ms. May said she spoke out numerous times on the restrictions set out in the law.
“Canadians have the right to die in peace and with respect,” she added in a statement.
In a note to fellow senators on Thursday, Senator Serge Joyal urged the federal government to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to determine whether the “reasonably foreseeable” restriction is constitutionally sound and respects the Charter.
“Swift justice must be rendered as soon as possible for all Canadians,” he wrote.
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