Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Alberta's Top Court Shoots Down Trudeau Assisted Death Legislation

The Trudeau government's watered down proposal on assisted death isn't going to pass judicial muster. In fact, the Alberta Court of Appeal, the highest court in that province, has ruled that the federal government's proposal is flouting ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case.

A panel of three appeal court judges says the government is flouting last year's landmark ruling by the Supreme Court when it argues that assisted dying should apply only to those who are close to death.

It's also not complying with the top court's ruling, known as the Carter decision, when it excludes people suffering solely from psychiatric conditions, the judges say.

The judicial smack-down comes at a particularly inopportune moment for the federal government, just as it is trying to persuade MPs and senators that its restrictive new law on assisted dying complies with the Supreme Court's ruling and with the charter of rights.

The bill is expected to be put to final vote in the House of Commons, where MPs are being allowed a free vote, by the end of this week.

The law is the law, Justin, even for you and your government. This isn't the first time you've been warned. Your own MP, Rob Oliphant, who co-chaired the Commons committee into the issue told you he won't vote for your legislation because it doesn't comply with the Supreme Court ruling. Before Oliphant spoke out, B.C. lawyer Joe Arvay, said your bill is plainly unconstitutional and demonstrates how you allowed your government to become captured by special interests.

It's called the Rule of Law, Justin. Your soul mate, Harper, didn't like it either. Tough.


Toby said...

JT's instinct is to try to please those who are whining the most. In the end he probably won't please anyone. He certainly won't make the difficult decisions. It's too bad. I expected more from him.

Anonymous said...

Just curious as to which special interest Trudeau is captured by on this particular issue? Canadians?

This seems like a thorny kind of issue. One can imagine that the assisted dying legislation is something that can be developed along the way. It doesn't have to be brought in all at once. Canadians might prefer a more gradual approach.

It's not like the Supreme Court can force a government to legislate any kind of bill on assisted dying. (I remember a top court shot down the cannabis laws. Harper came to power and doubled down on them. So much for the power of high courts.)

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, you misapprehend what happened in the Carter decision. The Court ruled that a prohibition on assisted dying was unconstitutional, striking down the existing criminal law. It suspended the ruling for one year to give Parliament time to enact some regulatory scheme for assisted dying that was constitutional.

If Parliament fails to meet that deadline, the criminal sanction lapses. If they implement an unconstitutional law, the Alberta Court of Appeal demonstrated what fate awaits it.

The Court cannot force the government to legislate. It can, however, declare laws to be invalid and unenforceable. It's up to the government whether it wants to create that chaos.

UU4077 said...

It sounds like, if there is no law, then assisted suicide (in whatever form) is not a criminal offense. What about "regular" suicide? Is that not currently (technically) illegal? (I'm not sure that I have worded that very well.)

The Mound of Sound said...

UU4077 - yes, the criminal prohibition of suicide was always curious. As a dead person may not be charged with an offence inasmuch as the dead are not subject to being tried, it was a provision of little value except in giving rise to the related offences of "counselling, conspiracy or aiding and abetting." Presumably the principal could have been charged with attempt had suicide been initiated but not completed but I think society would have reacted harshly to that.

Dana said...

Your life is not yours. It belongs to the state. Your function is to be productive in one or more of the various ways the state sanctions.

Shut up and get on with it or I'll elbow you in the chest.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think it's quite revealing that this constitutionally-flawed Bill was still put to a vote. The government had the very clear ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case. It was reminded of how its proposed legislation was inconsistent with that ruling by perhaps Canada's top lawyer on this issue. This morning that opinion was confirmed by the highest court in Alberta, subordinate in jurisdiction only to the Supreme Court of Canada itself.

What we're left with is a blatant rejection of the Rule of Law in defiance of the Supreme Court of Canada. This government has placed itself above the law of Canada. Even Harper never went that far.