VANCOUVER, British Columbia, June 18, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The head of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the Archbishop of Vancouver, have issued statements decrying the recent decision by the B.C. Supreme Court that found Canada’s ban on assisted suicide unconstitutional.

Archbishop of Edmonton Richard W. Smith, president of the CCCB, said that he and his fellow bishops learned of the decision “with dismay.”

“The Catholic position on this question is clear,” Archbishop Smith stated. “Human life is a gift from God. Therefore, as taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2280, ‘We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.’”

“We stand before a fundamental option,” he continued. “Do we show concern for the sick, the elderly, the handicapped and vulnerable by encouraging them to commit suicide or through deliberating killing them by euthanasia? Or, instead, do we fashion a culture of life and love in which each person, at every moment and in all circumstances of their natural lifespan, is treasured as a gift?”

The archbishop said that the answer to this question “reveals the true nature of our society’s heart.”

Smith said that the CCCB will issue a more detailed reflection at a later date, once the lengthy 395-page ruling has been reviewed.

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In a separate statement Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver, J. Michael Miller, said the decision “sadly reflects a distorted view of equality rights that emphasizes autonomy over human dignity and the value of life.”

“True liberty means the freedom to live one’s life secure in the knowledge that those who care for us are dedicated to the service of life, not the taking of life,” said the archbishop.

In Friday’s ruling, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith stated that the assisted suicide and euthanasia ban violates the equality provision of Canada’s Charter because it prevents the disabled from getting the help they may need to kill themselves.

Smith’s decision puts the judiciary at odds with the Canada’s Parliament, which in 2010 overwhelmingly rejected Bill C-384, proposed by MP Francine Lalonde (La Pointe-de-l’Île, BQ), to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide by a vote of 228 to 59.

Last August, when the B.C. Supreme Court indicated it would fast-track the court challenge against Canada’s current law, Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson, stated that the issue was settled by Parliament and that the Conservative government would not reopen the subject.

“Parliament passed judgment on that,” Nicholson told media. “The question of euthanasia was rejected within Parliament, just within the last year.”

“We are in court on a regular basis arguing on the constitutionality of existing laws of this country, and we have indicated we have no plans to reintroduce this within Parliament,” he said.

Archbishop Miller said in the statement issued on June 16, “We have been down this road many times around the world, and all the safeguards initially put in place wind up either disregarded or eventually dispensed with. The result is euthanasia harms not only those whose lives are taken, but those responsible for taking them.”

“I strongly urge the government to appeal this extremely flawed and dangerous ruling,” the Archbishop concluded.

Archbishop of Edmonton Richard W. Smith, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement today in which he said the CCCB “learned with dismay of a ruling on assisted suicide by a judge of the British Columbia Supreme Court.”

“The Catholic position on this question is clear,” Archbishop Smith stated. “Human life is a gift from God. Therefore, as taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2280, “We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.”

The archbishop continued by posing a question which he believes “reveals the true nature of our society’s heart.”

“We stand before a fundamental option,” he said. “Do we show concern for the sick, the elderly, the handicapped and vulnerable by encouraging them to commit suicide or through deliberating killing them by euthanasia? Or, instead, do we fashion a culture of life and love in which each person, at every moment and in all circumstances of their natural lifespan, is treasured as a gift?”

The archbishop pointed out that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will issue a more detailed reflection at a later date, once the lengthy 395-page ruling has been reviewed.

Although Justice Smith issued a stay on her ruling for one year to give the government an opportunity to consider its options, Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is calling on Canadians to urge Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to launch an immediate appeal to the B.C. Court of Appeals.

“Today’s court decision is fundamentally at odds with the will of Parliament as expressed just months ago and is fundamentally anti-democratic,” Schadenberg pointed out.

Dr. Will Johnston, chair of EPC-BC, added, “Today’s decision would point Canada towards the Oregon assisted suicide regime, which has become notorious for its erosion of medical standards and abuse of psychiatry to rubber-stamp suicide requests. The wish to avoid Oregon’s mistakes has been reflected in over 100 rejections of assisted suicide by legislatures in North America and by medical associations around the world.”

Contact Information for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson:
Phone: 613-995-1547
Email:  rob.nicholson@parl.gc.ca