By Terry Vanderheyden

OTTAWA, January 19, 2006 ( – In the French language leader’s debate on January 10, moderator Sophie Thibault raised the issue of assisted suicide. The issue was raised in parliament last year by Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde – her Bloc-supported private member’s bill to legalize assisted suicide died on the table when the election was called.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said that he opposes assisted suicide and has no intention of raising the issue in parliament. He would, however, allow a free vote on the issue if it were raised in parliament. “I can simply say it isn’t the intention of our government to propose this type of change to the law,” Harper said. “I think it’s important to resist the idea of giving the power to kill. I understand the reasons some might want to propose this. If there is a proposal like this in the House of Commons – a moral question – I would always allow my members a free vote.”

Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin meanwhile said he personally opposes legalizing assisted suicide. “I’m not saying it’s an easy decision, but I couldn’t do it,” the Prime Minister said, as reported by CanWest News Service. “I’ve had discussions with my wife and others who don’t agree with me. But myself, assisted suicide, I would have a good deal of difficulty as prime minister approving it.” The Liberal Ministry of Justice expressed opposition to many aspects of Lalonde’s bill last year but gave strong indication that it would not oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation that met its own conditions on how such legislation should be worded.

NDP Leader Jack Layton, whose party platform includes support for euthanasia, said “Maybe it’s time to have this discussion. We have the bill. Perhaps it’s time for Canadians to consider the different aspects of the question.”

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said he was proud his MP presented a bill to start a debate on the subject. “We can’t be indifferent to these situations, we can’t ignore them,” Duceppe said. “We must debate them. I hope there will be debate in the House like the one that’s been undertaken, a respectful debate.”

See related coverage:
  Assisted Suicide Bill Introduced in Canadian Parliament
  Liberals Come Out Against Broad Euthanasia Bill But Hint at Coming Tighter Version
  Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Warns Assisted Suicide Legalization Looming