December 9, 2013 ( – Lawyers from across Canada have initiated a campaign against the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide by publishing a declaration that focuses on the legal ramifications of decriminalization, and affirms the inherent dignity and right to life of every human being.

“We, as lawyers from across Canada, representing various legal traditions and philosophies, do not support the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide. We ask legislators to maintain and respect existing Criminal Code provisions and its life affirming values, thereby respecting society’s fundamental principles, our right to life, and the life-affirming ethos central to medicine and law,” the Declaration states.

The Declaration points out that the right to use lethal force, such as is extended to police officials and the military, is limited to extraordinary circumstances to preserve and protect human life, whereas the decriminalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide would necessarily lead to acceptance of consensual killing and may lead to a legal obligation on one person to kill another.

“Such an obligation would irrevocably alter the life-affirming ethos of Canadian law and society and, as stated by the Law Reform Commission of Canada, would only serve to ‘indirectly condone murder,’ and would result in a society and culture that endorses private killings between its citizens,” the Declaration states.

Don Hutchinson, vice-president and general legal counsel of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), and one of the signatories, said “the right to life under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not include the right to be killed.”

“To change our laws, to legalize these practices, would be to alter the foundations of our society,” he added.

“In law, we often talk about ‘slippery slopes’ – how a step in one direction can trigger a chain reaction of unwanted consequences,” observed Faye Sonier, the EFC’s legal counsel and another signatory.

“We have to ask ourselves, ‘How can a decision by a court or a new legislative provision later be used to justify and legalize other future behaviours?’ when we consider legalizing consensual killings in Canada,” she added.

Noting that Belgium’s euthanasia law is the model for the Quebec government's proposed euthanasia legislation, Sonier pointed out that legislative and court decisions have led to increasingly lax considerations in regard to application of euthanasia in practice.

“Belgium is now considering broadening its law beyond adults with capacity to consent, to include children by decision of their parents and people with dementia,” Sonier said.

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” she warned. “We know how the law and judicial interpretation work. If a court or government legalizes the practices, even if it puts what it believes are strict safeguards in place to minimize abuse or to limit access to euthanasia, someone who does not qualify will bring a lawsuit to challenge the law, alleging discrimination. Depending on their circumstances, they just might win. And so the law will be expanded and broadened and an increased number of Canadians will be put at risk.”

“I hope, as awareness of this Declaration grows, more lawyers will sign it and share their concern for vulnerable citizens and the legal, life-affirming foundations of our society,” Sonier concluded.

Lawyers interested in adding their signatures to the Declaration can do so by visiting the Canadian Lawyers Against Euthanasia website here.