VANCOUVER, November 14, 2011 ( – The court hearing in a constitutional challenge to Canada’s laws prohibiting physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia begins today in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) launched the Carter vs. Attorney General of Canada case last April, claiming that Canada’s provisions against euthanasia and assisted suicide are unconstitutional since they violate the “right” to die.

The suit was launched on behalf of the family of Kay Carter, who died by assisted suicide at the Swiss Dignitas suicide center in January 2010.

Canada’s Parliament had rejected a bill introduced by Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2010, by a vote of 228 to 59. Subsequently, Canada’s Justice Minister, the Hon. Rob Nicholson, stated that the Conservative government will not reopen the issue in Parliament.

However, BCCLA lawyer Joe Arvay, representing the family of Kay Carter and co-litigant Gloria Taylor, argues that the courts rather than Parliament have the “last word” in the creation of laws.

“Parliament obviously has an important role to play in the political process, but when it comes to determining what our fundamental rights and freedoms are, the court has the last word because the constitution is the supreme law of the land and not Parliament,” Arvay told the media in August. “Obviously [Mr. Nicholson] knows Parliament does not have the last word.”

On August 15, 2011, Gloria Taylor was added as an additional plaintiff in the case, when the BCCLA filed an affidavit saying Taylor was told in January of 2010 that she was likely to die within one year and that she “wants the legal right to die peacefully, at the time of her own choosing, in the embrace of her family and friends.”

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Canada (EPC) and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, BC (EPC – BC) which have intervener standing in the case, are opposing the effort to overturn Canada’s laws. They argue that legalization of euthanasia is a recipe for elder abuse and a threat to individual patient rights.

“In Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal since 1997, people desiring treatment under the Oregon Health Plan have been offered assisted suicide instead,” observes Alex Schadenberg, the executive director of EPC. “The most well known cases involve Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup.  Each wanted treatment. The Plan offered them assisted suicide instead.”


“Neither Wagner nor Stroup saw this scenario as a celebration of their individual rights.  Wagner said: ‘I’m not ready to die.’  Stroup said: ‘This is my life they’re playing with.’”

“If assisted suicide were to be legalized in Canada, the Canadian health care system would be similarly empowered to steer patients to suicide,” said Schadenberg.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Canada has launched a petition campaign urging the Attorney General of Canada to make the strongest possible opposition to the legalization of euthanasia and/or assisted suicide in Canada.

The EPC’s petition is available in two formats, a downloadable PDF format and an online petition. Both formats will be sent to the AG.

The printed petition is available in French and English and can be downloaded from the EPC website here.

The online petition is available here.

The paper petitions need to be returned to EPC at the address on the petition by December 31, 2011.