Assisted-Suicide-Postcard-1The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) has launched the “Give Us Time” postcard campaign in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s assisted suicide ruling. When the Carter v. Canada decision was released on February 6, the Criminal Code prohibition against assisted suicide was struck down. Previously, section 241 of the Code stated that everyone who aids another person in committing suicide, or counsels them to do so, “is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.”

The ban on suicide was found to violate sections 15 and 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which affirm the right to be treated equally under the law – regardless of minority status – and the right to “life, liberty and security of the person.” The Court has asked Parliament to draft a new law before February 2016. With an election called for October, the current Parliament will be dissolved before they can act on the issue.

Addressed to justice minister Peter MacKay, the postcards call for a Royal Commission on the subject of assisted suicide, as well as the invocation of the notwithstanding clause. The clause comes from section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which allows Parliament to set aside the results of a Supreme Court decision for up to five years.

EPC executive director Alex Schadenberg told The Interim that 160,000 postcards have been distributed so far. Asked about the importance of the campaign, he said “The government needs to know that a lot of information was not brought into the Supreme Court’s decision. It was fairly one-sided, and the Court Assisted-Suicide-Postcard-2stepped into the arena of Parliament.” Even after a new government is elected, more time will be needed to craft adequate legislation. Above all, Schadenberg warned, “we don’t want to be in a situation with no law (prohibiting assisted suicide). That would be worse.”

Along with participating in the campaign, Schadenberg urges Canadians concerned about the ruling to communicate with their Members of Parliament. “(The “Give Us Time” campaign) does not preclude writing letters.” He called letters from constituents “better than cards and emails.” Parliamentarians are more likely to listen to communications that are personal, and that require some effort from the sender, he explained. “Politicians will get how much you’re committed (to the issue).”

Currently, the Supreme Court has made three recommendations for the new legislation. The person requesting “assisted death” must be a competent adult who consents to the end of their life. They must have a “grievous and irremediable” health condition, including an illness or disability, and this condition must cause the individual “enduring and intolerable” suffering.