This past weekend the Liberal Party of Canada adopted a resolution at its biennial policy convention calling for decriminalization of euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide in a vote by show of hands.

The resolution said: “Be it resolved that voluntary medically-assisted death be de-criminalized after a public consultation process designed to make recommendations to Parliament with respect to the criteria for access and the appropriate oversight system for medically-assisted end-of-life.” It was put forward by both the women’s and youth commissions of the party.

Delegates lined up on both sides of the issue to debate the resolution. Wendy Robbins, who ushered the resolution through the convention, said assisted suicide “covers health, it covers justice” and that it did not threaten vulnerable people, pointing to Belgium, which just recently extended euthanasia to children, as a good model for “the right to die with dignity.”

Another delegate, who identified himself as an anaesthesiologist, spoke against the resolution, calling it “horrifying” saying “the more we focus on ending life, the less we focus on ending pain and suffering.”

Liberal MP John McKay opposed the party endorsing assisted-suicide.

Liberal MP John McKay opposed the party endorsing assisted-suicide.

Liberal MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood) criticized not only the resolution, but the direction in which his party is moving. “Canada has to come to grips with its culture of death and it’s particularly exemplified here,” noting the Liberals adopted an explicitly pro-abortion policy at their last policy convention. “They’re very enthusiastic about end-of-life legislation, they’re very enthusiastic about end-of-life legislation for the beginning of life … I don’t think there’s a lot care given to particularly vulnerable people.”

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was not in the hall when the vote was taken. In interviews afterward he refused to give his personal view on assisted suicide, saying he is waiting to see how the Supreme Court rules in the Carter case that is pending. However, during his keynote address the night before resolution passed, Trudeau talked about “death with dignity” challenged the party “ to expand our idea of what it means to be a free citizen in a modern democracy.”

The euthanasia resolution was one of 30 passed at the convention, which also endorsed replacing the $100-a-month child tax credit with a $16 billion national daycare scheme. The resolutions are party policy but the party leader can choose not to include it in the party platform in the anticipated 2015 election and need not dictate government policy if the Liberals win the election.