A new Environics poll shows that Canadians are somewhat reluctant to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia. While nearly two-thirds respondents support assisted suicide (63 per cent) and more than half want euthanasia legalized (55 per cent), only 29 per cent, “strongly support” assisted suicide and 18 per cent “strongly support” euthanasia. Furthermore, almost half of Canadians seem unsure about their positions regarding assisted suicide with 34 per cent somewhat supporting it and 12 per cent somewhat opposing it.

Support for assisted suicide has the highest popularity in British Columbia (41 per cent), perhaps linked to the B.C. Supreme Court decision to strike down the ruling against assisted suicide. Meanwhile, nationally, 18-to-29 year olds, individuals without a high school education, and people in the bottom income bracket are most likely to oppose it.

When answering the question about euthanasia, respondents were given information that in Belgium almost one third of euthanasia deaths occur illegally without the patient’s consent. Euthanasia was most likely to be opposed by allophones, Canadians 60 years old or over, people without a high school education, and Canadians in the lowest income bracket. 29 per cent of physically or mentally disabled individuals strongly opposed euthanasia, while 24 per cent of all respondents strongly opposed euthanasia. Québec had the most respondents in strong support of euthanasia (23 per cent). 21 per cent of men gave strong support for legalized euthanasia, as opposed to 16 per cent of women.

The poll, commissioned by Life Canada, was conducted from March 5 to 10 and 18 to 24 as part of Environics’ National Omnibus survey; 2,008 Canadians were surveyed over the phone.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told The Interim that the poll shows there are “very few people who strongly support euthanasia or assisted suicide in Canada.” Schadenberg says that many Canadians support it “out of fear of dying a bad death,” which must be remedied.

In fact, the survey shows a decline in Canadians who strongly support legal euthanasia. In 2009, Environics found 25 per cent were strongly in favour of euthanasia, a number that fell to 22 per cent in 2010; then, nearly six in ten respondents favoured legalizing euthanasia (59 per cent).

The 2013 Environics results are also lower than the findings of a 2012 Angus Reid online poll that showed 80 per cent of Canadians support legalizing assisted suicide and a 2011 Forum Research poll indicating that 67 per cent want assisted suicide legal.

Schadenberg noted that “there is no consensus supporting the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide in Canada.”