In the 1980s, pro-life groups intervened in the Morgentaler case, but not the Borowski case. When the Supreme Court brought down the Morgentaler decision on Canada’s abortion law it said the Borowski case on the issue of whether the unborn was a person under the Charter was rendered moot. REAL Women’s Gwen Landolt said it was a mistake to not intervene in both cases and resolved to become involved in any future case that affected life and family issues.
It costs a lot of money to intervene – a minimum tens of thousands of dollars, and hundreds of thousands if the case goes to the Supreme Court. In Canada, a third-party can apply for intervenor status in appellate proceedings when a judgment in a criminal or civil case affects the rights of third parties, including society at large. The role of the intervenor is to assist the court in making a just decision by providing arguments for the judge to consider that are not being raised by the original participants in a trial. Many groups from governments to non-government organizations seek intervention status, including organizations such as the Canadian Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (which we profile in this issue).
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition decided to get involved in the Rasouli case because the outcome would set a precedent about who decides when life-sustaining care is withdrawn.
Reading the decision, it is obvious that the three-judge panel accepted not the arguments of the Rasouli family lawyer, but those of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition lawyers. Were it not for the EPC’s intervention, the case could have been decided differently and all of us might have lost the right to decide end-of-life care when doctors want to pull the plug on life-sustaining medical interventions, including hydration and nutrition.