Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dier's Remorse

A curious thing happened yesterday at the Supreme Court of Canada. The Court was hearing the appeal from the BC Court of Appeal in a case about euthanasia - specifically the right for those who are unable to take their own lives to have access to "physician assisted death" ("PAD"). You can read the arguments of the appellants in their factum (statement of law and fact) here as a PDF.

Formally known as Lee Carter, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, et al. the case began in the BC trial division, where Justice Smith ruled that (I'm grossly simplifying here) since able-bodied and mentally competent people can legally and practically end their own lives, there is an inequality because people who are physically unable to end their lives have no access to ending their lives without assistance, particularly humane, competent, physician assisted death. The trial division agreed, but the BC Court of Appeal overturned that decision. The Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal.

I'm raising this case not to deal with the ethical issues or merits of voluntary euthanasia, although for the record, I agree with the appellants, although I hope never to be faced with that decision. The obvious reality is that end of life decisions are made every single day. People agree to non-resuscitation orders and the removal of feeding tubes in hospitals and nursing homes across Canada. As a former client's Power of Attorney I was once asked for permission to remove him from a ventilator. These are hard decisions (and they should be), but we make them.

The Attorney General of Canada (through the Department of Justice) has opposed this appeal. You can read all their reasons in their own factum filed with the Supreme Court. It relies on a case called Rodriguez from 1993, the "slippery slope" argument (ie: if you allow it, where will it all end? Plus, everyone will want one...), protecting abuse (ie: bumping off Granny to get at her gold teeth), and the ever-popular "Supremacy of Parliament" argument (ie: it's up to Parliament to decide such weighty issues, not the court). Of the last one, it takes some cheek to tell the Supreme Court of Canada it shouldn't have the power to decide human rights issues under the Charter of Rights, since that's its job.

One other argument made in the factum and also in yesterday's oral presentation to the Supreme Court caught my eye as novel. Essentially, the federal government argued that it would be wrong to permit assisted suicide because the people who die that way might live to regret it.

Yes, you heard that right.

Department of Justice lawyers argued that if you allow people to commit suicide, they might regret it...

"[T]hey will be unable to voice their regret once they're dead...."

The Conservatives are well known for defending the "pre-born", but this is the first I have heard of them advocating for the post-dead.

The original trial judge rejected such a notion, pondering the obvious in her judgment wondering "if regret is possible after death."

Apparently no dead people were called as witnesses to testify via Ouija board or through the Long Island Medium about their afterlife second thoughts.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The F-Word

CTV's Don Martin the other day finally used the "f-word" in describing the Harper government. Of the recent secret proposal to amend the Copyright Act to allow political parties (ie: the Conservatives) to use news footage in their (mostly negative) ads without permission, Don Martin said this is "flirting with fascism" - http://youtu.be/2PbZh8CUNk8

"Fascism" is an emotionally charged word, associated more with Naziism and antisemitism than Spanish or Italian fascism, or its many South American or modern variations, so many are hesitant to whisper it even when it starts becoming appropriate. That's why CTV's breaking the taboo is so significant. It is now out in the open for discussion, and it is a discussion we should be having before it goes further.

From First to Last

First they came for Parliament, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Parliamentarian.

Then they came for the Refugees and Immigrants, and I did not speak out—
Because I was born here.

Then they came for the Scientists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Scientist.

Then they came for Elections Canada, and I did not speak out—
Because I only vote once every four years.

Then they came for the Charter of Rights, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a criminal and they made me afraid for my safety.

Then they came for my data, emails and private conversations, and I did not speak out—
Because I thought I had nothing to hide.

Then they came for the Judges, and I did not speak out—
Because I trusted my government to obey the law.

Then they came for people's citizenship, and I did not speak out—
Because I already had my passport.

Then they came for my sons and daughters to fight overseas, and I did not speak out—
Because I‘m a patriot and don’t want to be called a terrorist sympathizer.

Then they came for me—and it was only then I realized there was nothing left of the Canada I loved. 

 -----

A postscript - John Baglow (aka Dr. Dawg) wrote an article that discusses fascism and the use of the "f-word" as it applies to Harper's policies and actions. Read it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Canadian Lawyer Cover Story - Harper's Judicial Appointments Process

I've written the cover story for Canadian Lawyer Magazine in September - out now. 

My article examines the system that Harper's Conservatives and Justice Minister Peter MacKay have developed to stack the mechanics of the federal judicial appointments. The result is an opaque and closed door system that sees women appointments stalled and visible minorities on the bench at a pathetic 1.5%, while the Conservatives hide behind a fictional "arms length" process.

You can read the full article here.