Canadian government to appeal assisted suicide ruling

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Robert Nicholson, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

The Canadian federal government will appeal all aspects of a British Columbia court’s decision against the assisted suicide law, drawing praise from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney General Rob Nicholson said July 13 that prohibitions barring everyone from counseling or providing assistance in a suicide are “constitutionally valid.”

He said the government also objects to the British Columbia Supreme Court’s June decision to grant a constitutional exemption for assisted suicide, saying it resembled a “regulatory framework.”

The Canadian bishops agreed with Nicholson’s statement that laws concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to “protect all Canadians, including those who are most vulnerable, such as people who are sick or elderly or people with disabilities.”

British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith had ruled that the law against assisted suicide violates the constitutional rights of three plaintiffs and discriminates against the severely ill because the able-bodied can legally commit suicide.

Counseling or aiding in a suicide carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

The court decision against the law drew major objections from the country’s Catholic bishops.

Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver said the ruling is “extremely flawed and dangerous” and reflects “a distorted view of equality rights that emphasizes autonomy over human dignity and the value of life.”

On June 18 Canadian bishops’ president Archbishop Richard W. Smith of Edmonton stated that it is important to respect life from conception until natural death.

Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he said “We are the stewards, not the owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.”

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