The Provinces Could Pass on Expanding Assisted Death—Regardless of the Federal Government’s Wishes

March 10, 2023

Brian Bird, Research Fellow with RFI’s North America Action Team, recently authored an article in The Hub examining the jurisdiction of Canadian provinces regarding “assisted death” policies. Bird argues that “regardless of whether the Charter is said to require the decriminalization of assisted death, provinces are not necessarily obliged to integrate assisted death into their health-care systems.” He writes:

Assisted death became legal across Canada in 2016. Seven years later, eligibility for assisted death has grown dramatically. What started as something only for adults nearing the end of their lives was next granted also to adults suffering intolerably from incurable conditions regardless of whether death is approaching. Assisted death is slated to be expanded to adults suffering solely from mental illness, and formal recommendations have been made to expand assisted death to children with “requisite decision-making capacity” and to allow Canadians to register in advance for assisted death in case they lose capacity later on.

Within the discourse on assisted death in Canada, little attention has been paid to what, as a matter of constitutional law, the provinces must do in relation to assisted death and what falls within their discretion. Must provinces actively contribute to certain expansions of assisted death by, for example, deeming these expansions medically necessary and funding them as health-care services?

This question has recently come into focus. In January, the premier of Alberta objected to the federal government’s plan to decriminalize assisted death in relation to persons suffering solely from mental illness. In February, Quebec introduced legislation that excludes mental illness (other than neurocognitive disorders) as a basis for eligibility for assisted death in that province, in keeping with a recommendation by a special committee appointed to study the issue.

Read the full article: The Provinces Could Pass on Expanding Assisted Death—Regardless of the Federal Government’s Wishes.”