In Canada as in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, suicide is legal but assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia are illegal. However, one politician, the Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament from La Pointe-de-l'Île, Francine Lalonde, has introduced three private member's bills aimed at legalizing VE and assisted suicide.
In early December 2009, debate on Lalonde's current Private Member's Bill - Bill C-384 - was again postponed until February 2010. Sadly, it is expected to be defeated when the Bill finally goes to a vote.
Francine Lalonde's bill is interesting for a number of reasons.
Unlike other jurisdictions that have attempted to create specific assisted suicide laws, Lalonde's most recent bill attempts to add an exception to the Canadian Criminal Code. In this regard, C-384 is designed to ensure that doctors who help a person die do not face criminal prosecution.
As with all legislation of this nature, there are built-in safeguards.
The person requesting assistance must be at least 18 years old and have continued to "experience severe physical or mental pain without any prospect of relief," after being given or refusing treatment. A terminal diagnosis is also considered grounds for a request for assistance to die.
In introducing the Bill, Lalonde has said "the time has come for this Parliament to find a way to decriminalize medical assistance in dying, which is of such vital importance to those whose suffering can no longer be relieved except by this ultimate compassion."
Lalonde notes that the three countries in the EU and two US states that have legalized assisted suicide there has been no "hypothetical slippery slope".
Prior to this current Private Member's Bill, Lalonde introduced two earlier Bills - the first in June 2005 (Bill C-407) and then again in June 2008 (Bill C-562), aimed at legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.
In April 2011, Lee Carter, Hollis Johnson, Dr. William Shoichet and The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association filed a civil claim in the Supreme Court of British Columbia against exisiting laws that make assisted suicide and euthanasia illegal in Canada. More about this case can be read of the BCCLA's website.