At a news conference today on Parliament Hill, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) released a joint statement on euthanasia and assisted suicide. The Declaration on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide has been endorsed by over 30 Christian denominations together with over 20 Jewish and Muslim leaders from across Canada. In light of the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling in R. v. Carter, the joint statement advocates for palliative care, respect for the dignity of the human person, human solidarity and psychological, spiritual and emotional support as the ethical and moral response in end-of-life care.
The Declaration states that "The recent Supreme Court of Canada decision has brought this issue to the forefront of public discussion and compels each of us as Canadians to reflect upon our personal and societal response to those who need our compassion and care." Addressing the underlying importance of human dignity, the signatories affirm that "the sanctity of all human life, and the equal and inviolable dignity of every human being ... is not exclusively a religious belief, although for us it has a significant religious meaning." The signatories emphasize that "reverence for human life must be "the basis and reason for our compassion, responsibility and commitment in caring for all humans, our brothers and sisters, when they are suffering and in pain... to work to alleviate human suffering in every form but never by intentionally eliminating those who suffer."
The joint statement insists that Canada's "health care systems must maintain a life-affirming ethos. Medical professionals are trained to restore and enhance life," as "any action intended to end human life is morally and ethically wrong." The signatories to the Declaration urge "federal, provincial and territorial legislators to enact and uphold laws that enhance human solidarity by promoting the rights to life and security for all people; to make good-quality home care and palliative care accessible in all jurisdictions; and to implement regulations and policies that ensure respect for the freedom of conscience of all health-care workers and administrators who will not and cannot accept suicide or euthanasia as a medical solution to pain and suffering."
The speakers at the news conference included the following representatives: Ms. Julia Beazley, Policy Analyst, EFC; Rabbi Dr. Reuven P. Bulka, C.M., Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Ottawa; Dr. Aileen Van Ginkel, Vice President, Ministry Services, EFC; Sister Nuala Kenny, SC, OC, MD, FRCP, a pediatrician and former Deputy Minister of Health in the province of Nova Scotia, also speaking on behalf of the CCCB; Imam Samy Metwally Ottawa Main Mosque/Ottawa Muslim Association; and the Most Rev. Terrence Prendergast, S.J., Catholic Archbishop of Ottawa and CCCB representative. The Declaration and its list of signatories can be viewed at the following website:www.euthanasiadeclaration.ca.