Home / Press Release: Civil liberties watchdog asks Supreme Court of Canada for speedier trial on assisted dying

Press Release: Civil liberties watchdog asks Supreme Court of Canada for speedier trial on assisted dying

For immediate release

VANCOUVER – Today, Tuesday, August 28, 2018, the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), announces that it has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to hear its appeal seeking a faster trial on the constitutionality of Canada’s assisted dying legislation.

The BCCLA is asking the Supreme Court to stop the government from re-litigating issues already decided in Carter v. Canada, the landmark case that secured the right to a physician-assisted death for grievously and irremediably ill Canadians. If the BCCLA is successful, the appeal will lead to a shorter trial – which will make it possible to bring relief sooner to suffering Canadians.

The BCCLA says it is seeking prompt access to justice on behalf of sick and suffering Canadians.

“Every day matters for those in pain who await the outcome of this challenge to the government’s laws that are trapping them in unbearable suffering,” says Grace Pastine, the BCCLA’s Litigation Director. “By enacting Bill C-14, the government refused to follow the Supreme Court’s Carter decision, and left a whole group of Canadians suffering without choice. The government should not be permitted to delay justice again by re-litigating Carter.”

The BCCLA launched its current legal challenge, Lamb v. Canada, in 2016 with Julia Lamb, a B.C. woman who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy who has been in a wheelchair since age six and worries that her disease could cause unbearable physical and mental suffering.

The lawsuit challenges the government’s assisted dying law, which restricts medical assistance in dying to Canadians with terminal illness. The law does not permit assistance in dying for those who are suffering with no immediate end in sight if their death is not “reasonably foreseeable”.

Canadians with diseases like spinal muscular atrophy, multiple sclerosis, spinal stenosis, locked‑in syndrome, traumatic spinal injury, Parkinson’s disease and Huntingdon’s disease are not eligible for medical assistance in dying under the new law.

In its leave application to the Supreme Court of Canada which was filed yesterday, Monday, August 27, 2018, the BCCLA argues that that the federal government should be prevented from granting itself a retrial.

Jay Aubrey, Litigation Counsel with the BCCLA, stated: “Carter was a hard-fought victory that took many years, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the precious time and energy of Canadians who were suffering unbearably from serious illnesses. Some of these people gave of their limited remaining life. Now the government seeks to re-litigate the same issues that were decided in Carter, against people in the same situations of illness and unbearable suffering. The BCCLA is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to prevent the government from this wasteful and deeply harmful re-litigation.”

In June of 2017, the BCCLA asked the B.C. Supreme Court to prevent Canada from re-litigating in Lamb factual findings already established in Carter. The BCCLA lost that application before the B.C. Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeal. The BCCLA now seeks leave to appeal this matter to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court chooses which appeals it will hear, and there is not an automatic right to be heard.

The BCCLA is represented by Sheila Tucker, Q.C. of Shapray Cramer Fitterman Lamer LLP and Joseph Arvay, Q.C. and Alison Latimer of Arvay Finlay LLP. Michael Sobkin represents the BCCLA as an agent on this appeal.

Read the BCCLA’s argument here.


Grace Pastine, BCCLA Litigation Director: [email protected] or 778-241-7183