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Release: Assisted dying – Supreme Court rejects bid to fast-track assisted dying trial

VANCOUVER, B.C. (Coast Salish Territories) – This morning, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a bid by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) to fast-track its lawsuit that argues the right to assisted dying is unfairly limited by the government’s current law. The trial is expected to take place in November 2019.

Josh Paterson, Executive Director for the BCCLA, stated: “We will vigorously fight this case at trial, but the result of today’s decision is that the federal government will have the opportunity to have a second kick at the can and re-litigate lots of factual questions that they already lost in the Carter case. With respect, we are disappointed that the Court has decided not to hear our appeal, which might have stopped the government from having a virtual do-over on the evidence from the earlier assisted dying case.”

At the end of this week, the BCCLA will deliver affidavit evidence from over 30 witnesses in support of its case to the federal government, with more expert evidence expected to be filed next year before the trial.

The BCCLA and Julia Lamb launched the legal challenge, Lamb v. Canada, in 2016, 10 days after Parliament passed Bill C-14 — the government’s assisted dying legislation. The civil rights watchdog said the legislation unlawfully restricted eligibility for a medically assisted death to people who were already dying. In particular, the BCCLA argued that the requirement of a “reasonably foreseeable death” was in violation of Canadians’ charter rights, leaving some Canadians trapped in intolerable suffering.

In June of 2017, the BCCLA asked the B.C. Supreme Court to prevent Canada from re-litigating certain factual findings decided in the earlier assisted dying case, Carter v. Canada, the BCCLA’s landmark case that secured the right to a dignified death for suffering Canadians. The BCCLA argued that it would mean a shorter, faster, less expensive trial – which would make it possible to bring relief sooner to suffering Canadians.

The BCCLA lost that application before the B.C. Supreme Court, and the B.C. Court of Appeal refused to overturn that decision. The BCCLA sought to challenge the Court of Appeal decision by seeking leave to the Supreme Court of Canada, but the Court refused to grant leave to hear the appeal this morning.

Read the BCCLA’s argument for leave here.