Ending one's life must be a true and informed choice

February 23, 2024 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

In response to the Government’s intention to pause on the expansion of medical assistance in dying, Charlotte-Anne Malischewski, Interim Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, issues the following statement:

The Canadian Human Rights Commission remains deeply concerned by reports that people with disabilities are choosing medical assistance in dying (MAiD) because they cannot access the basic supports and services they need to live with dignity.

Experts and advocates both here at home and internationally continue to sound the alarm about the significant human rights concerns posed by the proposed and ongoing expansion of MAiD.

We urge the Government to conduct a thorough and critical examination into these concerns.

For many people with disabilities, systemic inequality results in inadequate access to services, which means that their fundamental rights continue to be denied and their dignity diminished. They cannot get the health care they need because of where they live. They cannot live in their community because the housing they need is not accessible. They cannot afford crucial medication or other supportive services. Unacceptable situations are made worse by the lingering effects of the pandemic, an ongoing housing crisis and the realities of systemic poverty.

MAiD cannot be a default for Canada’s failure to fulfill its human rights obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or human rights legislation.

As the Government takes a critical look at the expansion of MAiD, the Commission encourages the Government to use this opportunity to conduct a thorough examination of what has happened since the coming into force of the existing legislation. This should include collecting the evidence and testimony necessary so that there is clear understanding of who is accessing MAiD and why — in order to identify and put in place the necessary safeguards to address the human rights harms experienced by already marginalized groups.

We have heard from advocates that consultation with Indigenous peoples — First Nations, Inuit, and Métis — has been insufficient to date. We have heard that the views of some experts and those with lived experience who have expressed concern with the expansion of MAiD have been marginalized. We must ensure that First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and those that are most vulnerable are listened to and their experiences are valued.

In an era where we recognize the right to die with dignity, we must do more to realize the right to live with dignity.

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