Pubdate: Sat, 16 Jan 2016
Source: Cape Breton Post (CN NS)
Copyright: 2016 Cape Breton Post
Page: B6


Doctor-assisted dying law shouldn't be hastily implemented

The federal government is wise to request a six-month extension to
draft new legislation on doctor-assisted dying. Canadians have been
waiting for legislation on this crucial issue for far too long
already, but for the Liberal government to rush it through by the
February deadline after inheriting it from the foot-dragging
Conservatives, does not make sense.

Last February, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the ban on
medically-assisted suicide. The ruling gave the federal government 12
months to rewrite the Criminal Code, or ignore the ruling, essentially
leaving the matter in legal limbo.

After the ruling, the Harper Conservatives - who were ideologically
opposed to assisted death - offered little meaningful input on the
issue, and it fell to the Justin Trudeau Liberals, elected in October,
to grapple with. Although a six-month extension is obviously too long
for people enduring unbearable suffering, there is too much at stake
for law on physician-assisted death to be hastily implemented.

The Liberals created special Commons-Senate committee last month to
further explore the issue, and it is due to report back with
recommendations by Feb. 26. Fortunately, there is already a template
to follow in Quebec, which in December, became the first province in
Canada to offer legalized assisted suicide. If the court grants the
extension, the government should - and must, for the sake of those in
anguish - have a law in place by the time Parliament breaks in June.

The Liberals would also be wise to proceed as carefully on another of
their key campaign pledges, legalization of marijuana. The plan to
legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana is a complicated
one, which not only involves working with the provinces and
territories, but involves complying with three international
conventions, all of which criminalize the possession and production of
marijuana. A briefing note prepared for Trudeau says Canada will have
to find a way to sell the world on its plans to conform to its global
treaty obligations.

And then, of course, there are the complicated logistics on the home
front of working with the provinces and public health agencies on
where marijuana will be sold, how it is taxed, how to prevent abuse
and harm, how to prevent an increase in impaired driving, how to test
for pot-impaired driving, just for starters.

The government could start with the more simple policy of
decriminalizing marijuana, which would mean users would not get a
criminal record for simple possession, but provinces could issue tickets.

A 2015 Ipsos poll shows two in three Canadians support
decriminalization. Given the stakes, it makes sense to proceed slowly
and carefully with the more complex plan to legalize marijuana, and
start first with the simpler matter of decriminalization.
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MAP posted-by: Matt