Pubdate: Mon, 18 Jan 2016
Source: Journal-Pioneer, The (CN PI)
Copyright: 2016 Journal-Pioneer
Page: A6


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.

TC Media
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom