That’s one way of winning a debate: say you’re willing to discuss it, but you have no intention of changing direction, and you’re in the driver’s seat.
Such is the approach of the federal government in response to the urging from provincial leaders for a national discussion about assisted suicide. Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said this week that she’s willing to talk to her provincial and territorial counterparts about the highly charged subject, but the feds have no intention of legalizing it. We’re left to decide on our own whether the arrogance is intended or not.
It’s not hard to see why a government might talk out of both sides of its mouth on an issue that’s divisive. But the position expressed by Ambrose sounds like a pitch to make her government sound open to dialogue – while at the same time shutting down the conversation before it starts.
A number of provincial leaders have been calling for debate. Quebec is in the midst of putting together right-to-die legislation. And the issue got renewed attention a couple of weeks ago when, eight days before his death from a brain tumour, Dr. Donald Low, who guided Toronto through the 2003 SARS crisis, asked that Canada allow people to die with dignity.
Plainly, the thought of enshrining such a right has opponents.
Groups representing disabled people fear it would be the thin edge of the wedge toward euthanizing individuals incapable of speaking for themselves. Any considerations would have to ensure the wish comes unequivocally from the individual – and that could be difficult in some cases.
A certain ability to dodge and bob is available to the sides in this federal-provincial political tango. While health care delivery is a provincial responsibility, the way in which a person is involved in another person’s death is a federal matter.
But as always, the discussion should begin with consulting the Canadian public to see where they are on this.