CCC asks PM to request Supreme Court extension on Physician Assisted Death

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November 27, 2015
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Physician Assisted Death

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the 25 member denominations of the Canadian Council of Churches, I am writing to you on the topic of physician assisted death.

After thorough exploration and reflection on our member churches’ stances on physician assisted death in Canada, and in the world at large, the members of the Governing Board of the Canadian Council of Churches all agree that respect for life is a God-given first principle on which we are all striving for pastoral wisdom. A number of our member churches maintain that medical interventions intended to cause death are wrong, while other member churches are engaged in a new process of discernment to apply this first principle to life/death decision-making.

We all recognize that this is a most serious and sobering topic, which engages key questions of both theology and pastoral practice, and so requires time for proper and truthful reflection. We also believe the same is true for politicians tasked with crafting a law that is just and compassionate.

Therefore, in order to allow for a full and thorough public discussion, we ask that the government request the Supreme Court of Canada to extend for a reasonable period of time the suspension of the implementation of its ruling in Carter v. Canada.

Please be assured of my prayers as you carry out your important duties on behalf of all



CCC president's signature



Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett-Cowan

Cc: The Honourable Judy Wilson-Raybould, M.P., Minister of Justice
Rona Ambrose, M.P., Leader of the Official Opposition
Thomas Mulcair, M.P., Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada
Rhéal Fortin, M.P., Leader of the Bloc Québécois
Elisabeth May, M.P., Leader of the Green Party of Canada

Physician-Assisted Death

2016 – Statement of Support for Universal Access to Palliative Care in Canada

The Statement of Support for Universal Access to Palliative Care in Canada (October 2016) is a consensus statement of all the delegates of the thirteen churches which comprised the membership of the Commission on Faith and Witness in 2015-2016.

This Statement is the outcome of a long and profound discussion among the Commission on Faith and Witness members. This discussion was prompted at first by the issue of legalizing physician-assisted death in Canada, but then broadened into a wide reflection on life and death as the bedrock of Christian anthropology.

While this work is continuing, and revealing a wide spectrum of theological and pastoral approaches and views, our conclusions about palliative care, represented in this Statement, quickly received the enthusiastic consensus of all. These conclusions reflect foundational values on which we all build: giving care where there is need, comfort where there is distress, love where there is fear.

One of our most enlightening discoveries, which we have tried to reflect in the Statement, is that “palliative care” engages far more than just coping with terminal illness and pain management. It is a general need of anyone who has become conscious of impending death, and embraces both the dying person and all the caregivers, from physicians all the way to families, in the process. Not everyone requires hospice care and “medicalization,” but everyone has a right to die supported by positive caring.

We offer this Statement for your use in any church or public discussions of end-of-life issues, and encourage you to disseminate it widely in your church and among your contacts.


1996 – Statement of Convergence on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Recognizing that issues surrounding decisions at the end of life were front-and-centre in both church and society, the Commission on Faith and Witness undertook a survey of its membership, resulting in the release of an ecumenical statement of convergence on euthanasia and assisted suicide (1996).

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