STONY PLAIN, Alta. - An American woman convicted of helping her mother commit suicide was freed Tuesday, only to be immediately transferred into the custody of border guards for deportation back to Arizona.
Provincial court Judge Charles Gardner agreed with the Crown and defence lawyers that the eight months Linda McNall had served in custody was sufficient punishment.
"I take some comfort that your condition is improving," he told McNall, who was seated in the prisoner's box.
"I hope you will receive some ongoing treatment and comfort ... and that you eventually find worth and value in your life."
"Thank you. I appreciate that," McNall responded.
McNall had attempted to follow through on a suicide pact she entered with her mother, Shirley Vann, in a tent near Hinton, west of Edmonton, last spring.
Vann died. McNall survived, but she has since tried twice to kill herself while in care and she is on anti-depressant medication.
McNall's lawyer, Laura Stevens, said Canada Border Services will put McNall on a plane Wednesday to Phoenix, where she will be assessed by a case worker and a crisis team.
Stevens said U.S. authorities have not agreed to put her in a hospital because she can't pay for a bed. She has only a three-week supply of her depression medication.
The 53-year-old also suffers from diabetes, is estranged from her siblings, and has only $15 to her name, along with $2,300 raised in donations while she has been in Canada.
"She is likely to end up at a women's shelter, for homeless women," Stevens told reporters after the hearing. "This will be a destabilizing time."
Last May McNall, and Vann, 79, drove up from Arizona to Rock Lake, near Hinton, 350 kilometres west of Edmonton, with a plan to kill themselves.
They had grown close over the years, with both coming off failed marriages, but things began unravelling when Vann was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2010.
Vann eventually had surgery on her intestines and developed kidney problems.
McNall grew depressed after contracting hepatitis C while on the job as a nurse.
With unpaid medical bills around $100,000, the pair abandoned their home and travelled through Nevada and Idaho and eventually to Sierra Vista in Arizona.
It was there they decided life was no longer worth living, so they packed up and drove to Alberta — a place visited previously — to end it all in the splendour of the Rocky Mountains.
At Rock Lake, they pitched a tent, signed a suicide note and went to work. They injected themselves and their two dogs with insulin, swallowed an overdose of sleeping pills and opened the valves on two propane tanks.
By morning Vann and the dogs were dead, but McNall somehow survived. She drove her mother's body to the hospital in Hinton, where she was treated and, less than a week later, charged with assisting a suicide.
She pleaded guilty in court in Stony Plain on Dec. 17.
McNall has been in psychiatric care in Edmonton since her arrest.
Stevens said McNall has responded well to treatment and has said she no longer wishes to kill herself.
"It's going to be tough still, but she has definitely got a better outlook now. It's night and day talking to her yesterday and six months ago," said Stevens.
"This isn't really a happy ending, in the sense there has been so much tragedy here, but I hope there is a happy ending for her."
Euthanasia In Canada
Here's a look at the state of Euthanasia laws in Canada and their history.
Suicide Not A Crime
Suicide hasn't been a crime in Canada since 1972. (Shutterstock)
Doctor-Assisted Suicide Illegal
Doctor-assisted suicide is illegal, although the ruling of the B.C. Supreme Court will force Parliament to alter the law within one year.<br><br> The <a href="http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/page-113.html#h-79" target="_hplink">Criminal Code of Canada states in section 241</a> that:<br><br> "Every one who (a) counsels a person to commit suicide, or (b) aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years." (Alamy)
Passive euthanasia involves letting a patient die instead of prolonging life with medical measures. Passive euthanasia is legal in Canada.<br><br> The decision is left in the hands of family or a designated proxy. Written wishes, including those found in living wills, do not have to be followed by family or a proxy. (Alamy)
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodriguez_v._British_Columbia_(Attorney_General)" target="_hplink">Sue Rodriguez</a>, who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), launched a case asking the Supreme Court of Canada to allow her to end her own life on the grounds that the current law discriminated against her disability.<br><br> Because suicide is legal in Canada and Rodriguez was unable to end her life because of a lack of mobility, she argued it was discriminatory to prevent her from ending her own life with the aid of another.<br><br> The court refused her request in 1993, but one year later she ended her life anyway with the help of an unnamed doctor. (CP)
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Latimer" target="_hplink">Robert Latimer was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1993 death of his severely disabled daughter Tracy</a>. A lack of oxygen during Tracy's birth led to cerebral palsy and serious mental and physical disabilities, including seizures and the inability to walk or talk. Her father ended Tracy's life by placing her in his truck and connecting a hose to the vehicle's exhaust.<br><br>The case led to a heated debate over euthanasia in Canada and two Supreme Court challenges. <br><br>Latimer was granted day parole in 2008 and full parole in 2010. (CP)
Bills To Legalize
Former Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde tried repeatedly to get legislation legalizing euthanasia in Canada passed. Bill C-407 and Bill C-384 were both aimed at making assisted suicide legal. C-384 was defeated in the House 228 to 59, with many Bloc MPs and a handful of members from all other parties voting for the legislation.<br><br> Tetraplegic Tory MP Steven Fletcher, pictured, made the following statement after C-384 was defeated: <br><br> "I would like to be recorded as abstaining on this bill. The reason is I believe end of life issues need to be debated more in our country. I believe that life should be the first choice but not the only choice and that we have to ensure that resources and supports are provided to Canadians so that choice is free. I believe, when all is said and done, the individual is ultimately responsible. I want to make this decision for myself, and if I cannot, I want my family to make the decision. I believe most Canadians, or many Canadians, feel the same. As William Henley said in his poem Invictus, "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."<br><br>(CP)