VANCOUVER - The B.C. Court of Appeal has granted eight advocacy groups representing both sides of the right-to-die debate intervener status as it examines a ruling that struck down Canada's ban on assisted suicide.
The federal government is appealing a B.C. Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year that concluded the Criminal Code provisions that prohibit assisted suicide violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The case, which many observers expect will end up at the Supreme Court of Canada, was originally launched by several plaintiffs, including ALS patient Gloria Taylor, who won the right to seek doctor-assisted suicide but died in October without seeking the help of a physician.
The Appeal Court has scheduled a hearing for next March, and eight groups, including several that were part of the B.C. Supreme Court case, have asked for permission to intervene.
The court released a decision Monday granting status to all eight of those groups, while rejecting a request from an American activist who opposes assisted-suicide.
The groups that have been granted standing include:
— The Alliance of People with Disabilities Who are Supportive of Legal-Assisted Dying, which is the successor of an ad-hoc group of advocates who argued in support of assisted suicide in B.C. Supreme Court.
— The Canadian Unitarian Council, a national association of Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist congregations in Canada that supports doctor-assisted suicide.
— The Farewell Foundation for the Right to Die.
— The Christian Legal Fellowship, a group of Christian lawyers and other law professionals who urged the court to keep assisted suicide illegal.
— The Evangelical Fellowship Of Canada, another religious group also arguing in favour of maintaining the assisted-suicide ban.
— The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
— The Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Canadian Association for Community Living, which applied jointly to intervene and both argue assisted-suicide demeans the lives of people with disabilities.
The decision limited the areas that each group will be allowed to make arguments about in the appeal.
The court rejected a request from Margaret Dore, an American activist who opposes assisted suicide and wanted to argue the B.C. ruling striking down the law could make it more difficult for her to repeal Washington State's doctor-assisted suicide law.
In June, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the Criminal Code sections that prohibit physician-assisted suicide violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court concluded the law discriminates against people with disabilities and is too broad.
That decision has been suspended while the case is before the Appeal Court.
Taylor, an ALS patient from Kelowna, B.C., who became the public face of the case, was given an immediate constitutional exemption from the law, briefly making her the only person in Canada who could have legally sought doctor-assisted suicide. Taylor died suddenly in October due to a severe infection resulting from a perforated colon.