Historically, assisted suicide (aiding a person to take his or her own life) was prohibited by the common law in Canada, as in all common law jurisdictions. Indeed, at common law suicide resulted in forfeiture of all goods and chattels of the suicide victim to the state. A person who assisted a person to commit suicide also committed a felony.
Prohibitions against attempting suicide and assisting suicide were codified in Canada in 1892. The attempting suicide law was challenged as infringing upon the protection for individual liberty in section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the criminal prohibition against assisted suicide was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney General) in 1993.
The statutory prohibition of attempting suicide was repealed in Canada in 1972. However, the criminal prohibition against assisting a person to commit suicide remained in Canada.
In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the prohibition of medical assistance in dying violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5. Now Parliament is working to codify the Carter ruling.
A special parliamentary committee was appointed to consider how to reform the law. On February 25, 2016, the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying delivered to the Parliament of Canada its Report on “Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centred Approach, February 2016, 42nd Parliament, 1st Session.”
The Report contains 21 recommendations. Some of them are unobjectionable, but some are troubling to some thoughtful observers and medical ethicists, and a few are dangerously disrespectful of the rights and consciences of marginalized populations. The Report evades, brushes aside, or bulldozes over some very serious ethical issues. . . [Full text]