First 100 days.
In the first 100 days of securing a majority government, the Liberal party decided to take a seemingly different approach to the previous majority Conservative government by posting the briefing documents of the various Ministries online. One such brief document posted online included the Justice of Canada Minister’s Transition Book.
The document identified the government’s priorities in the first 100 days. Hence, the title, “First 100 days.”
And, one such identified priority included developing a “response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s Carter decision (physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia).”
While this level of transparency is welcomed in comparison to the previous government, when you actually look at who is (I am assuming) working on the identified priorities, another truth reveals itself.
In 2014, the previous Conservative government developed a response to Bedford, a seminal case which informed Carter. Many people, including those directly impacted by the then-Bill C-36, For the Protections of Communities and Exploitation Persons Act (now law), argued that this Bill was not constitutionally compliant (see Prostitution bill likely unconstitutional MPs told on day 3 of hearings).
Bedford was clear: a law that violates one sex worker’s section 7 Charter right is not valid. Canada’s highest court specifically outlined that the section 7 analysis is qualitative, not quantitative. So, it is not the amount of people impacted by the law that denotes the harm but it is the effect of the law (Bedford, para 123): sex workers were literally dying and experienced violence because of the effects of criminalization. Over 25,000 pages of evidence documented this harm.
In response to Bedford, the then-Conservative government came back with a law that alleges to protect many victims with the aim of ending prostitution (See “Preamble”). Remember, it is not how many lives that a law can save but the effect of the law on one life; a law that has “a grossly disproportionate, overbroad, or arbitrary effect on one person is sufficient to establish a breach of s 7” (Bedford, para 123).
We see similar premises underlying Bill C-14: how many vulnerable lives can this Bill protect? Still, that is not the test outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada. The section 7 analysis is qualitative not quantitative.
Yet, as everyone is up in arms about the Liberal government’s response to Carter, I am beginning to wonder why everyone expected anything different? Of course, different from the then-Conservative government response where then-Justice Minister Peter Mackay stated at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (JUST) on July 7, 2014,
Colleagues, I am joined today by Donald Piragoff, senior assistant deputy minister at the Department of Justice, as well as Nathalie Levman, whom I would describe as an expert in this legislation. She has had a great deal of input into both the drafting and the preparation of the legislation that you see before you, Bill C-36 (emphasis added).
Both Mr. Donald Piragoff and Ms. Nathalie Levman, as well as Ms. Joanne Klineberg, prepared the “Response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s Carter decision (Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia)” in the First 100 Days briefing document. I guess all you have to do is look behind the curtains every once in a while (or, in this case, actually reading what is out there).
Further, as Ms. Levman noted at JUST on July 15, 2014,
Well, Bill C-36 posits that the best way to reduce the harms of prostitution is to not engage in it.
If Bill C-36 was a precursor into the government’s response to Carter, then we should have expected a proposed legislative framework that prevented people from accessing medical assistance in dying. Because according to Ms. Levman, the best way to protect the vulnerable is to just prevent them from engaging in the (allegedly) harmful activity in the first place.