Supreme Court

Constitutional Law

Section 241(b) of Criminal Code (Can.) is constitutionally invalid

Plaintiffs challenged constitutional validity of s. 241(b) of Criminal Code (Can.). Supreme Court of Canada had upheld section 19 years earlier by finding any Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms violations were saved pursuant to s. 1 .Plaintiffs suffering from fatal diseases sought ability to access physician-assisted suicide when life became unbearable. Trial judge declared s. 241(b) of no force and effect. Trial judge held that Supreme Court of Canada’s conclusion could be reconsidered in view of new principles of fundamental justice recognized after the decision and new factual record. Majority of Court of Appeal found that trial judge erred in holding she was not bound by earlier decision and reversed trial judge’s decision. Appeal allowed and declaration of invalidity restored. Trial judge was entitled to revisit earlier judgment in view of new evidence and jurisprudential changes. Absolute prohibition on assisted suicide impaired plaintiffs’ liberty and security of the person. Legislation was overbroad and not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Legislation failed to minimally impair plaintiffs’ rights.

Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) (Feb. 6, 2015, S.C.C., McLachlin C.J.C., LeBel J., Abella J., Rothstein J., Cromwell J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., and Gascon J., File No. 35591) Decision at 244 A.C.W.S. (3d) 600 was reversed.  252 A.C.W.S. (3d) 74.

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