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Until recently in Canada, it was a serious criminal offence to assist someone in taking their own life—and for a medical doctor to do so was recognized to be a gross violation of the Hippocratic Oath and a grievous betrayal of their professional trust and duty. In an instant and with the stroke of a legislative pen, our government changed all that in 2016 and set us on a radical course that has no direct parallel in the wider community of nations. In Canada, where the euthanasia regime is the most uninhibited in the world, it is now perfectly legal for doctors to kill their patients under a wide and swiftly widening range of circumstances.

In Canada, where the euthanasia regime is the most uninhibited in the world, it is now perfectly legal for doctors to kill their patients under a wide and swiftly widening range of circumstances.

What began as a limited allowance for terminally ill patients has expanded beyond all recognition in a few short years, so that assisted suicide is now one of the leading causes of death in Canada, with the rate of deaths through assisted suicide growing at an annualized rate of over 30%.

As of our most recent national statistics from 2022, over 40,000 Canadians had died through this program. We now lead the world in the number of deaths by assisted suicide.

Bill C-7, which is due to come into force in March of this year, would expand access to euthanasia further to those suffering solely from mental health conditions, so that those who are healthy of body but enduring depression or another mental health concern may now be euthanized. The Quebec College of Physicians has called for access to doctor-assisted suicide to be expanded to children. But for a merciful intervention, such further expansion seems only a matter of time.

We now lead the world in the number of deaths by assisted suicide.

Canada is not, of course, the first nation on record to euthanize the weak and the vulnerable. Successive generations of Canadians have dared to hope that our country was altogether different. Yet recent history has shattered any illusion of a Canada that holds an absolute commitment to the wellbeing of the vulnerable (that impression was actually an illusion in any case, given Canada’s record on abortion).

In reality, none of this should surprise us who read the Bible and know its appraisal of the fallen human heart. We know that the sinful heart has not been improved through social or scientific development, nor really chastened by the lessons of history.

As Christians, we believe in the inalienable dignity and value of each human life. God made us in his own image, and gave his own Son for our redemption. Through the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has acted in space and time and history to place a renewed stamp of value on human life. There can be no mistake: every human being matters deeply to God. As his people, we value what he values. And we recognize that it is His prerogative to give life and to set the number our days. To take upon ourselves the determination of when a person’s life should end—and to take active steps to end that life—is a serious transgression.

History has given us sobering examples of times when the church has stood by and watched as the state has extinguished the lives of the weak and vulnerable. We rightly recoil at reminders of such sinful failures. But as we recoil at the sins of the past, we must not fail to see that we are once again living at such an hour of decision.

The state has facilitated the killing of tens of thousands of vulnerable Canadians, and daily that number grows. While the program is branded as an expansion of “choice”, the increasing number of horror stories of the sick and frail facing suggestive coercion to accept death as a medical option tells against that presentation. In a context where the medical system has long since buckled under the strain of the needs of a rapidly growing and ageing population (despite the good and sometimes heroic efforts of so many who serve within it), many legislators will see a powerful economic case for expanding the euthanasia program further and faster.

The church of Jesus Christ stands at a crossroads of history and an hour of decision. For our response, our children will appraise us and our Lord will call us to account. Will we fall silent and merely observe as this chilling culture of death tightens its grip on our nation? Or, by contrast, will we defend the vulnerable, care for the needy, and hold out the gospel of life to those in suffering and despair? I hope and pray the answer to the latter will be a resounding “yes”. May the Lord help us and have mercy upon our land.

To learn more about this pressing issue, and to consider priorities for prayer and action, please join us for the 2024 Canadian Religious Freedom Summit – Choosing Life in a Culture of Death: A Christian Response to MAID, taking place on February 3th, in person in Ottawa, and online. www.freedomsummit.ca

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