The Assembly of Quebec Bishops (AECQ) has expressed opposition to Quebec's euthanasia Bill 52 and warned the proposed Charter of Quebec Values could backfire.
At a Sept. 19 news conference in Trois-Rivières, Que., AECQ president Archbishop Pierre-Andre Fournier of Rimouski outlined the Quebec bishops' concerns Bill 52 would bring in euthanasia under the guise of "medical aid in dying."
"We can understand the powerlessness one feels before someone at the end of life who experiences suffering, anxiety and anguish," Fournier told journalists during the Quebec's bishops' plenary assembly.
"We are sensitive to their need for compassion, for care and for accompaniment."
"Jesus has always been close to people who are suffering," he said. "He was never indifferent before suffering."
Though Quebec has seen promising developments in the area of palliative care in recent decades, more than half of the population has no access to it, Fournier said.
Quebec should invest its resources and energy in expanding access to palliative care, not euthanizing people, he said.
"We do not accept that a lethal injection or other means used to cause the end of a patient's life should be considered a form of care, or that it is an acceptable therapy," he said.
"We have always counted on our doctors, nurses and medical personnel to take care of us, those who are sick, to care for us and fight for us, never to cause death."
True care of the dying puts the accent on accompanying those who are suffering, not only those who are sick, but also their families who must watch the slow death of a loved one, he said.
The euthanasia bill comes at a time when Quebec's population is aging and the increased numbers of elderly people create challenges, he said. Instead of euthanasia, the priority must be on training and support for all involved in end-of-life care.
On behalf of the AECQ, Fournier also relayed concerns about the proposed Charter of Quebec Values that would establish Quebec as a secular state and ban the wearing of any religious symbols or attire by anyone working in the province's public sector.
Fournier stressed the fundamental rights of religious freedom and of conscience, citing the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
He also said it is reasonable to affirm the state as secular, quoting Jesus who said in the Gospel of Matthew: Render to Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God's.
"While it may be true that the state is secular, society is pluralist. Under this spiritual plan, people are free to believe or not believe. There is no official religion, but no official atheism, either."
Real neutrality on the part of the state means it will take measures to ensure people can live their faith and express themselves fully, he said.
Fournier said it is reasonable for a government to set out a framework for the reasonable accommodation of religions to better allow people to live together, but it does not seem necessary to restrict public employees from wearing religious symbols.