May 26, 2014

Archbishop Richard Smith has supported a federal NDP member of Parliament's motion calling for a national palliative care strategy while also denouncing "sustained pressure" for the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The motion by MP Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay) "is worthy of our support and I am pleased to add my voice and that of the Archdiocese of Edmonton to those of others who endorse it," Smith said in a May 8 statement.


Angus has said it would be "pre-emptive" to discuss euthanasia without first putting a palliative care strategy in place.

Angus, who is Catholic, expressed concern the conversation about palliative care as a common sense solution to concerns about end-of-life care could be "derailed" by a debate on assisted suicide and euthanasia. Conservative MP Stephen Fletcher has introduced two private member's bills favouring those options.


Smith said as our loved ones approach the end of their lives, "we want their inalienable dignity as human beings and children of God to be honoured and respected."

The legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide "run counter to this dignity," he said.

Smith told the WCR he issued the statement because he is seeing a tendency "to confuse terminology" in ways that may lead people to back legislation that they really do not support.

"The most egregious example of that that we have seen recently," he said, was the former Quebec government's bill that described assisted suicide as "medical-aid-in-dying" as though it were part of the very concept of health care.

By supporting Angus' motion in favour of palliative care, Smith said he also wanted to clarify that the Church does not support deliberate attempts to end life.


In his statement, he said, "Palliative care serves to surround a person with the spiritual, medical, psychological and social supports necessary to affirm and uphold their dignity and assure the best quality of life possible as they approach natural death.

"It excludes euthanasia, which is the deliberate killing of someone, with or without that person's consent, in order to eliminate all suffering.

"Likewise does palliative care not include assisted suicide, by which a person provides the means for another to kill him or herself."

(The archbishop's full statement is available online at: