FUREY

Suicide and the so-cons

By Anthony Furey, Postmedia Network

The Supreme Court of Canada last week voted 9-0 to overturn a ban on physician-assisted suicide. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

The Supreme Court of Canada last week voted 9-0 to overturn a ban on physician-assisted suicide. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Was the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling on assisted-suicide the death knell for social conservatism in Canada?

In some sense, yes. At least when it comes to enforcing their worldview via legislation. But in another respect, it may signal a new beginning.

Through either court rulings, votes in the House or simple public opinion, the past decade has seen the country soften how it thinks about same-sex marriage, prostitution, marijuana usage and now some versions of euthanasia.

A decadent society by socially conservative standards to be sure. But good news for those of us who want the government out of it all.

It’s a no-brainer that an adult of sound mind, living in a free society, should be able to end their own life on their own terms if confronted with relentless pain.

You don’t have to agree with their decision. You don’t have to join them. You just have to not stand in their way.

That said, it’s not outlandish for interest groups to have concerns about what parliament will put into any legislation on the matter. The court has given the government 12 months to come up with a law in response.

“Slippery slope” is an overused term, but it seems to apply in the case of Europe’s versions of assisted-suicide. For example in Belgium over a quarter of such deaths are conducted without patient consent.

But these are just things to keep in mind as we construct our own laws – caveats to include in the fine print. They’re certainly not reasons to say the entire court ruling is hogwash.

So where does that leave the so-con corner of the centre-right tent?

The wise path forward for them would be to give up trying to force their worldview on others via legislation and instead focus on trying to persuade people to just not make what they consider bad choices.

Don’t think people should be opting to end their lives? Then dissuade them. Convince them otherwise. Create a society – perhaps through palliative care improvements – where they don’t even want to.

Drop the pointless non-starters, like opposition to gay rights (and, in fairness, many groups have toned down on this).

Instead focus on encouraging people to make certain choices about drugs or prostitution. And double underline that word “choices." Because that’s what it’s all about. That’s why the courts are ruling how they are, not out of some "activist" agenda as some allege.

Last year I wrote columns arguing that consenting adults should be able to engage in prostitution, then made the follow-up argument that instead of pestering otherwise law-abiding citizens we should redirect our policing resources to tackle the real crimes: child exploitation, human trafficking, abuse of vulnerable women, etc.

Many great wits saw fit to ask if that meant I was supportive of my hypothetical daughter becoming a prostitute.

But believing someone shouldn’t be jailed for doing something you personally wouldn’t do isn’t the same as saying you want everyone in your family doing it.

In other words, you can create the society you want to live in through mechanisms other than the law.

Isn’t it a very conservative notion, after all, to insist that social standards come from the community rather than top-down government edict?

If the so-cons drop their legislative fights that seem doomed to fail and focus on this approach, they could breathe life into their movement in a way that won’t see them at odds with much of society. They might even succeed in persuading a few people.

 


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