08 April 2014, The Tablet

Quebec election defeat stymies efforts to legalise euthanasia

The defeat in Canada of the separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ) in yesterday’s election has thrown into doubt long-planned legislation for euthanasia and the idea of a Secular Charter, which would have banned the overt display of religious symbols.

The defeat of Pauline Marois’ minority government is also being seen by observers as partly a rejection of ambitions to lead the province of Quebec to separation through a referendum.

The PQ during its 18-month tenure championed legislation providing for medically assisted euthanasia and introduced the idea of a Secular Charter, which would have banned the overt display large crosses, burkas, hijabs, kirpans, kippahs and turbans by public servants or anyone whose job received money or subsidies from the Quebec government.

While the euthanasia legislation met fierce opposition from Quebec’s Catholic Church, polls suggested it had wide support and, depending on the legislative agenda of the new Liberal government, a version of the bill could be re-introduced immediately.

The Liberals were responsible for ensuring the bill did not pass prior to the election. What is not yet clear is whether that was political gamesmanship designed to deny the PQ credit for a popular bill, or whether other motives were at play. The Liberals first raised euthanasia when they were the government in 2011. Quebec right-to-life groups believe it is only a matter of time before the Liberals bring in their own version of the law.

The Secular Charter, opposed by most religious bodies in the province, including the Quebec Assembly of Bishops, as well as most major ethnic rights groups, was much more polarising among the electorate and much more divisive in the National Assembly. It seems unlikely that a similar piece of legislation will be introduced, though the Liberals did commit during the campaign to the setting of clear rules about religious accommodation.

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99