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Montrealers who challenged assisted dying laws see ruling as ‘ray of hope’

Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, the two Montrealers who challenged the country’s assisted dying laws, say a ruling that deemed parts of the legislation too restrictive should be seen as a victory for those who struggle with debilitating conditions.

Speaking before reporters at their lawyer’s office, Gladu said she views the decision, issued Wednesday, as a “ray of hope” in a life that has become increasingly difficult.

“Now, it’s really a matter of personal decision. It’s up to me or it’s up to Mr. Truchon or other people like us to decide if we prefer the quality of life to the quantity of life,” Gladu said.

The 74-year-old, who uses a wheelchair, has post-polio syndrome, a condition that has weakened her muscles and reactivated her childhood scoliosis. At this point, even breathing has become difficult, she said, but her death isn’t imminent.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin determined provisions in the existing federal and provincial assisted-dying laws that require death to be “reasonably foreseeable” are an infringement on the “life, liberty and security of the person” under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Baudouin gave the federal and provincial governments six months to come up with something new before suspending that provision of the laws.

It also granted an exemption to Gladu and Truchon that allows them to apply for medically assisted death immediately.

When asked about her next steps, Gladu said she is still “digesting” the judgment and wants to consult with her friends before deciding what to do.

“I don’t know,” Gladu said. “It’s a politician’s answer, but believe me, I don’t know.” 

Speaking through a friend, given his own difficulties with speech, Truchon said he will live through the winter and spring and, “after that, we’ll see.”

Truchon, who has cerebral palsy and no longer has the use of his four limbs, said the ruling represents a “victory for social justice” and gives people the right to die, which he sees as “a privilege.” 

Truchon, who has cerebral palsy, has been fighting for the right to have access to medically assisted dying. He said the ruling represents a ‘victory for social justice’ and gives people the right to die, which he sees as ‘a privilege.’ (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Leaders react on campaign trail

The federal and provincial governments have 30 days to appeal the decision, which means before the Oct. 21 election.

Gladu and Truchon’s lawyer, Jean-Pierre Ménard, urged both levels of government not to file an appeal and to change their laws as soon as possible.

On the campaign trail, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Thursday the government is still studying the issue. 

Lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard, who represents Gladu and Truchon, urged both levels of government not to file an appeal and to change their laws as soon as possible. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

“We look forward to reading very carefully the court judgment to decide what our next steps will be,” he said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, as well, said his team is still studying the decision, while the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh said he’s ready to have a “larger conversation” about improving access to assisted dying.

Quebec Premier François Legault, for his part, welcomed the ruling, saying it is one more reason for the province to review the law. His government announced earlier this year it would look at extending access to assisted dying.

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CBC | Health News