Of suicides and definitions

CBC reports that the town of Woodstock, Ontario, has seen a crisis of suicides and suicide attempts among their youth in recent months. Experts are baffled as to the cause, or how to resolve the issue.

It seems fairly clear to me that the solution is actually just around the corner, thanks to the Supreme Court of Canada and our Members of Parliament. We will see an end to suicide in our lifetime.

Proponents of Bill C-14 – the so-called “assisted dying” bill – want to ensure that the provisions in that bill are not limited to those who are old and physically dying, but are lovingly extended to minors, and those who are in mental anguish (even if their physical bodies are in fine working order). Per the National Post,

The court did not say people need to be terminal. It did not define “adult,” opening the door, some have argued, to mature minors, and said the suffering could be psychological and not just physical.

The group “Dying with Dignity Canada” has a policy framework that is suspiciously silent with respect to both the question of age and the question of “what exactly is wrong with the person who wants to die?” Such silence in their policy statements means they do not recommend imposing any such limitations. Young, old, terminally ill, mentally “anguished;” come one, come all.

According to the news report, those who killed themselves in Woodstock were youth, so the proposed extension of the provisions of the law to minors would cover them. Furthermore, they apparently have “been through nightmares,” they struggle with depression, they may be stressed, and even bullied. So the “mental anguish” provision that proponents are fighting for seems to fit like a glove.

All of this points to a remarkably simple solution to the suicide problem – just relabel it. No longer are these students “killing themselves” they are, to slightly paraphrase the debate, pursuing “unassisted dying.” In fact, if Bill C-14 – or something very similar to it – comes into effect, it seems fairly clear the entire concept of “suicide” will have been successfully eradicated from the Canadian vocabulary. Instead, we simply have those who sought “assisted dying” and those who took care of matters on their own. No more suicides. Ever. Canada will be legitimately “suicide free.”

Problem solved.

This would have been an equally effective solution to the Attawapiskat state of emergency earlier this year.

Once this new Bill gets passed it would seem the only remaining problem is the fact that the Canadian government has let these youth down by not protecting their Charter right to medical assistance; by not ensuring they had a doctor on hand to administer the “medicine.” That is the great moral tragedy of the situation; certainly not the fact that they both wanted to die and acted on that desire. There’s nothing wrong with that!


Maybe I’ve offended you. Perhaps you think it is tasteless to try and take advantage of the emotions of this situation to make a political point.

Good. Be offended. I’ll be honest; I’m offended! Every single time I hear people tugging at our heartstrings with stories of people in tragic situations who want to kill themselves I am reminded that proponents of these laws absolutely will not hesitate to thrust a whole bunch of emotional manipulation up in our faces instead of attempting to actually offer carefully reasoned arguments. That seems to be how things are done in Canada these days, and that offends me. Deeply.

But here’s the key question Canadians need to take seriously, and think about philosophically instead of just stacking depressing stories upon depressing stories,

Why are the deaths in Woodstock considered “suicides” that ought to have been prevented, but the deaths covered by Bill C-14 considered “dying with dignity” and they must be permitted / assisted?

I would argue that any distinction is completely arbitrary; the two are functionally identical. The only reason we tend to think of them as different is because Canadians are being subjected to a marketing campaign by a group of lobbyists who are well versed in the field of branding. Language is everything. They branded it the “assisted dying” bill instead of the “assisted suicide” bill, or the “right to murder” bill, or even the “If you want to kill your loved one, we’ll force a doctor to do the deed for you so that you can go on with your guilt-free life” bill. Call it what you want, though, the facts of the matter remain. Youth in Woodstock wanted to end their lives, and they did. Seniors in a hospice want to end their lives, and doctors are allowed to assist them.

There is no difference.

Instead of sending psychologists to Woodstock to persuade the youth that they should not kill themselves, we should be sending doctors with “medicine,” ready to help those youth – intolerably suffering under the irremediable burden of “mental anguish” – on their way.

If, like me, you are sickened and offended by that thought, contact your local MP because Parliament and the Supreme Court are about to do the exact same thing to folks in hospices.


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