Special rapporteur on disability rights criticises Canada

Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, has criticised Canada for its failure to adequately protect the right to life of persons with disabilities.

Ms Devandas Aguilar is a Costa Rican lawyer. She herself has spina bifida and has worked extensively on disability rights and inclusive development for the past 20 years. Appointed on 1 December 2014 as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities her duties include conducting country visits "upon the invitation of the Government, to examine the state of protection of the human rights of persons with disabilities in the given country".

She visited Canada from 2 to 12 April 2019 and met with persons with disabilities, who she says "shared with me their situation, concerns and desires for change, including self-advocates with intellectual disabilities, persons with psychosocial disabilities, women and young girls from various socio-economic backgrounds, and indigenous persons with disabilities from across the country".

In her End of Mission statement delivered in Ottawa on 12 April 2019, Ms Devandas Aguilar addressed, among other concerns and under the heading "Right to Life" the impact of Canada's euthanasia laws on persons with disabilities.

I am extremely concerned about the implementation of the legislation on medical assistance in dying from a disability perspective. I have been informed that there is no protocol in place to demonstrate that persons with disabilities have been provided with viable alternatives when eligible for assistive dying.

I have further received worrisome claims about persons with disabilities in institutions being pressured to seek medical assistance in dying, and practitioners not formally reporting cases involving persons with disabilities.

I urge the federal government to investigate these complaints and put into place adequate safeguards to ensure that persons with disabilities do not request assistive dying simply because of the absence of community-based alternatives and palliative care.

Read more about euthanasia in Canada here including the stories of Candice Lewis and Roger Foley, two persons with disabilities who have been pressured by doctors and health care providers to request euthanasia. 

Read more here about the risk to persons with disabilities posed by any scheme that permits assisted suicide and euthanasia.

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