Seven in ten Canadians voice approval of assisted suicide, largely unchanged over the past two decades. Support for this policy is highest and rising in Quebec, Atlantic Canada and BC, and since 1994 has increased among Canadians 45 and older.
Background. Committing suicide, or assisting someone to do so, is illegal in Canada, despite being tested in the courts on several occasions over the past two decades. The Supreme Court’s 1993 Sue Rodriguez decision reaffirmed the prohibition, and just this month the BC Court of Appeals overturned an earlier BC Court decision that at the time ruled the ban on assisted suicide unconstitutional. But the issue is far from dead. Several US states and other countries (Netherlands, Switzerland) now allow assisted suicide (with no apparent problems or public backlash). Quebec is now looking at legalizing the practice, and for the first time it was on the agenda at the recent meeting of provincial Health Ministers.
The prohibition against assisted suicide is ostensibly because it goes against the value society places on the sanctity of life. But how do Canadians feel about this issue, and how have opinions evolved over the past two decades? These questions were addressed in a just-completed national public opinion survey conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research. This survey is part of the Institute’s ongoing Focus Canada research program, and draws upon comparable surveys and survey questions dating back over time. In this case, the survey repeated two questions on assisted suicide that were asked on previous surveys conducted in 1992, 1994, 1997, 2000, and 2004. The current survey was conducted by telephone October 1 to 17, 2013, with a representative sample of 2,003 Canadians (aged 18 and over).
Keywords: government policy/priorities, assisted suicide/euthanasia, social values