Monday, August 8, 2016

Justice minister hires academic who thinks Supreme Court erred on assisted dying

Gregoire Webber,  photo Queens Law
Gregoire Webber has argued the court's rulings were effectively legislating

By Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has hired a new legal affairs adviser who once argued that the Supreme Court over-stepped its bounds when it struck down the ban on medically assisted dying. . . .

Gregoire Webber is touted as a brilliant and highly respected legal scholar by fellow academics but his appointment has nevertheless raised some eyebrows given his past criticism of last year's landmark decision.

Shanaaz Gokool, president of Dying with Dignity Canada, says it raises another flag about the kind of advice Wilson-Raybould is relying upon when it comes to crafting laws governing the right of Canadians to seek medical help to end intolerable suffering.

Even before Webber's recent appointment, advocates of a permissive approach to assisted dying had complained that Wilson-Raybould was relying too heavily on advice from Justice Department officials who had spent years arguing in court against legalization of medically assisted death.. . .

Webber argued top court was 'legislating'

The ruling known as the Carter decision was one of three cases Webber cited in the blog post to argue more broadly that the Supreme Court is effectively rewriting Canada's Constitution, circumventing the formal amendment process that would require the approval of Parliament and at least seven provinces.

In doing so, he said: "the court is not only opposing legislative measures introduced by the government, but it is also proposing and enacting new measures. It is legislating."

While that's not necessarily a violation of the court's role, Webber wrote, "The point is rather this: if the court legislates in introducing new constitutional rights and duties, it is doing some of the governing, to which the question presents itself — who stands as thhe opposition to this governing?"

Given those views, Gokool said she'd like clarification about what role Webber will play on the assisted dying file in future.

"It just raises a flag of who's being relied upon to provide legal advice to the justice minister," Gokool said. "It doesn't seem from our perspective that the justice minister has gotten well-balanced legal advice."

Joanne Ghiz, a spokeswoman for Wilson-Raybould, said Webber is "a qualified legal expert and he will help the minister deliver on her mandate letter."

"We are very proud of the calibre and diversity of experience and expertise in the individuals joining our team across government," she added.

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