Right to Die
CCLA Worries About Unwarranted Restrictions On Free Speech And The Right To Information
Toronto - The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is concerned that Exit International, a prominent right-to-die organization, is facing undue restrictions in carrying out its work in Canada. CCLA recently learned that the Toronto Public Library (TPL) refused to rent a library meeting room to Exit International, due to concerns about the content of one of its workshops. The organization faced a further limit on its right to expression by the Television Bureau of Canada (TBC). Exit International sought the Bureau's advice about obtaining approval for a television ad and was advised that having the organization's name, logo or web address anywhere on the commercial is not acceptable under the Criminal Code as "it could direct viewers to the web to find out more and this would result in the viewer finding out that the organization provides seminars and information that promote, educate and counsel individuals on how to commit suicide."
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes that the unduly restrictive interpretations of the law on the part of the TPL and the TBC constitute unwarranted constraints on freedom of speech and the right to information.
Exit International, an Australian non-profit organization, provides information on and advocates for end-of-life choices. In the case of the Toronto Public Library decision, the TPL did not object to the session that provides general information to members of the public, but denied a room rental for the workshop portion of the event which is limited to individuals over 50 years of age or who are seriously ill. This session is intended to provide a safe space for further discussion of the issues raised in the public information portion of the session and to discuss practical end of life choices.
After being alerted to the CCLA's concerns, the TPL responded that they received legal advice that, while the matter was not free from doubt, the conduct of the tutorial portion of the program might constitute the offence of counseling or aiding or abetting suicide. The CCLA remains deeply concerned that public debate on the important issue of the right to die will be silenced as a result of TPL's decision.
The CCLA's opinion is that providing information, even to a targeted audience is not aiding or abetting suicide and invites the TPL to reconsider its denial of access to library premises. In the CCLA's opinion, the Toronto Public Library ought to consider the impact of freedom of expression in reaching decisions to deny use of its premises.
Furthermore, the decision of the Television Bureau of Canada is, in CCLA's opinion, tantamount to a ban on Exit International's advertisement, and demonstrates a desire to keep the Canadian public in the dark about their end-of-life choices.