Manitoba·Point of View

Disability rights advocate opposes expanding assistance in dying

"I am a disabled female academic. I have four university degrees. I am very happily married and I have a great job. Yet I have never felt more vulnerable as an individual," writes University of Manitoba academic Nancy Hansen.

Bill C-7 'calls into question my worth and validity as a human being,' says Nancy Hansen

'"Equity, diversity and inclusion" is not a simple turn of phrase,' says Nancy Hansen. (Submitted by Nancy Hansen)

In February 2021, senators voted to amend and expand Canada's assisted dying law. Bill C-7, if passed, will expand access to assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the natural end of their lives. Disability rights advocates say the bill sends the message that life with a disability is a fate worse than death.

This is an open letter to parliamentarians about that perspective.


Hello.

I am a disabled female academic. I have four university degrees. I am very happily married and I have a great job.

I have advocated for disability rights throughout my life.

We are living in an era when disabled people have more human rights recognition provincially, nationally and internationally than ever before. I live in a city that is the cradle of the disability rights movement. Yet I have never felt more vulnerable as an individual.

Disability is not a fate worse than death- Nancy Hansen

Bill C-7 sickens me at my very core and calls into question my worth and validity as a human being. It is a substantive manifestation of the tentative nature of my social  positioning — that can be swept away in an instant.  

Ableism is percolating just below the surface. 

Much of what is 'known' about disability in the public domain is drawn from myth, misconception, fear and ignorance. Disability is not a fate worse than death. Why is it easier to access medical assistance in dying in many jurisdictions than supports and services to live with dignity? 

We must move beyond simplistic, one-dimensional  understandings of disability- Nancy Hansen

There is more than a little irony here. "Equity, diversity and inclusion" is not a simple turn of phrase. It takes work and a serious shift in perspective. It is certainly not a fast track to death. 

Bill C-7 in its current form sets the stage for another court challenge. 

It is 2021 and it is profoundly disturbing that I am having to justify my existence. We must move beyond simplistic, one-dimensional understandings of disability.


This column is part of  CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy Hansen is an associate professor and director of the University of Manitoba's interdisciplinary master's program in disability studies. She is the co-author of The Routledge History of Disability.

now