As It Happens

Trudeau on why he’s pushing for physician-assisted dying

Inspired by his father, even in death. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau describes Pierre Trudeau's final diagnosis and how it informs his own politics when it comes to doctor-assisted suicide.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he personally believes the Supreme Court of Canada was right to strike down the ban on doctor-assisted death. Trudeau speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, February 18, 2015. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)

For him, it’s personal. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau says his father’s final days inform his views when it comes to doctor-assisted death. So earlier this week, and in light of the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling striking down the ban on physician-assisted suicide, Trudeau put forward a motion to set up a special committee to debate the issue and to develop a legal framework allowing Canadians to seek medical help to end their lives.

Trudeau’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, died in 2000 after being diagnosed with both prostate cancer and Parkinson’s Disease.

"He didn't want to go through the kind of aggressive treatments that might have been there for his cancer, but would have degraded significantly his health and his lucidity in his final months," Trudeau tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

Trudeau says his father was always clear that he wanted to end his life with dignity. He was ill and he didn’t want to endure treatment.

"Having suffered the death of my youngest brother Michel just two years before his own passing, he had sort of felt it was time for him to let go," says Trudeau.

“An awful lot of Canadians have experienced and accompanied their loved ones through difficult moments at the end of their lives," says Trudeau. "Many more have had difficult conversations with their aging parents, for example, to understand their wishes. And I think the Supreme Court clearly said that it’s a violation of Canadians’ fundamental rights to have the current legislation in place. So it’s given us 12 months to go back to the drawing board and figure out a way to both uphold Canadians’ rights and protect the most vulnerable."

The Liberal leader also spoke about his support of Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism legislation currently being debated on the Hill.

“I have said from the very beginning that the measures in this bill that actually increase in a concrete and immediate (way) the security of Canadians means that we are going to support the bill.  However, we have very real concerns about the lack of oversight, the lack of review, and the overly broad scope of some of the provisions and definitions in the bill.”

Trudeau says he doesn’t want to make it a partisan issue and that the security of Canadians should not be used as a way to score political points.

“Canadians are going to have an opportunity very soon to choose a government that will follow their wishes.”

He dismisses concerns that his stance on Bill C-51 does not reflect traditional Liberal values, pointing out that the bill will be debated at committee and that’s where his Liberal colleagues will voice their concerns about oversight.

When asked to tell Canadians what he stands for, Trudeau answers, "I highly recommend people pick up my book 'Common Ground'." (Trudeau says that he's not trying to plug his book and that all proceeds go to the Red Cross.) The book shares, "how this country shaped my values and my perspective and . . . my view for the future."