Tighten assisted-suicide legislation, says local MP

Canada’s Criminal Code may not be clear enough when dealing with people who assist others to commit suicide, says the MP for Kitchener-Conestoga.

Conservative Harold Albrecht this week held a media conference with Deborah Chevalier, the mother of Nadia Kajouji, a Carleton University student who was counselled to commit suicide. Her body was found in the Ottawa River in the spring of 2008. A male nurse in Minnesota has been allegedly connected to her suicide death and four other suicides worldwide.

With this week’s event, the two were looking to spread awareness about the issue of assisted suicide and to drum up support for the Private Member’s motion (M-388) that Albrecht tabled in May. That motion could be debated in the fall.

“Part of my goal is being realized in simply drawing attention to this as a risk – obviously, the end goal we want to see [is] these words in the legislation,” said Albrecht in an interview, noting that the lack of clarity in the Criminal Code could allow for a dangerous loophole. As it reads now, the code makes no specific mention of modern tools such as computers and mobile phones and their use in assisted suicides.

His motion calls upon the government to ensure that counselling a person to commit suicide or aiding or abetting a person to commit suicide is an offence “regardless of the means used to counsel or aid or abet, including via telecommunications, the Internet or a computer system.” Albrecht wants that new wording to be included in the code.

Some argue that the fact current legislation doesn’t specify methods or types of technology means, by default, all methods are included and that any method of encouraging a person to commit suicide is a criminal offence.
Albrecht is not so sure, however. He believes that making specific mention of certain technologies would be a better safeguard against potential loopholes, and, in an “Internet age,” would send a stronger deterrent message to “anyone who might think they could lurk in an anonymous fashion.”

Nadia Kajouji, 18 at the time of her March 2008 disappearance, had entered some Internet chat rooms looking for comfort as she struggled with depression. Roughly a month after disappearing, her body was found in the Ottawa River and police deemed the death a suicide. The investigation eventually widened, and a male nurse in Minnesota was connected to the case allegedly having counselled Kajouji and others to end their lives.

Albrecht contacted Kajouji’s family after following her story in the Ottawa media.

“The whole issue of assisted suicide is one that I feel strongly about. I think all of us at one point or another have gone through some periods of discouragement or depression, and for those for whom it’s a little longer period of time, what we don’t need is someone coming along and encouraging us to end it all or throw away the very gift of life,” said Albrecht, adding that the motion has received support from members of various parties.

The motion will be up for debate in September.

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