In Brief


Manitobans to speak to euthanasia panel

A Manitoba-based advocacy group for the disabled will intervene today in a B.C. court case addressing the issue of assisted suicide.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities is joining the federal and B.C. governments in appealing a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of Canada's euthanasia laws.

In June 2012, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled because suicide itself is not illegal, aspects of the law preventing assisted suicide in all circumstances discriminated against people with disabilities who needed help to end their lives. Justice Lynn Smith said the laws, which bar anyone to counsel or assist anyone else to commit suicide, may even force someone with a debilitating disease to end their life earlier than they would want in order to be able to do it themselves.

The case was brought by five plaintiffs including a woman with Lou Gehrig's disease. Ottawa was ordered to rewrite the sections of the Criminal Code dealing with assisted suicide.

The federal government announced it would appeal the decision in June.

Jim Derksen, a member of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities' committee on end-of-life ethics, said Monday singling out people with disabilities as eligible for assisted suicide sets them apart from others. He said society has all sorts of programs and mechanisms to prevent able-bodied people from committing suicide, but those with disabilities are treated differently through this decision.

"If we legislate the machinery to usher people out of life we are formally articulating a bias against disability," he said.

B.C. lawyer heads human rights group

A British Columbia lawyer and consultant is the new executive director of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.

Joan Braun has worked in the public-interest law sector for the last decade and oversaw the development of the first legal aid clinic in Western Canada to exclusively provide services to vulnerable and 'at-risk' older adults.

"Manitobans have a strong human rights commission with its staff doing the full scope of work from investigation to mediation to awareness," Braun said in a statement on Monday.

"I am looking forward to building on what is already here."

Braun is currently the vice-chairwoman of the Canadian Bar Association's alternate dispute resolution national section.

Braun replaces Dianna Scarth, who left last year after almost 16 years as the commission's executive director to begin teaching at the University of Winnipeg.

Boost housing allowance: Pallister

MANITOBA Conservative Leader Brian Pallister has provided a boost to anti-poverty advocates who have long lobbied for an increase in the social assistance housing allowance. …

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