In the end the court upheld the law against assisted
suicide, and it did so based on an affirmation of the sanctity of human life – though it was quick to clarify it used
the term in a secular sense that could be supported by all
The court also noted there may come a time when the
principle is no longer commonly and deeply held by Canadians – a warning that foundational principles need to continually be given life in the attitudes and actions of people.
It is one thing to have the principle stated in a court
decision (that 1993 decision was reaffirmed, by the way, in
2013 by the B.C. Court of Appeal). But it’s another thing for
it to continue to have legitimacy and authority in the minds
of lawmakers and judges – and in the actions of people.
The sanctity of human life implies two affirmations for
Christians. Firstly, that life is a gift from God and therefore
His, not ours. We are but stewards of this gift, not its author.
Secondly, that we cherish not only our own lives but the
lives of all His image bearers. Every human life has inestimable worth, not because of what I do but who I am.
As J. I. Packer told our interviewer (on page 24), rath-
er than pondering when my life should end, “The first
thought ought to be, ‘God has given me my life. He’s given
it to me for service in doxology, praise, in service of others,
in doing what you can for them, in saying what you can
to sustain them.’ ”
Thus the sanctity of human life is affirmed and re-
trenched, its value nurtured and its legitimacy sustained
as a result of us living our lives accordingly, in our worship
of God and our service and care for others.
It means seeing people for who they are, not what they
do – what my wife Tracy calls their “business card.” What we
do with the life God gives is important, but the very meaning
of our lives is rooted in our relationship to God as His image
bearers. This is sacred and cannot be diminished or denied.
Over the 50 years of the EFC’s engagement in social
issues, our primary task has been to advocate for the wisdom of principles such as the sanctity of human life, to
show how laws that reflect these principles contribute to
the public good. And we can celebrate a strong record of
how God has used us!
But it remains crucial that we all live out the meaning
of these principles and daily affirm, in word and deed, the
inestimable worth of each person. FT
bruCe J. CLeMenger is president of The Evangelical
Fellowship of Canada. read more of his columns at
www.theEFC.ca/clemenger. Please pray for our work. you
can also support it financially at www.theEFC.ca/donate
or toll-free 1-866-302-3362.
ThegatheringPlace n By BrUCE J. ClEMEnGEr
The sanctity of human life is a great example of a bib- lical principle that relates to both everyday Christian lives and Canadian law.
How it came to be argued in the Supreme Court of
Canada in 1993 – and then affirmed in the court’s pre-cedent-setting Rodriguez decision – is a wonderful story
Soon after I was hired by the EFC in 1992 I got a phone
call from Jennifer Leddy of the Canadian Conference of
Catholic Bishops, inviting the EFC to join an intervention
before the Supreme Court on assisted suicide.
The governing body of the EFC was actually set to meet
the next day. Back then seeking intervener status in court
was new to the EFC, but we got quick approval.
A few weeks later I headed to Ottawa to discuss the initial legal arguments with Leddy, Richard Haughian of the
Catholic Health Association of Canada, and Robert Nadeau,
a lawyer on the EFC’s Social Action Commission.
We agreed the draft arguments were not sufficient, and we
wondered how to instruct the law firm that would represent
us. We all sat still, searching for wisdom. I recall breaking the
silence and asking what arguments we should be making.
Robert Nadeau started us off, and we spent the evening
building the argument. We did not want the court to treat this
as a strictly legal matter, but to see it for what it was – a deep
and complex issue about the meaning of human life, and
how we as a society will affirm and protect all human life.
The criminal code is a moral code, and Canadian law
should reflect the underlying principles that shape how we
want to live as a nation. So we argued that the sanctity of human life was one of those basic principles upon which much
of Canadian social and health policy has been established –
and that allowing assisted suicide would undermine it.
We’re More Than
What We Do
sustaining the principles that shape our
laws and impact our lives.
Together for influence, impact and identity
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is the national association of
Evangelicals gathered together for influence, impact and identity
in ministry and public witness. since 1964 the EFC has provided a
national forum for Evangelicals and a constructive voice for biblical
principles in life and society. Visit us at www.theEFC.ca.