Webcast Archive: No Free Choice – Raymond Bourbonnais

This week: we look at the factors that drove Raymond Bourbonnais to choose euthanasia, and the Ministers of Justice and Health want to extend the suspension of the Truchon decision to pass Bill C-7.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we will not present our webcast, due to technical problems caused by heavy internet usage. However we are providing the text as a bulletin to offer up-to-date information about assisted suicide, euthanasia and ending-of-life practices for the disability community.


  • Raymond Bourbonnais was euthanized in December of 2019 after living in a Québec nursing home (CHSLD) for 13 months. During that time he filed complaints about inadequate staffing, other residents assaulting him and taking his things, and not being able to have an air conditioner in his room.
  • Mr. Bourbonnais had to move to a nursing home in November 2018 from a private residence for seniors because his worsening spinal muscular atrophy meant he needed more personal care.  He thought the best option was the CHSLD in the town of Valcourt, where his son lives, but he was disappointed. 
  • He found that staffing shortages and logistical problems sometimes caused delays of more than an hour after summoning help, and resulted in missed pain medications. 
  • Mr. Bourbonnais was not able to open the window in his room and the only way to stay cool during the summer was to keep the door to the (air conditioned) corridor open. This also opened the door to noise and unwanted visitors, causing stress and loss of sleep. “There is a lady who moves all my things. And since I am paralyzed, I no longer have them at hand. And a man, always the same person, has repeatedly attacked me physically; he shakes my arm or grabs my buttocks.” These problems only improved when the troublesome residents became too disabled to get around independently.
  • He waited nearly two months for a response to his request to install an air conditioner. His request was denied because management said the electrical system couldn’t meet the demand.
  • Imagine if, instead of paying for care in a nursing home, those funds had been given directly to Mr. Bourbonnais, to hire attendants to work in his home. If he needed round-the-clock care, sharing a two-bedroom apartment with a live-in attendant and hiring other staff to help with daytime tasks would have given him control over his environment and his life. Direct funding of personal care could have been a dignified, economical, and in the end, a life-saving alternative for Raymond Bourbonnais.  


  • When the Québec superior court decided the Truchon case in September of 2019, it delayed the effect of the decision for six months, to allow governments to bring the law into line with the decision. The federal election (declared the same day as the ruling came down) shut down Parliament, so the Justice Minister asked for, and received, an extension until July 11 to adopt bill C-7, which was tabled in February. Then COVID-19 halted all parliamentary activity unrelated to the pandemic, so the federal government is asking for another extension until December 18.
  • While the suspension is in effect, the law stands as it did before the court issued the Truchon decision; in Québec only people at the “end-of-life” are eligible for euthanasia, while in the rest of Canada, the person’s natural death must be “reasonably foreseeable.”  Should the court decide not to grant the extension, Québecers would be eligible for euthanasia whether or not they are at the end of life.
  • According to a statement from Justice Minister Lametti and Health Minister Patty Hajdu; “Without this extension, the ‘reasonable foreseeability of natural death’ criterion from the federal law will no longer be applicable in the province of Quebec on July 12, but would remain in effect in other provinces and territories. This means that criminal law would no longer be applied consistently across the country.”


  • The Canadian Human Rights Commission ensures that non-discrimination laws are complied with, and has the responsibility to both promote and protect human rights. As a part of that role, the Commission was recently given a new responsibility; to monitor the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Canada. This is a huge mandate; the convention contains 30 rights-related articles, and the optional protocol has 18, that affect the activities of federal, provincial, territorial and local governments, as well as private entities.
  • The Commission is asking people to fill out an online survey to provide guidance on how it should ensure Canada complies with the CRPD. This is a chance to affect how the human rights commission will make the CRPD work for disabled Canadians.