Assisted Dying, Suspended Declarations, and Dialogue’s Time

University of Toronto Law Journal, Forthcoming

28 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2019 Last revised: 23 Mar 2019

See all articles by Robert Leckey

Robert Leckey

McGill University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: February 24, 2019


How long does it take the elected branches of government to study complex policy questions and develop legislation that respects constitutional rights? Judges often suspend for 12 months declarations that a law unjustifiably limits a right protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Dialogue theorists praise such suspensions for allowing the legislative and executive branches to act. The paper recounts the experiences of the governments of Quebec and of Canada in grappling with assisted suicide en route to legislating. It concludes that tackling a serious policy issue – including research, public education and consultation, and meaningful deliberation – may take much longer than 12 months. Consequent possible changes to judicial practice include granting fewer suspensions and prompting fuller debate in court on the appropriate order. As for dialogue theorists, they might better align their justifications of suspensions with legislative realities.

Keywords: Charter remedies, assisted dying, Carter v Canada (Attorney General), suspended declarations, judicial review

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Leckey, Robert, Assisted Dying, Suspended Declarations, and Dialogue’s Time (February 24, 2019). University of Toronto Law Journal, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Robert Leckey (Contact Author)

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec
514-398-4148 (Phone)
514-398-4659 (Fax)

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