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Aging and Disability

Clarifications following CBC's interview with Jean Vanier on assisted dying

Monday June 13, 2016

This statement was written by L'Arche Canada and the Association Jean Vanier (with the support of Jean) in order to respond to misunderstandings that have arisen since Jean Vanier spoke on As It Happens on May 31. It is our hope that the spotlight remains on the important message that Jean has brought to the world on the value of human life and community for over 50 years.

Response from Association Jean Vanier and L’Arche Canada


The core of the works and message of Jean Vanier is a deep affirmation of life and the recognition that human fragility and suffering are pathways to healing and communion with God and our fellow human beings. We need each other in order to become fully alive. We are called to build a world where all are valued regardless of our origins, ability, age or physical strength. In a letter written with Hollee Card, National Leader of L’Arche Canada, published in the Globe and Mail on March 1, 2016, they state, “More than anything, we have discovered that there is an inexplicable grace to be found in learning to accept ourselves and one another, not only because of our strengths but also because of our weaknesses and fragilities.”

In his recent interview on the CBC’s As It Happens, Jean continues to articulate this call to life and community. He observes that the movement of individual human rights has led the Supreme Court of Canada to obligate the Canadian Parliament to draft a law permitting medical assisted dying; in this context, Jean states unequivocally the needs for strong safeguards to limit access to this assistance to protect the vulnerable, to protect us all. L’Arche supports the Vulnerable Persons Standard that advocates for these safeguards. In addition vulnerable persons have the ‘communal right’ to strong palliative care and community-based supports that provide the care they need in life and in dying. Moreover, Jean argues for building a culture of life at all its stages, to create a society where we care for each other especially when we are most vulnerable.

Jean Vanier has long been opposed to euthanasia and is keenly aware of the threat to life that individuals with disabilities experience at every stage of life. He has never been a proponent of the legalization of physician assisted dying and has spoken often of the dangers that such legislation pose for vulnerable persons. Jean is not inconsistent with these beliefs when he states that one cannot oblige someone to live through an unrelenting agony. He is speaking with a deep humility and tremendous compassion for our human condition. When asked by Carol Off, on As It Happens, “…can you imagine circumstances in which you might choose to end your life, and to seek assistance to do so?” He said no, but humbly recognized that he has never lived with intense pain. He then goes on to speak of the life-affirming culture that he has helped cultivate in L’Arche that embraces dying and the celebration of life that follows.

Jean Vanier remains a compelling voice calling us to respect life,  “We must ensure that the best safeguards exist, while redoubling our commitment to caring for one another in the most fragile moments of each of our lives.”


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