Tom Crean has been fighting greed, corruption and the Culture of Death in Canada for decades.
A member of Legatus’ Vancouver Chapter, Crean and other pro-life activists are sounding the alarm as Canada’s parliament, responding to a Supreme Court ruling last year, is poised to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.
“Are we actually going to empower the state to make it legal to kill people? To make it legal for our kids to kill us? This is the point my country has gotten to,” said Crean, whose family for three generations has owned Kearney Funeral Services in Vancouver.
From his perspective in the “death care profession,” Crean said he has seen Canadian society become desensitized to, even being in denial of, death. Many now consider death to be an inconvenience when it touches their lives — even when relatives become sick or infirm, he said.
The gravity of the situation facing Canada is part of the reason why Crean has a strong interest in media education and getting the word out to citizens and members of parliament as to why they should be concerned about the latest threat to life.
“The government’s worst nightmare is an intelligent citizen, just as a corporation’s worst nightmare is an intelligent consumer,” Crean said. “We the people need to understand that to provide a future for our kids, it’s going to be in total opposition to the powers that exist, not in cooperation with them.”
In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a 9-0 decision to remove all restrictions on state-sanctioned suicide, ruling that the previous prohibition violated the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which makes up the first portion of Canada’s Constitution.
The high court ordered parliament to pass a new law by June 5 liberalizing assisted suicide and making an accommodation for euthanasia when someone is unable to self-administer the lethal dose or injection.
In February, a special parliamentary committee delivered a report with 21 recommendations to reform the law. The report included some troubling recommendations, such as permitting euthanasia for children and those with mental illness. The report also stated that all medical professionals have a legal obligation either to provide “medical assistance in dying” or to refer a patient to someone who will help end their lives.
On April 14, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government unveiled Bill C-14, legislation that would amend the country’s criminal code to permit euthanasia and assisted suicide. While considered to be more moderate than the committee report, the bill would still create a regime that critics say will pave the way for wide-open euthanasia.
“At a time when our priority should be fostering a culture of love and enhancing resources for those suffering and facing death, assisted suicide leads us down a dark path,” Cardinal Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, said in a statement. He encouraged all those troubled by the prospect of assisted suicide to contact their members of parliament.
“At first sight, it may seem an attractive option, a quick and merciful escape from the suffering that can be experienced in life, but fuller reflection reveals its grim implications — not only for the individual but for our society and especially for those who are most vulnerable.”
However, that message has not gotten through the vast majority of Canadian citizens, said Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition, Canada’s oldest and largest pro-life organization.
“Everybody I talk to says, ‘This can’t be happening here,’ but the problem is that 99% of the people are still ignorant of what all this means,” said Hughes, an At-Large member of Legatus.
Hughes, considered by many to be the father of Canada’s pro-life movement, said fighting against the Culture of Death’s advances in Canada is as like repeatedly “getting kicked in the stomach,” adding that even Supreme Court justices appointed by conservative prime ministers have turned out to be activist judges.
In 1988, the Canada’s Supreme Court effectively removed all restrictions on abortion when it struck down a 1969 law that first liberalized Canadian abortion laws. The ruling made Canada one of a small number of countries without a law restricting abortion, treating it like any other medical procedure.
Hughes said Bill C-14 is “so loosely worded, it’s ridiculous.” He said the law would open the door for widespread euthanasia and has no conscience protections for Catholic and other religiously affiliated medical facilities and physicians.
“People in the United States need to be informed on these issues before it’s too late and they’re ramming it down your throats there,” Hughes said.
Cover for murder
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, which is based in London, Ontario, said the movement to legalize euthanasia in Canada has turned the concept of mercy upside down.
“It’s now considered merciful for me to kill you,” Schadenberg said. “Compassion is a lethal injection. That is a very dangerous concept.”
Schadenberg said Bill C-14 mirrors other countries’ assisted suicide regimes in that the law lacks adequate oversight. No government representatives or neutral third parties are required to monitor whether a patient has a “serious or incurable illness” that has brought them “enduring physical or psychological suffering.”
In fact, Schadenberg said, the law even permits anyone — not just a physician or nurse practitioner — to carry out the act.
“The bill provides a perfect cover for acts of murder,” Schadenberg said. “It shows you just how bad my country is going.”
Crean has seen that trend since the late 1970s when he started building an interfaith alliance to stop a large funeral home conglomerate from acquiring Vancouver’s only public cemetery. He helped organize dozens of different churches and ethnic groups that marched on city hall and declared that their heritage was not for sale.
“And the most astonishing thing happened,” Crean said. “We won.”
In 1978, at age 21, Crean took the helm of the family business, which his grandfather, Thomas James Kearney, started more than 100 years ago. Kearney Funeral Services has since been able to operate and thrive in Greater Vancouver where large conglomerates control much of the industry.
Crean said he is committed to fighting the Culture of Death in the trenches, adding that he’s involved in initiatives to build hospice and medical facilities — and to establish a cooperative community cemetery that he said will revolutionize the death care profession.
“The great thing about a journey of faith,” Crean said, “is that you don’t always have an idea of where you’re going.”
BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.
Learn more: kearneyfs.com