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Any fear over assisted dying can't be blamed on lack of knowledge: chief justice

Last Updated May 30, 2016 at 5:02 pm MDT

Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, delivers a speech in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 5, 2013. McLachlin says any public consternation over physician-assisted dying can't be attributed to a lack of awareness about the issue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

CALGARY – Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin says any public consternation over physician-assisted dying can’t be attributed to a lack of awareness about the issue.

McLachlin fielded audience questions after delivering a talk as part of a humanities and social sciences congress held at the University of Calgary.

She was asked whether a lack of knowledge has contributed to fears about the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark ruling last year on assisted death.

McLachlin said the court has made an effort to make reasons for its decisions accessible, and those in the assisted-dying case were long and detailed, but readable.

The Supreme Court struck down a ban on medically assisted death in February 2015, but gave the new Liberal government an extension until June 6 to craft a new law — a deadline that’s quickly approaching.

McLachlin did not delve into the political wrangling taking place in Parliament on the issue or speak about the looming deadline.

“The court initiated what was to be a process and Parliament has to play its role in that process. And that’s where we are now,” she said.

“Things do take a while. If you never have the issue crystallized, as we have in this case, then nothing ever happens. People take all the time that is given to them.

“Suddenly decision time comes and we have a full public debate —and that may take a while. I’m not here to comment on anything political.