A group that tells people how to kill themselves has been barred from presenting at Vancouver’s public library over concerns that the library could be held liable for helping people to commit suicide.
Paul Whitney, the city’s librarian, said he cancelled the booking — which tells people how to kill themselves, what drug to buy and where to buy it — after legal and law enforcement advisers told him it would violate the Criminal Code.
Whitney said it was inappropriate for the publicly funded library to be putting itself in that position of “undo risk.”
But Dr. Philip Nitschke, director of the Australian right-to-die group Exit International, said the group does not encourage people to commit suicide, but rather it gives them end-of-life information to better consider their options.
“This is an issue of vital importance to elderly Canadians … The library is a place where one would expect the free impartation and discussion of ideas and information,” said Nitschke, via an Internet video link from Australia yesterday.
Russel Ogden, a criminologist at Kwantlen Polytechnic University who has studied assisted suicide in Canada for the past 20 years, said talking about suicide is not an offence.
There is evidence, he added, that discussing suicide can even act as a deterrent.
The group had booked library space for a public information meeting as well as a “practical workshop” restricted to “rational people” 50 years and older who are considering suicide. It was the second session Whitney had problems with.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association will meet with the library board tomorrow in hopes of overturning the decision.