law and obedience

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Laws are put in place when communities can no longer be governed by tradition or a shared sense of values. To have a society and more so a landmass of people differing in culture, value and day-to-day rules, a set of laws backed by outcomes and punishment must be installed to ensure respect for one another’s differences. The question of debate is “can it be wrong to obey the law in Canada?” I have chosen yes, the law is not perfect and mistakes and changes throughout history such as women’s and minority’s rights to vote will be among my stronger points. Assisted suicide (Euthanasia) will also be discussed due to its high profile nature challenged throughout many cases as a law contradicting rights in the charter. And finally I will discuss marijuana’s effects and the lack of health issues, which surround its use, and in turn why it is not considered a wrongful drug my many. My goal is to make enough strong points to give reason to believe that at times it can be wrong to follow the law.

Historical Changes dealing with laws

History repeats itself they say, finding laws of the past which are strongly opposed to now is something we can expect of our grandchildren when they view laws we live by presently. Although it is simple to say that law is gradual and changes happen only when people want them to happen, it is not so easy to explain why it has taken so long to give women and minorities the right to a vote. The real question is simple, not giving minorities and women the right to vote now is simply wrong and unlawful, but was it right when it was still a norm in the past. Laws now, protecting everybody from discrimination have existed and changed so much since the beginning of the 0th century, but racism and hate crimes still go unnoticed and the law keeps being bent and broken. When a law is changed it is changed because society feels it needs to be changed, making the previous belief wrong and the present law always questionable. Women have had to struggle for their rights to be known and so have minorities while being oppressed due to a common unfair tradition on the backs of wealthy white men. Democracy caters to all but it has been tested over time. Until everyone casts a vote is it truly a democracy? No. Women gained the right to vote first in 116 Manitoba, it was not until 140 when all descents of women were given the right to vote including Chinese, Japanese and east Indian and then finally in 160 men and women of Inuit descent were registered as votersA1. These dates are surprisingly recent yet have been so slow to recognise that they are simple human rights. While these facts do not directly give the idea that following some laws are wrong they do point out that the laws surrounding major issues in the past have proven to be wrong, so when a woman spoke out for her right to vote in 116 she was looking to change a law and not necessarily break one.

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Euthanasia Relating to Assisted Suicide

Euthanasia is a right everyone should have, the right to leave this world in peace. Section 41 of the criminal code1 states that every person who “counsels” a person to commit suicide, or “aids or abets” a person to commit suicide, is guilty of an indictable offence, whether suicide ensues or not, and faces imprisonment for up to 14 years. Section 41 also states that “no person is entitled to consent to have death inflicted on him, and such consent does not affect the criminal responsibility of any person whom death may be inflicted on the person by whom consent is given.” With this in mind the law clearly prevents many who suffer from HIV or other terminal diseases of granting their wishes to die in a smooth conforming manner. Many people infected with HIV know of the loss of dignity or the agonizing death which accompanies the AIDS, yet their option to leave this world before experiencing any dismay is not lawful it is in fact very difficult to find any assistance without the worry of compromising others freedoms. One of the most famous cases dealing with assisted suicide is a case in 1 involving a woman who challenged the Supreme Court of Canada; it was named the Rodriguez case. Suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) she challenged the Charter under sections 14 and 41 arguing that her rights were violated. A Supreme Court rejected her lawsuit in that there was no violation of her rights to liberty and security. In another case more recently, 001 a man named Jim Wakeford from Toronto challenged the same Charter rights pleading for the court to grant him and a medical practitioner of his choice a constitutional exemption from the Criminal Code provisions. His case was stricken out due to it having no sustainable legal basis.

One could argue the same rights in a case of prostitution, after all these are rights dealing with the use and or outcome of your own body. A point made over time is the right to refuse medical treatment. The case of Malette v. Shulman reads self-determination and the concept of individual autonomy lie at the heart of an individual’s right to refuse medical treatment. This would give you the idea that assisted suicide can be accomplished legally, but in order to have a dignified, pain free procedure take place there are many legal issues at stake. To assume suicide for anyone who is suffering can be accomplished legally without help is foolish. Just because you want to end your life doesn’t mean your morals and respect for the laws you have lived with can be traded in. No matter how much the pain or the sadness from family and friends watching the suffering causes, most people are moral and hold dignity and pride among their own pain. The Idea of courts recognising this would seem likely, but too much could be at stake for future cases dealing with possibly murder, using assisted suicide as a defence. There should be a system catering to people who have no hope of survival or avoiding pain without compromising their lifestyles fundamentals. There are too many cases of people trying to meet the ultimate end of their lives, who are veered away from their own instinctive rights by the law’s cold feelings and attitudes for something not easy for anyone to understand. A study4 performed of 1 people who planned to have assisted suicide basically stated that they felt relief after having planned an assisted suicide death. The findings include as follows

- Death through overdose of drugs was the most commonly cited method planned for assisted suicide;

- Those planning to have assisted death stated that they would all end their lives when they felt they had reached the point in their illness when they had no chance of recovery;

- The decision to have assisted death, and the planning associated with that decision, can occur at any stage of HIV and AIDS and is not unique to individuals whose illness has progressed;

- Depression did not appear to be a factor that affected the decision to have an assisted death, and none of the persons living with HIV/AIDS voiced concern that no one cared for them;

- Many were concerned about the loss of control related to future health problems and death that not all pain could be controlled, and the side effects associated with pain control.

These are strong convictions of self-assurance in the matter of death. These people are not unstable and are in most cases well enough to appear in court. They ask that they be given a legal break so that society may not make a mockery of their conclusion. Law biding or not, these people have made decisions and will most likely go through with them, and on the grounds of being legal and moral, both can coexist with some planning and common sense.


Most people have probably tried a cigarette or a glass of wine and even a joint of marijuana in their lifetime. Do these three items belong in society and more so do they require legal boundaries so much as to ban them. Tobacco is taking an obvious hit from the government with good reason, the severe health risks that come with the habit. Sure it can be nice to have a cigarette every now and then, just like a slice of cake with lots of calories that’s high in fat. And sure a glass of wine a day can be good for you as long as your not one of many people who drink and drive, have a dependency problem or even beat their wife out of frustration, anger or are just too blinded by the liquor to realize they have a problem. Very rarely if ever will you hear of a marijuana user who has hit his wife while intoxicated solely on marijuana. Smoking marijuana isn’t the best thing for you by any means, but as a past time it is no worse than the rest of the drugs available to us. In fact its medical problems shadow so far beneath the cigarette and the booze it’s a wonder it’s not legal. A list of facts5 surrounding marijuana and its effects presented into a court are as listed

- Consumption of marijuana is relatively harmless compared to the so called hard drugs and including alcohol and tobacco;

- There exists no hard evidence demonstrating any irreversible organic or mental damage from the consumption of marijuana;

- That cannabis does cause alteration of mental functions and as such, it would not be prudent to drive a car while intoxicated;

- There is no hard evidence that cannabis induces psychoses;

- Cannabis is not an addictive substance;

- Marijuana is not criminogenic in that there is no evidence of a casual relationship between cannabis use and criminality;

- That the consumption of marijuana probably does not lead to “hard drug” use for the vast majority of marijuana consumers, although there appears to be a statistical relationship between the use of marijuana and a variety of other psychoactive drugs;

- Marijuana does not make people more aggressive or violent;

- There have been no recorded deaths from the consumption of marijuana;

- There is no evidence that marijuana causes a motivational syndrome;

- Less than 1% of marijuana consumers are daily users;

- Consumption in so-called “decriminalized states” does not increase out of proportion to states where there is no decriminalization;

- Health related costs of cannabis use are negligible when compared to the costs attributable to tobacco and alcohol consumption.

Having listed all the facts of marijuana, which are clearly in direct opposition with tobacco and alcohol, it is hard to feel a sense of crime when indulging. Although the decriminalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes has lifted some weight of law enforcers there are not enough reasons provided for society to justify a complete ban. Many parents might feel more comfortable knowing that their teen daughter or son is going to a bar to “smoke up” rather than to get drunk. From a parental perspective the hope your siblings can limit their use of either of the drugs would be ideal, but parents shouldn’t have to worry about experimentation taking place through shady characters, but rather a controlled environment. The worry of violence is almost non-existent with the use of marijuana opposed to alcohol granted they are different in their effects. Medically, marijuana has competed with many other types of medication to replace THC (tetrahydrocannabinol/marijuana), but overall THC shows lesser health problems as well as being very cost effective5. Maybe ten years from now it will be looked to as a stress reliever and have the freedom its fellow drugs in the market tobacco and alcohol share, and more importantly the freedom for Canadians to decide which drug they will partake in if called for. For now possession fines are minimal yet the hate is still shared and the hypocrisy still continues.

Although time is in order for any type of change, the changes must start somewhere. The need for something different is common for people and therefore society must work together to decide what is going to help our future rather than alter it. History has given into many of its mistakes but only because of people striving for happiness and fairness. The future of euthanasia as usual will be hard to conclude and always hard to understand, when ones life is in the hands of an oppressor or a law it is hard to feel your rights as a Canadian are being met. With proper structure, even suicide can be less trivial and more understood with the willingness to listen and learn to the basic needs humans share, which have no selfishness attached. As for marijuana, the future will be bright, dark or cloudy to some. People who smoke don’t want to feel wrong for enjoying it, people who don’t smoke marijuana anymore may not want to be faced with its pros and cons and people who have never tried it will always have up to date facts as weather or not they will or will not experience with it. The key point I have made throughout this essay is to establish the need for choice be it a vote, a joint or even suicide. The laws are in place for the people and most importantly by the people, but people make mistakes and so the laws we follow. A Democracy is the right to change and the right to oppose. Laws don’t work for everybody, and not everyone can follow those laws. So to answer the question “can it be wrong to obey the law in Canada”, yes of course it can. People will continue to lie in court rooms to protect somebody and people will always wonder if a politician is telling lies, but we must all understand that laws are made to do the best job they can and are far from perfect. If I were to write this essay question again, using different sources and another array of topics, I would look to smaller cases such as unfair settlements dealing with custody in family law. Also I could find a long list of challenged laws from the past throughout newspapers or journals, which would correspond, to people making changes and laws being moulded. Law is always questionable that’s why people have court hearings and lawyers, if following a law is morally wrong then that is an individual decision which eventually we will all face.

Microsoft ® Encarta Encyclopaedia, 14, Funk & Wagnall’s Corporation.

Canadian criminal code, section 41

Wakeford v. Canada (attorney General), 001 OJ No 0 (QL).

Malette v. Shulman (187), 6 O.R. (d) 4 (C.A.) at -10

Canadian AIDS Society. Study on Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide and HIV/AIDS. A Report Prepared for the Canadian AIDS Society by Carole Neron. Ottawa The Society, 16. Neron’s study began as a qualitative study forces and was later expanded for academic purposes.


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