Justice Minister David Lametti is seen during a news conference Monday October 5, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Justice Minister David Lametti is seen during a news conference Monday October 5, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Assisted dying bill reintroduced in Ottawa as court deadline looms

The government has until Dec. 18 to amend the law to comply with a Quebec court ruling

The federal government reintroduced Monday legislation to amend Canada’s law on medical assistance in dying — just two months before a court-imposed deadline.

The government has until Dec. 18 to amend the law to comply with a Quebec court ruling last fall, which found it was unconstitutional to allow only those whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable” to be able to get medical help to end their suffering.

Justice Minister David Lametti introduced a bill in response to that ruling last February but it didn’t get beyond the initial stage of the legislative process before the House of Commons adjourned in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That bill died when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament last month.

The government now has just two months to get the new bill, which is identical to the one introduced last winter, through both the Commons and the Senate.

Lametti expressed confidence that it can be done “expeditiously,” despite the fact that provisions in Bill C-7 have already proved controversial.

“This bill is the product very much of a consensus that Canadians are ready for and, therefore, that should be reflected across both sides of the aisle and in both houses (of Parliament),” he told a news conference.

“Canadians expect us to do this quickly. Canadians have spoken with respect to the measures that are contained in this bill and, therefore, it’s up to our parliamentary partners to work with us to get this passed by the 18th of December.”

The bill scraps reasonably foreseeable death as a requirement for an assisted death but retains the concept to set out easier eligibility rules for those who are near death and more stringent rules for those who aren’t.

For those deemed to be near death, the government is proposing to drop the requirement that a person must wait 10 days after being approved for an assisted death before receiving the procedure. It would also reduce the number of witnesses needed to one from two.

As well, it proposes to drop the requirement that a person must be able to give consent a second time immediately before receiving the procedure.

People not near death would face higher hurdles.

Such people would face a minimum 90-day period for assessments of their requests for an assisted death. One of the two medical practitioners who assesses a request would have to have expertise in the person’s particular medical condition. And the person would have to be able to give final consent immediately before the assisted death.

The bill would also explicitly prohibit assisted dying in cases where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition.

Some legal experts and advocates for medically assisted dying feared the bill would actually make it harder than the existing law for some people to receive the procedure, or even take away their access to it entirely.

Since the Liberal government holds only a minority of seats in the House of Commons, it will need the support of at least one of the main opposition parties to pass the bill.

NDP justice critic Randall Garrison said his party agrees the bill should pass quickly because it will help Canadians who are “unnecessarily suffering.”

But he said he’s concerned that Lametti is loading up the legislative calendar with a host of justice bills “so that we always end up in a situation where everything has to be rushed.”

“Some of that is due to COVID, but not all of it,” he said in an interview.

Garrison pointed out that a mandatory five-year review of the assisted dying law — including issues of whether the procedure should be available through advance consent, or to mature minors or those suffering solely from mental illness — was supposed to start in June but nothing has been done so far.

Conservative justice critic Rob Moore said in a statement Monday that his party’s priority will be to ensure Bill C-7 “includes safeguards for the most vulnerable in our society, as well as for the conscience rights of physicians and health professionals.”

Newly minted Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole courted social conservatives during his party’s recent leadership contest by promising to protect “the conscience rights of all health-care professionals whose beliefs, religious or otherwise, prevent them from carrying out or referring patients for services that violate their conscience.”

That promise flies in the face of a unanimous Ontario Court of Appeal ruling in May 2019, which said doctors who have moral objections to providing health services like abortion or assisted death must provide patients with an “effective referral” to another doctor.

Moore said Conservatives believe the federal government should have appealed the Quebec court ruling that struck down the reasonably foreseeable death provision “so that we could get certainty on the framework within which Parliament can legislate.”

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes shared this photo of the binders and binders of letters and paperwork she’s received on area roads in the past few years. (Submitted photo)
Cariboo MLAs call on province to fix region’s roads

Minister Rob Fleming said more resources were on the way to the region

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Murray Casey, president of the Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre, hosted an online Shuswap language workshop April 27. (Melissa Smalley photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
‘Weyt-k’? It’s time to learn Shuswap

More than two dozen participants took part in online class to learn basic Secwepemc phrases

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Junior A team Coquitlam Express is offering all Tri-City residents who get vaccinated against COVID-19 a free ticket to one of their games. (Facebook/Coquitlam Express)
B.C. hockey team offering free tickets to hometown fans who get the COVID-19 vaccine

‘We know the only way to get fans back is people getting vaccinated,’ says Express’ general manager Tali Campbell

Most Read