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

The City of Cranbrook is warning the public that the lake at Idlewild Park is not currently safe to skate on after someone cleared the ice over the weekend. (Submitted file)
Idlewild Lake still not safe for skating: City of Cranbrook

Ice on area waterbodies is currently quite thin, and not yet ready for recreation

Item no 22, De-Kieviet Kindergarten class - Highlands, Starting Bid: $20
Christmas Village 2020 school auction items

The annual Christmas Village has gone virtual, here are the auction items from local schools

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

Incumbent MLA Tom Shypitka is contesting Kootenay East for the BC Liberals. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Shypitka named opposition critic for Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation

The Kootenay East MLA has held the energy and mines portfolio since 2017

File Photo
Missing hunter found dead in South Country

A hunter was reported as overdue on Nov. 29, and was found deceased on Nov. 30 following an RCMP and SAR operation

The bids for the 2020 Christmas Village are open as of noon on Thursday, November 26. Please scroll through this album to see auction items available for bidding.
Christmas Village 2020 auction items

The Christmas Village has gone virtual, here are all the details

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Glacier Gymnastics head coach Sandra Long says she doesn’t understand why her sport is currently shut down while others are allowed to operate. Photo: Tyler Harper
‘It is bewildering’: Nelson sports leaders call out provincial shut down

Indoor group classes for activities such as gymnastics and dance are on hold

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Most Read