Federal government seeks extension for amendments to Bill C-7 on assisted-dying

24 February 2021

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The federal government was expected to seek another extension to pass its assisted-dying bill as it deals with stiff opposition from the Conservatives over amendments to Bill C-7 brought forth by the Senate.

The government had a court-imposed deadline of Feb. 26 to have the new legislation in place, but the Opposition Conservatives have signalled they may drag out debate of the Senate amendments.

One such amendment would open the door to mentally-ill Canadians being able to seek a legally-sanctioned suicide within 18 months. The government has agreed to allow this, but not for two years from now.

“It has been a year since the Liberal Justice Minister tabled Bill C-7, the government’s medical assistance in dying (MAiD) legislation. Now, at the last minute, the Liberals are accepting an amendment that would start a reckless countdown to expand MAiD to those with mental illness,” Rob Moore, the Conservative Justice critic, said in a statement.

“Instead of recklessly expanding MAiD to those with mental illness with parliamentary review, the Liberals should focus on providing additional mental support.”

In a Feb. 19 statement, Justice Minister David Lametti and Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the government has filed a motion with Quebec Superior Court to allow it until March 26 to bring Canadian law in line with that court’s September 2019 Truchon ruling.

The 2019 Quebec court ruling said that the need for a person’s death to be reasonably foreseeable before they could access an assisted death was too restrictive and unconstitutional.

“We have been working very hard over the last year on responding to this important court ruling and remain committed to do so as quickly as possible,” the statement said.

The government rejected another Senate amendment that would have allowed advance requests for an assisted death from people who feared being diagnosed with dementia or other competence-eroding conditions.

The fact the Senate wants the MAiD system to be available to the mentally-ill has stunned some opponents, who had hoped the Senate would block any changes to Bill C-7.

“As bad as Bill C-7 was, the Senate expanded the bill to include people with mental illness,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Moore noted that the Conservatives introduced a motion to remove expansion of MAiD to those with mental illness “so that a proper review can happen — one that should have happened last year. Canadians should know the impacts of expanding MAiD even further before it becomes law.”

The minority Liberal government has had the support of the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois for the changes it originally proposed.

The government was still hoping the House and Senate will pass Bill C-7 by Feb. 26.

Video: Archbishop in Dialogue: Mission and MAiD