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

<em>Black Press file photo</em>
Water Quality Advisory in effect for Kitimat

The advisory is due to increased turbidity levels in the Kitimat River

Bob Rypma, left, and Jim Tiviotdale, former and current Kitimat Flying Club presidents, respectively, standing on the moss-covered runway at the Kitimat Air Park, which will be redone in the coming year thanks to a grant approved by the BC Airports Access Program. (Clare Rayment photo)
Kitimat Air Park to get major refurbishment, helipad

The club has been in the process of applying for the grant for two years, including two applications

WorkSafeBC is investigating after a death at a Kitimat concrete plant last Friday (Oct. 23) (Black Press file photo)
BC Coroners Service, WorkSafeBC investigating after death at Kitimat worksite

The fatality occurred last Friday (Oct. 23) and investigations into the incident are underway

Louise Avery is the longest serving Curator and Director at the Kitimat Museum. Here, she’s standing in front of the new Haisla Heritage Section, which they worked hard on with Haisla members and organizations to ensure it was an accurate and respectful display of artifacts.
In Our Valley: Louise Avery

Louise Avery has been the Director and Curator at the Kitimat Museum for over 24 years

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

Commissioner Austin Cullen looks at documents before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
RCMP lacked dedicated team to investigate illegal activities at casino, inquiry hears

Hearings for the inquiry are set to continue into next week and the inquiry is expected to wrap up next year

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Court approves money for B.C. foster children alleging harm from Kelowna social worker

The maximum combined total award for basic payments and elevated damages for an individual is $250,000

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never-before-seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

Most Read