The Peace Tower is pictured on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, as lawmakers return to the House of Commons following the winter break. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Peace Tower is pictured on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, as lawmakers return to the House of Commons following the winter break. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Commons to debate Senate changes to assisted-dying bill as deadline looms

The House of Commons will debate on Tuesday

By Joan Bryden

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The House of Commons will wait until Tuesday to debate whether to accept or reject Senate amendments to a bill that would expand access to medical assistance in dying.

That leaves just three days before the court-imposed deadline for bringing the law into compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling that concluded it’s unconstitutional to allow assisted dying only for people who are already nearing the natural ends of their lives.

And it runs the risk of missing that deadline, which has already been extended three times.

As originally drafted, Bill C-7 would expand access to assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not already near death.

Senators have approved five amendments to the bill, including two that would expand access even further than proposed by the government.

One would allow advance requests by people who fear losing mental capacity and the other would put an 18-month time limit on the bill’s proposed ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses.

Justice Minister David Lametti thanked senators Thursday for their “thorough and thoughtful work” on Bill C-7 but said the government is still evaluating their amendments.

“I am aware of the deadlines that are upcoming and, as always, I will leave no stone unturned in order to get to the (Feb. 26) date with the final conclusion,” Lametti said.

However, it’s not entirely up to the Liberals, who hold only a minority of seats in the Commons, to determine the fates of the amendments or the timetable for debating them. At least one opposition party will have to support whatever the government decides for the Liberals to go ahead.

Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez later announced that the Commons will debate the Senate amendments on Tuesday.

That means the government will have to give notice of a motion by Monday night indicating whether it accepts, rejects or wants to modify each of the five amendments. Opposition parties will be able to propose changes to the motion and debate could go on at length, barring the imposition of closure, which at least one opposition party would also have to support.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole signalled Thursday that his caucus, which was largely opposed to the original bill, does not intend to be rushed into a decision on the amendments.

“We have concerns about the inclusion of mental health on its own within a state-run assisted-death regime,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of concerns that the most vulnerable are being not heard in this legislation. The Senate has made several amendments. We’re ready to sit at night, on the weekend to try to get this right for Canadians.”

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said his MPs want to study the details but “believe that the Senate has come with something that is based on compassion” and that “the basic ideas (in the amendments) are good,” albeit coming from an unelected institution that his party considers illegitimate.

Blanchet said his party is “comfortable,” in principle, with the proposed 18-month sunset clause on the exclusion of people suffering solely from mental illnesses. But he was warier of the amendment on advance requests, saying the issue requires “finesse and sensitivity” and suggesting Parliament shouldn’t rush into it.

He professed confidence that Parliament will be able to conclude deliberations on C-7 before next Friday’s deadline. Still, Blanchet conceded he’s worried that the Conservatives will try to drag out debate on the amendments, as they did when the original bill was debated in the Commons.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his caucus will look closely at the amendments. But he reiterated that his party, which has long supported abolition of the Senate, isn’t keen on accepting amendments proposed by it.

“In principle, we believe that on an issue as complex as medical assistance in dying, an unelected body like the Senate should not be expanding the legislation,” Singh said in a statement.

“Those who are accountable to Canadians are elected members of Parliament. It is concerning when decisions that will directly affect the lives of Canadian families and their loved ones are being made by an unelected and unaccountable Senate.”

If the Commons rejects any or all of the amendments, senators will then have to decide whether to defer to the elected chamber’s decision or dig in their heels.

Theoretically, the bill could bounce repeatedly between the two chambers until they reach a resolution.

Sen. Stan Kutcher, a psychiatrist and a member of the Independent Senators Group who proposed the 18-month time limit on the mental illness exclusion, said he expects senators would take into account the reasons given by the government for rejecting any of the amendments and any compromises it might have to make to win the support of at least one opposition party.

READ MORE: Senators amend assisted dying bill to put 18-month time limit on mental illness exclusion

READ MORE: Assisted-dying bill sparks ferocious debate among Canadians with disabilities

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

assisted dying

Just Posted

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Most Read