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

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

Just Posted

Former Stettler area resident Art Kempf celebrated his 100th birthday on Feb 22nd. In the morning, 100 cows were placed by family on the lawn of Royal Oaks in Lacombe, and during the afternoon, a surprise party was arranged by staff and residents of Royal Oaks as well. Later that evening, a surprise virtual birthday party was held with friends and family to celebrate and honor Art.
photo submitted
Former Stettler area resident Art Kempf celebrated his 100th birthday Feb 22nd

Kempf now lives at the Royal Oak Village in Lacombe

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Board and school councils are celebrating staff during the month of February.
photo submitted
Board and school councils celebrate staff during the month of February

‘Our school staff and support staff make the success of our students happen.’

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Sylvan Lake's Winter Village lured many visitors to the town this winter. The town has launched a new contest to attract a new business.
(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Minister Doug Schweitzer talks on Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Provincial government rolling out new benefit this April to better help small businesses.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Mike Ammeter (Photo by Rebecca Hadfield)
Sylvan Lake man elected chair of Canadian Canola Growers Association

Mike Ammeter is a local farmer located near the Town of Sylvan Lake

Most Read