Conservative MPs Garnett Genuis, Ted Falk and Michael Cooper after the House of Commons rejected a series of Tory amendments to improve safeguards and conscience rights protections in Bill C-14. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Missing C-14’s June 6 deadline puts vulnerable people at risk, says coalition

  • June 1, 2016

OTTAWA – A coalition representing vulnerable Canadians believes the lives of the disabled will be at risk due to a looming legal vacuum caused by the probable failure of the government’s assisted suicide Bill C-14 to be enacted by June 6.

Given the likelihood that the Supreme Court deadline will pass without a law in place, the coalition is calling on the government to ensure that the “minimal safeguards” contained in Bill C-14 be legislated immediately to protect the vulnerable.

“While Bill C-14 does not fully address all the risks of error and abuse that arise from these realities, it does recognize that they exist and that safeguards are essential to protect the lives of vulnerable Canadians,” said a news release signed by 40 organizations. The list includes the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, the Canadian Association for Community Living, the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association and L’Arche Canada.

Should a legal vacuum around assisted suicide occur — much like currently exists with abortion — the disabled will be particularly vulnerable, the release said.

“Most perniciously, we are made vulnerable by the quiet and persistent reminders that our needs are costly and burdensome,” it said. “At root is the insidious idea that our disabilities are too onerous for society, our families and even ourselves to bear. 

“This is why a system of physician-assisted dying without robust safeguards will jeopardize the lives of vulnerable Canadians.” 

Disabled persons would be at greater risk of consenting to suicide due to coercion by others, pressure from health-care providers and lack of access to support and alternatives, it said.

The House of Commons passed Bill C-14 on May 31 and sent it to the Senate for royal assent. But a Senate committee has already stated that the bill as currently drafted should be amended. 

“It’s dead certain the June 6 deadline will not be satisfied,” said Conservative MP Michael Cooper, vice-co-chair of the special joint-Parliamentary Committee on Physician Assisted Dying. 

Cooper spoke after a series of Conservative amendments to strengthen safeguards and protect conscience rights of health-care professionals and institutions was defeated May 30. 

“The absence of legislation means a vacuum, an absence of safeguards,” said Tory MP Garnett Genuis, who said he would have supported a bill that contained “meaningful safeguards.”

The House also failed to address any of the amendments proposed by the Senate. 

“The bill will now go to the Senate and the Senate will raise many of the same issues,” said Conservative Ted Falk, adding the Senate will make “sure individuals have proper access to palliative care.”

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