Photo by Lincoln Ho

Senate decision on C-7 expected Feb. 17

  • February 10, 2021

OTTAWA -- Canada’s Senate will give its verdict on the federal government’s effort to make it easier for Canadians to legally commit suicide with the help of a doctor by the end of the day Feb. 17.

Senators agreed Feb. 8 to debate Bill C-7 “according to the following themes”: mental illness and degenerative illness, safeguards and advance requests, vulnerable and minority groups, health care (including palliative care) and access to medical assistance in dying (MAiD) and conscience rights. 

The senators agreed the Feb. 17 sitting “shall not be adjourned before the Senate has decided upon the bill at third reading.”

The House of Commons passed Bill C-7 by a two-to-one margin on Dec. 10, which along with eliminating the need for a person’s death being reasonably foreseeable to qualify for an assisted death would also eliminate or ease some of the other safeguards in the law such as lowering the number of witnesses needed when a person consents to MAiD. The bill also eliminates a 10-day waiting period to perform an assisted suicide after consent is given and opens the door to allowing for advanced directives that could see a person be put to death even if they are mentally incapable of consenting.

Critics such as Canada’s Catholic bishops say that hearings at the committee level in both the House of Commons and the Senate show that there is no consensus among Canadians, as the federal government claims, to make significant changes to MAiD before a promised five-year review of MAiD and palliative care options is undertaken.

“It became evidently clear there is no consensus in Canada on the proposed expansion of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, despite the government’s claim to the contrary in order to justify the passing of Bill C-7,” Canada’s bishops said in a statement before the bill was forwarded to the Senate.

But while the Senate is now moving towards its final verdict on Bill C-7, some senators, like many critics of the MAiD system, think the federal government should not be changing the existing law, which only took effect in 2016, until a full and promised parliamentary review of MAiD is undertaken first.

“Colleagues, how did we get to this point, where we are debating an overhaul of our entire regime a few short years after its enactment and before we have even undertaken a parliamentary review?” asked Opposition Senate leader Sen. Don Plett on Feb. 8.

“As has been said before, we are here because of a lower court decision made by one judge, in one province and because the government chose not to defend its own legislation,” he said.

MAiD critics, including the bishops, have repeatedly questioned why the federal government did not appeal the Quebec Superior Court decision that led to the changes the federal government has put forward.

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