Health Minister Patty Hajdu, above, and Justice Minister David Lametti have asked for an court-extension on Bill C-7 until March 26. CCN file photo

Court grants final extension to pass Bill C-7 on assisted-dying

  • February 26, 2021

OTTAWA -- The federal government was granted one more month Thursday to expand access to medical assistance in dying even as its efforts to do so stalled in the House of Commons.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Martin Sheehan agreed to give the government a fourth extension — until March 26 — to bring the law into compliance with a 2019 court ruling.

But he suggested this will be the last one.

Given that the government is close to finally reforming Canada's assisted-dying law, Sheehan said "it is appropriate to grant a final extension to allow it to end."

The government had a court-imposed deadline of Feb. 26 to have the new legislation in place.

The federal government sought the extension to pass its assisted-dying bill as it deals with stiff opposition from the Conservatives over amendments to Bill C-7 brought forth by the Senate.

One such amendment would open the door to mentally-ill Canadians being able to seek a legally-sanctioned suicide within 18 months. The government has agreed to allow this, but not for two years from now.

“It has been a year since the Liberal Justice Minister tabled Bill C-7, the government’s medical assistance in dying (MAiD) legislation. Now, at the last minute, the Liberals are accepting an amendment that would start a reckless countdown to expand MAiD to those with mental illness,” said Rob Moore, the Conservative Justice critic, in a statement.

“Instead of recklessly expanding MAiD to those with mental illness with parliamentary review, the Liberals should focus on providing additional mental support.”

The government rejected another Senate amendment that would have allowed advance requests for an assisted death from people who feared being diagnosed with dementia or other competence-eroding conditions.

The fact the Senate wants the MAiD system to be available to the mentally-ill has stunned some opponents, who had hoped the Senate would block any changes to Bill C-7.

“As bad as Bill C-7 was, the Senate expanded the bill to include people with mental illness,” said Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Moore noted that the Conservatives introduced a motion to remove expansion of MAiD to those with mental illness “so that a proper review can happen — one that should have happened last year. Canadians should know the impacts of expanding MAiD even further before it becomes law.”

The minority Liberal government has had the support of the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois for the changes it originally proposed.

Last modified on February 26, 2021

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