MAiD expansion delay bill passes

  • February 16, 2023

Bill C-39, legislation that would delay by one year the expansion of assisted suicide to those suffering solely from mental illness, passed the House of Commons on Feb. 15 

Thanks to broad support from across party lines for Bill C-39, the House unanimously agreed to a government order on Feb. 13 enabling the legislation to essentially bypass consideration in committee, the report stage and third reading debate. 

In his sponsor’s speech of the bill, Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti stated the reasons why he introduced this bill.

“An extension of the exclusion of MAiD eligibility in these circumstances would help ensure health-care system readiness by, among other things, allowing more time for the dissemination and uptake of key resources by the medical and nursing communities, including MAiD assessors and providers. It would also give the federal government more time to meaningfully consider the report of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, or AMAD, which is expected this week,” said Lametti.

Lametti spent the bulk of his remaining remarks focusing on the history of MAiD legislation in Canada. He stated, “I want to be clear that medical assistance in dying is a right, as affirmed by the Supreme Court.”

Conservative MP Michael Cooper, in his response speech, signaled support for Bill C-39 only because “it is better than the alternative, namely that in one short month from now, on March 17, MAiD would be available to persons with a sole underlying mental health disorder.”

Cooper advocated a permanent abandonment of expanding MAiD during his remarks, citing a piece of legislation introduced by his party colleague Ed Fast on Feb. 10.

“Rather than imposing a new arbitrary deadline that is not grounded on science and evidence, what the Liberal government should be doing is abandoning this radical, reckless and dangerous expansion of MAID altogether. This is why I wholeheartedly support Bill C-314, which was introduced last Friday by my friend and colleague, the member for Abbotsford, and would do exactly that,” said Cooper.

Luc Thériault and Alistair MacGregor spoke in support of the delay on behalf of the Bloc Québécois and NDP respectively. 

Management of the bill passes on to the Senate of Canada. The Senators have to pass Bill C-39 before March 17 to ensure the expanded access to MAiD is pushed back until March 17, 2024. 

During the Senate’s afternoon session of Feb. 16, Senator Raymonde Gagne is expected to call for a motion calling the Senate to “resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole at 2:50 p.m. (E.T.) on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, to consider the subject matter of Bill C-39, An Act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying).” Gagne is also expected to advocate for the Senate’s sitting be extended that day to ensure all the committee’s work on considering Bill C-39 is completed. 

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