Senators are being urged to accept a revised version of a bill to expand access to medical assistance in dying, even though their amendments have been rejected or modified. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Senators are being urged to accept a revised version of a bill to expand access to medical assistance in dying, even though their amendments have been rejected or modified. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Sen. Gold lauds historic collaboration between House, Senate to improve MAID bill

The bill would expand access to intolerably suffering individuals not approaching the natural end of their lives

Senators were urged Monday to accept a revised version of a bill to expand access to medical assistance in dying, even though their amendments were rejected or modified by the House of Commons.

Sen. Marc Gold, the government’s representative in the Senate, argued that the revised Bill C-7 represents a historic example of collaboration between the two parliamentary chambers, resulting in better legislation.

“I would suggest that the process that has unfolded to date represents the very best of the interaction and legislative dialogue that is possible between the two houses of Parliament,” Gold told the Senate.

“And I would go even further that it is an example of the Parliament of Canada at its very best.”

Gold said the government responded respectfully and thoughtfully to the Senate’s amendments, rejecting two but building on three others.

“For the government of the day to not only accept but to build upon Senate amendments and to have that passed in the other place by a minority Parliament is an achievement that is as significant as it is historically quite rare,” he said.

“It’s now time for us to demonstrate the same respect to the other place that they have shown to us and pass the C-7 message.”

Most senators who spoke Monday said they’ll support the revised version of the bill, despite disappointment that not all their amendments were accepted. Sen. Pierre Dalphond, a former judge and member of the Progressive Senate Group, was among those who argued that appointed senators have done their job to recommend improvements and must now defer to the will of the elected Commons.

“To do otherwise would be an illegitimate over-reach,” Dalphond said.

However, senators are constitutionally entitled to dig in their heels, reject the government’s response to their amendments and send the bill back to the Commons once more.

Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan urged them to do just that, expressing outrage over the government’s rejection of a Senate amendment that would have allowed people who fear losing mental competence to make advance requests for assisted dying.

Sen. Pamela Wallin, a member of the Canadian Senators Group who authored the advance request amendment, similarly deplored the government’s insistence that more time is needed to study the matter.

“How many more years of anguish and fear and disqualification for those who have or are expecting a diagnosis of dementia?” she asked.

Wallin speculated that those who want more time to study the issue haven’t yet personally experienced what it’s like to care for someone with dementia.

“Perhaps they have not locked their loved ones behind closed doors or restrained them by tying their frail arms to a bed rail, perhaps they have not cleaned up the sickening messes or looked into vacant, fear-filled eyes of a parent as you try to force-feed them, prying their mouths open because their body has forgotten how to do these very basic things,” she said.

“And to what end? They’re not hungry, they don’t know you, they don’t know where they are and they don’t know who they once were.”

The bill would expand access to assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the natural end of their lives, in compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling.

The government has sought and received four extensions to the court-imposed deadline for complying with the ruling. The latest — and very likely the last extension, the court has warned — expires March 26.

In response to the Senate amendments, the government has revised the bill to put a two-year time limit on the originally proposed blanket ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses. The Senate proposed an 18-month time limit but the government has extended that to two years.

The government further revised the bill to require the creation of an expert panel to conduct an independent review of the mental illness exclusion and, within one year, recommend the “protocols, guidance and safeguards” that should apply to requests for assisted dying from people suffering solely from mental illnesses.

The government rejected a Senate amendment that would have clarified that mental illness does not include neurocognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, as it did the advance request amendment.

But it expanded on another amendment to address those issues and other unresolved matters through a joint Commons-Senate committee that is, within 30 days of royal assent, to finally launch the legally required parliamentary review of the assisted dying regime in Canada, which was supposed to have begun last June. That committee is to report back with any recommended changes to the law within one year.

It also expanded on another Senate amendment to require the collection of disaggregated data on who is requesting and receiving medical assistance in dying, including data on people with disabilities. The data is to be used to determine if there is “the presence of any inequality — including systemic inequality — or disadvantage based on race, Indigenous identity, disability or other characteristics.”

Some senators questioned what will happen to the parliamentary review should Parliament be prorogued or dissolved for an election, which could theoretically come at any time given that the Liberals hold only a minority of seats in the Commons.

Conservative Senate Leader Don Plett noted that it’s possible an election could be called before the committee even gets off the ground.

Sen. Scott Tannas, leader of the Canadian Senators Group, noted that the Senate amendment had spelled out timelines for restarting the review after prorogation or an election but that the government’s revised version does not.

Sen. Chantal Petitclerc, a member of the Independent Senators Groups and sponsor of the bill in the Senate, could not explain why the government removed those timelines. But she said the review would have to be resumed, “as prescribed by law,” once Parliament was back in session.

assisted dying

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

Just Posted

This Earth Day, Cowichan Valley residents are being asked to clean up where they are. (File photo)
Cowichan ‘Clean Where You Are’ campaign starts on Earth Day

Take a bag, one glove, long tongs, and go pick up!

City of Duncan considering an average 3.51 per cent tax increase for 2021. (File photo)
Duncan considers average 3.51% tax increase for 2021

Homeowners would see a $43 increase over last year

North Cowichan councillor Kate Marsh. (File photo)
North Cowichan postpones decision on cell tower placement

But cell tower policy may be developed soon

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read