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

Janice Maurice, president of the South Cariboo Museum Society, and vice-president Peter Brandle, hope to see the Clinton Museum reopen its doors this spring. (Kelly Sinoski - 100 Mile Free Press).
Clinton Museum anticipated to reopen this year

Society board waiting to hear from province on health orders.

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Interior Health hospitals not strained by rising COVID case counts

While provincial hospitalizations rise, health care systems in the B.C. Interior remain robust, say officials

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

Last year’s flood season stretched from April through early July, as this picture of flooding at Cache Creek park on July 4, 2020 shows. With area snowpacks at slightly above normal, temperatures and rainfall will play a role in determining what this year’s flood season looks like. (Photo credit: Tom Moe)
Snowpacks in area slightly higher than normal as freshet starts

Temperatures and rainfall are critical flood risk factors in coming weeks

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada’s incoming supply of Moderna vaccine slashed in half through end of April

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

Most Read