The federal government legalized medical assistance in dying in 2016. (Needpix.com)

The federal government legalized medical assistance in dying in 2016. (Needpix.com)

Feds get another month to reform assisted-dying law as bill stalls in the Commons

2019 ruling struck down MAID only for those whose natural deaths are ‘reasonably foreseeable’

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.”

But he added, if the government can’t meet the new deadline, “it must be deduced that this incapacity results from a lack of consensus on the sensitive issues raised rather than exceptional circumstances justifying an extension.”

Sheehan’s decision came just one day before the previous deadline was to expire.

The 2019 ruling struck down a provision in the law that allows assisted dying only for those whose natural deaths are “reasonably foreseeable.”

Bill C-7 is intended to bring the law into compliance with the ruling, expanding access to assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the ends of their lives.

However, the bill is stalled in the Commons, where the Conservatives refused for the third straight day Thursday to facilitate debate on a motion laying out the government’s response to amendments passed last week by the Senate.

Conservative MPs talked out the clock on the motion Tuesday and then refused the unanimous consent needed to extend the debate until midnight, despite calling last week for extended hours to allow thorough debate on the issue.

They refused unanimous consent again Wednesday to allow the Commons to sit into the night to wrap up debate on the motion.

And they refused unanimous consent again to sit Thursday night.

The Bloc Quebecois offered to give up its opposition day Thursday, an opportunity for it to set the agenda in the Commons, to allow debate on the motion to continue. The minority Liberal government decided that would be pointless, given the Conservatives’ stalling tactics.

“Conservatives have twice blocked our proposal that the House sit late to debate this important issue, despite claiming that they want extended hours,” Mark Kennedy, a spokesman for government House leader Pablo Rodriguez, said late Wednesday.

“Based on this, we now know that Conservatives will continue to obstruct, and cancelling the Bloc opposition day tomorrow will not change anything.”

The Conservatives were largely opposed to the original bill and object even more strenuously to the amended version the government is now proposing.

The bill originally would have imposed a blanket ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses. The government is now proposing a two-year time limit on that exclusion, six months longer than the time limit approved by senators.

The government has rejected another Senate amendment that would have allowed advance requests for assisted dying, as well as an amendment intended to clarify what constitutes a mental illness. It has accepted a modified version of two others.

The Bloc has said it will support the government’s response to the Senate amendments, assuring the motion’s eventual passage. But until Conservatives agree to wrap up debate, it can’t be put to a vote.

Once the motion is passed, the bill will still have to go back to the Senate for senators to decide whether to accept the verdict of the elected parliamentary chamber or dig in their heels on their amendments.

assisted dying

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

Just Posted

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

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

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

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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