(Ottawa) Conservative MPs refuse to be rushed into a vote on physician-assisted dying law despite a looming court-imposed deadline.
The minority Liberal government has until December 18 to pass Bill C-7, a law aimed at complying with a Quebec Superior Court ruling that struck down a provision allowing only people already close to death to receive medical help to end their suffering.
The government had hoped to conclude debate on the bill in the House of Commons on Monday, paving the way for a final vote on Tuesday and leaving just over two weeks for the Senate to consider it before the deadline arrives.
But Conservative MPs denounced the urgency, some of them calling the delay “artificial”.
The government is expected to revise its agenda to resume debate on the bill on Wednesday and could still try to impose a time allocation to interrupt debate, a move that would require the support of at least one party in the opposition.
A spokeswoman for Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was unable to say how many Conservative MPs still want to speak on the bill, but given that it is literally a matter of life or death, she said “anyone who wishes to speak to the bill is free to do so.”
The bill would remove the provision that only those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable have the right to request medical assistance in dying. But it would retain the concept of predictable death to put in place two different eligibility pathways, one that would allow people near death to receive medical assistance in dying, and another imposing more restrictive criteria on those near death. who are not near death.
The Conservatives were the only MPs to make speeches during debate on the bill on Monday, and all but one – Toronto MP Peter Kent – opposed it. Everyone, including Mr. Kent, criticized the government for rushing the bill through the House of Commons without proper consultation.
They argued that the government should have appealed the Quebec court’s decision to the Supreme Court and believe that it should not make changes to Canada’s law on assisted dying until Parliament. carried out the five-year review of the law.
This review was scheduled to start in June, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Conservative MPs noted that the government delayed matters further by proroguing Parliament in August for six weeks.
“Why rush to pass this flawed legislation when it really is a matter of life and death? Asked Ontario Conservative MP Michael Barrett.
“We are doing a lot of things quickly here, but we can certainly agree that this step is not one that needs to be done so hastily. ”
At one point, Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux, Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, asked if the Conservatives intended to “keep us debating this issue indefinitely”.
“It is very clear that this bill was passed in a rush to try to comply with an arbitrary date that was set by this lower court judge,” retorted BC Conservative MP Ed Fast. .
“It deserves careful consideration by the highest court in the land and, sadly, the current Liberal government has refused to do it for Canadians. ”
Alberta Conservative MP Damien Kurek said he found “disturbing that they seem to have manufactured a sense of urgency.”
Justice Minister David Lametti said the court ruling overturning the predictable death requirement technically only applies to Quebec. Thus, if the government does not respect the deadline, which has already been extended twice, it has warned that Quebecers struggling with intolerable suffering, but who are not close to death will have access to medical assistance. die when those in the rest of the country will not be entitled to it.
Among other things, Conservative MPs complained that Bill C-7 goes way beyond the court ruling, relaxing some of the rules allowing people near death to receive medical assistance in dying. . And, by extending assisted dying to those not near death, they argued that the government is telling Canadians with disabilities that their lives are not worth living.
The Conservatives proposed a number of amendments when the bill was considered by the Commons Justice Committee, but they were all defeated.
They are relaunching two for consideration by the House of Commons.
We would restore the required 10-day cooling-off period, which the bill proposes to drop for those near death. The other would extend the proposed 90-day period to 120 days for assessing requests for medical assistance in dying from people who are not near death.