Special parliamentary committee on assisted dying still awaiting members

The Trudeau government appears to be in no hurry to grapple with the explosive issue of doctor-assisted dying, even as it prepares to urge the Supreme Court of Canada next week to give it more time to craft a new law on the matter.

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government appears to be in no hurry to grapple with the explosive issue of doctor-assisted dying, even as it prepares to urge the Supreme Court of Canada next week to give it more time to craft a new law on the matter.

The new Liberal government rushed last month — during the only week that Parliament has sat since the Oct. 19 federal election — to pass a motion striking a special joint parliamentary committee on assisted dying.

At the time, government House leader Dominic LeBlanc said it was urgent that the committee get to work quickly, since it would have only until the end of February to consult broadly on the complicated life-and-death issue and come up with recommendations for a new law.

One month later, no MPs have yet been assigned to sit on the committee, much less begin hearings on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Monday on the federal government’s request for a six-month extension for coming up with a new law.

The top court last February struck down the prohibition on physician-assisted dying and gave the federal government one year to produce a new law recognizing the right of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to seek medical help in ending their lives.

In considering the request to extend the deadline to August, the court may want to consider the government’s efforts — or lack thereof — to meet the original Feb. 6 deadline.

The previous Conservative government dragged its feet until mid-July, when it created a three-member panel to consult Canadians and stakeholders.

That panel, created just two weeks before the Conservatives plunged the country into a marathon election campaign, handed its report to the new Liberal government last month.

The report has not yet been released publicly, but one panel member, Benoit Pelletier, has said the panel found near-unanimity on the need for better access to palliative care for the terminally ill. The report reflects the diverse views the panel heard on other issues, such as the need to protect the vulnerable in any assisted dying regime, effective monitoring and reporting practices and the issue of institutions that refuse to help people end their lives, according to Pelletier.

LeBlanc last month blamed Conservative foot-dragging for putting the new government in a time-bind on the issue. And he railed against Bloc Quebecois MPs when they initially refused to give the unanimous consent needed to create the special joint committee on an urgent basis.

“We have very compressed timelines and they’re going to make sure, frankly, that Canadians and Quebecers can’t be heard on an issue as important as physician-assisted dying,” LeBlanc said at the time.

The motion creating the committee was ultimately approved on Dec. 11. The Senate immediately named five senators to sit on the committee but there’s been no move to appoint MPs since then.

Conservative Sen. Judith Seidman used Twitter on Thursday to complain about the delay.

“Senate members, of which I am one, named and ready to get to work on this. What’s taking the House so long?”

Government insiders say not all parties have yet named their members to the committee but that it should be up and running soon.

In the meantime, however, the committee has lost a month in which it could have been delving into the complex issues involved in doctor-assisted death.

According to the motion creating it, the committee is supposed to consult broadly with Canadians, experts and stakeholders, examine research studies and models for assisted dying used elsewhere — including potentially travelling within Canada and to other countries — and to report back with recommendations for new legislation, all by Feb. 26.

LeBlanc has said that deadline is intended to give the government time to draft a new law, which will have to be debated, studied by Commons and Senate justice committees and passed by both houses of Parliament before they break for the summer in late June.

All of that assumes that the Supreme Court will grant the six-month extension. Should the court deny the request, the government would have less than month to fill the legal void that would arise as of Feb. 6.

Just Posted

New admissions have been suspended for Engineering Technology diplomas (Instrumentation, Electrical and Mechanical) and the Transitional Vocational Program at Red Deer College. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Developmentally disabled impacted: Red Deer College suspends program

Transitional Vocational Program comes to an end

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is asking Albertans to do their part by observing gathering limits, staying home if unwell, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three new Central zone COVID-19 deaths, Alberta adds 1,433 cases

Red Deer down to 802 active cases of COVID-19

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman holds up freedom of information requests that turned up no records. The Opposition requested back-to-school re-entry plan correspondence between Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and school boards, teachers and the media. Photo via Facebook live
NDP renews calls for Alberta gov’t to scrap K-6 draft curriculum

The NDP is once again calling on the Alberta Government to get… Continue reading

Earlier this week Alberta Health Services warned that Rocky Mountain House Health Centre emergency department would be temporarily without physician coverage from May 12, at 6 p.m., to May 13, at 7 a.m. (Photo contributed by the Town of Rocky Mountain House)
Doctors needed in Rocky Mountain House

Emergency department temporarily closed due to doctor shortage

The owner of Mae’s Kitchen in Mirror, says hamlet residents were ‘disheartened’ by a recent anti-restriction protest. The restaurant is following all the health restrictions in place. (Photo courtesy Mae’s Kitchen Facebook)
‘We don’t need that’: Mirror restaurant against recent anti-restriction protest

A week after a large anti-restriction protest at The Whistle Stop Cafe… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) deflects a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, May 8, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, celebrates a goal with teammates during third period NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens, in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 5, 2021. Brown will lead a young Canadian squad into the world hockey championship in Riga, Latvia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2018, file photo, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jayna Hefford shakes hands with people associated with the hall before a hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils in Toronto. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association is forging ahead in its bid to establish an economically sustainable professional league in North America with or — for now — without the NHL’s full financial backing. In response to Sportsnet.ca reporting the NHL was not in a position to operate a women’s league for the foreseeable future, PWHPA executive Jayna Hefford wrote in an email to The Associated Press late Thursday that her group has begun developing what she called “a parallel path for a future that doesn’t rely on NHL support.” (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

Supporters dance during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., on Saturday, May 8, 2021. RCMP say they have ticketed four people after the rally that was attended by hundreds.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney answers questions at a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Kenney is distancing himself from a decision to expel two members from his United Conservative caucus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Kenney distances himself from caucus vote to turf dissidents with ‘personal agendas’

Kenney distances himself from caucus vote to turf dissidents with ‘personal agendas’

Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. A judge is expected to rule this morning on a challenge of the United Conservative government's inquiry into whether foreign groups have conspired against Alberta's oil industry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Judge dismisses attempt to quash ‘anti-Alberta’ activities inquiry

Judge dismisses attempt to quash ‘anti-Alberta’ activities inquiry

Albertans receive vaccines at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Alberta Health Services says it has obtained a restraining order against a Calgary mayoral candidate who the agency says has threatened health workers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta health agency obtains restraining order against Calgary mayoral candidate

Alberta health agency obtains restraining order against Calgary mayoral candidate

Most Read