Government pleads for more time to respond to doctor-assisted death decision

The federal government is pleading for more time to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada's landmark ruling on doctor-assisted death.

OTTAWA — The federal government is pleading for more time to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark ruling on doctor-assisted death.

During an oral hearing Monday, Crown lawyer Robert Frater said the government needs six more months to comprehensively respond to the judgment, which recognized the right of consenting adults enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to end their lives with a doctor’s help.

The court suspended last February’s decision for one year to allow Parliament and provincial legislatures to respond, should they choose, by bringing in legislation consistent with constitutional limits it set out.

Six additional months is not a long time in terms of the democratic process, Frater said, noting that the government is aware its request is unusual — but not unprecedented.

“Parliament can choose to do any number of things,” Frater told the nine-judge panel.

“I think the government has been quite clear that it is trying to be open to all options. The difficulty in this case is that the issues are so enormous and so complex … it is a new Parliament, they have to grapple with the issues.”

Last month, the Liberals established a special Commons-Senate committee to explore the issue of doctor-assisted death in hopes of drafting a new law ahead of its prospective new August deadline.

The committee is to report with legislative recommendations by Feb. 26, according to the motion that sparked its creation, though MPs have not yet been assigned to it.

Committee members from the Senate are free to start their work now and the group will have to meet the deadline set out, Frater added.

He also acknowledged the rule of law requires the federal government respect the judgment handed down by the Quebec Court of Appeal which “brought clarity to the situation” in the province.

It overturned a lower court decision aimed at suspending the implementation of Quebec’s law on assisted-death.

“If this further six months is granted, the rule of law will mean that that conduct is not a crime in Quebec,” Frater said.

Lawyer Joseph Arvay, who represents those who fought for the right to assisted death, adamantly opposed the extension.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and individuals who spearheaded the case argue an extension would be a setback for people enduring unbearable pain.

“We have really suffering people,” Arvay said.

“Surely, in deciding whether to grant the extension, you have to decide whether the government’s request for an extension, in any way trumps that suffering,” he said.

Arvay also attempted to quash concerns about what would happen if the Supreme Court does not grant an extension, allowing the Criminal Code provisions to fall next month.

“There’s not going to be a rush to the doctors’ offices to die on Feb. 6,” he said.

“Most people don’t want to die … all physicians will be very reluctant to accede to the request unless a compelling case is made.”

The Supreme Court reserved its decision.

Just Posted

Shipping oil by rail questioned

Red Deer-area mayors respond

Country star Gord Bamford and The Reclaws perform free Games concert Friday

Show starts at 6:30 p.m. in heated dome off Celebration Plaza in downtown Red Deer

Survey looks at social isolation among older men

Partnership between Red Deer College and Golden Circle Resource Centre

Peruvian brothers travel nearly 8,000 km to volunteer at Canada Winter Games in Red Deer

Italo and Mirko Del Castillo say Canadian warmth contrasts with twinter cold

Pride Days celebrated for first time at Canada Winter Games on Feb. 21 and 28

Pride Days are another first for Red Deer’s 2019 Canada Winter Games.… Continue reading

Gardening: What are you planting in 2019?

What’s new in plants for 2019? Checking catalogues, greenhouses and stores will… Continue reading

Opinion: I spy another energy hypocrite

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. The mittens provided to… Continue reading

Canada’s bobsleigh team races World Cup on Calgary home track facing closure

CALGARY — Canada’s skeleton and bobsled teams will race a World Cup… Continue reading

Italy becomes ninth international football league to join forces with CFL

TORONTO — Add Italy to the growing list of international football federations… Continue reading

Toronto Defiant Overwatch academy team to be known as the Montreal Rebellion

MONTREAL — The Toronto Defiant’s Overwatch academy team will be known as… Continue reading

Canadian fashion and design insiders recall Karl Lagerfeld’s charm, ingenuity

TORONTO — Several Canadian fashion and design experts who knew couture icon… Continue reading

Millennial Money: Make your funds move at the speed of life

Change is constant — especially when you’re young. Chances are you’ll cycle… Continue reading

TSB says improved tankers involved in Manitoba derailment that spilled crude

ST. LAZARE, Man. — Federal investigators say CN rail cars that spilled… Continue reading

Most Read