MacKay says more time may be needed to respond to assisted suicide ruling

The next government, be it Conservative or otherwise, will probably need more time to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decision on doctor-assisted death, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Tuesday.

OTTAWA — The next government, be it Conservative or otherwise, will probably need more time to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decision on doctor-assisted death, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Tuesday.

“I suspect that it is very likely that a government after October the 19th will be requesting an extension,” MacKay told a news conference.

In February, the high court ruled that the prohibition on physician-assisted suicide is an infringement of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The ruling gave Parliament a year to draft new legislation that recognizes the right of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to end their lives with a doctor’s help.

MacKay said the government expects to launch formal consultations on the issue “very soon.”

It has already held informal consultations on the issue and is reviewing foreign precedents, MacKay added.

“The reason that we are taking our time thus far to start that process is because there has already been a fair degree of consultation on an informal basis,” MacKay said.

“We want to make sure that process is the most inclusive, the most consultative, the most able to reflect what is an extremely, extremely important issue for Canadians.”

With Parliament about to adjourn and an October election in the offing, the court’s one-year deadline is getting tighter.

“Do we have sufficient time? Certainly not in the life of this Parliament,” he said. “The legislative time frame to present a bill, to have it go through Parliament, and be seriously debated in Parliament at all its stages, I think would take us well beyond that February date.”