Medically assisted dying consensus reachable, Liberal House leader says

The Trudeau government is aiming to conduct a quick, two-month public consultation on medically assisted dying and have a new law crafted, studied, debated and passed by June.

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is aiming to conduct a quick, two-month public consultation on medically assisted dying and have a new law crafted, studied, debated and passed by June.

But despite the rush, government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc says he’s confident the process will be sufficient to build a national consensus on the life-and-death issue.

The timeline might yet become even more rushed if the Supreme Court of Canada rejects the new Liberal government’s request for a six-month extension to craft a new law.

Last February, the Supreme Court struck down the prohibition on doctor-assisted death and gave the federal government a year to come up with 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.

LeBlanc says the last-minute rush could have been avoided had the previous Conservative government adopted a Liberal motion last March to create a special parliamentary committee that would have been mandated to consult and report back with draft legislation by mid-July.

But since the Conservatives dragged their feet on the issue, the new government has had to speed up the process.

“It was our hope that this work would have properly been done last spring. The previous Parliament chose not to accept our suggestion,” LeBlanc said Tuesday after a cabinet meeting.

“So we have the deadline we have. That being said, we are very confident that if the Supreme Court considers and accepts our request for an extension, we can undertake the proper and appropriate process to build the kind of national consensus that’s important on an issue … that’s this sensitive.”

The Supreme Court has not yet responded to the request for more time. While the government has asked for an extension until August, LeBlanc said the new law will need to be passed by the end of June, before Parliament breaks for the summer.

The government last week constituted a special, joint House of Commons-Senate committee that is to consult broadly on the issue and report back with recommendations for legislative change by the end of February. Justice Department officials will then draft a law which will have to go through the normal legislative process of debate, clause-by-clause study by the Commons justice committee and votes in both the Commons and Senate.

The joint committee will have two key reports in hand to help guide its deliberations.

The federal health and justice ministers expected to receive an external panel report Tuesday on issues the federal government will need to consider. The report, commissioned by the previous government, will be translated before its public release, likely early in the new year.

On Monday, a provincial-territorial expert advisory group on physician-assisted dying issued 43 recommendations that governments should take into account.

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