Bill C-4 passed in the House of Commons to authorize new benefits for workers left jobless or underemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)

Bill C-4 passed in the House of Commons to authorize new benefits for workers left jobless or underemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)

Tory MPs keep talking on assisted dying bill as clock ticks down to Dec. 18 deadline

OTTAWA — Conservative MPs are refusing to be rushed into a vote on assisted dying legislation, despite a looming court-imposed deadline.

The Liberal minority government has until Dec. 18 to pass Bill C-7, legislation intended to comply with a Quebec Superior Court ruling that struck down a provision allowing only individuals who are already near death to receive medical help to end their suffering.

The government had hoped to wrap up debate on the bill in the House of Commons on Monday, paving the way for a final vote Tuesday and leaving just over two weeks for the Senate to deal with it before time runs out.

But Conservative MPs talked out the clock, with a number of them calling the deadline “artificial” and the urgency “manufactured.”

The government is expected to rejig its agenda to resume debate on the bill on Wednesday and could yet try to impose time allocation to cut the debate off, a move that would require the support of at least one opposition party.

A spokeswoman for Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was unable to say how many more Tory MPs still want to speak on the bill but, given that it literally involves a matter of life and death, she said anyone “who wants to speak to the bill is free to do so.”

The bill would drop the proviso that only those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable are entitled to seek medical assistance in dying (MAID). But it would retain the foreseeable death concept to set up two different eligibility tracks, one that makes it easier for those near death to receive MAID while those who are not near death would face more restrictive criteria.

Conservatives were the only MPs to give speeches during debate on the bill Monday and all but one of them — Toronto MP Peter Kent — were opposed to it. All of them, including Kent, slammed the government for rushing the bill through the Commons without adequate consultation.

They argued that the government should have appealed the Quebec court ruling to the Supreme Court and should not be making changes to Canada’s MAID law until Parliament conducts the legally-mandated five-year review of the law.

That review was to have started in June but has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Conservative MPs noted that the government further delayed matters by proroguing Parliament in August for six weeks.

“Why rush to pass this flawed legislation when it truly is a matter of life and death?” asked Ontario Conservative MP Michael Barrett.

“We do many things in this place quickly but we can certainly agree that this step too far is not one that needs to be done in such a hasty way.”

At one point, Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux, parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, asked if it was the Conservatives’ intention “to see us continuing to debate this indefinitely.”

“It is very clear this legislation was rushed through to try to comply with an arbitrary date that was set by that lower court judge,” retorted British Columbia Conservative MP Ed Fast.

“This deserves a full airing and review at the highest court of the land and, sadly, the current Liberal government refused to do that for Canadians.”

Alberta Conservative MP Damien Kurek said he finds it “troubling that they seem to have manufactured a level of urgency.”

Justice Minister David Lametti has said the court ruling striking down the foreseeable death requirement applies technically only in Quebec. Thus, if the government does not meet the deadline, which has already been extended twice, he has warned that intolerably suffering Quebecers who are not near death will have access to MAID while those in the rest of the country will not.

Among other things, Conservative MPs complained that Bill C-7 goes well beyond the court ruling, relaxing some of the rules for those near death to receive MAID. And, in expanding MAID to those who are 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 scrutinized by the Commons justice committee but they were all rejected.

They are reviving two of them for consideration by the House of Commons.

One would restore the required 10-day reflection period, which the bill proposes dropping for people who are near death. The other would increase the proposed 90-day period for assessing requests for MAID from individuals not near death to 120 days.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

assisted dying

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

A firetruck sits in front of a home on Harvey Close in Red Deer Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to Red Deer fire

Red Deer firefighters responded to a blaze in the north part of… Continue reading

(Courtesy photo)
Red Deer rental prices drop slightly

Renting an apartment in Red Deer became slightly cheaper last month.… Continue reading

Rylee Trippel was last seen Friday. (Photo contributed by RCMP)
Red Deer RCMP looking for missing teen

Police are looking for a teen who was last seen in the… Continue reading

The Red Deer Outreach Centre’s Adopt a Family program raised $60,000 in 2020. (Photo courtesy Red Deer Outreach Centre’s Facebook)
Red Deer Outreach Centre’s Adopt a Family program raised $60K in 2020

The executive director of the Red Deer Outreach Centre says she is… Continue reading

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

RCMP say missing teen Hope Tivendale has been found. (File photo by Advocate staff)
No foul play suspected after burned body of homeless person found in North Vancouver

VANCOUVER — A burned body, believed to be of a homeless person,… Continue reading

The central zone experienced a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases Thursday, rising from 454 to 508 active cases over the past 24 hours, with 10 people in hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Spartan Bioscience says Health Canada has approved its rapid COVID-19 test

TORONTO — An Ottawa company says it’s received approval from Health Canada… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole defends decision to back, then oust, Sloan

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he was once willing to… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault pauses as he speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Non-essential travel ban would violate Constitution but courts might allow it: expert

MONTREAL — Fear that Quebecers will catch a new variant of COVID-19… Continue reading

A woman walks outside the Roberta Place Long Term Care home in Barrie, Ont. on Monday, January 18, 2021. The devastating toll of COVID-19 on long-term care residents in Canada has underscored the need for increased public funding for home care, advocates say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
COVID-19 deaths in long-term care reveal need for home supports: advocates

VANCOUVER — The devastating toll of COVID-19 on long-term care residents in… Continue reading

A Chinese flag is illuminated by sunshine in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, September 22, 2016. China is threatening retaliation against Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned a new security law giving Beijing more control over Hong Kong.. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Diplomats contact Canadian held for over 2 years in China

BEIJING — Canadian officials have met online with former diplomat Michael Kovrig,… Continue reading

Marc Gold (centre) stands with senators André Pratte (left) and Peter Harder before being sworn in during a ceremony in the Senate on Parliament Hill, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Senator urges study of vexing barriers to using secret information in court cases

OTTAWA — A Senate committee should examine the hurdles that make it… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Winnipeg ticket holder wins Friday night’s $60 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — A ticket holder from Winnipeg won Friday night’s whopping $60… Continue reading

Most Read