On February 24, 2020, Canada’s Minister of Justice, David Lametti, introduced in the House of Commons of Parliament in Ottawa a bill C-7, a law amending the penal code that seeks to expand access to assisted death to people. Those who suffer intolerably and who do not approach the natural end of their lives. It would also relax the eligibility rules for people who are near death, but create more restrictive rules for those who are not. It also seeks to expand access to medical death assistance for people with mental illnesses.
From the government’s point of view, this law was necessary in response to a 2019 Quebec Supreme Court ruling that repealed a provision in the law permitting assisted death only for people in unbearable suffering and whose “natural deaths could reasonably be expected”.
The government has requested and obtained four court-imposed extensions to adapt the law to the ruling. The last extension expires on March 26.
Some disability rights organizations have challenged Bill C-7, arguing that its provisions discriminate against persons with disabilities because they fear that they will be under pressure to end their lives prematurely instead of living in poverty, without health care and without adequate support services.
The bill was approved last month by the Senate, but with some amendments including approval of assisted death requests in advance and imposing an 18-month deadline on the blanket ban on assisted death in the bill for people with mental illnesses only.
This Thursday, Quebec Bloc lawmakers in the House of Commons backed liberal Justin Trudeau to pass a final motion that ended the debate on the bill.
The Quebec Bloc decided to support the closing of the debate in response to the stalling tactics the Conservatives had implemented ahead of the impending deadline of March 26 that the courts had ordered.
Conservative Parliament Chair Irene O’Toole argued that the bill removes safeguards that protect people with disabilities from coercion or pressure to agree to prematurely end their lives due to a lack of support.
This bill has been put on hold in the House of Commons for weeks as the Conservatives have repeatedly refused to suspend debate or hold evening sessions in the House of Commons to speed up the process due to the imminence of the temporary extension expiring.
Once approved by the House of Commons, the amended bill must return to the Senate, where senators have to decide whether to accept or reject the text of the bill that was passed in the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, until yesterday, the disruption campaign against the C-7 bill in Canada continued, through Zoom.
The campaign, carried out by people with disabilities and their allies, argues that the impact of the bill makes death a problematic and easily accessible “treatment option” for a large segment of people with disabilities in Canada.
Sources: CBC / Library of Parliament / Canadian Press / CTV / RCI