The federal government legalized medical assistance in dying in 2016. (Needpix.com)

The federal government legalized medical assistance in dying in 2016. (Needpix.com)

Feds get another month to reform assisted-dying law as bill stalls in the Commons

2019 ruling struck down MAID only for those whose natural deaths are ‘reasonably foreseeable’

The federal government was granted one more month Thursday to expand access to medical assistance in dying even as its efforts to do so stalled in the House of Commons.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Martin Sheehan agreed to give the government a fourth extension — until March 26 — to bring the law into compliance with a 2019 court ruling.

But he suggested this will be the last one.

Given that the government is close to finally reforming Canada’s assisted-dying law, Sheehan said “it is appropriate to grant a final extension to allow it to end.”

But he added, if the government can’t meet the new deadline, “it must be deduced that this incapacity results from a lack of consensus on the sensitive issues raised rather than exceptional circumstances justifying an extension.”

Sheehan’s decision came just one day before the previous deadline was to expire.

The 2019 ruling struck down a provision in the law that allows assisted dying only for those whose natural deaths are “reasonably foreseeable.”

Bill C-7 is intended to bring the law into compliance with the ruling, expanding access to assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the ends of their lives.

However, the bill is stalled in the Commons, where the Conservatives refused for the third straight day Thursday to facilitate debate on a motion laying out the government’s response to amendments passed last week by the Senate.

Conservative MPs talked out the clock on the motion Tuesday and then refused the unanimous consent needed to extend the debate until midnight, despite calling last week for extended hours to allow thorough debate on the issue.

They refused unanimous consent again Wednesday to allow the Commons to sit into the night to wrap up debate on the motion.

And they refused unanimous consent again to sit Thursday night.

The Bloc Quebecois offered to give up its opposition day Thursday, an opportunity for it to set the agenda in the Commons, to allow debate on the motion to continue. The minority Liberal government decided that would be pointless, given the Conservatives’ stalling tactics.

“Conservatives have twice blocked our proposal that the House sit late to debate this important issue, despite claiming that they want extended hours,” Mark Kennedy, a spokesman for government House leader Pablo Rodriguez, said late Wednesday.

“Based on this, we now know that Conservatives will continue to obstruct, and cancelling the Bloc opposition day tomorrow will not change anything.”

The Conservatives were largely opposed to the original bill and object even more strenuously to the amended version the government is now proposing.

The bill originally would have imposed a blanket ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses. The government is now proposing a two-year time limit on that exclusion, six months longer than the time limit approved by senators.

The government has rejected another Senate amendment that would have allowed advance requests for assisted dying, as well as an amendment intended to clarify what constitutes a mental illness. It has accepted a modified version of two others.

The Bloc has said it will support the government’s response to the Senate amendments, assuring the motion’s eventual passage. But until Conservatives agree to wrap up debate, it can’t be put to a vote.

Once the motion is passed, the bill will still have to go back to the Senate for senators to decide whether to accept the verdict of the elected parliamentary chamber or dig in their heels on their amendments.

assisted dying

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

Just Posted

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Air Canada, Harbour Air flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

Rebates through Clean B.C.’s Better Homes New Construction program are available, says the City of Nanaimo. (Vancouver Island University photo)
Energy-efficient home builds in Nanaimo eligible for up to $15K in rebates

All building permits issued on, or after, April 1, 2020 eligible, says City of Nanaimo

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Heidi Sinclair, executive director of Nanaimo Community Kitchens, left, accepts a $13,500 donation from 100-plus Women Who Care Mid Island, represented by Nahanni Ackroyd and Shannon Gorgichuk. (Photo submitted)
Caring women in Nanaimo give generously to community kitchen society

100-plus Women Who Care Mid Island donate $13,500 to Nanaimo Community Kitchens Society

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
UPDATE: Another COVID-19 case found as part of NRGH outbreak

Four patients tested positive for the virus in NRGH’s high-intensity rehab unit

Noel Brown, Snuneymuxw First Nation carver, observes the house post he carved, which now is situated in front of the Kw’umut Lelum centre on Centre Street in Nanaimo. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
House post representative of work of Kw’umut Lelum in Nanaimo

Snuneymuxw First Nation artist Noel Brown’s carved red cedar house post unveiled Friday, April 16

(Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts on Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for what the COVID-19 public health orders are,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

Most Read