Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference following a cabinet swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on July 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference following a cabinet swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on July 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Trudeau pressed to ensure less restrictive assisted-dying law a priority

Group wants death in the ‘foreseeable future’ to not be a requirement

Even before he swears in his new cabinet, Justin Trudeau is being urged to ask his new justice minister to move swiftly to make Canada’s assisted-dying law less restrictive.

The prime minister has said he’ll comply with a September court ruling that struck down as unconstitutional the requirement that only those near death can qualify for medical help to end their suffering.

In her ruling, Quebec Superior Court Judge Christine Baudouin gave the government six months — until March 2020 — to amend the law, although the government could seek an extension.

Dying with Dignity Canada is urging Trudeau, who is to unveil his new cabinet on Wednesday, to ensure whomever he appoints as justice minister will give priority to amending the law — and go further than the ruling demands.

For starters, the group wants the government to get rid of the requirement that a person’s natural death must be reasonably foreseeable in order to qualify for a doctor-assisted death. That is the provision struck down by Baudouin.

But it also wants the government to drop the stipulation that someone must be able to give informed consent twice: once when they request the procedure and again immediately prior to receiving it.

The requirement to give consent a second time has stripped some people, who’ve been approved for an assisted death, of their ability to follow through after their condition deteriorated and they lost the capacity to give last-minute consent.

In other cases, people who feared losing capacity have refused brain-fogging pain medication or have been forced to receive a doctor-assisted death sooner than they wanted.

Dying with Dignity Canada has been lobbying hard for an end to the second consent requirement.

They are calling for ”Audrey’s amendment” in memory of Audrey Parker, a Halifax woman who was suffering from terminal breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain. She had been approved for an assisted death but ended her life earlier than she had originally wanted last fall because she feared she was losing mental capacity.

READ MORE: Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

“We would like to see (these changes) high on the list of priorities because there are real cases of real people who are waiting for this to happen,” said Jim Cowan, a former Liberal senator who is now chair of the Dying with Dignity Canada board.

Longer term, the group wants the government to change the law to allow people to make advance requests for an assisted death but Cowan suspects the government will want more time to debate that.

The issue must be dealt with, in any event, under the legally required parliamentary review of the assisted dying law that must be launched by next June.

The review must also deal with two other issues left unresolved in the 2016 legislation: whether it should apply to mature minors and those suffering solely from mental illnesses.

Dying with Dignity Canada is urging the government to include it in preparing for the review. Cowan noted that the group has a lot of data and personal stories about how the law has worked and “where the difficulties lie.”

Cowan declined to comment on who his group might like to see as justice minister.

However, it’s likely that Dying with Dignity Canada and other groups advocating for a less restrictive law would prefer to see Montreal MP David Lametti remain in the post.

They were thrilled when Trudeau plucked Lametti from the backbenches last January to take on the justice portfolio. He was one of just four Liberal MPs who had voted against the Trudeau government’s 2016 legislation that legalized medical assistance in dying.

The former law professor had argued the law was too restrictive and did not meet the eligibility criteria set out by the Supreme Court in a landmark 2015 ruling that struck down the prohibition on doctor-assisted death — an opinion eventually echoed by Baudouin.

The law was originally spearheaded by former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, now an Independent MP, who rejected calls for changes even in the face of anguished pleas from Parker and others.

During the recent election campaign, Trudeau, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and Green Leader Elizabeth May all agreed that the government should comply with Baudouin’s ruling. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he’d appeal it.

Trudeau’s Liberals won a minority of seats in the House of Commons and will need the support of either the NDP or the Bloc to pass legislation — which should be relatively assured in the case of amendments to the assisted-dying law.

“We support Dying with Dignity Canada’s call for the government to re-examine this law,” NDP MP Don Davies said in a statement Monday.

“The recent court ruling in Quebec highlights the problem with the current … rules and as Jagmeet Singh mentioned during the last campaign, we are committed to improving the law to ensure that everyone has the right to die in dignity.”

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Conductor Willi Zwozdesky and pianist Nico Rhodes led 66 local vocalists in song for the Nanaimo Sings video project Keeping Calm and Singing On. (YouTube screen shot)
Nanaimo Sings virtual performance features 66 vocalists

Fifth Nanaimo Sings festival was to have taken place this year

The bow-legged bear was seen roaming 2nd Avenue on Friday, May 7 and again in Brown Drive Park on May 13. (Submitted photo)
Bow-legged Ladysmith bear euthanized after vet examination

CO Stuart Bates said the bear had obvious health issues

Playwrights Scott Rivers (left) and Ray Appel (right) play contestants on a Gabriola Island-themed quiz show hosted by Lesley Hazeldine (centre) in ‘Gabriola Squares.’ (Video still courtesy Ray Appel)
Gabriola Players theatre group presents virtual one-act play festival

Three local productions will be debuted during online event starting this week

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
UPDATE: Queen presents Nanaimo doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup

Nanaimo Clippers goaltender Jordan Naylor gets into position as Alberni Valley Bulldogs player Ethan Bono takes a shot on net during a game at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on April 28. (Elena Rardon/Black Press)
Nanaimo Clippers’ passion for the game carries them through pandemic season

Coach looks back on season following third-place finish in the BCHL’s Island pod

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
UPDATE: Queen presents Nanaimo doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

A driver was taken to hospital after crashing a pickup truck into a tree on Rutherford Road near Bradbury Road on Friday, May 14. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Driver taken to hospital after crashing truck into tree on Rutherford hill in Nanaimo

RCMP investigating incident at Rutherford and Bradbury roads on Friday, May 14

Tamara Cameron, Uplands Park Elementary School music teacher and librarian, students Ben Leduc, second from left, Avery Kojima and Kinley Robson, as well as other music students from the school, will benefit from $8,000 from MusiCounts, for instruments and recording equipment. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Money for new instruments music to ears of Uplands Park school staff and students

Grant from music education charity MusiCounts means students will have more ways to be creative

Sarah Boileau in her home studio on Monday, May 10. Boileau’s work will be on display at the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville through May 30. (Submitted photo)
RCMP arrested a man in north Nanaimo who wound up empty-handed after allegedly failing at shoplifting, bank robbery and robbery at ATM machine. (File photo)
Man arrested in Nanaimo after failed attempts at bank robbery, ATM mugging, shoplifting

RCMP arrest suspect in office-supply store after ‘short-lived crime spree’

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Most Read