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.

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

Just Posted

Local marimba player Nicole Arendt will be prominently featured in the Vancouver Island Symphony’s upcoming ‘Debussy and Duets’ concert. (Chris Helman photo)
Nanaimo marimba player in the spotlight in Vancouver Island Symphony concert

Longtime VIS timpanist Nicole Arendt to play three pieces in ‘Debussy and Duets’ live stream

The site of the former Arrowview Hotel, on Second Avenue and Athol Street, as of Jan. 14, 2020. (Elena Rardon/Black Press)
Port Alberni pressures owner of demolished hotel, Lantzville’s Pottie, for final cleanup

Demolition finished in June 2020 but site still full of construction material

Letter writers weigh in on the City of Nanaimo adopting ‘doughnut’ economics as a guiding principle for decision-making.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: City of Nanaimo’s ‘doughnut’ has to be more than empty calories

Letter writers react to city council’s recent decision to adopt ‘doughnut’ economic model

Emergency crews were called to a crash involving a car and a minivan Saturday afternoon at the old Island Highway and Mary Ellen Drive. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
One person taken to hospital after crash in north Nanaimo

Car and minivan collided Saturday at the intersection of the old Island Highway and Mary Ellen Drive

Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization, a non-profit, seeks to raise $8,000 for a play structure to help children remain active during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization asking for help fundraising for play structure

Physical activities have been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, says non-profit

Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization, a non-profit, seeks to raise $8,000 for a play structure to help children remain active during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization asking for help fundraising for play structure

Physical activities have been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, says non-profit

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage addresses the attendees while Tom Olsen, Managing Director of the Canadian Energy Centre, looks on at a press conference at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Fulmes
‘Morally and ethically wrong:’ Court to hear challenge to Alberta coal policy removal

At least 9 interveners will seek to join a rancher’s request for a judicial review of Alberta’s decision

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

Cyclists pick up swag and cycling trail maps at city Bike to Work Week ‘celebration station’ a few years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo’s active transportation plan will be about more than infrastructure

City working on goals to double walking trips and quintuple cycling and busing trips

Jackie Hildering, whale researcher with the Marine Education and Research Society, and Nanaimo Area Land Trust will present the Return of Giants, a webinar about the humpback whales’ return from the brink of extinction and how boaters can help protect them. (Jackie Hildering/MERS photo taken under Marine Mammal License MML-42)
‘Return of the Giants:’ B.C. getting a second chance to coexist with humpback whales

‘Marine Detective’ partners with Nanaimo stewardship group on webinar

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam at a press conference last year. (Canadian Press photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Better federal vaccine planning badly needed

Why hasn’t Parliament done more to protect seniors and care homes, asks letter writer

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Kinsmen Participark in Beban Park will be closed next week so city workers can remove dangerous trees and invasive plant species. The work is the start of an improvement project that includes replacing signs and fitness stations in the spring. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo fitness park to close for removal of hazard trees and invasive plants

Tree cutting to start in Beban Park’s Kinsmen Participark as part of improvement project

Most Read