Senate changes to Bill-C-7 would expand assisted suicide/euthanasia even farther

The Canadian Senate has voted on Bill C-7, proposing amendments to even further expand access to euthanasia / assisted suicide in Canada. (iStock photo)

By Bryan Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

The Canadian Senate has voted to open access to assisted suicide even further than what the federal government is proposing.

The Senate passed amendments to Bill C-7 on Feb. 17, 2021 that significantly change the bill and which go well beyond what the House of Commons actually agreed to back in December.

The Senate’s revised version of the bill, passed by a vote of 66-19, expands access to so-called “medical assistance in dying” (MAiD) further, by allowing people who fear being diagnosed with dementia to make advance requests for an assisted suicide.

It would also open up the possibility of the mentally ill being eligible for euthanasia by putting an 18-month time limit on the federal government’s ban on mental illness being a valid reason to seek medically-assisted death.

The government has not responded to the revised bill which now goes back to the House of Commons. If the changes are not accepted, it sets up the possibility of there being a clash between the House of Commons and Senate. This could bring further debate to legislation which the government has insisted it will pass before a court-imposed deadline of  Feb. 26, which has already been extended twice.

“Our government appreciates the careful consideration that senators are giving to Bill C-7, which remains ongoing at this time,” a statement from Justice Minister David Lametti’s spokesperson Rachel Rapport said before the Senate’s vote on the bill.

“We await the revised bill from the Senate and will respond to the final package of amendments that they have put forward for inclusion.”

MPs with the minority Liberal government, the NDP and Bloc Quebecois for the most part supported Bill C-7 in the House of Commons, while the majority of Conservative MPs did not. It is expected that Conservative MPs who voted against Bill C-7 will not support the Senate’s amendments, but it is unclear if Liberal MPs and NDP and Bloc MPs will support changes put forward by the Senate.

Rappaport said that because the amendments likely being proposed by the Senate are “major” in nature, the full federal cabinet needs to review them to determine if the Liberal government will support any of the amendments.

“Because of the nature of the changes, they will have to go to cabinet,” she said, adding that a federal cabinet meeting has been set up to review the on Feb. 18.

MPs from all parties in the House of Commons helped Bill C-7 pass by a two-to-one margin on Dec. 10. Along with eliminating the need for a person’s death being reasonably foreseeable, Bill C-7 would also eliminate or ease some of the other safeguards in the law such as lowering the number of witnesses needed when a person consents to MAiD.

The bill would also eliminate a 10-day waiting period to perform an assisted suicide after consent is given, but it clearly states that “mental illness” is not a valid reason to seek MAiD even though many of the government’s critics do believe that Bill C-7 opens the door to allowing MAiD for the mentally ill.

Opponents of assisted dying have been calling upon Canadians to lobby senators to block the passage of Bill C-7, introduced to comply with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling that said an existing requirement that a person’s death be reasonably foreseeable was unconstitutional. The federal government did not appeal the Quebec court ruling.

Critics of expanding the euthanasia/medically-assisted suicide system have said that hearings at the committee level in both the House of Commons and the Senate show that there is no real consensus among Canadians (as the federal government claims) to make significant changes before a promised five-year review of euthanasia/assisted suicide legislation and palliative care options in Canada is undertaken.