On February 6, 2015 in its ruling Carter v. Canada, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously struck down Canada’s longstanding criminal prohibition against voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide (physician-assisted dying), ruling that it was in contravention of the right to life, liberty, and security of the person guaranteed under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Supreme Court gave the Government until June 6th 2016 to introduce legislation that would in effect make physician assisted suicide legal.
Consequently, one of the first acts of the 42nd Parliament was to strike a committee to hear testimony and give feedback to the government on what the new law governing physician assisted suicide should look like be, and what limits, if any, it should impose.
The Committee membership included 8 Liberals, 5 Conservatives, and two NDP members.
On Thursday, this committee released its report.
The Committee report recommended that the Canada’s laws governing physician assisted suicide should include few obstacles for eligible Canadians suffering from a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition. Furthermore, the report recommended that physician assisted suicide be initially limited to persons 18 years or older, followed by a process that would allow for “competent mature minors” to do the same within three years following the implementation of the law.
The Conservative opposition opposed this report stating in their dissent that more safeguards are needed to protect the most vulnerable. In Quebec, the only Canadian jurisdiction with physician assisted suicide legislation, only patients aged 18 and older, with severe and incurable physical illnesses and whose medical condition is characterized by an advanced and irreversible decline can request medical help to die.
The attending physician must ensure that his or her patient has clearly consented to physician assisted death, ensuring among other things that it is not the result of external pressure; provides the patient with a full prognosis on the condition and possible treatment options, along with likely consequences. The physician must also ensure the continuation of consent with interviews with the patient held at different times, spaced by a reasonable time, having regard for the patient’s condition.
Quebec physicians are free to act according to their conscience. If they do not want to proceed, they must refer the patient to an independent body which will contact another physician. Two independent physicians must confirm that the patient meets all the criteria prescribed by the subject legislation.
These laws were passed in a free vote of members of the National Assembly: 94 members voted in favor of the legislation and 22 against. All votes against were from members of the governing party, including 11 cabinet ministers.
I join my colleagues in opposing the Committee’s final report and it is my hope that the Minister of Justice will consider the views of all parties when she introduces legislation on this matter later this year.
As this is a matter of conscience, Conservatives will have a free vote on this upcoming legislation and it is my hope that all parties will also allow their members to vote their conscience.
The entire parliamentary report can be read online on the Parliament of Canada website.
Events and Activities
Monday, February 22: Attended Transport and Infrastructure Committee meeting, worked in my Ottawa office and attended a reception hosted by Genome Canada
Tuesday, February 23: Worked in my Ottawa office, met with representatives of the Canadian Manufacturers Association, met with representatives of Ford Canada, did House Duty, attended Question Period, spoke to Government Motion 2 regarding the Liberal’s mission against ISIS, attended a reception hosted by the Canadian Catholic School Trustee Association and attended a reception hosted by Canada’s Information Communications Technology industry
Wednesday, February 24: Attended Regional Caucus, attended National Caucus, attended a meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association executive, worked in my Ottawa office, attended Question Period, attended Transport and Infrastructure Committee meeting and attended a dinner hosted by Teachers Institute of Canadian Parliamentary Democracy
Thursday, February 25: Worked in my Ottawa office, met with a representative from WeNeedaLAW, met with a representative from Teamsters Canada, met with representatives from SARM, met with representatives of CASA, met with representatives from Forest Products Association of Canada and met with representatives from Jetlines and Jet Metal
Friday, February 26: Attended the Manning Centre Conference Saturday, February 27: Attended the Manning Centre Conference
Monday, February 29: Worked in my Martensville office and attended the Heritage Awards Presentation at Saskatoon City Council