HomeoldSenate changes to C-14 ‘very bad news’, opponents charge

Senate changes to C-14 ‘very bad news’, opponents charge

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OTTAWA – The Senate has taken a stance that is at odds with the House of Commons after it voted to amend the government’s assisted-suicide bill to include people who may not be facing imminent death. On 8 June, senators approved an amendment to Bill C-14 that removes the requirement that assisted suicide be limited to people whose death was “reasonably foreseeable”.

In contrast, the Senate amendment offers medically assisted death to individuals with a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” causing “enduring suffering,” a formulation based on the Supreme Court’s Carter decision. This amendment, according to Senator Denise Batters, who voted against the amendment proposed by Senator Serge Joyal, “basically blew the bill wide open.” The amendment would make assisted suicide available to individuals suffering from non-terminal debilitating diseases or mental illnesses that involve great suffering.

Those opposed to the amendment argued that expanding the eligibility criteria to include individuals with chronic illnesses, among others, would place those with disabilities at risk. They had hoped that the Senate would adopt a more restrictive approach, strengthening safeguards and providing protection for doctors and institutions. Instead, they argue, the Senate has made the bill worse.

Batters observed that the condition no longer had to be serious.

A proposed amendment from Batters to protect those with underlying mental illness by extending the waiting period to 90 days and adding a psychiatric assessment was unsuccessful. Furthermore, she was unsuccessful in her attempt to restrict eligibility to those who are terminally ill.

Dr. Catherine Ferrier of the Physicians’ Alliance Against Euthanasia described the Joyal amendment as “very bad news.” She observed that the Quebec euthanasia legislation stipulates that the individual must be at the end of life in order to qualify for the procedure. The wording of Bill C-14, as passed by the House, was deemed by Ms. Ferrier to be “already too elastic for our liking.”

“My initial reaction was one of profound sadness,” stated Johanne Brownrigg, a lobbyist for the Campaign Life Coalition in Ottawa.

She posited that the majority of Canadians are unaware of the developments, yet those who are informed and involved perceive the imminent threat.

The Senate rejected an amendment proposed by Senator Don Plett, a Conservative, which sought to protect the conscience rights of individuals and institutions that do not wish to participate actively or by referral in assisted suicide and euthanasia. Plett asserted that numerous provinces have made it clear that they will not provide conscientious protection with regard to referrals. He expressed concerns that many doctors may choose to retire or cease practising as a result of the proposed legislation.

“This was a matter that required legislative action, and for the government to reject it without consideration is a cause for concern,” he stated.

The Plett amendment would have constituted a criminal offence for compelling another individual to participate in assisted suicide. “Such a result would have been highly desirable,” Ferrier stated.

“The prevailing sentiment within the government is that the ‘right to be killed’ is a fundamental right,” she stated. “The issue of doctors’ freedom of conscience is of no consequence to them.”

Should Bill C-14 be amended and subsequently presented to the House of Commons, the House may choose to accept all of the amendments and transmit the bill to the Governor General for royal assent, or alternatively, accept some of the amendments and transmit the bill back to the Senate. The government has signalled its intention to resist the Senate’s proposal to relax eligibility criteria for assisted suicide.

“While there is a possibility of a ping-pong game, I do not believe that will occur,” stated constitutional lawyer Gerald Chipeur. “It is unlikely that the Senate will adopt this course of action.”

Nevertheless, should the House of Representatives and the Senate fail to reach an agreement, it is evident that a constitutional crisis will ensue.

Should this occur, it is possible that a conference of the Houses of Commons and the Senate may be convened. The last occasion on which Parliament convened a conference was in 1947.

A significant number of senators have asserted that Bill C-14 is unconstitutional, citing the discrepancy between the language in the Supreme Court decision in the Carter case and that of the bill. However, Chipeur asserts that the bill is constitutional. Batters concurred with this perspective, yet he also expressed the view that the bill would benefit from additional safeguards.

Editor’s note: This appeared at catholicregister.org.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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