The Canadian government is proposing to expand euthanasia (MAiD) before the 5-year review of the law

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On February 24, Canada’s federal government introduced Bill C-7. It claimed the legislation was in response to the Quebec Superior Court decision striking down the requirement in the euthanasia law that a person’s “natural death must be reasonably foreseeable” to die by MaiD [Medical Assistance in Dying]. Due to the COVID-19 crisis and then the prorogation of parliament [end of a parliamentary session], Bill C-7 was re-introduced on October 5, 2020.

If Bill C-7 was limited to the court mandated changes, one would understand the need for this legislation.  However, Bill C-7 expands Canada’s euthanasia law far beyond Justice Christine Baudouin’s September 2019 court decision, a decision that should have been appealed by the government.

It is also concerning that Bill C-14, the bill that legalized euthanasia in Canada, legislated that a Review of the law be done “At the start of the fifth year after the day on which this Act receives royal assent…”, 

Bill C-14 was passed on June 17, 2016, therefore the review the law was to begin on June 17, 2020. The fact that the government prorogued [ended] parliament on August 18 does not negate the fact that the legislated review has not begun, yet Bill C-7 significantly expands euthanasia in Canada without the current law having first been reviewed.

It is inconceivable that parliament pass Bill C-7 without first fulfilling its legislative requirement to first review the current law.

Further to that, Justice Minister David Lametti seems to be changing the scope of the review. Minister Lametti stated in parliament on October 9 

We know that Canadians are also concerned about other issues that are not addressed in this bill. I am thinking, in particular, of access to medical assistance in dying on the basis of mental illness. I am also thinking about advance requests for medical assistance in dying for people who are not yet suffering but fear they will be after they have lost their ability to request this assistance and who want to making their wishes known before that happens. 

The upcoming parliamentary review of the medical assistance in dying regime and of the state of palliative care in Canada will provide an opportunity to give these complex issues the time and attention they deserve.

The purpose for the review is to examine how the euthanasia law is working in practice, not to simply consider further expansions to the law, such as euthanasia for mental illness, euthanasia for children, and advanced requests for euthanasia.

The fact that the government, through Bill C-7, is expanding Canada’s euthanasia law beyond the parameters of the Quebec court decision without first reviewing the law, as legislated, is simply wrong. 

Bill C-7 must be defeated. …

Editor’s note. This is excerpted from a post on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.