Five Year Review of Canada’s euthanasia law will likely begin in January, Senate may amend euthanasia Bill C-7

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In an article published in The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) National News, Dale Smith reported that the Five Year Review of Canada’s (MAiD) euthanasia law that was legislated to begin in June 2020 will likely begin in January 2021.

Smith wrote on December 14

Sources within the Liberal caucus have told CBA National that they have been told the five-year legislative review of the existing MAiD regime is slated to start in January, though this has not been announced publicly. That review was supposed to begin in June but was pushed off because of the pandemic and the inability to come to an agreement on how to ensure that Parliament would keep functioning throughout it.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is concerned by statements made by Justice Minister, David Lametti, indicating that the government intends to review the issues not dealt with by Bill C-7. Bill C-7 passed the House of Commons and is currently being debated in the Senate.

Lametti has stated on several occasions that the review will focus on issues related to child euthanasia, euthanasia for mental illness alone and enabling people to validly request euthanasia in their power of, attorney for health care (living will).

The bill that legalized euthanasia in June 2016 legislated that a full review of the law was to begin in June 2020. EPC supports a full review of the law, not simply a review that is limited to issues oriented to further expanding the law.

After Bill C-7 passed in the House of Commons by a 212 – 107 vote, with only two Liberals voting against the Bill, Justice Minister Lametti asked the Superior Court of Quebec to extend the timeframe to February 26, 2021, to pass Bill C-7. Therefore the time restraint placed on the Senate to pass Bill C-7 may be lifted.

The Senate may amend Bill C-7.

Smith also reported for the CBA National that Conservative Senator Denise Batters, the Deputy Chair of the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee, is not in a hurry to pass Bill C-7 and she recognizes that amendments to Bill C-7 may be necessary. 

Smith wrote:

Conservative Senator Denise Batters, a lawyer and former chief of staff to the Minister of Justice in Saskatchewan, says that if Lametti had read the committee’s interim report, he would have seen that there were “major flaws” in the bill that she says will prove problematic in the Senate.

Batters says that she is still evaluating whether to move amendments to the bill, but says that she is most concerned that the bill potentially violates the Section 15 Charter rights of persons with disabilities, and with the removal of the 10-day waiting period.

“The lower court Truchon decision struck down the requirement for a ‘reasonably foreseeable’ death in
order to access assisted dying,” says Batters. “It did not call for the removal of safeguards around the practice. Yet Justice Minister Lametti’s response, Bill C-7, unnecessarily proposes the removal of not only that 10-day waiting period, but the loosening of a number of other safeguards.”

Batters says that given the parliamentary calendar, even meeting a new February date will be challenging.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.