An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying)

This bill was last introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2021.

This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session.


David Lametti  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to, among other things,
(a) repeal the provision that requires a person’s natural death be reasonably foreseeable in order for them to be eligible for medical assistance in dying;
(b) specify that persons whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness are not eligible for medical assistance in dying;
(c) create two sets of safeguards that must be respected before medical assistance in dying may be provided to a person, the application of which depends on whether the person’s natural death is reasonably foreseeable;
(d) permit medical assistance in dying to be provided to a person who has been found eligible to receive it, whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable and who has lost the capacity to consent before medical assistance in dying is provided, on the basis of a prior agreement they entered into with the medical practitioner or nurse practitioner; and
(e) permit medical assistance in dying to be provided to a person who has lost the capacity to consent to it as a result of the self-administration of a substance that was provided to them under the provisions governing medical assistance in dying in order to cause their own death.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


March 11, 2021 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying)
March 11, 2021 Failed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying) (amendment)
March 11, 2021 Passed Motion for closure
Dec. 10, 2020 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying)
Dec. 3, 2020 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying)
Dec. 3, 2020 Failed Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying) (report stage amendment)
Oct. 29, 2020 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2020 / 3:55 p.m.
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LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec


David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice

moved that Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding medical assistance in dying.

The bill proposes a legislative response to the Superior Court of Quebec's Truchon decision, as well as some other changes to the Criminal Code provisions that set out Canada's medical assistance in dying regime.

In June 2016, former Bill C-14 amended the Criminal Code to create Canada's first law on medical assistance in dying, or MAID. The legislation created exemptions to Criminal Code offences so that individuals suffering unbearably and nearing the end of their lives could die peacefully and with the help of a physician or nurse practitioner, rather than in agony or in circumstances that they considered undignified.

This significant change in our criminal law was indicative of the value that Canadians ascribed to having choices, including about the manner and timing of their deaths when suffering in the dying process was intolerable. The most recent data obtained by the federal MAID-monitoring regime indicates that over 13,000 Canadians have received MAID since it has become decriminalized.

We are now proposing another important change to our criminal law. In Truchon and Gladu, the Quebec Superior Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to limit access to medical assistance in dying to persons whose death is reasonably foreseeable.

We decided not to appeal the decision because we want to reduce the suffering of people waiting for medical assistance in dying.

When we announced our decision not to appeal the ruling, our government also committed to changing the eligibility criteria for medical assistance in dying throughout Canada to ensure that criminal law is consistent nationwide.

Application of the court's ruling, which is limited to Quebec, was suspended for six months. The deadline is March 12. Because these issues are so important and because we want to ensure that our laws are consistent all across Canada, we have asked the court for a four-month extension, which would give Parliament time to thoroughly consider and debate the amendments proposed in this bill. There was a hearing yesterday regarding this request.

Consulting Canadians about the next phase of medical assistance in dying in Canada was crucial to drafting this bill. That is why we launched a two-week public consultation on January 13. The level of participation was unprecedented. We received over 300,000 responses, an indication of how important this issue is to Canadians.

At the same time, together with the Minister of Health, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion and our parliamentary secretaries, we held 10 round-table discussions across the country between January 13 and February 3.

This included round tables in Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver. We met over 125 individuals, including doctors, nurse practitioners, legal experts, members of the disability community, indigenous peoples, and representatives of health regulatory bodies and civil organizations.

We are grateful to all who participated in the round tables. Their shared expertise and experiences were of immense value in developing this bill. I have no doubt that many will continue to engage in the parliamentary process as witnesses before committees.

The results of this consultation process will be published shortly in a “what we heard” report. We heard views on many different topics, but I would like to mention just a few.

From the public online consultations we heard that, while the majority of respondents think the current safeguards are adequate to prevent abuse, in a MAID regime that is expanded to persons who are not dying in the near term, a majority of respondents also thought it would be important to require additional safeguards in such a broader regime. Many round-table participants suggested two separate sets of safeguards in an expanded regime. Others shared their experiences with existing safeguards as they apply to those who are near the end of their lives.

Specifically, many felt that the requirement for two witnesses when a person's written request was made was too onerous and afforded little protection, and that the 10-day reflection period unnecessarily prolonged suffering.

Informed by these in-depth consultations, and by the Canadian experience with medical assistance in dying to date, along with many other sources of information, Bill C-7 proposes to respond to the Truchon decision by adjusting both the eligibility requirements and the safeguards. It also proposes to enable patients in certain circumstances to waive the requirement for final consent so that they do not lose their access to MAID.

We know there are other issues about which many Canadians still feel strongly but which are not subject to the Superior Court of Québec's deadline, such as eligibility in cases where mental illness is the sole underlying condition, advanced requests and mature minors. These will be examined in the course of the upcoming parliamentary review.

Before describing the proposed amendments, I would like to address the concerns we heard from many in the disability community following the Truchon decision and during our consultations. Disability groups were very clear that, for them, removing the end-of-life limit on MAID would create a law that holds disability as a valid reason for ending a life and reinforces the false perception that disability is equivalent to a life of suffering.

Our government is sensitive to these concerns. We strongly support the equality of all Canadians, no matter their situation, and we categorically reject the idea that living with a disability is a fate worse than death. However, we are also mindful of the need to balance these concerns, along with others that have been expressed, with other important interests and societal values, in particular the importance of individual choice.

The bill's objectives are therefore to recognize the autonomy of individuals to choose MAID as a means of relieving intolerable suffering, regardless of their proximity to natural death, while at the same time protecting vulnerable persons, recognizing that suicide is an important public health issue and affirming the inherent and equal value of every person's life. More concretely, Bill C-7 proposes to expand eligibility for medical assistance in dying beyond the end-of-life context by repealing the eligibility criteria requiring that natural death be reasonably foreseeable.

Recognizing that intolerable suffering also arises outside of the end-of-life context and that Canadians want to have choices, medical assistance in dying would be become available to all those who are intolerably suffering; who have a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability; and who are in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability, without regard to whether they are dying in the short term.

At this time, the bill proposes that persons whose sole underlying condition is a mental illness not be eligible for medical assistance in dying. First, we are subject to a court-imposed deadline and this matter requires more in-depth review and debate. We have learned that the trajectory of a mental illness is more difficult to predict than that of most physical illnesses. This means that there is a greater risk of providing medical assistance in dying to people whose condition could improve.

It is also more difficult to carry out competency assessments for individuals with a mental illness. In the case of some mental illnesses, the desire to die is itself a symptom of the illness, which makes it particularly difficult to determine whether the individual's request is truly voluntary.

Like the Government of Quebec, we are of the opinion that we need to continue consultations, discussions and policy development on the issue of MAID requests based solely on mental illness.

The parliamentary review that will be launched next June will be an appropriate forum for examining these issues, without the time constraints of the court-imposed deadline.

I would now like to turn my remarks to the question of safeguards. Many experts believe there are greater risks in assessing requests for MAID from individuals who are not nearing the end of their life. We agree. While these individuals would have a choice to seek MAID, the bill proposes that these requests be treated with greater sensitivity and care.

Accordingly, the bill proposes two streams, or two sets of safeguards. To distinguish these cases the bill proposes to use the concept of reasonably foreseeable natural death. Let me be clear on this point. Not having a reasonably foreseeable death would no longer be grounds for rejecting a MAID request; however, it would be used to determine which of the two sets of safeguards are required in a given case.

As enacted by Parliament in 2016, reasonable foreseeability of natural death refers to a death that is expected in the relative near term. It means that in light of all the person's medical circumstances, his or her death is expected in a relatively short period of time. Natural death is not reasonably foreseeable just because an individual is diagnosed with a condition that will eventually cause death many years or decades into the future.

In practice we know that practitioners are more comfortable prognosticating when death is expected in shorter time frames. The standard of reasonably foreseeable natural death provides flexibility in a way that maximum fixed prognosis would not. The standard also has the advantage of using language that practitioners have become familiar with over the last four years.

Those who are dying in the short or near term would benefit from the current set of safeguards in the Criminal Code, which the bill proposes to change in two ways.

First, the 10-day reflection period would be eliminated. We heard during the consultations that most persons have already given their MAID request a lot of thought by the time they sign their written request, resulting in the reflection period unnecessarily prolonging suffering.

Second, the requirement for two independent witnesses would be amended so that only one independent witness to the written MAID request is required. Further, we have added an exception so that health care and personal care workers who are not the person's provider or assessor would now be able to act as an independent witness.

Again, we heard that it is difficult for some who live in long-term care facilities or in remote areas to locate two independent witnesses. The purpose of the independent witness is simply to verify the identity of the person signing the request. The witness is not involved in the assessment process.

For persons whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, the existing safeguards would all apply with some additional ones. Specifically, the bill proposes a minimum 90-day assessment period, which will help ensure that practitioners spend sufficient time exploring the various dimensions of the person's MAID request, which, outside the end-of-life context, could be motivated by different sources of suffering requiring greater attention.

Also, at least one of the practitioners assessing eligibility would have to have expertise in the condition that is causing the person's intolerable suffering. The safeguard aims to prevent people from obtaining MAID when something could have been done to relieve their suffering or improve their condition.

The bill would also clarify the notion of informed consent for these kinds of cases.

First, a person who is not dying would have to be informed of the means available to relieve suffering, including counselling services, mental health and disability support services, community services, and palliative care, and be offered consultations with professionals that provide these services.

Second, the practitioners and the person would also have to agree that these means of relieving their suffering were discussed and seriously considered.

The bill also proposes to allow people whose death is reasonably foreseeable and who are eligible for medical assistance in dying to give prior consent if they risk losing capacity to consent before the date set for MAID. At present, the Criminal Code requires the practitioner to ensure, immediately before MAID is provided, that the person gives express consent to receiving MAID.

The bill would enable a patient who has already been assessed and approved to enter into an advance consent arrangement with their physician that sets out all the relevant details, including the date selected for the provision of MAID and the fact that the person consents to receiving MAID in case they lose the capacity to consent by the day in question.

Although this scenario was not covered in Truchon, experts told the government that it presents relatively little complexity and risk. Doctors also told us they would be comfortable with the idea of providing MAID under such circumstances.

To our government, compassion means ensuring that people waiting for MAID do not lose their opportunity to die in the manner or on the date of their choosing just because their medical condition robs them of the capacity to make decisions in their final days.

Another narrow form of advance consent would also be allowed in the unlikely event that complications arise after a person who has been assessed and approved self-administers a substance intended to cause their death and loses the capacity to consent to MAID, but does not die.

The patient and their physician could enter into an arrangement in advance, stipulating that the physician would be present at the time the patient self-administers the substance and would administer a substance to cause the patient's death in case the patient loses their capacity but does not die.

The data show that there have been very few cases of self-administration so far, perhaps due to fears of possible complications stemming from self-administration of a substance. Offering such an option could provide greater reassurance and allow more Canadians to choose this form of medical assistance in dying.

There are other changes in the bill that my colleagues will speak to, including changes to enhanced data collection and the monitoring regime that brings accountability and transparency to the practice of MAID in Canada.

A transitional provision would ensure that patients who have already signed their request when the bill comes into force would not be required to undergo any additional safeguards set out in the bill. At the same time, they would be able to benefit from the safeguards that would be eased, such as the elimination of the 10-day reflection period and the possibility of preparing an advance consent arrangement if it applies to that person's situation. We are committed to making the process as easy on patients as possible.

I would also like to briefly discuss the constitutionality of the bill. I have examined the bill as required by the Department of Justice Act. This involved consideration of the objectives and features of the bill. I am confident that the bill responds to the Truchon ruling in a way that respects the charter.

As is required by the Department of Justice Act, I will table a charter statement in the near future, which will lay out some of the key considerations that informed the review of the bill for inconsistency with the charter. This will serve to better inform parliamentary debate on this important piece of legislation.

I will conclude by thanking all those who participated in the consultations on medical assistance in dying and who contributed to the drafting of this bill. Bill C-7's proposed amendments to Canada's medical assistance in dying regime represent a fundamental policy shift, with the regime becoming less about end-of-life care and more about autonomy and alleviating intolerable suffering.

I look forward to working with all members of both chambers to ensure Bill C-7 is passed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2020 / 4:15 p.m.
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Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, from my perspective, the elimination of certain stages dramatically changes the potential context for a person receiving euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Right now, the requirements to have a couple of independent witnesses and a little waiting period address the possible risk related to somebody who, for a few hours or a relatively short period of time, feels in the depths of despair and then recovers. The idea of the existing safeguards is to ensure that a person is not pushed into this decision without family members around, without talking to anybody, as it can be the result of a thought process that could last for a relatively short period of time.

The minister knows that in certain circumstances the 10-day waiting period can be waived already. Why is the minister removing safeguards like additional witnesses and the 10-day waiting period, which occurs most of the time but not all the time? Why is he creating a situation in which people could, as a result of a relatively short-term sense of vulnerability and thought process, make a decision they might at any other time in their life not make?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2020 / 4:20 p.m.
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David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his interest in this matter.

What we heard in consultation after consultation across Canada is that the two safeguards in the current legislation are not doing their job as safeguards. All they did was add intolerable suffering on the person.

The two independent witnesses are merely there to witness the identity of the person who asks for MAID. In the decision to seek MAID, the assessments are all done prior to that by the medical professionals involved and the patient. This is really just a pro forma step. Having two witnesses, particularly for older people in remote areas of Canada who perhaps do not have any family left, became an unbearable impediment.

The 10-day reflection period came after the decision to have MAID. What happened is that people would, in some cases, not take their pain medication in order to not lose the capacity to make a final decision 10 days later.

It was believed virtually unanimously, among the experts, patients and others, that we should remove these two impediments, because they simply were not acting as safeguards and were increasing suffering.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2020 / 4:20 p.m.
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Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of this bill. It is a step in the right direction, especially since the bill repeals the provision that requires a person's natural death to be reasonably foreseeable in order for them to be eligible for medical assistance in dying.

I recently met one of my constituents, Caroline Parent, a woman in her 40s who seemed quite engaged and active. Ms. Parent told me that she feels trapped in her own body and hopeless about her life. That was a very powerful day. Her story was overwhelming. She told me that she had gotten to the point of planning a trip to Switzerland, where medical assistance in dying is accessible, and planned to return in the luggage hold. This was a harrowing story, and I am pleased to see that this bill is making some progress in this respect.

I do want to mention that the Bloc Québécois thinks the notion of advance consent should be considered. We are also wondering about the possibility of eliminating final consent in cases in which the person's death is not reasonably foreseeable, as is the case with degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, for example.

What does the minister think about that?

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February 26th, 2020 / 4:20 p.m.
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David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question. Obviously that is a very important question. We asked questions like that on the online form and we also asked them during roundtables and consultation panels we hosted across Canada, including in Quebec City and Montreal.

What we heard is that there is still a lot of work to do. There is some public sympathy for such measures, but these are very complex issues. There are still some unknowns and situations in which doctors and nurses do not feel comfortable with the potential framework.

It is a question we will address during parliamentary review. Studies are under way. Quebec commissioned a study and we commissioned one from the Council of Canadian Academies. This question is one of the elements we will look at, but for now that is a step we are not prepared to recommend.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2020 / 4:20 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I remember being in this place during the debate on Bill C-14 and reading through the Carter decision, which was very clear. There was also, of course, the important work that was done by the special joint committee of both the House and the other place.

When I was speaking to Bill C-14 in 2016, I knew the inclusion of the “reasonably foreseeable” aspect of the law was going to cause us problems, and here we are. I am sure the justice minister is feeling some closure, because he was one of four Liberals who voted against that bill. I am sure he is getting some satisfaction in revisiting this now.

I am pleased to report that the New Democrats support the bill in principle. However, we have a number of concerns, specifically with the assessment period for those whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable but who are facing intolerable suffering. The bill sets up a period of 90 days. We have already heard from some physicians who have concerns with the fact that they have to tell patients to bear their illness and suffer for another 90 days.

Could the Minister of Justice inform the House on how the Liberals came up with that number? How did they determine that 90 days is the right amount of time?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2020 / 4:25 p.m.
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David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his very kind comments and the general support of his party.

We decided to have two regimes in order to keep doctors and nurses on board who were familiar with the original regime and add the possibility for others. There is a different set of balances in the non-end-of-life scenario. We heard from people who see themselves as vulnerable or susceptible to influence, like people living with disabilities for example, at round tables and this was an existential question for them.

This is the assessment period; it is not a reflection period. We have eliminated all reflection periods. This is the period of time in which the doctor or the nurse practitioner is assessing the condition with the patient. There are other proactive things the doctor or nurse practitioner has to do. We wanted to give an adequate amount of time for reflection. Some jurisdictions have six months in this scenario. We shortened that. We wanted to give enough time for adequate reflection. With catastrophic injury, for example, the first reaction is often that a person would rather die, but with time, a very short period of time, and after assessing the possibilities for life, a person makes a different decision.

This is really just adding to the assessment period, making sure that there is adequate discussion, adequate informing of the possibilities and consideration of the possibilities, while still understanding that people are suffering intolerably. We understand that, but feel this is an appropriate period that is not too long. It is certainly not as long as some of the other examples.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2020 / 4:25 p.m.
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Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, I remember that as we went through the very difficult discussions on Bill C-14, within the Catholic community in Guelph, to which I belong, there were a lot of concerns around advance directives and conscience rights and the protection of conscience rights within the Catholic community in particular. I remember that at the time I was asked a few times whether we were going down a slippery slope.

I want to be able to say to my community that we are looking to handle this legislation in a compassionate way that protects rights, but I would rather hear it from the minister so that I can take an authoritative comment on that back to my community.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2020 / 4:25 p.m.
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David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Madam Speaker, I too am a practising Catholic, so these kinds of questions are very important to me.

This is about choice and reducing suffering. These are choices that have already been made. The pun is not intended. The point in the first scenario, in the known scenario, the end-of-life scenario, is to ease restrictions that were not doing any work. In the non-end-of-life scenario, the point is, again, to make sure that informed choice happens. That is why we think we have struck the appropriate balance.

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February 26th, 2020 / 4:25 p.m.
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Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to split my time with the hon. member for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon.

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February 26th, 2020 / 4:25 p.m.
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The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Is that agreed?

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February 26th, 2020 / 4:25 p.m.
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Some hon. members


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February 26th, 2020 / 4:25 p.m.
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Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure today to rise as the shadow minister of justice for the official opposition to speak to the government's Bill C-7. As I rise to speak on this bill, I do so with concern over some of the contents within it and even over the way it was presented to the House this week when, unfortunately, many of us read about the contents of the bill in the media, rather than seeing it first in this House.

The bill was intended to be a response to the Quebec Superior Court decision that was made on September 11, 2019. The decision stated that the law as it stood was too restrictive around the requirement for death to be reasonably foreseeable. The official opposition called on the government at the time to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada in order for Parliament to receive clarity about the parameters in which we would legislate, but the bill was introduced without that clarity.

Not only was the bill introduced without that clarity, but it goes far beyond what was required to meet the Quebec Superior Court's decision. I believe that is an affront to this Parliament, because when the previous bill, Bill C-14, was passed in the 42nd Parliament, the wisdom of this Parliament required that there be a statutory review of our assisted dying regime in Canada. That statutory review was and is to take place in June of this year.

It is in that review period that parliamentarians would be able to go more into depth on how the government's legislation has worked over the past several years and on how best to proceed. Rather than wait for that review, as it should have done, the government has decided to start making amendments to the legislation now, avoiding the in-depth review that is to take place shortly.

The reality is that when we are talking about this legislation, we are literally talking about the matter of life and death. This is an incredibly sensitive issue. Members on all sides of the house have diverse opinions on it, and it is because of this diversity of opinions and because of the sensitivity of this issue that the Quebec Superior Court decision should have been appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada for further clarity. However, as the government has now opened this legislation up, it is upon us as legislators to now highlight other matters that should be addressed and included.

My office has heard plenty from concerned Canadians about the lack of protection for conscience rights for health care professionals. This is particularly important now that the government is broadening medical assistance in dying to include individuals whose death is not reasonably foreseeable. Expanding medical assistance in dying to more patients could in fact diminish the number of medical professionals willing to take part in the process. The fact is that this expanded access could result in a heavy emotional burden on those health care providers.

None of us here can fully appreciate the burden put on those health care providers currently working in the system and providing medical assistance in dying. The fact is that there is nothing about ensuring proper support to health care professionals who provide this service and there continue to be no penalties for pressuring a medical professional into providing medical assistance in dying, nor are there penalties for punishing or penalizing a medical professional who does not participate in medical assistance in dying. This means there continues to be no real protection for conscience rights for health care professionals.

The issue of advance directives, now rebranded as a “waiver of final consent” by this government, is a complex one that poses questions of ethics and safety and issues with oversight. The fact that the legislation legalizing this is half a page of a bill shows a lack of care given to this issue. This issue rightly should have been discussed as part of the parliamentary review to take place this summer.

The process for the creation and execution of this agreement remains ambiguous. Further, there is a lack of clarity on the process for proceeding with an advance directive agreement upon the date selected. The process will only be stopped if a patient expresses a form of resistance, but we do not know what that looks like. What if they are simply confused or groggy at the time? Under the legislation, unless they resist, the process will still proceed.

The bill also removes the 10-day waiting requirement when a person's death is reasonably foreseeable. When I read in media reports before the bill was tabled that this would be included, I, like many of many of my colleagues and parliamentarians, questioned as to what prompted its removal. I still remain incredibly concerned as to why this was included. This is particularly true because there was already the ability to remove the 10-day waiting period if a person's death or loss of capacity to consent was imminent, so why proceed with the removal of a safeguard that Parliament saw fit to include in the previous legislation?

It is also confusing that Bill C-7 requires a 90-day waiting period when a patient's death is not reasonably foreseeable. Why add an extended wait period for one, but remove the wait period entirely for the other?

On the issue of whether a death is reasonably foreseeable or not reasonably foreseeable, there is no clarification or guidance for health care professionals. As a result, it is not up to them to make the determination as to what category to put a patient under. That determination will decide whether a patient can access medical assistance in dying immediately or if they will require a 90-day waiting period. This is an extraordinary amount of pressure that the government is putting on health care professionals across this country.

The changing of witness requirements under this legislation has also been mentioned. The law requires only one independent witness, which is down from two.

All of these changes lead to an expansion of the law in Canada far beyond what was addressed in the Quebec court decision, an expansion that should have required deeper reflection through the study that is to take place this summer.

For a moment, let us speak to a point that seems to be lost in this conversation: palliative care services in this country.

The reality is if the choice is between a lack of quality palliative care and medically assisted dying, that really is no choice at all. Unfortunately, over the past number of years there have been instances of patients feeling they were forced to choose death because of a lack of palliative care.

The story of Archie Rolland comes to mind. Archie was a Montreal landscape architect who chose to end his life rather than continue suffering at a long-term care facility that was failing to provide him adequate care.

He had ALS and had his life upended when he was forced to move from a Montreal hospital that specialized in treating patients with severe respiratory ailments to a long-term care facility for geriatric patients. Mr. Rolland did not want to go, but he was transferred against his wishes. He called the system “inhuman”. He felt he was not getting adequate care, so he chose death.

I do not think that this is any real choice at all. We must have the discussion in this country about palliative care because people must not feel forced into a decision on medically assisted death. Mr. Rolland's story makes it clear that there was a failure of the system to provide him with adequate care. We risk medically assisted death being seen as some sort of bureaucratic solution for people who require an extra level of care. In a country like Canada, that is simply not acceptable. The government risks expanding a culture of not valuing life, and we should all agree in this place that we must place value on human life.

In closing, the bill disrespects Parliament and the parliamentary process. With Bill C-14, parliamentarians did a significant amount of work in the House and committee in an attempt to build consensus. The work was challenged by the Quebec Superior Court, but rather than defending the will of elected representatives in court, the Liberals immediately backed down.

Now the Liberals are responding not just to that decision but are also undoing the work of the joint committee on Bill C-14 by adding new measures.

Many of these issues should be dealt with in the summer when we have our scheduled parliamentary review. This is a complex matter that requires proper scrutiny and debate.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2020 / 4:35 p.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his contribution to today's debate and I welcome him back to the House.

I will begin by correcting about five errors in the member's speech and then I will ask him a question.

The first point is with respect to the Truchon decision. It was not appealed, first because we agree with the substance of the decision and secondly because we disagree with prolonging the suffering of Mr. Truchon or Ms. Gladu or people like them.

The second point is with respect to health care providers and the potential of a chilling effect being exacted upon them. It is a valid point, and that is why we have entrenched important safeguards in the legislation, such as the requirement for advanced consent to be done in writing.

The third point is on people being pressured as medical practitioners to engage in this practice, which is patently false. Bill C-14 has conscience rights entrenched in its preamble and in the body of the bill, and the Carter decision, in its penultimate paragraph, said that the charter protections under section 2 for freedom of religion does not compel any health care practitioner in this country to provide this service.

With regard to the member's attempt at an analogy between the 90-day assessment period and the 10-day reflection period, they are different qualitative matters. Reflection is not assessment.

The member raised a very valid point about palliative care. We agree and understand that palliative care must be robust and we fully support the idea, which is why this government put $6 billion into home care, including palliative care, two budgets ago. Does the member agree that this was a useful investment?

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February 26th, 2020 / 4:40 p.m.
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Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his question. He covered a lot of ground.

If the government agreed with the decision, and that is the basis for not appealing it, then why was that not in the original legislation to begin with?

All too often we see on the other side of the House a willingness to let the courts do the work that is rightly the work of Parliament, and we are seeing that again here. One court decision is made in one province, and then the government will hide behind that decision rather than appeal it to the Supreme Court of Canada as it should.

Now the government has brought in legislation that goes far beyond what this court was dealing with, which is reasonable foreseeability of death. That again should have been dealt with in the review that is coming up this summer, when all parliamentarians can get input from their constituents and from experts on this issue.