Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for the opportunity to speak on this important issue.
Legislation on medical assistance in dying received royal assent on June 17, 2016. The act is designed to strike a balance between personal autonomy for those seeking access to medical assistance in dying and protection of the vulnerable. We believe our legislation achieves the right balance.
At the same time, our government committed to initiate independent reviews on a select set of complex circumstances that currently fell outside the purview of the existing act.
Specifically, the legislation obligates the ministers of justice and of health to initiate independent reviews of issues relating to requests for medical assistance in dying in relation to advance requests, requests by mature minors, and requests where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition. As the member opposite has noted, these are sensitive and complex issues that require careful consideration.
On December 13, 2016, our government announced the selection of the Council of Canadian Academies to conduct these reviews. This decision was based on the organization's extensive expertise and demonstrated experience in conducting reviews on complex issues in an objective and rigorous manner. The Council of Canadian Academies is addressing these questions from an independent, authoritative, and evidence-based perspective. This is being done through an expert panel comprised of three working groups, one on each topic. Panel members are experts on the issues raised by the three review topics. Strong leadership is being provided by the chair of the panel, former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Marie Deschamps, and the working group chairs. This includes the new chair for the advance request working group, Dr. Jennifer Gibson, who was selected when the previous chair stepped down.
The objective of the reviews is to gather and analyze relevant information and evidence on the diverse perspectives and issues surrounding the three types of requests not dealt with in the legislation. This evidence will facilitate an evidence-based dialogue among Canadians and decision-makers. To this end, the reports will not provide recommendations but will communicate the findings of the reviews to inform that conversation.
The legislation requires that reports on the reviews be tabled in Parliament within two years of initiation. Our government will fulfill this mandate by making the reports available by mid-December 2018. The time frame identified for these reviews is intentional. These issues raise very serious questions, requiring thoughtful consideration from legal, ethical, medical, and social science perspectives, just to name a few.
Evidence is being considered from national and international experts, all levels of government, health care providers, and others impacted by the issues. In fact, to inform its deliberations, the Council of Canadian Academies put out a call for submissions from interested groups. At the start of the fifth year after coming into force, the legislation calls for a parliamentary committee to undertake a review of its provisions. The findings of the independent reviews will be available for consideration by this parliamentary committee, along with information on the state of palliative care in Canada.
In addition to initiating the independent reviews, our government is also in the process of preparing regulations for the purpose of establishing a system for monitoring medical assistance in dying. We are committed to creating a system in which Canadians have accurate and timely information regarding the implementation of this legislation. Federal officials, in consultation with our provincial and territorial colleagues, are working on the parameters of the monitoring system. This mechanism will provide Canadians with a nationwide picture of medical assistance in dying.
Until a permanent monitoring system is in place, federal, provincial and territorial governments are working collaboratively to produce interim reports with available data. The first report was released in April, and a second report will be released this month.
The well-being of all Canadians is of paramount concern to our government. For this reason, it is important we proceed carefully when determining if and how requests for medical assistance in dying in the three specific circumstances will best fit within the federal framework. These are sensitive issues. We need an approach that supports eligible individuals seeking medical assistance in dying, while also ensuring safeguards are in place. Our primary objective is a system that aims to serve the best interests of all Canadians.