Ottawa, Canada, Mar 12, 2021 / 05:18 pm (CNA).- Canada’s vulnerable populations are at risk due to Bill C-7’s expansion of euthanasia and assisted suicide to those with disabling, non-terminal conditions including mental illness, a member of the Canadian parliament has said.
An amended version of Bill C-7 passed the Canadian House of Commons March 11 by a vote of 180-149. Should the bill be approved by the Senate, which is likely, Canada’s euthanasia and assisted suicide laws will become some of the most permissible in the world.
“Bill C-7 is legislation that was a purported response to a Quebec superior court decision called ‘Truchon’”, Conservative MP Michael Cooper told CNA March 12.
“In the Truchon decision, the judge determined that the ‘reasonably foreseeable’ criteria–that death must be reasonably foreseeable in order to qualify for medical assistance in dying–contravened Canada’s charter of rights and freedoms,” he explained.
In the case, Jean Truchon, a Quebec man who had cerebral palsy, filed suit after his request to end his life was denied as his condition was not terminal.
A judge ruled that Truchon and his co-plaintiff Nicole Gladu, who has post-polio syndrome, could not be denied a euthanasia or assisted suicide if they wished to end their lives, and that MAiD should be available to Canadians without terminal conditions.
Truchon received MAiD in April 2020. Gladu is still alive.
Cooper told CNA that “the normal course of action” following a court’s action such as the Truchon decision, “would have been the attorney general to have appealed the decision.”
“This, after all, was a lower court decision of one judge that was not binding on any courts in any other provinces. Indeed, it’s not binding on any upper court in the province of Quebec,” he said. Given that the Truchon decision was made “a mere three and a half years” following the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, Cooper believes the attorney general should have appealed the decision.
“It’s the responsibility of the attorney general to defend the laws passed by parliament,” said Cooper. “And that would’ve meant appealing the decision, taking a decision if necessary all the way to the Supreme Court. That very least would have provided clarity in the law.”
Instead, the Canadian federal government announced that the decision would not be appealed, and new laws will take effect in Quebec in April. Parliament was instructed to write a law codifying the decision. Bill C-7 was introduced in parliament Feb. 23, 2020.
Initially, the bill would “remove the requirement for a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable in order to be eligible” for euthanasia or assisted suicide and would “introduce a two-track approach to procedural safeguards” depending on if a person’s natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”
The Senate, which has the ability to propose amendments to legislation, received the bill after it passed on a second reading in the House of Commons. The Senate introduced “radical” amendments to the bill, including one where euthanasia or assisted suicide would be permitted for people with mental illness as the sole underlying cause for ending their lives.
That amendment passed.
“The government has effectively rewritten the bill to something far more expansive than it was a year ago,” said Cooper.
Cooper was critical of the speed in which the legislation moved with the new amendments.
“I mean, this is a case where the government has proceeded with this radical expansion [of MAiD] absent a meaningful parliamentary study, absent a consensus amongst professionals, amongst experts and, in the face of leading mental health professionals who say the persons suffering from mental illness will prematurely end their lives,” he said.
“It’s the height of recklessness on the part of the government,” said Cooper.
Once the bill has received Royal Assent, it will become law. Cooper said this is likely to happen before the end of the month, as a stay issued by the Quebec court will expire March 26.
Disability activists in Canada have been among the most vocally opposed to the passage of Bill C-7 and the expansion of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Over 120 disability groups have spoken out against the bill, saying that the bill amounts to coercion for people with disabilities to end their lives.
Disability Filibuster, an organization of Canadians with disabilities and their allies who are opposed to Bill C-7, noted that the day the bill was passed–March 11, 2021–was also the tenth anniversary of Canada ratifying the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“Bill C-7 expands Medical Assistance in Dying beyond those who are actually dying, but only for persons with a disabling medical condition,” said Disability Filibuster’s website.
“The Bill, and its ableist subtext have already been harmful and traumatizing for a great many disabled people in Canada.”
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