NDP to vote against changes to bill on medical assistance in dying

By The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his party will vote against changes to a bill that would expand access to medical assistance in dying.

The vote on Bill C-7, expected in the House of Commons today, has been bogged down in debate since returning from the Senate with substantive amendments.

These include allowing advance requests for assisted deaths and imposing an 18-month time limit on the bill’s proposed blanket ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses.

The government has been trying since then to get the Commons to agree to a motion laying out its response, which rejects advance requests and agrees to a two-year time limit on the mental illness exclusion.

Singh said he opposes the motion on the grounds that unelected senators should not rewrite legislation passed by MPs.

“We don’t believe that the Senate should be doing the work of elected officials,” he said.

The minority Trudeau government, backed by the Bloc Québécois, has given notice it will impose closure to ensure the bill comes to a final vote in the House before a court-ordered deadline in two weeks, and it would pass with the support of those two parties.

The bill is a response to a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling that struck down a provision in the law that allows assisted dying only for intolerably suffering people whose natural deaths are “reasonably foreseeable.”

The government has sought and received four extensions to the court-imposed deadline for bringing the law into compliance with the ruling. The latest — and very likely the last extension, the court has warned — expires March 26.

Some disability-rights groups argue that Bill C-7 discriminates against people with disabilities, fearing they will be pressured to prematurely end their lives rather than live in poverty, without adequate health care and support services.

Singh suggested earlier this week he would be open to cutting short debate on the bill if the government pledged more support for people with disabilities.

“We’ve proposed a solution to increase the help that goes to people living with disabilities to $2,000 a month, something that would give dignity and support to people that are facing challenges, but just need extra support to be able to overcome those challenges,” he told reporters Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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