The Senate of Canada building and Senate Chamber are pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Senate of Canada building and Senate Chamber are pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canadians not near death gain access to assisted dying as Senate passes Bill C-7

The bill expands access to medical assistance in dying to include people suffering solely from mental illness

The Senate has passed a bill to expand access to medical assistance in dying, including eventually to people suffering solely from mental illnesses.

By a vote of 60-25, with five abstentions, senators accepted Wednesday a revised version of Bill C-7, even though the government rejected or modified amendments made by the Senate.

It was expected to receive royal assent later Wednesday night — just over a week ahead of a court-ordered deadline.

The government had sought and received four extensions to the deadline. The latest — and very likely the last extension, the court warned — was to expire March 26.

Once royal assent is given, intolerably suffering Canadians who are not near the natural end of their lives will immediately gain the right to seek medical assistance in dying — in compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling.

People suffering solely from grievous and irremediable mental illnesses will have to wait two years to gain the same right.

The government had originally intended to impose a blanket ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses. But, under pressure from senators who believed that exclusion was unconstitutional, it subsequently put a two-year time limit on it.

In the meantime, the government committed to setting up an expert panel to advise on the safeguards and protocols that should apply to people with mental illnesses.

The government rejected a Senate amendment to allow people who fear losing mental competence to make advance requests for an assisted death.

But it committed to launching within 30 days a joint parliamentary committee to review that issue and other unresolved matters, including whether mature minors should have access to the procedure.

The bill was triggered by two Quebecers with severe disabilities who went to court to successfully fight for their right to choose an assisted death even though their natural deaths were not “reasonably foreseeable.”

But disability rights groups have strenuously opposed the bill, arguing it devalues the lives of people with disabilities who they fear will be pressured — either directly or indirectly through societal attitudes and lack of support services — to end their lives prematurely.

Many mental health advocates have also weighed in against the eventual inclusion of people suffering solely from mental illnesses.

For people who are near the natural end of life, the bill relaxes some of the rules for getting an assisted death.

It drops the requirement that a person must be able to give final consent immediately before the procedure is performed. That’s intended to ensure that someone who has been approved for the procedure won’t be denied if they lose mental capacity before it can be carried out.

It also drops the requirement that a person must wait 10 days after being approved for an assisted death before receiving the procedure. And it reduces the number of witnesses required to one from two.

People not near death will face higher hurdles.

Among other things, they’ll face a minimum 90-day period for assessments of their requests for an assisted death. They’ll have to be made aware of all alternatives, including counselling, and they’ll have to be able to give final consent immediately before receiving the procedure.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. As of April 19, more than 230,000 doses have been administered across the Interior Health region. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
More than 230K doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered across Interior Health

A total of 220,216 first doses and 13,775 second doses have been given to residents across the B.C. Interior

Staff and residents from RMV show their appreciation for the volunteers who enrich their lives. From left to right: Shelley Moulton, Darlene Hutchinson, Betty Schanni, Mark Hudock, Victor Myette, Elinor Siska, Melissa Roger, Anita Braconnier. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
‘We can’t wait for you to come back’: Rocky Mountain Village residents show appreciation for volunteers

Volunteers can’t make in-person visits, but that hasn’t stopped them staying in touch

Members of the community garden hosted their first seed swap and fundraiser at the Greenwood Mall in Sparwood on Monday. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Sparwood Community Garden hosts first seed swap

Work on the garden at Engelmann Spruce Drive will begin soon

Crews and volunteers responded to a four-hectare wildfire on the lower half of the Aqam community lands near Cranbrook on Friday afternoon. Trevor Crawley photo.
Wildfire season gets early start in the East Kootenay

Fire crews, volunteers respond to two local wildfires, while prescribed burns turn weekend skies smoky

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

Kimberley's Steve Tersmette has published Waterfall Hikes In Southern British Columbia, documenting 100 of the areas waterfalls.
Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Most Read