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

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Victoria’s economy is expected to bounce back fairly easily, according to a new report from BMO Capital Markets released April 15. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria in good position to bounce back post-pandemic, says BMO

City’s smaller size, lower COVID-19 caseload and diverse industry base bode well

According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate in Greater Victoria rose to 5.7 per cent in March 2021, an increase of 0.8 per cent compared to February 2021. But the local unemployment rate remains the among the lowest in Canada. (Black Press Media File)
Greater Victoria’s unemployment rate rises to 5.7 per cent

The increase marks a reversal from recent months, but local economy among the strongest in Canada

Saanich police officers were one group of dozens that submitted dance clips to the Greater Victoria Festival Society, to help create the Dance Across Victoria video montage. (Youtube/Screenshot)
WATCH: Saanich police, Victoria mayor bust some moves in new Dance Across Victoria video

Montage features submitted dance clips from across Greater Victoria

Former Oak Bay High Grade 12 student Brandon Kip plays the $100,000 Steinway piano in the Dave Dunnet Theatre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay High Alumni Association passes torch to new president

The association has given back more than $70,000 in its 16 years

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read