Following a court decision in Quebec in September, medical assistance in dying (MAID) is likely to come up early in the next session of the House of Commons. Canada passed a law on MAID in 2016, allowing euthanasia and assisted suicide in certain circumstances. See EFC’s overview of the law on our website.
The lower court in Quebec struck down a key safeguard in the Truchon decision on September 11. Justice Baudouin struck down the requirement in the federal law that a person’s natural death be “reasonably foreseeable” in order to be eligible for MAID.
The court suspended its decision, so that it will not take effect until March 2020, to give the government time to rewrite the legislation. When the decision takes effect, it will change the way the MAID law is interpreted in Quebec.
The lay of the land
Given the minority government in Canada, it’s particularly relevant to consider what each party has said about the issue. In a minority government, no one political party has enough MPs to pass legislation. The governing party must work with others to negotiate support for its initiatives. When asked about this court decision during the election, leaders of several parties indicated they will expand access to MAID.
Here’s what the major party leaders said:
- Liberal Party: Justin Trudeau said he intends to relax the law and bring it in line with the court ruling.
- Conservative Party: Andrew Scheer said he would have appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada in order to clarify the boundaries within which Parliament can legislate. [Note: the window for appealing the decision closed before election day and this is no longer an option.]
- NDP: Jagmeet Singh has criticized the current MAID law and will look at removing restrictions.
- Green Party: A spokesperson said the Green Party would allow advance directives and would push to amend the law in light of the Quebec decision.
- Bloc Quebecois: Yves-François Blanchet said that Quebec’s court was clear and that steps should be taken accordingly.
What may happen
Given that several parties support changes to the legislation and the court has given a time frame for a new interpretation of the law, it seems likely that a bill to expand access to MAID and to remove safeguards will be introduced in the House of Commons. The EFC opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide, and advocates for the strongest possible safeguards and limited eligibility in any government legislation.
Options for legislation may include:
- A proposed bill may make the law align with the Quebec decision by removing the requirement that a person’s death be “reasonably foreseeable.” This is of great concern to Canadians with disabilities and disability advocates who feel that this will significantly increase pressure for vulnerable Canadians with disabilities to end their lives rather than supporting them to live.
- A proposed bill may make additional changes to the MAID law, such as expanding access to those with solely a psychological illness, to mature minors or to those who aren’t competent to make a decision (by allowing advance requests).
- A proposed bill could include specific conscience protection for doctors and other medical professionals.
What you can do
Pray for your MP, for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet as they decide how to proceed.
Reach out to your MP to develop a relationship before legislation is introduced, by sending a message of congratulations or stopping by their riding office. Find contact information at https://www.ourcommons.ca/Members/en
Write to the Prime Minister to ask him to protect the lives of the vulnerable, to increase supports and safeguards for the vulnerable, and to make the MAID law as precise and restricted as possible. See the EFC’s sample letter (docx) (pdf).
See the EFC’s engagement kit for tips on contacting your MP.