Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi delivers a speech prior to the vote for the election of a new Speaker to preside over the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
"I don't want people who are suffering to go to court and to (have to) challenge to get their rights."
'Who are you to decide what my pain level is?'
Consenting adults onlyThe government's more restrictive bill would require a person to be a consenting adult, at least 18 years of age, in "an advanced stage of irreversible decline" from a serious and incurable disease, illness or disability and for whom a natural death is "reasonably foreseeable." It does not extend the right to assisted dying to those suffering only from mental illnesses or to mature minors. Nor does it allow advance directives. Advocates of medically assisted dying believe the bill disregards the court ruling and have accused the Liberals, who profess to be the party of the charter, of authoring the kind of restrictive law they would have expected from the previous Conservative government.
Even PM's parliamentary secretary is unsure"I would agree with them if the bill doesn't change and it's a whipped vote," said Toronto Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. However, he argued that the government is open to having a freewheeling debate on the bill and to making some changes and it has vowed to let MPs vote freely. "I think now you're looking at a process where Canadians, through their members of Parliament, can effect the changes they want to see ... That's the way government's supposed to work," Vaughan said. Among other things, Vaughan said he's hearing concerns from some groups about the failure to include advance directives for people diagnosed with competence-impairing conditions like dementia, "insofar as fate doesn't always afford you the chance to be able to speak when you need to be heard."
Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc speaks to reporters on Parliament Hill. (Photo: The Canadian Press)Dominic LeBlanc, the government House leader, said the feasibility of amendments depends in part on how quickly the bill moves through the legislative process in both the Commons and Senate, given the push to enact the law before the June 6 deadline set by the Supreme Court. Some senators have vowed to propose amendments and LeBlanc said he hopes that will occur early so that "workable" changes can be incorporated into the bill before it's passed by the Commons. If the Senate were to vote for amendments after the bill is passed by the Commons, it would trigger a lengthy process of "ping pong," where the bill would bounce back and forth between the two houses of Parliament.
Other MPs see a good balanceOther Liberal MPs expressed satisfaction with the balance struck by the bill between a dying person's right to end their suffering, the need to protect the vulnerable and the right of medical practitioners to refuse to provide assistance in dying. While he wants to hear what legal experts and Canadians have to say, Quebec MP Steve MacKinnon said: "Right now, I think the government's struck a pretty good balance." Toronto Liberal MP Judy Sgro said most people she's heard from are "appreciative of the fact that we're going about it in a very careful, methodical way." "I was a bit concerned it might go farther," Sgro added. "I think it will satisfy a lot of Canadians that we haven't gone too far and we are trying to be as considered as possible."
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