Bill C-14: Some Liberal MPs Worry Assisted Dying Bill Isn't Constitutional

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Four Liberal MPs — including a parliamentary secretary — clashed with the rest of their party by voting against the passage of Bill C-14, with some suggesting it could be unconstitutional.

In Tuesday night's final reading, the bill was approved by the House of Commons in a 186-137 vote, with the vast majority of Liberal and a few Conservative MPs voting in favour.

david lametti
David Lametti, parliamentary secretary for international trade, voted against Bill C-14. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

Three Liberal MPs who didn't support the bill during the free vote, including Parliamentary Secretary for International Trade David Lametti, voiced concerns that the legislation does not do enough to help vulnerable Canadians seeking assisted death.

The constitutional problem

They also suggested the legislation conflicts with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and won't satisfy the Supreme Court.

In a Facebook post addressed to the residents of his riding of LaSalle-Émard-Verdun, Lametti explained that while he supports the right to assisted dying, Bill C-14 has too many restrictions and could ultimately be shot down.

"As a professor of law in Canada for 20 years and a member of two Canadian Bars, I also worry about passing legislation that is at serious risk of being found to be unconstitutional. On these grounds, I was not able to give it my vote in good conscience," he wrote in the post.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, MP for Beaches-East York, voiced similar concerns about the bill in an address to the House on May 2.

Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who co-chaired a parliamentary committee on the issue, announced last month that he could not support the bill. Oliphant cited the additional need for the right to advance directives, in combination with his belief that it does not comply with constitutional requirements.

"As a professor of law in Canada for 20 years and a member of two Canadian Bars, I also worry about passing legislation that is at serious risk of being found to be unconstitutional. On these grounds, I was not able to give it my vote in good conscience."
— David Lametti

"To me, we had a huge opportunity from the Supreme Court to end some suffering, to alleviate suffering," he said at the time. "My conscience won't let me vote for something that I think could add pain to a person's life."

But Liberal MP Robert Falcon-Ouellette voted against the legislation for a different reason.

Suicide crisis

Falcon-Ouellette cited his spiritual beliefs and the suicide crisis in indigenous communities as his reasons for opposing the bill. Falcon-Ouellette also took to Facebook in April to explain his position, describing the impact of suicide in Attawapiskat and in Cross Lake, Man.

"So while I recognize the Supreme Court's decision, it is also important for me as an Indigenous man to stand up and say to First Nations who are considering suicide that their life is precious, that pain may be temporary, and to hold on to hope," he said in his post.

Liberal veteran skips vote

Hedy Fry was one of seven Liberal MPs who declined to vote on the issue or were absent. Fry published an op-ed explaining that the need for advance directives was among the reasons she sat out the vote.

"As a physician who has practised for 20 years with patients who are actually concerned because they're in irremediable pain, for them, this was the issue they wanted to know about," she told reporters on Wednesday.

Fry spoke about patients who issued advance directives that stated their wishes, only to have families fight over the decision.

MP battling cancer 'had to' vote

Despite the outspoken Liberal opponents of the bill, the majority of the party voted in favour.

Liberal MP Arnold Chan, who is battling cancer, made sure to be there to cast his vote to help pass the bill.

"Had to vote on this. Absolutely had to," he told The Huffington Post Canada.

The bill will now move to the Senate for a final review before a rapidly approaching June 6 deadline.

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With files from Althia Raj, The Canadian Press

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