Question Period: Study of Bill C-7

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau Quebec

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. Senator Gold, I gather that Bill C-7 on medical assistance in dying must receive Royal Assent by December 18, that is, one month from now, or the Attorney General of Canada will have to ask the Superior Court for an extension.

To date, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has held five meetings and heard from no fewer than 45 witnesses, and its work is not complete.

Has the government reached an agreement with the other parties in the House of Commons regarding a time frame for the report of the Justice and Human Rights Committee and the end of the third reading debate in the other place?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. I actually asked the same question yesterday. At this point, I don’t know whether a deadline has been set. We look forward to the bill making its way here to the Senate. In the meantime, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has been tasked with conducting a pre-study, which will give us a head start before the bill is debated in the Senate.

Senator Dalphond: I’m sure you would agree that Bill C-7 is not like Bill C-9. It addresses issues having to do with morals, ethics and other fundamental principles. The government proposed making it a free vote in the House of Commons. This is a rather sensitive issue. How can we complete a pre-study if we don’t have the text of the bill or, at the very least, the report of the committee from the other place on the content of the bill?

Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. That is true. You’re right to say that once the bill arrives in the Senate, it might contain changes made by the other place. That being said, the committee will have the bill as presented in the House of Commons. Everyone understands the challenge we are facing. I’m not talking about deadlines, but the fact that this is a response to a Superior Court decision in Truchon. The parameters of the bill are different than they were for Bill C-14, which created the framework required to address this very sensitive and important issue.

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