Third reading of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying)—Amendment by Senator Tannas

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Grizzly bear, Yukon Territory

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, this amendment, if adopted by the other place, will compel the government and the two chambers to soon form a joint special committee to conduct a comprehensive review of medical assistance in dying. I will support this amendment because with the joint committee, such a forum will provide a more high-profile and consequential parliamentary review process than is currently required.

As we know, yesterday this chamber made an amendment in favour of the principle of advance requests speaking with substantial majority. I didn’t vote for that amendment because I do believe that we need a detailed framework for a viable model and that we have not yet received adequate study, scrutiny and input from experts.

Yesterday, Senator Munson’s comments did resonate with me when he said that by adopting Senator Wallin’s amendment, the Senate would send a message to the House of Commons and Canadians that our country needs to be serious about developing advance requests in our public policy.

Forming a joint committee will add to this momentum and possibly give a path to the government to answer to the short amendments adopted yesterday to allow advance directives for MAID. Such a move will then answer Senator Boisvenu’s desire to have a diligent and effective parliamentary review toward the framework for advance requests, especially for neurocognitive disorders. I think that would be a nice birthday gift to give to him, as he is going to celebrate one more year tomorrow.

Joint special committees are rare. As it happens, the last one was the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying in 2016. On that committee, the Senate was represented by Senator Seidman and former Senators Cowan, Joyal, Ogilvie and Ruth.

Notably, the joint special committee recommended the ability of MAID for non-terminal, grievous and irremediable medical conditions that cause enduring suffering as proposed by Bill C-7.

The joint committee further recommended that individuals not be excluded from eligibility for medical assistance in dying based on the fact that they have a psychiatric condition, and MAID should be available for those enduring intolerable psychological suffering. This recommendation could be dealt with if the House of Commons accepts Senator Kutcher’s amendment.

The joint committee also recommended the availability of advance requests “after one is diagnosed with a condition that is reasonably likely to cause loss of competence or after a diagnosis of a grievous or irremediable condition but before the suffering becomes intolerable.”

As in 2016, a joint committee could greatly assist the government in finally delivering results on advance requests and other issues not addressed in Bill C-14 and Bill C-7, as well as review experiences with MAID since 2016.

For these reasons, I invite you to support Senator Tannas’s amendment.

Thank you, meegwetch.


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