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Bill that repeals the “reasonably foreseeable natural death” criterion passed second reading in Canadian Senate

At December 17, Bill C-7 passed the second reading in the Senate. At the same day, the Superior Court of Québec has granted Canada a third extension of the Truchon decision rendered in September 2019, which would otherwise come into effect starting December 19, 2020. Now the Canadian government has the time to complete the bill until February 26, 2021.

Bill

In summary, the Bill proposes the following Criminal Code amendments to the MAID regime:

  • Eligibility criteria: Repeal the “reasonably foreseeable natural death” criterion and exclude cases where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition;
  • Safeguards: Create two sets of safeguards − one set of eased safeguards for people whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable, and a second set of new and clarified safeguards for people whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable;
  • Advance consent: permit the administration of MAID on the basis of advance consent (in other words, the requirement for final consent at the time of the MAID procedure would be waived by operation of law) for persons whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable and who have been assessed and approved for MAID, if they lose capacity to consent before their preferred date for MAID and have a written arrangement with a practitioner; permit advance consent to the administration of MAID by a practitioner in cases of failed self-administration;
  • Monitoring regime: enhance the reporting requirements based on experiences with the federal MAID monitoring regime to date.

Read more here: Legislative Background: Bill C-7: Government of Canada’s Legislative Response to the Superior Court of Québec Truchon Decision (justice.gc.ca) 

Background of the bill

Bill C-7 is the legislative respons of the government of Canada to the Truchon v Canada (AG) decision. In this judgment the Court ruled that the criterion in the federal MAID legislation, that there should be a “reasonable foreseeability of natural death” (RFND), is unconstitutional. 

The bill is identical to former Bill C-7, which was introduced on February 24, 2020 and died on the Order Paper when Parliament was prorogued in August 2020. The Bill’s main objective is to balance several interests and societal values, including respecting the autonomy of persons who are eligible to receive MAID, the equality rights protected by the Charter, the need to protect vulnerable persons from being induced to end their lives, and the recognition of suicide as a significant public health issue. It also outlines a series of affirmations and principles upon which the proposed Truchon response is founded, including the appropriateness of no longer restricting eligibility for MAID to persons whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable. 

A week earlier, the bill passed the House of Commons in third reading. Read more here: Assisted dying bill passes House of Commons after filibuster delay – National | Globalnews.ca

What’s next?

The bill is now referred to the Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee. The Senate will resume on February 2, 2021 and Bill C-7 will be top of mind when the proceedings start up again. The government was also granted an extension on the December 18, 2020 deadline to address the Truchon decision, with a new deadline of February 26, 2021 being proposed by Minister Lametti and accepted by the Quebec Superior Court. This means that in late January, when Members of Parliament return, Bill C-7 will be tabled.

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