OTTAWA, June 17, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Canada’s Senate gave approval to the Liberal government’s Bill C-14 Friday, averting a standoff with the House of Commons over the controversial bill — which now only needs royal assent to become law.
Senators voted 44 to 28 to accept the final version of Bill C-14, which outlines under what circumstances Canadians can be legally assisted to kill themselves, or be euthanized.
Conservatives Don Plett, Tobias Enverga, and Independent Liberal Anne Cools were among those who voted in favor of the bill.
Conservatives Betty Unger, Norman Doyle, Denise Batters, Kelvin Ogilvie, as well as Independent Liberals Serge Joyal and James Cowan were among those who voted against.
Fourteen of the 86 sitting senators were absent.
An 11th-hour battle between House and Senate focussed on Bill C-14’s stipulation that to be eligible for assisted suicide or euthanasia, a person’s natural death must be “reasonably foreseeable.”
The Senate amended the bill to delete that stipulation, and the House rejected the amendment when it passed the bill Thursday.
But tunnel vision on this particular phrase overlooks Bill C-14’s far more dangerous and fundamental flaws, says executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Alex Schadenberg.
Bill C-14 is “horrific”
“The biggest question is, can this bill as written right now actually protect somebody who is either depressed, having mental illness issues, or is incompetent,” he pointed out. “And the answer is no.”
Under Bill C-14, “the decision of the nurse practitioner or the doctor is only based on whether or not they are ‘of the opinion’ that you meet the criteria,” Schadenberg told LifeSiteNews.
So the Liberals have “given you the lowest possible oversight, in fact, no oversight at all,” he stressed. Bill C-14 “has a veneer of protection but not real protection. It doesn’t have any teeth.”
Added Schadenberg: “This is, in fact, a very horrific bill as it’s written. It is worse than the Belgian law; it is worse than the Netherlands.”
As for the problematic phrase “natural death reasonably foreseeable” – which remains in the bill – it satisfies neither pro-euthanasia nor anti-euthanasia advocates, as the former say it’s too narrow and the latter too unclear.
And most observers agree that it puts the bill on a collision course for a constitutional challenge.
“Reasonably foreseeable” undefined
Senator Joyal proposed the amendment to remove the stipulation, arguing that it did not comply with the Supreme Court’s February 2015 Carter decision, which took effect June 6.
In Carter, the top court struck down the Criminal Code prohibition against assisted suicide and euthanasia as violating the Charter of Rights of those who suffered from a grievous and irremediable medical condition that caused them intolerable suffering.
The Liberals however, insist that their bill, even if it adopts criteria not explicit in the Carter ruling, complies with the Charter, and that the Court has deferred to Parliament to legislate on assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Schadenberg says adding “natural death reasonable foreseeable” to the bill’s eligibility criteria “does not save the day in any way shape or form, because that definition is too imprecise; you can’t measure it.”
“What do they mean by ‘reasonably foreseeable’?” he said. “Then they’d have to try and define it, and even then if a doctor goes outside of that definition, they only would have to say, ‘I’m of the opinion that their death is reasonably foreseeable’.”
“So we’re actually fighting about semantics at best,” he said, adding that
the term does not, as the media and many pro-euthanasia advocates have interpreted it, mean “near death.”
Liberals “choose substance over optics”
That was echoed by Conservative Senator Denise Batters, who told senators during Friday’s debate that “the bill fails to even require terminal illness and being at the end of life.”
Batters, whose husband David Batters, a former Member of Parliament, battled depression and committed suicide in 2009, criticized the Trudeau government for rejecting substantive amendments to the bill, including narrowing eligibility criteria to those who are terminally ill.
“I wish the Liberals had chosen substance over optics,” noted Batters.
Her amendment requiring that people with an underlying mental condition undergo a psychiatric assessment for competency when requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide, was defeated in the Senate.
Batters said she believed that “it is only right the Senate defer to elected House of Commons,” but noted that “I cannot in good conscience stand here in this place” and support a bill that “does not support the mentally ill,” and “does not require psychiatric assessment with those with underlying mental illness.”
Plett, who voted for the bill, noted he was very disappointed the Liberals had nixed his amendment, which excluded a person’s beneficiaries from participating in that person’s assisted suicide or euthanasia.
The Liberals dropped the amendment on the grounds that it unduly interfered with individual autonomy by restricting the choice of who could participate in killing that individual.
Supreme Court forced issue
Senator Mike Duffy said he received a number of communiques on the subject, “many from Prince Edward Islanders, who ask that we support the sanctity of life.”
But given the Supreme Court decision, “we can’t,” he said. After much “soul searching” Duffy concluded that Bill C-14 is a “balanced approach” and a “Canadian compromise.”
Conservative Robert Runciman said he would support Bill C-14, but added that if the Supreme Court “finds bill unconstitutional, that’s when Parliament should push back and use the notwithstanding clause.”
This would be “not to abridge anyone’s rights, but to assert the supremacy of Parliament,” added Runciman. “The time is long overdue to remind the Court that Parliament and not the Court is supreme.”
“I am against legally killing,” Conservative Enverga, who voted for the bill, told the Senate. “However, I also acknowledge the reality of the Supreme Court’s ruling on assisted dying.”
He quoted Pope Benedict as stating that when faced with human suffering, “the true answer cannot be putting someone to death, however kindly, but to bear witness to love,” and Pope Francis, who noted in a June 9 address that euthanasia is false compassion.
“Let us remember, what a waste of human life if we kill today and we find the cure tomorrow,” Enverga stated. “God bless us all.”