Liberals rejecting nearly all amendments to euthanasia bill at committee hearings
OTTAWA, May 10, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The Liberal-dominated justice committee rejected any substantive amendments to the government’s controversial euthanasia bill Monday in the first day of its clause-by-clause study of Bill C-14, leaving the draft legislation essentially unchanged.
After considering about 40 amendments, the committee accepted only two minor changes, one from a Conservative and one from a Liberal, according to the Canadian Press.
It shot down amendments impartially, rejecting NDP, Green and Bloc proposals that sought to widen eligibility criteria for euthanasia and assisted suicide, and Conservative amendments seeking to narrow that criteria and tighten the bill’s ambiguous language.
Quebec MP Anthony Housefather, committee chair, told reporters earlier in the day that the Conservatives put forward about half of the roughly 100 amendments the committee is working through.
It is aiming to finish the clause-by-clause consideration on Wednesday.
Alberta Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, whose own proposals were rejected, told iPolitics he was disappointed the Liberal committee voted “virtually all together” against opposition amendments.
“I voted against the bill at second reading, and by all indication we’ll have an almost identical bill coming to us at third reading,” he said.
Although Bill C-14 passed second reading by a huge margin, according to Genuis, “many, many members at second reading were saying they’d vote it through to committee — but they wanted to see a serious good faith effort to amend and improve the bill at committee.”
The legislation is intended to amend the Criminal Code to conform with the Supreme Court’s February 2015 Carter ruling that struck down the current law against assisted suicide and euthanasia as unconstitutional.
The ruling comes into effect June 6.
The court ruled in Carter that competent adults who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes mental or physical suffering which they find intolerable have a Charter right to request medically assisted suicide or euthanasia.
The Liberals attempt to legislate that ruling in Bill C-14 has been blasted across the board for being either too narrow or too permissive.
The bill allows euthanasia and assisted suicide for competent adults who have a grievous and incurable illness, disease or disability that causes enduring and intolerable physical or psychological suffering that can’t be relieved by means they consider acceptable, are in an advanced state of irreversible decline, and whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable.
The amendments before the committee underscored the wide range of opposition to the bill.
Conservative Genuis proposed deleting the section that protects individuals from prosecution if they euthanized or assisted in a suicide of another with the “reasonable but mistaken belief” that the person killed met the criteria, and a further “modest” amendment that would require giving information on palliative care options to those seeking assisted suicide or euthanasia.
Alberta MP Michael Cooper proposed that people suffering from underlying mental health challenges must undergo a psychiatric assessment to determine their capacity to give informed consent.
Manitoba MP Ted Falk put forward amendments that “nurse practitioners” not be allowed to assess eligibility, and that a judge review requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide. These were likewise voted down.
Other rejected Conservative amendments included requiring the minister of health’s authorization, and that a person have a terminal disease or judged to be within 30 days of death in order to be eligible for euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Meanwhile, Toronto MP Rob Oliphant, co-chair of the special joint parliamentary committee that recommended a wide-open euthanasia regime, was the only Liberal to speak against the bill.
He supported Bloc MP Luc Theriault and NDP MP Murray Rankin’s amendment to delete the criteria that death be “reasonably foreseeable.”
The NDP and Bloc also proposed that bill allow advance directives for people with degenerative diseases, and among Green MP Elizabeth May’s amendments was a request to delete the word “incurable” as a criterion.
But the committee voted down those amendments as well.
Opponents to Bill C-14 will now be looking to the Senate, currently hearing public testimony as its pre-study of the legislation, for any substantive amendments to Bill C-14.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, is urging people to not only contact MPs but to lobby the Senate, which has a slight Tory majority.
The Senate will do its own clause-by-clause consideration of the bill after it passes third reading in the House of Commons.
Chair Housefather said the justice committee is working to send “as best a piece of legislation back to the House this week, or hopefully as soon as possible,” iPolitics reported.
To follow committee hearings go here.