By Patrick B. Craine

OTTAWA, Ontario, December 3, 2009 ( – A Canadian Member of Parliament expressed his disappointment yesterday as Parliament was prevented again from voting on Bill C-384, which seeks to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.  Francine Lalonde's private member's bill had been scheduled for a vote on December 2nd, but she recently traded the date back to February 3rd.

“I was looking forward to seeing this bill defeated,” MP Rod Bruinooge, who serves as chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, told (LSN). “Canada needs to maintain a legal position regarding euthanasia that protects the most vulnerable and respects the value of life.” 

Bill C-384 is now scheduled for debate on February 2nd with a second reading vote on February 3rd.  The first reading was held on October 2nd.
Bruinooge noted that this is the third time Lalonde has traded voting dates with other MPs, to push back the vote. He said that one or two date changes could be explained by personal reasons, but the third change seems to be a clear indication that Lalonde is feeling the lack of support for her bill.  Bruinooge speculated that she is likely to push the date back again.

“She's clearly feeling the work of many advocates against the bill,” said the pro-life MP.  From Lalonde's perspective “waiting is best,” because she is “hoping for a change of climate.”

“She's on the run,” agreed Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.  “She knows she doesn't have the votes.  She's done her headcount, the same way we've done the headcount, and she knows she's going to be defeated. …  She's trying to buy time.”

Lalonde is using these “delay tactics” to “create a national debate,” Schadenberg said, explaining that she's hoping the media or some other group will get behind her effort.  “She's just trying to create an issue that doesn't currently exist,” he continued.  “She's trying to create support that she doesn't already have.”

Given that the bill is on the order paper, Lalonde's only option for delaying the vote is to trade her bill's voting date with other MPs.  She could theoretically continue to trade back until she has the support she needs, but she is dependent on the willingness of other MPs to trade.  If the bill comes to a vote and is defeated, parliamentary procedure would not allow similar legislation to be raised until after the next election.

Despite the widespread opposition to the bill among MPs, Schadenberg is urging concerned Canadians to “keep up the pressure.”  “We need people to continue writing hand-written letters,” he said, noting that relatively few have been sent in so far.

Despite the vote's delay, two Conservative MPs did present petitions against the bill yesterday.  Blake Richards presented two, stating that “the petitioners are quite concerned, as I am, about the bill presently before Parliament.”

MP Pierre Lemieux also presented three petitions, which, he said, state that the bill “contradicts fundamental human values and threatens all Canadians by undermining the inherent and inviolable value of each human life and its dignity. It is a real and growing threat to the sick, depressed, seniors and handicapped.”  Lemieux added that this same “call for positive measures to protect life” was made by the 12,000 people who joined for the March for Life on Parliament in May.

Bruinooge is asking that Parliament be allowed to hand down their verdict on euthanasia and assisted suicide.  “Will Lalonde delay the bill again, or will she finally let democracy play out and allow MPs to vote on her bill?” he asked.

See the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition's advice on writing MPs here.

See related coverage:

Stall Tactics: Vote on Canadian Euthanasia Bill Delayed…Again 

Canadian Parliament Debates Euthanasia Bill