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432-00556 (Justice)

Petition to the House of Commons

We, the undersigned citizens of Canada, draw the attention of the House of Commons to the following:

Whereas Bill C-7 further removes safeguards from the current euthanasia regime, including the mandatory 10-day reflection period and the number of required witnesses, thereby allowing a person's euthanasia request to be accepted and carried out within the same day and without robust consultation; and;

Whereas the removal of the second required independent witness reduces oversight of the procedure, thereby leaving vulnerable persons at risk of abuse; and;

Whereas the Canadian Government has an obligation to protect its citizens, especially those who are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation;

Therefore we, the undersigned, urge the House of Commons to: 1) Restore the 10-day reflection period for people whose deaths have been determined to be "reasonably foreseeable"; 2) Restore the original requirement that a person must give consent to the life-ending procedure immediately before it is performed; 3) Restore the original requirements for the signatures of two witnesses, who cannot provide personal care to the person seeking to end their life; 4) Require medical professionals to do everything possible to enable the person to access life-affirming services to relieve their suffering other than physician-assisted death; and, 5) Accommodate persons with communication disabilities by clarifying "refusal or resistance to administration" of physician-assisted death.

Response by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable David Lametti

On March 17, 2021, Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), received Royal Assent. Bill C-7 responds to the Superior Court of Québec’s September 2019 Truchon decision, which struck down the eligibility criterion of “reasonably foreseeable natural death” from the Criminal Code medical assistance in dying regime.  

Our Government believes that those who are experiencing enduring and intolerable suffering from their medical condition – including those who are not approaching the end of life – should be allowed to decide for themselves when they wish to end their life, and that medical and nurse practitioners who are willing to help them have a peaceful and painless death should not be criminally culpable for doing so.

As the Truchon decision applies only in Québec, Bill C-7 amended the Criminal Code to ensure consistency of the MAID law across the country. The reasonably foreseeable natural death criterion no longer applies as an eligibility criterion that could exclude persons from obtaining MAID, but is instead used to determine which of two different sets of safeguards applies to a particular MAID request.

The first set of safeguards applies to persons whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable, where risks are reduced given the overall proximity of death and the fact that their suffering is most likely linked to the dying process itself. The removal of the requirement of a second independent witness and the repeal of the 10-day reflection period responds to the concerns raised by patients and their families, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders that these safeguards pose an access barrier to MAID, do not provide protection to vulnerable persons, and unnecessarily prolong patient suffering.

For this group of persons, a waiver of the requirement for consent to be given immediately before MAID is provided is also possible following the Bill C-7 amendments. This change ensures that persons do not choose to have MAID earlier than they would like out of fear of losing their capacity to consent on their preferred day. If a person retains decision-making capacity on their preferred day, they must give consent in whatever manner of communication they are able. If they do not have decision-making capacity, the legislation clarifies that the procedure must not go forward if the person demonstrates refusal or resistance to the administration of MAID by words, gestures or sounds.

The second set of safeguards reflects the more serious consequences of error for persons who request MAID and whose death is not reasonably foreseeable. It recognizes the diverse sources of suffering and vulnerability that could potentially lead a person whose death is not reasonably foreseeable to request MAID. The new safeguards for this group include all of the safeguards that apply to the first group, along with new and enhanced safeguards, to ensure that a request by a person whose death is not reasonably foreseeable is fully informed and considered, and that patients have been informed about and have seriously considered all reasonable and available treatment options and social services.

The amendments in Bill C-7 were informed by consultations held at the beginning of 2020 with Canadians, the provinces and territories, Indigenous groups, key stakeholders, experts, and practitioners. The Bill protects vulnerable individuals and the equality rights of all Canadians, while supporting the autonomy of eligible persons to seek MAID.

Presented to the House of Commons
Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan)
February 23, 2021 (Petition No. 432-00556)
Government response tabled
April 12, 2021
Photo - Garnett Genuis
Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan
Conservative Caucus
Alberta

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