Bloc Québécois MPs join Liberals to cut off debate on assisted-dying bill

·2 min read

OTTAWA — With the support of the Bloc Québécois, the minority Liberal government has moved to ensure a bill to expand access to medical assistance in dying is put to a final vote in the House of Commons today.

Bloc MPs have joined Liberals to pass a closure motion that will see debate on the bill cut off later today, followed immediately by a vote in the House of Commons.

The Bloc took the unusual move of supporting closure out of frustration with Conservative stalling tactics in the face of a looming court-ordered March 26 deadline.

The bill has been stuck at its next-to-last hurdle for several weeks as Conservatives repeatedly talked out the clock or refused evening sittings of the Commons to finish dealing with it.

The bill was approved last month by the Senate but with some substantive amendments, including allowing advance requests for assisted deaths and imposing an 18-month time limit on the bill's proposed blanket ban for people suffering solely from mental illnesses.

The government has been trying since then to get the Commons to agree to a motion laying out its response to the Senate changes, which includes rejecting advance requests and agreeing to a two-year time limit on the mental illness exclusion.

Once passed by the Commons, the revised bill must still go back to the Senate, where senators will have to decide whether to accept or reject the verdict of the elected chamber.

The bill is a response to a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling that struck down a provision in the law that allows assisted dying only for intolerably suffering individuals whose natural death is "reasonably foreseeable."

The government has sought and received four extensions to the court-imposed deadline for bringing the law into compliance with the ruling. The latest — and very likely the last extension, the court has warned — expires March 26.

The bill would expand assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the natural end of their lives. It would also relax eligibility rules for people who are near death but set out more restrictive rules for those who are not.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2021.

The Canadian Press