Com­mit­tee on as­sisted dy­ing still await­ing mem­bers

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment ap­pears to be in no hurry to grap­ple with the ex­plo­sive is­sue of doc­tor- as­sisted dy­ing, even as it pre­pares to urge the Supreme Court of Canada next week to give it more time to craft a new law on the mat­ter.

The new Lib­eral gov­ern­ment rushed last month — dur­ing the only week that Par­lia­ment has sat since the Oct. 19 fed­eral elec­tion — to pass a mo­tion strik­ing a spe­cial joint par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on as­sisted dy­ing.

At the time, gov­ern­ment House leader Do­minic LeBlanc said it was ur­gent that the com­mit­tee get to work quickly, since it would have only un­til the end of Fe­bru­ary to con­sult broadly on the com­pli­cated life-and-death is­sue and come up with rec­om­men­da­tions for a new law.

One month later, no MPs have yet been as­signed to sit on the com­mit­tee, much less be­gin hear­ings on the mat­ter.

Mean­while, the Supreme Court is sched­uled to hear oral ar­gu­ments Mon­day on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s re­quest for a six-month ex­ten­sion for com­ing up with a new law.

The top court last Fe­bru­ary struck down the pro­hi­bi­tion on physi­cian-as­sisted dy­ing and gave the fed­eral gov­ern­ment one year to pro­duce a new law rec­og­niz­ing the right of clearly con­sent­ing adults who are en­dur­ing in­tol­er­a­ble phys­i­cal or men­tal suf­fer­ing to seek med­i­cal help in end­ing their lives.

In con­sid­er­ing the re­quest to ex­tend the dead­line to Au­gust, the court may want to con­sider the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts — or lack thereof — to meet the orig­i­nal Feb. 6 dead­line.

The pre­vi­ous Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment dragged its feet un­til mid-July, when it cre­ated a three-mem­ber panel to con­sult Cana­di­ans and stake­hold­ers.

That panel, cre­ated just two weeks be­fore the Con­ser­va­tives plunged the coun­try into a marathon elec­tion cam­paign, handed its re­port to the new Lib­eral gov­ern­ment last month.

The re­port has not yet been re­leased pub­licly, but one panel mem­ber, Benoit Pel­letier, has said the panel found near-una­nim­ity on the need for bet­ter ac­cess to pal­lia­tive care for the ter­mi­nally ill. The re­port re­flects the di­verse views the panel heard on other is­sues, such as the need to pro­tect the vul­ner­a­ble in any as­sisted dy­ing regime, ef­fec­tive mon­i­tor­ing and re­port­ing prac­tices and the is­sue of in­sti­tu­tions that refuse to help peo­ple end their lives, ac­cord­ing to Pel­letier.

LeBlanc last month blamed Con­ser­va­tive foot-drag­ging for putting the new gov­ern­ment in a time-bind on the is­sue.

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