The Senate of Canada building and Senate Chamber are pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. A long-awaited, and legally required parliamentary review of Canada’s medically assisted dying regime is set to go except for the Conservative Senate caucus, which has yet to name its member of the committee. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Senate of Canada building and Senate Chamber are pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. A long-awaited, and legally required parliamentary review of Canada’s medically assisted dying regime is set to go except for the Conservative Senate caucus, which has yet to name its member of the committee. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Tory senators hold up start of parliamentary review of assisted dying law

The committee is to examine issues related to mature minors, advance requests, mental illness

Conservative senators are holding up the start of a long-awaited, legally required, special parliamentary committee that is supposed to review Canada’s assisted dying regime.

The various parties in the House of Commons have chosen 10 MPs to sit on the committee, which is to examine whether medical assistance in dying should be expanded to include mature minors and advance requests, among other important issues.

Four senators have been named to the committee by three of the four Senate groups.

But they’re all waiting for the Conservative Senate caucus to name its single member, despite a unanimously passed motion requiring all Senate groups to choose their members by the end of the day last Friday.

Conservative Senate Leader Don Plett’s office has not responded to questions about the holdup.

Sen. Pierre Dalphond, a former judge chosen to represent the Progressive Senate Group on the committee, says Plett is refusing to name the Conservative senator unless there’s a guarantee that person will also be named committee co-chair — an assurance other Senate groups are not prepared to give.

“He wants a blank cheque, which I’m not ready to give,” Dalphond said in an interview.

“There’s so much to do and we’re talking about serious issues and they prevent senators and MPs who are eager to do the work. … The ego of one man is preventing the system to work, which I find is close to showing contempt for Parliament.”

The committee is to examine issues related to mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with disabilities. It is to report back with any recommended changes to the assisted dying regime within one year.

The five-year parliamentary review of Canada’s assisted-dying law was supposed to start last June but never materialized.

Last month, the House of Commons and Senate passed Bill C-7 to expand assisted dying to people suffering intolerably but not near the natural end of their lives, in compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling.

At the urging of senators, the bill was amended to specifically require that a joint committee begin the overdue parliamentary review within 30 days of the legislation going into force.

Those 30 days came and went last week, with the Conservative senator still unnamed.

Plett “is showing complete disregard and disrespect for the Senate, for the House of Commons and for the bill that provides for a committee to be set up as soon as possible,” Dalphond said.

“It’s really taking the Senate hostage, the House of Commons hostage.”

The Conservatives, with 20 senators, are the last remaining unabashedly partisan group in the 105-seat Senate. Dalphond said they’re arguing that because a Liberal MP is to co-chair the committee, the Senate co-chair should be a representative of the official Opposition.

But he said they don’t seem to appreciate that the other Senate groups are non-partisan and their representatives on the committee can’t be whipped into automatically accepting a Conservative senator at the helm. They’ll vote independently for whomever they believe will make the best co-chair.

Dalphond said any of the other senators chosen to sit on the committee so far would make a fine co-chair.

The Canadian Senators Group has chosen Sen. Pamela Wallin, a passionate advocate of advance requests. The Independent Senators Group, the largest caucus in the Senate, has chosen two members to sit on the committee: Sen. Stan Kutcher, a psychiatrist who championed including people suffering solely from mental illnesses in Bill C-7, and Sen. Marie-Francoise Megie, a former family doctor and pioneer in palliative care.

Dalphond said some Conservative senators have indicated that their representative will likely be Sen. Denise Batters, an ardent opponent of the original assisted-dying law who also strenuously objected to Bill C-7. The three Conservative MPs chosen to sit on the committee are also strong opponents of expanding access to assisted dying.

Dalphond said he has “great respect” for Batters, but it should be up to the other senators on the committee whether she becomes the co-chair.

“Nobody is entitled as a divine right.”

Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, facilitator of the Independent Senators Group, agreed that the Conservatives “are holding up the work of a very important committee.”

“The House has done its job in appointing its 10 members. The CSG, the PSG and the ISG have appointed their members, four out of the five (senators),” he said in an interview.

“Apparently, the Conservatives missed the deadline and we are stuck.”

Woo declined to go into the reasons for the Conservative holdup, saying only that it’s up to them to explain.

READ MORE: Canadians not near death gain access to assisted dying as Senate passes Bill C-7

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

assisted dyingConservative Party of Canada

Just Posted

(James Smith photo)
North Delta crime beat, week of May 3

A selection of property crimes submitted weekly by the Delta Police Department

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
Fraser Health adds 4 first-come-first-serve vaccination clinics to Surrey

First 1,000 people to show up to receive vaccine

(Delta Police Department photo)
South Delta crime beat, week of May 3

A selection of property crimes submitted weekly by the Delta Police Department

(Clockwise, from top-left) Brenda DeJong, Carol Jones, Marcia Strang, Cathy Collis and Mark East star in the upcoming Sidekick Players Zoom presentation of the Norm Foster play “Halfway There,” directed by Carroll Lefebvre, on May 22, 2021. (Submitted photos)
Delta’s Sidekick Players continue ‘Foster Zoom Fest’ with ‘Halfway There’

Tsawwassen-based theatre company hosting another online performance on Saturday, May 22

The leadership team at Johnston Heights Secondary is looking to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society through the Relay for Life, planned as an online and in-person event (following COVID-19 restrictions) for the week of June 1 to 7.
Pushed back a year, Surrey students well on their way to Relay for Life fundraising goal

Johnston Heights Leadership Team aims to raise $6,500 for Canadian Cancer Society

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

B.C. Wildfire Services shows a fire on Chehalis Forest Service Road as of Sunday, May 16, 2021. (BC Fire Services)
Wildfire near Harrison Mills grows to 3 hectares, BC Fire Service on site

Resident near wildfire: ‘I pray that the Creator brings rain as soon as possible’

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of May 16

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Most Read