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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Public opposition to a planned road was expressed on posters on the hiking trails above the Nelson cemetery. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Logging company abandons road construction planned near Nelson hiking trails

RDCK, public, and transportation ministry opposed the road

A concept of the new Kaslo Bridge, which is expected to be complete by November. Illustration: Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Kaslo Bridge to be replaced

Construction on the $6.19-million project begins this month

Stuart Ashley Jones, 56, was at Grand Forks provincial court for sentencing on May 5, 2021. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks man shot by police during massive flood sentenced to house arrest

Stuart Ashley Jones was shot by a Grand Forks Mountie after ramming two police cruisers in May 2018

The provincial government is funding upgrades to campgrounds in the Slocan Valley. File photo
Slocan Valley campgrounds to receive upgrades

New Denver, Slocan and Silverton have been granted $300,000

COVID-19 cases in B.C. for the week of April 25 to May 1. Illustration: BC Centre for Disease Control
Nelson surpasses 100 COVID-19 cases in 2021

The West Kootenays meanwhile saw numbers drop at the end of April

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police photo of suspected cat thief was just a woman with her own cat

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports first vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

Most Read