Ottawa requests further delay in enforcing judgment on physician-assisted dying

Using the pandemic as a pretext, the federal government is requesting a new deadline for the application of the Truchon judgment, a decision which found federal law on physician-assisted dying contrary to the Charter.

The Attorney General of Canada’s motion, tabled Thursday morning, calls for an extension – five months this time – until December 18, 2020, for the second time.

It is up to the Quebec Superior Court, which decided this case in September 2019, to decide whether to grant this new stay. The first request for an extension was requested due to the election last fall. The government said it had run out of time to draft amendments to its law to make it constitutional.

Bill C-7 was finally introduced in February.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges, including the disruption of the current parliamentary session. Even though this bill remains a priority for the Government of Canada, the reality of the pandemic has unfortunately made it impossible to advance Bill C-7 through the parliamentary process in order to meet the current deadline of July 11, 2020 ” , can we read in a written statement attributed jointly to the Minister of Justice, David Lametti, and his colleague in Health, Patty Hajdu.

“Without this extension, the criterion of” reasonably foreseeable natural death “in federal law will no longer apply in Quebec as of July 12, but would remain in force in other provinces and territories. This means that criminal law will no longer be applied uniformly across the country, “said the ministers.

They said they are “determined” to respond to the Truchon judgment “as quickly as possible.”

In early March, ten days before normal parliamentary business was suspended, Ottawa obtained the four-month time limit requested at the time. This must end on July 11.

Last September, judge Christine Baudouin invalidated, and declared unconstitutional, a criterion in federal legislation on medical assistance in dying. She had done the same with a requirement in the Quebec Act concerning end-of-life care. It thus abolished the criteria requiring that citizens be at the end of their life, or that their death be reasonably foreseeable, in order to be able to request medical assistance in dying.

In doing so, the judge opened medical assistance in dying to a greater number of people, such as Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu, these two Quebecers suffering from serious incurable degenerative diseases, who have fought this legal battle in recent years.

Judge Baudouin had, however, suspended the declaration of invalidity for six months, in order to give Quebec and Ottawa time to change their laws. This first deadline was to expire on March 11.

By agreeing to delay this deadline for the first time, Judge Baudoin was however worried about people who “experience intolerable suffering on a daily basis” and who were waiting for March 11 so that they could ask their doctor to help them end their their days. Granting Ottawa an additional four months further delays this possibility for them, she said.

In her decision of March 2, the magistrate allowed people who meet the other requirements of the law, but whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable, to apply to the competent court to request medical aid in dying without waiting for changes to the laws. Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu had obtained the same right during the September judgment.

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