Quebec’s end-of-life bill faces more hurdles

After four years of drafting and debating end-of-life legislation, Quebec’s minister for social services said she finds the opposition Liberals’ hesitance to bring the bill to a vote “puzzling.”

“It’s very disappointing, of course, for everybody who was hoping to have this bill, to have this supplemental option that is just bringing more solidarity, humanity, compassion and dignity for people at the end of their life,” Veronique Hivon said of the euthanasia legislation in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark.

The Philippe Couillard-led Quebec Liberals last week effectively stopped Bill 52 from passing when they decided against staying late to vote on the bill before members of the National Assembly headed out on a two-week break, arguing there was not enough time to afford the bill the amount of debate it warrants.

Premier Pauline Marois’ Parti Quebecois tabled its budget Thursday. With opposition parties signalling no intent of supporting it, the minority government could fall, triggering an election and killing all bills on the order paper, including end-of-life Bill 52.

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Hivon said she doesn’t understand how much more time the Liberals could have needed.

“We’ve been having this dialogue, this discussion with the citizens in Quebec for more than four years now,” she said. “After all this work, all these hours and hours of hearing people and then tabling a report, and then tabling a bill, and then having nine months to discuss the bill in committee, I cannot believe … that they’re saying they wanted to have time to be able to speak.”

The legislation proposes giving adults who are suffering an incurable disease and are on their death beds access to medical aid to die. If passed, Quebec would become the first province to legalize euthanasia.

Even if the bill passed, there is a question of whether Ottawa would allow it to go ahead.

Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay has pointed to the country’s Criminal Code and the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on end-of-life options as reasons the bill would face a battle.

“It is our government’s position that the Criminal Code provisions prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia are in place to protect all persons, including those who are most vulnerable in our society,” he wrote in a statement.

“The Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged the state interest in protecting human life and upheld the constitutionality of existing legislation 20 years ago.”

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Despite the delays and push backs, Hivon said she is still confident the bill will become law “sooner than later.”

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