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Senate vote on assisted dying bill delayed to February due to Quebec ruling

Construction renovations continue on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

A Quebec judge has granted the federal government another delay in bringing medical assistance in dying legislation in line with a ruling from the province’s Superior Court.

The new deadline to pass the proposed legislation is now Feb. 26.

The move comes as the government’s representative in the Senate, Sen. Marc Gold, concedes that the upper house won’t finish its consideration of Bill C-7 until mid-February — long past the previous court-imposed deadline that was set to expire Friday.

Read more: Constitutional challenges to assisted dying bill inevitable: Government Senate rep

The bill is intended to bring the law into compliance with a September 2019 court ruling.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin struck down a provision in the law that allows medically assisted death only for those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable.

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She gave the government six months to bring the law into compliance with her ruling, but the court later agreed to two extensions, given the disruptions to Parliament caused by last fall’s election and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click to play video 'Liberal MP stresses duties of members to protect rights of Canadians in case for assisted dying bill' Liberal MP stresses duties of members to protect rights of Canadians in case for assisted dying bill
Liberal MP stresses duties of members to protect rights of Canadians in case for assisted dying bill – Oct 19, 2020

Senators wrapped up opening debate on the bill today but it must now be scrutinized by the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee before being sent back to the chamber for final debate and possible amendments.

In a statement, Gold said he had hoped the Senate could finish dealing with the bill before the previous deadline.

“Because the Senate received the bill so late in the calendar, fast-tracking Bill C-7 through all stages by December 18 would have required the unanimous consent of all senators,” he said.

“But given the significance of this legislation, senators have expressed a legitimate desire to fulfill their constitutional role of sober second thought,” he said.

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