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BC Civil Liberties applauds Senate for upholding Charter and amending assisted dying Bill C-14

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OTTAWA (June 8, 2016) – This evening the Senate voted 41-30 to amend the assisted dying Bill C-14 permit all of those people granted the right to an assisted death in the Carter decision of the Supreme Court of Canada – whether their condition is terminal or not – to access that right under the Bill.

The amendment was proposed by Senator Serge Joyal and supported by the leaders and members of both the Senate Liberal and Conservative caucuses and independent Senators.  It removes the definitions in the bill that narrowed the scope of who qualifies for an assisted death, and uses the Supreme Court’s wording in its place, ensuring that – if the bill is passed in its newly-amended form – all competent adults who have a grievous and irremediable illness who experience enduring and intolerable suffering will have the right to a medically assisted death. In particular, the amendment removes the restriction that an individual’s natural death must be reasonably foreseeable in order to qualify for assistance in dying.

“We are thrilled that the Senate has listened to reason and has done its duty – to give second thought to flawed bills adopted by the House of Commons and to uphold the rights of Canadians. The government’s bill showed no respect to the Supreme Court’s decision by excluding non-terminal individuals, who otherwise qualify for assisted dying, from having that right. The Senate has fixed that, and we call on the House of Commons to accept this amendment to the Bill when it is returned to them for consideration,” said Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association.

“We commend Senators on their serious and thoughtful approach to this issue, and for having the fortitude to stand up and fix this bill which would violate the Charter rights of suffering Canadians. Liberal, Conservative and independent senators alike spoke passionately about the need to respect the Charter. They recognized that it is unacceptable to trap people in torturous sufffering when the Supreme Court has already guaranteed them the right to chose a more peaceful and dignified death.”

The BCCLA argued this week before the Senate Committee considering the Bill that excluding non-terminal individuals, who qualify under Carter, from the right to choose a medically-assisted death would be unconstitutional.

Paterson added that the BCCLA will continue to monitor further amendments in the days to come, some of which propose to add further and unnecessary restrictions to the Bill. He also noted that if the amended bill does not pass the House of Commons, the Carter decision, supplemented by provincial and territorial medical college regulations, will remain the law and there will be no “legal void.”

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