The BCCLA has made written submissions to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs at the Senate to comment on Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying). In our submission, the BCCLA set out our chief concerns with Bill C-7, and shared a statement from Julia Lamb.
As Julia Lamb says in her statement, she stands in solidarity with disability rights groups and communities of people living with disabilities, including and especially racialized and poor people living with disabilities. Julia reminds is that the world impedes people living with disabilities. Julia and the BCCLA are committed to working toward a society where people with disabilities live free of discrimination and full access to education, health care, homes, jobs and civic engagement.
Julia also believes that, when all else fails – when medical treatments, pain management, comfort care, and hospice care that are available and tolerable to ger are not enough to relieve her extreme suffering – she should have the option to end her suffering painlessly and with compassion.
There are many aspects of Bill C-7 that are positive and respect the rights and serve the interests of Canadians.
The BCCLA largely supports Bill C-7, which is primarily intended to bring the law into compliance with Truchon v. Canada. Removal of the requirement that a natural death has become “reasonably foreseeable” is constitutionally required, and is about compassion and respecting Canadians’ right to make personal choices based their own values and beliefs.
Significant clauses in Bill C-7 must be amended
Although the BCCLA largely supports Bill C-7, significant clauses are unconstitutional and/or must be amended.
We accept and endorse the two major areas of grave concern raised by Julia Lamb. To that end, the Bill should be amended in the following ways:
- The two-track system should be struck from the legislation because it forces additional, mandatory barriers on persons whose death is not “reasonably foreseeable”
- If the two-track system is retained:
- the legislation should permit a waiver of final consent for people who would be considered subject to track 2.
The BCCLA’s other major area of concern is that Bill C-7 contains an absolute prohibition against permitting people whose sole underlying condition is “mental illness” from having the choice of medical assistance in dying. The prohibition applies to all persons suffering from a sole condition of “mental illness”– regardless of whether they are decisionally capable individuals.
This absolute prohibition does not comply with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Carter v. Canada and is therefore unconstitutional. In addition, the provision unjustifiably infringes s. 7 (the rights to life, liberty and security of the person) and s.15 (the right to equality) of the Charter.
Carter set the “floor” and not the “ceiling” of what is constitutionally required to respect the rights of all Canadians. This means that while Parliament may extend the rights to physician assisted dying beyond what the Court required (for example, by permitting nurse practitioners to provide MAID and final consent waivers), it cannot restrict those rights.
We support appropriate procedural safeguards that would permit patients with mental health issues to access the law under certain strict and limited circumstances. These safeguards – including practice guidelines and standards for training – should be developed by clinicians and professional and regulatory bodies. These safeguards should not be regulated through the prohibitions and penal sanctions of the Criminal Code.
Summary of key amendments required in Bill C-7
- Bill C-7’s exclusion of “mental illness” does not respect the Carter v. Canada decision and violates s. 7 and s. 15 of the Charter
- Bill C-7 should not force additional, mandatory barriers on persons whose natural death is not “reasonably foreseeable”
- In the alternative, if Bill C-7 is not amended to remove the additional barriers on persons whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, Bill C-7 should be amended to provide those persons for a waiver for final consent if the conditions in s. 3.2 are met.