The Senate of Canada building and Senate Chamber are pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. A long-awaited, and legally required parliamentary review of Canada’s medically assisted dying regime is set to go except for the Conservative Senate caucus, which has yet to name its member of the committee. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Senate of Canada building and Senate Chamber are pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. A long-awaited, and legally required parliamentary review of Canada’s medically assisted dying regime is set to go except for the Conservative Senate caucus, which has yet to name its member of the committee. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Tory senators hold up start of parliamentary review of assisted dying law

The committee is to examine issues related to mature minors, advance requests, mental illness

Conservative senators are holding up the start of a long-awaited, legally required, special parliamentary committee that is supposed to review Canada’s assisted dying regime.

The various parties in the House of Commons have chosen 10 MPs to sit on the committee, which is to examine whether medical assistance in dying should be expanded to include mature minors and advance requests, among other important issues.

Four senators have been named to the committee by three of the four Senate groups.

But they’re all waiting for the Conservative Senate caucus to name its single member, despite a unanimously passed motion requiring all Senate groups to choose their members by the end of the day last Friday.

Conservative Senate Leader Don Plett’s office has not responded to questions about the holdup.

Sen. Pierre Dalphond, a former judge chosen to represent the Progressive Senate Group on the committee, says Plett is refusing to name the Conservative senator unless there’s a guarantee that person will also be named committee co-chair — an assurance other Senate groups are not prepared to give.

“He wants a blank cheque, which I’m not ready to give,” Dalphond said in an interview.

“There’s so much to do and we’re talking about serious issues and they prevent senators and MPs who are eager to do the work. … The ego of one man is preventing the system to work, which I find is close to showing contempt for Parliament.”

The committee is to examine issues related to mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with disabilities. It is to report back with any recommended changes to the assisted dying regime within one year.

The five-year parliamentary review of Canada’s assisted-dying law was supposed to start last June but never materialized.

Last month, the House of Commons and Senate passed Bill C-7 to expand assisted dying to people suffering intolerably but not near the natural end of their lives, in compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling.

At the urging of senators, the bill was amended to specifically require that a joint committee begin the overdue parliamentary review within 30 days of the legislation going into force.

Those 30 days came and went last week, with the Conservative senator still unnamed.

Plett “is showing complete disregard and disrespect for the Senate, for the House of Commons and for the bill that provides for a committee to be set up as soon as possible,” Dalphond said.

“It’s really taking the Senate hostage, the House of Commons hostage.”

The Conservatives, with 20 senators, are the last remaining unabashedly partisan group in the 105-seat Senate. Dalphond said they’re arguing that because a Liberal MP is to co-chair the committee, the Senate co-chair should be a representative of the official Opposition.

But he said they don’t seem to appreciate that the other Senate groups are non-partisan and their representatives on the committee can’t be whipped into automatically accepting a Conservative senator at the helm. They’ll vote independently for whomever they believe will make the best co-chair.

Dalphond said any of the other senators chosen to sit on the committee so far would make a fine co-chair.

The Canadian Senators Group has chosen Sen. Pamela Wallin, a passionate advocate of advance requests. The Independent Senators Group, the largest caucus in the Senate, has chosen two members to sit on the committee: Sen. Stan Kutcher, a psychiatrist who championed including people suffering solely from mental illnesses in Bill C-7, and Sen. Marie-Francoise Megie, a former family doctor and pioneer in palliative care.

Dalphond said some Conservative senators have indicated that their representative will likely be Sen. Denise Batters, an ardent opponent of the original assisted-dying law who also strenuously objected to Bill C-7. The three Conservative MPs chosen to sit on the committee are also strong opponents of expanding access to assisted dying.

Dalphond said he has “great respect” for Batters, but it should be up to the other senators on the committee whether she becomes the co-chair.

“Nobody is entitled as a divine right.”

Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, facilitator of the Independent Senators Group, agreed that the Conservatives “are holding up the work of a very important committee.”

“The House has done its job in appointing its 10 members. The CSG, the PSG and the ISG have appointed their members, four out of the five (senators),” he said in an interview.

“Apparently, the Conservatives missed the deadline and we are stuck.”

Woo declined to go into the reasons for the Conservative holdup, saying only that it’s up to them to explain.

READ MORE: Canadians not near death gain access to assisted dying as Senate passes Bill C-7

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

assisted dyingConservative Party of Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Accused drug trafficker to plead to federal, provincial charges in June

Matthew Straume said he’d missed his last court date because he was ill

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
57 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

Thirty people in the region are in hospital, 16 of whom are in intensive care

Rossland City Council issued a press release critical of Mayor Kathy Moore's travel to the U.S.
Rossland council addresses issue of mayor’s travel to U.S.

Prior to her trip, some councillors and staff expressed deep concerns about her plans

Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks sex crimes trial adjourned until summer

The trial was set to begin at the city courthouse Wednesday, May 5

Photo: Kathleen Saylors
Grand Forks city council votes down motion to support Penticton in paramountcy battle

Coun. Neil Krog insisted Penticton’s issue with Victoria is about city bylaws, not homelessness

Four homes in Johnson Flats were at serious risk of falling into a neighbourhood section of the Kettle River, according to capital project manager Justin Dinsdale. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks shields riverside homes against erosion

Crews have built a modified dike along a section of the Kettle River in Johnson Flats

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when she was interned along with 22,000 B.C. residents in 1942. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds health services for survivors of Japanese internment

Seniors describe legacy of World War II displacement

Most Read