Steven Fletcher challenges Canada to a debate on assisted suicide

Two bills on euthanasia now tabled

Conservative MP Steven Fletcher’s two bills related to assisted suicide are now online—here and here. The NDP’s Manon Perreault seconded both bills.

As has been noted, Mr. Fletcher’s name is very near the bottom of the order of precedence for the introduction of private members’ business, so if either or both of the bills are to be passed before the end of this Parliament, he might need to find another backbencher willing to swap spots.

The last bill to broach the subject, proposed by the late Francine Lalonde, was defeated in 2010 by a vote of 230-57. As I noted a few years ago, most of that bill’s supporters were defeated in the 2011 election when the Bloc Quebecois caucus was decimated. And two of the ten remaining supporters—Denis Coderre and Olivia Chow—have since departed, leaving now just eight MPs still in the House who supported Ms. Lalonde’s bill: Mauril Belanger, Jean Crowder, Libby Davies, Megan Leslie, John McCallum, Maria Mourani, Massimo Pacetti and Louis Plamondon. (Three Liberals, three New Democrats, a Bloc MP and a former Bloc MP.)

But while that might not bode well, Mr. Fletcher told reporters yesterday that his bill improves upon Ms. Lalonde’s proposal.

Parliament looked at a bill a few years ago. It was four paragraphs. The wording was kind of iffy. It was a private members bill. What you will see tomorrow is a very comprehensive piece of legislation that deals with virtually all the criticisms that the previous legislation had received and with a lot of safeguards in place.

But the most important thing at the end of the day is people need to be empowered to live and die the way they wish and right now we’re doing all right on the living side but on the dying side you have no choice.

You can review the debate on Ms. Lalonde’s bill here, here and here.

Of course, Mr. Fletcher’s bills are only part of the legal and philosophical equations here: the Supreme Court has said it will hear an appeal related to assisted suicide. The court could conceivably strike down the current laws that prohibit assisted suicide, but, if it does, the timing will be interesting. If the court hears an appeal sometime this year, it could conceivably rule sometime in 2015, perhaps shortly before or shortly after a new election.

Meanwhile, at their convention this spring, Liberal party members adopted a resolution to decriminalize medically assisted, but Justin Trudeau said this week that he would like to have the Supreme Court’s guidance.

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