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Feds seek extension for Truchon to take effect

Otherwise medical assistance in dying law would no longer be applied consistently across the country as of July 12.

Justice Minister and Attorney-General David Lametti

The Attorney General of Canada David Lametti has filed a motion with Health Minister Patty Hajdu, requesting a second extension, until December 18, 2020, of the Superior Court of Québec’s September 2019 Truchon ruling on Canada’s legislation on medical assistance in dying.

In that ruling, the Quebec Court held that the criteria set out in the federal law was unconstitutional and struck down its requirement of “reasonably foreseeable death” for anyone seeking medically assisted death. The ruling is only applicable in Quebec, and the court initially gave the federal government six months to amend the legislation, but then extended the deadline to July 11.

“Without this extension, the ‘reasonable foreseeability of natural death’ criterion from the federal law will no longer be applicable in the province of Quebec on July 12, but would remain in effect in other provinces and territories,” reads a joint statement by the two federal ministers. “This means that criminal law would no longer be applied consistently across the country."

Citing complication brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government is requesting the extra time “to provide sufficient time for Parliament to properly consider and enact this proposed legislation, which is of importance to many Canadians and families across the country,” the statement continues.

The federal legislation requires “reasonably foreseeable death,” and the court found that the “restrictive criteria are incompatible with the principles established by the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter v Canada, and that the federal legislation violates section 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms…”

In a submission to the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the CBA’s End-of-Life Working Group expressed concerns about proposed amendments by the federal government in response to the Quebec ruling.

“The criterion of ‘reasonably foreseeable death’ has caused significant uncertainty and difficulty in practice and Bill C-7 does not give any guidance on how to apply it,” the Working Group wrote. “We recommend that guidance be given to avoid confusion on which safeguards apply and ensure appropriate access to MAID.”

When CBA National interviewed the attorney general shortly after the ruling, Lametti discussed the need to perform a broader review of the legislation, beginning in June, as we are coming up against the fifth anniversary of its promulgation.