OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s Liberals want the outlines of a new law governing doctor-assisted dying to be clear by mid-summer — before Canadians head to the polls in October.
They’ll try to get the ball rolling Tuesday, introducing a motion that calls for creation of a special parliamentary committee to consult experts and Canadians on the potentially explosive issue.
They want the committee up and running by March 11 and they want it to report back to the House of Commons by July 31 with a proposed legislative framework.
The Liberal motion, to be put to a vote Tuesday or Wednesday, follows a landmark ruling earlier this month by the Supreme Court of Canada, which struck down the ban on physician-assisted suicide.
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The top court gave Parliament 12 months to draft new legislation that recognizes the right of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to seek medical help to end their lives.
The Harper government appears to be in no rush; Justice Minister Peter MacKay has said the government will take its time to thoroughly study the details of the court ruling and look at how other jurisdictions, including Quebec, have dealt with the issue.
The government’s response has sparked speculation that the ruling Conservatives would rather not open debate on the issue, which could expose divisions among their ranks, before the election.
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However, the Liberal motion notes there’s not actually much time left to deal with the matter before the court-imposed deadline, pointing to the summer parliamentary break and the fall election.
Parliament is scheduled to sit for just 12 more weeks before taking a 13-week break starting June 24. The campaign for the federal election, slated for Oct. 19, will start in mid-September, before the planned resumption of Parliament.
It is thus conceivable that MPs might not get back to work before November or even December, leaving only two or three months to produce a new law on physician-assisted death.
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“This is something that is important for Canadians on a personal level, and it’s something that they look to leadership from their parliamentarians on.” Trudeau said last week following a caucus discussion on the issue.
“I hope this is a debate that we can have in an informed and respectful way, but the Supreme Court has tasked us with the job of doing our job as legislators, and I think it’s important that we do that.”
Liberals last week began a Facebook campaign calling on Parliament to begin debating a physician-assisted death law “right now.”