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Senate approves plan for final debate on medical assistance in dying bill

Third reading debate of Bill C-7 to be organized by theme.

The Senate has agreed to hold a structured final round of debate on medical assistance in dying legislation at third reading, including a streamlined plan for votes on proposed amendments, ahead of a final vote by February 17.

Bill C-7 proposes to expand eligibility to medical assistance in dying while also reinforcing safeguards to access. It comes in response to a Superior Court of Québec decision, which struck down as unconstitutional the requirement that death must be reasonably foreseeable in order for someone to be eligible for medical assistance in dying.

“I am pleased that senators have agreed to a focused debate on Bill C-7 in order to have a final vote on this important piece of legislation no later than February 17. With the court-imposed deadline approaching, a predictable timetable is the responsible way forward,” said Senator Marc Gold, the Government Representative in the Senate.

Third reading debate of the bill began on Monday, following a comprehensive review of the legislation by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

The Senate adopted a motion to debate and propose changes to the legislation according to themes, in the following order, beginning on Tuesday, February 9:

  1. mental illness and degenerative illnesses;
  2. safeguards and advance requests;
  3. vulnerable and minority groups, healthcare (including palliative care), and access to medical assistance in dying;
  4. conscience rights; and
  5. review process and coming into force of the legislation.

The motion, developed in consultation with Senate leadership, outlines the allotted  speaking time for each Senator during the thematic debate: up to 10 minutes per theme; up to 15 minutes when proposing an amendment or subamendment; and up to six minutes when speaking in response to a proposed amendment or subamendment.

Amendments cannot be proposed once the thematic debate is over; however, Senators will have the opportunity for final speeches on the legislation.

The motion also guarantees that if a standing vote is called on any proposed amendment to the bill, it cannot be deferred and that bells can ring for a maximum of 30 minutes. The third reading vote will take place before the Senate rises on February 17.

The Senate has been operating under a hybrid model since the fall, allowing Senators physically present in the chamber and those participating virtually to debate, ask questions and vote.

Senator Chantal Petitclerc is sponsoring Bill C-7 in the Senate.

Senate approves plan for final debate on medical assistance in dying bill