MPs vote 235 to 75 to send assisted-dying bill to Commons committee

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose says unless there are amendments, she'll be voting against federal legislation aimed at allowing people to seek medical help to end their lives.

House of Commons and Senate studying proposed legislation with goal of making it law by June 6

Ambrose says unless there are amendments, she'll be voting against the federal legislation on physician assisted dying. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

MPs in the House of Commons have voted by a margin of 235 to 75 to send the Assisted Dying bill, C-14, to committee where it will be studied and amendments are expected to be put forward.

Earlier in the day MPs voted by a margin of 165 to 140 to limit debate on the assisted dying bill, C-14, to one additional hour.

The greater support among opposition MPs to send the bill to committee does not necessarily mean there is strong all-party support for C-14, but rather that MPs want to see it moved to the amendment stage where it can be changed.

After C-14 works its way through committee it will be returned to the House of Commons for third reading and MPs will vote on whether or not to pass the bill in the House of Commons.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said Wednesday that unless there are amendments, she'll be voting against federal legislation aimed at allowing people to seek medical help to end their lives.

Ambrose says she's thought a lot about the bill and says she wants to see stronger safeguards for the disabled community.

Rona Ambrose on assisted dying legislation

6 years ago
Duration 1:44
Interim Conservative leader has concerns about health care workers who don't want to participate.

"We've heard loud and clear from the disability community that there isn't enough safeguards around things like mental health issues, advance review from a legal point of view in terms of assessments," Ambrose told reporters. 

"These are all technical issues, but they mean a lot to communities that are feeling vulnerable on this issue," she added.  "So I've listened to them. I believe they have a strong point, so at this stage, I will be voting against."

Free vote in Commons

She says issues like mental health aren't addressed well enough and she's waiting to see if those and other provisions are strengthened by the time the bill gets to the final stage.

"I know that the government has been open to amendments and I think ... they're being constructive and collaborative," she said. "Many of our MPs, and potentially some from other parties, will bring forward amendments, and then I'll reconsider at third reading."

But while Ambrose says she's opposed to the legislation as written, that doesn't bind other members of the Conservative caucus who will be allowed to vote their conscience.

Liberal MP votes against assisted dying

6 years ago
Duration 14:03
Robert-Falcon Ouellette voted against the bill at second reading, after the government agreed not to whip the vote.

Quebec Tory MP Denis Lebel says he's in support of the proposed law, noting that his province already has existing legislation on the books.

The Liberals are also allowing a free vote on the bill. Robert-Falcon Oullette, Liberal MP for Winnipeg Centre, voted against the government, siding with the opposition to limit the time for debate as well as voting against sending the bill to committee. 

June 6 or bust

Earlier in the day at committee, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the Supreme Court of Canada told Parliament to draft an assisted-dying law after issuing the Carter decision, and failure to deliver a law by June 6 would fail those relying on the law. 

"Without a new law in place on June 6, the parameters of the Carter decision would apply. But the scope of the decision is uncertain in several respects and as a result there is uncertainty as to how it would be applied in practice," she said. 

"Without a clear federal law in place, physicians who may otherwise be willing to provide medical assistance in dying, could refuse to do so because of the uncertainty," she added. 

The House of Commons and Senate are currently studying the legislation with an eye towards making it the law of the land by June 6 — the date the Supreme Court set after it struck down the existing ban on doctor-assisted death in the Carter decision.

Before the vote on time allocation, Conservative MP Jason Kenney tweeted his opposition to the Trudeau government's move to end debate.

with files from The Canadian Press