Bill C-14 could be 'completely rejected' on return to Red Chamber, says Tory Senate leader

Senate Conservative Leader Claude Carignan says that if MPs reject all of the amendments senators make to the federal government's assisted-dying bill, "it is at risk to be completely rejected" when it returns to the Senate.

Senate could also pass assisted-dying bill in hopes court challenges bring about changes in the law

Senator Claude Carignan, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, says that if Bill C-14 comes back to the Senate with all the Red Chamber's amendments stripped away, it risks being completely rejected. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Senate Conservative Leader Claude Carignan has a warning for his colleagues in the House of Commons as they embark on evaluating Senate amendments to the government's assisted-dying bill.

"If our amendments are completely rejected and this bill comes back in its original form in the Senate, I think that it is at risk to be completely rejected," he said. 

The Senate has so far voted to adopt three amendments to the Liberal government's Bill C-14.

On Friday, senators adopted Senator Don Plett's amendment that would make it an offence for someone to help another person self-administer medication prescribed to bring about a medically assisted death if that person would benefit materially from the death of the patient. 

A day earlier, the Senate also adopted an amendment by Senator Nicole Eaton that would essentially require a person seeking a medically assisted death to first consult with medical care professionals on what the path for palliative care and treatment would be for the patient. 

The most contentious amendment adopted by the Red Chamber, however, was the decision to remove the key condition in the proposed legislation that a patient's death must be "reasonably foreseeable" in order to qualify. 

Instead, senators inserted broader language proposed by Senator Serge Joyal's amendment that only requires a patient to "have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, and after the condition has begun to cause enduring suffering that is intolerable to the person."

A step too far

It's a change that both the federal justice and health ministers were not happy with.

"The amendment that was passed last night is a significant one," Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Thursday.

"It will broaden the regime of medical assistance in dying in this country, and we have sought to ensure that we, at every step, find the right balance that is required for such a turn in direction," she added.

Health Minister Jane Philpott said she is worried the more permissive language could see people suffering solely from a mental illness apply for medical assistance in dying.

Right now, that is prohibited in the federal government's bill.

"We stand by the cohesiveness, the integrity of the piece of legislation that we put forward, that strikes that balance that we believe is necessary, that has had broad public support, that has been supported in a vote in the House of Commons," Philpott said this week.

The potential Ping-Pong bill

Joyal says the many legal experts that have weighed in on the assisted-dying debate have said limiting eligibility to those with a reasonably foreseeable death makes the bill unconstitutional.

"To prevent delay and court challenge that will have to be born by patients who are in intolerable suffering — that's essentially what we did," Joyal told reporters Friday.

Senator Frances Lankin told Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House, [which airs Saturday June 11, at 9:10 a.m. ET] that the Senate is facing a number of options if C-14 becomes a Ping-Pong ball bouncing between the Senate and the House of Commons.

"There's a possibility the Senate just does not deal with the bill, sends it to committee and leaves it there. It means it dies." Lankin said. "I think that would be a travesty if the Senate did that. This is important legislation."

She added the Senate could also pass the original bill with the belief it may be changed in the future through court challenges. Or both sides could take the rare step of holding a joint conference.

The Senate has adjourned its debate on C-14 for this week. Senators will resume their work on Monday at 5 p.m. ET.


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