Lametti says assisted dying bill to be tabled in February

Justice Minister David Lametti plans to table new legislation next month amending the criteria for Canadians to have medical assistance in dying.

Justice minister says there is a 'diversity of opinion' in how to proceed with changes

Justice Minister David Lametti plans to table new legislation on medical assistance in dying in February. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Justice Minister David Lametti plans to table new legislation next month amending the criteria for Canadians to have medical assistance in dying.

Speaking to reporters before a Liberal cabinet retreat in Winnipeg, Lametti said more than 150,000 people have already participated in the government's online survey.

Roundtables have been held in cities across the country, and there will also be outreach in the territories.

"There's a diversity of opinion, but a lot of interesting and specific and concrete suggestions in terms of meeting the criterion of the Quebec Superior Court," he said.

In September, a Quebec judge declared parts of the federal and provincial laws on assisted dying unconstitutional, and gave the federal government six months to pass new legislation.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin said one portion of the federal law — requiring that a patient must face a "reasonably foreseeable" death before seeking medical assistance in dying — violated Canadians' charter rights. 

Lametti left the door open to seeking an extension on passing the legislation.

'We'll see where we are'

"My goal is to get a draft bill in front of the House of Commons during the month of February, and then we'll see. We'll see where we are in terms of our colleagues around the table in the House of Commons and across the aisle, see what kind of support we have for the bill that's there," he said.

"We haven't ruled out the possibility of asking for an extension, but for the time being my priority is getting that bill in front of the House."

Lametti said the calendar for drafting the legislation was challenged by the federal election, the time to appoint cabinet and the holiday season, but he will do his best to succeed in meeting the mid-March deadline imposed by the court.

Given the time crunch, Canadians were given just two weeks to take part in the online survey

One of the survey questions asks whether it should be mandatory for a patient to receive a third medical consultation with an expert before receiving permission to obtain a medically assisted death.

The survey also asks whether the federal government should change the length of the current 10-day "reflection period" between requesting and receiving a medically assisted death.

The government is also considering input on whether the updated law should allow advance requests, access for so-called "mature minors" who doctors consider capable of making their own decisions on medical care, and whether psychiatric conditions should be grounds for assisted death.

The government commissioned three independent reports on those issues, which were submitted to the government more than a year ago by the Council of Canadian Academies, a group that pulls together experts to consider public policy.

Lametti said the new legislation must find the right balance between meeting the needs of people who want medical assistance in dying, and protecting vulnerable persons.

With files from the CBC's Catherine Cullen