Last updated on February 12, 2021
OTTAWA — Senators want the federal government to collect race-based data on who requests and receives medical assistance in dying in Canada.
They approved Thursday an amendment to Bill C-7 requiring the government to collect such data.
The bill would expand access to assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not near the natural end of their lives.
The amendment reflects concern that Black, racialized and Indigenous people with disabilities, already marginalized and facing systemic discrimination in the health system, could be induced to end their lives prematurely due to poverty and lack of support services.
Sen. Mobina Jaffer, a member of the Independent Senators Group who proposed the amendment, noted that no race-based analysis was done when the bill was being drafted.
“One in four people have been left out of the data collection,” she told the Senate.
Her amendment was widely supported and passed on a voice vote with no objections, other than the government’s representative in the Senate, Sen. Marc Gold, saying that he wanted to abstain.
Sen. Kim Pate, another member of the Independent Senators Group, said the amendment won’t ensure that no one opts for an assisted death as a result of unequal access to health care, housing and social and income supports.
But she said it will ensure that “the government must at least provide some answers about who makes use of Bill C-7 and under what circumstances.”
Pate said the government should also be required to provide more information on who accesses assisted dying, including income, whether they are institutionalized and whether they had access to alternative means of relieving their suffering and to social and financial supports.
Senators burned the midnight oil Thursday night as they continued debating and proposing amendments to the bill.
The extended hours were part of the Senate’s determination to wrap up debate and put C-7 to a final vote by next Wednesday.
The schedule is intended to give the government time to meet the thrice-extended court-imposed deadline of Feb. 26 for bringing the law into compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling.
That ruling struck down a provision that allows access to assisted dying only for intolerably suffering people whose natural deaths are reasonably foreseeable.
Earlier this week, senators approved several substantial amendments to the bill, including one that would allow people who fear losing mental capacity to make advance requests for assisted death and another that would impose an 18-month time limit on the bill’s proposed ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses.
If senators approve an amended bill next week, it will have to go back to the House of Commons to decide whether to accept or reject the changes and then back to the Senate to decide whether to accept the Commons’ verdict.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2021.
Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press