By David Fraser, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The federal government is seeking to delay the extension of assisted dying eligibility to people whose sole condition is a mental disorder until March 17, 2024.
Justice Minister David Lametti introduced a bill seeking the extension in the House of Commons on Thursday.
The Liberal government agreed to expand eligibility in its 2021 update to assisted dying law after senators amended the bill, arguing that excluding people with mental illness would violate their rights.
That law put a two-year clock on the expansion that is set to expire on March 17. The Liberals now have six weeks to pass the new legislation, which would add another year to the delay.
Lametti said earlier that he is expecting agreement among other parties and senators to pass the bill in that short time frame.
Helen Long, CEO of advocacy organization Dying With Dignity Canada, said in a statement that keeping people with mental disorders from accessing assisted dying is “discriminatory and perpetuates the stigma that they do not have the capacity to make decisions about their own health care.”
Before Lametti tabled the bill, the group had urged the federal government to make the delay “short and effective.”
But Conservative MP Michael Cooper said on Twitter that the delay is not enough and the “dangerous expansion” needs to be scrapped altogether.
Tories have argued that it is difficult for doctors to tell when a person’s suffering due to a mental disorder is past the point of treatment, so the policy could lead to avoidable deaths.
“One year won’t resolve the problems. Experts are clear that irremediability cannot be determined for mental illness,” Cooper said.
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett was expected to join Lametti at a news conference about the delay later on Thursday.