Assisted dying bill must reflect our values

Tell us how you feel about this Bill and your general views on assisted dying. We truly want to know your thoughts on the subject.

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It’s startling to hear Senators discuss how they may try to expand or block the federal government’s assisted dying bill.

“Independent Liberal” senators James Cowan and Serge Joyal this week speculated that the newly introduced bill does not go far enough.

They’re making noise about amending or defeating the legislation to make it, in their view, more likely to conform to a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge.

They suggest that because they do not face the pressures of being re-elected, they’re more free to honestly assess the bill’s merits.

But the issue of assisted dying is a tremendously difficult one. Emotions run deep and there is no middle ground that will appease everyone.

Nonetheless, Ottawa has seemingly walked a reasonable line, delivering a framework that includes real safeguards to protect the vulnerable.

Canadians are rightly concerned about access to assisted dying for the mentally ill or mature minors should be extended. It would be premature to include them in the framework at this point and the government has correctly read the public mood on this issue.

The red chamber has huge credibility gaps that have not disappeared with the election of a new government or with the proceedings of the Mike Duffy trial.

A good number of Canadians would rather abolish the Senate than trust it with such a pivotal piece of legislation.

With an issue as divisive as assisted dying, those determining the law should have to face their constituents and should have to represent their views.

That is a connection that MPs have and Senators lack.

The Supreme Court may yet decide that this new bill restricts Canadians’ end-of-life care too much. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

The time it will take for the court to reach such a decision will give Canadians more time to debate and reflect on an evolving area of health care that needs to reflect Canadians’ evolving values.

Maybe one day the law will be widened in scope. But the Senate today is not the body to set about making wholesale changes to this legislation.

It should not mistake its distance from Canadians as licence to act indifferently to their wishes.

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