06.14.2016 07:00 AM

In this week’s Hill Times: on death and dying

Some of us aren’t enthusiastic about assisted dying. Although, in the case of the Senate, we will happily make an exception, and assist. 

The Senate – that undemocratic, unaccountable, unwanted monstrosity that has affixed itself to the side of Parliament like a ermine-garbed parasite – is in the news again. And, yet again, it is for all the wrong reasons. 

Late last week, Senators took it upon themselves to gut the Trudeau government’s Bill C-14. They had no mandate to do so, they had no authority to do so. But they did so, just the same. 

The Senators’ concerns are irrelevant, just like they are. To debate the merits of their changes is to accord them a modicum of legitimacy. We shouldn’t do it. 

C-14 has had a troubled history, true. For the comparatively-new Liberal government, it has been the Flying Dutchman of legislation – never yet making it to shore, and a portent of bad luck for all who come near it. 

C-14 was the cause of Justin Trudeau’s terrible night, when he manhandled a Conservative and elbowed a New Democrat. C-14 was the reason the Liberals initially sought to give themselves extraordinary powers in the Commons, with the innocuous-sounding Motion Six – and then the reason they thereafter beat a hasty retreat, and frantically withdrawing the aforementioned Motion Six. (Looking autocratic and weak, all in the same session. Hard to do.)

C-14 was the cause of acrimonious splits in caucus, and deep division within the broader Grit family. C-14 was definitive proof, too, that the government could not seem to manage its legislative affairs – or meet a Supreme Court deadline. 

And, now, C-14 has become the payback platform for assorted Senators: the Conservative ones, who have been waiting for an opportunity to rain all over Trudeau’s honeymoon. And the Liberal ones – the ones that Trudeau kicked out of his caucus without warning – to teach him a lesson, and to exact sweet revenge. 

Like we say: C-14 has been the cause of more trouble than it probably is worth. 

There is a theory, of course, that Machiavellian Grits foresaw all of this difficulty, and wanted C-14 to run ashore. It was the plan all along, say some. As with the abortion legislative void, nothing was better than something. 

Don’t believe it, not for a moment. Trudeau would not do what he did – and his government would not risk all that it risked – for mere show. It was no Parliamentary pantomime. The government wanted to meet the high court’s absurdly-short deadline, and it did all that it could to hasten the Bill’s passage. It was authentic. 

The Senate, lacking both authenticity and wisdom, ended any hope of that. So now what?

The C-14 rush was probably as unseemly as it was unnecessary. Doctors have been quietly practicing euthanasia in Canada for many, many years. I say that as the son of a doctor – one who was sometimes asked to do it, and one who was awarded the Order of Canada for his writings about it. 

The government’s haste was also a waste – of energy. The Senators (Conservatives, former Liberals, and Liberals who refuse to acknowledge that they are Liberals) were always going to scupper C-14. Any fool could see that. They weren’t interested in sober second thought. Their objective was to cause trouble, and cause trouble they did. 

The objections some of us had to this Bill remain. Who decides, exactly, who should die? What is terminal? If we’ve yet to define life, how can we say for certain when life lacks value? Isn’t euthanizing the mentally ill what that moustachioed Bavarian fellow did? Is there any better oxymoron that a “mature minor?” 

And so on. 

Justin Trudeau’s C-14 was a sincere, well-meaning and carefully-crafted compromise. It was also profoundly unlucky. 

It’s time to try again – this time, one hopes, without the bad luck, the divisions, the Parliamentary brinkmanship and the flying elbows. 

Oh, and the Senate. We could do without that, too. But, like death – assisted or otherwise – we are unlikely to be rid of its foul presence anytime soon.


  1. Pipes says:

    Meanwhile, those who wish for death, suffer……….

  2. Darren H says:

    Real leadership would entail taking time to do it right, involving all parties, and letting the SCOC know that this is the law of the land and any court interference will be met by usage of the notwithstanding clause. The SCOC does not create, or form law, that lies with the electorate by way of the HOC. It cannot be overstated how important it is to do this right, as we are effectively sanctioning doctors to commit consensual murder/manslaughter.

  3. Merrill Smith says:

    It has been said that the Austrians want us to believe that Hitler was a German and Beethoven was an Austrian. Apparently you’ve fallen for the former. As for the senate, it may not have any democratic legitimacy, but it does have constitutional legitimacy and until that changes, we’re stuck with it.

  4. Matt says:

    More than all that, Trudeau shot himself in the foot when he kicked the Liberals senators out of caucus.

    I remember one political analyst saying it’s all fine and dandy when you’re third party in the HOC, but it could come back to bite him in the ass if the Liberals ever formed government.

  5. JH says:

    From this to Mail Service, to going back to court with the vets, to sole sourcing stories and now even a report the Senate is holding up the RCMP Bill. There’s a developing story of a botched agenda & incompetent leaders with this gang. No amount of soothing words or pixie dust is going to hide that.

  6. Joe says:

    So the dog and peanut butter court told Trudeau that he had to pass a law allowing kids to kill their parents and Trudeau said “Yes ma’am three bags full”. I’m kind of glad we have a senate that is a bit contrarian.

  7. Francis says:

    The other controversial theory is that the Liberals foresaw trouble on C-14 and insisted on ramming it through in its less-than-desirable state to the Senate so the newly minted Independent Senators got an opportunity to prove themselves.

    Its farfetched, but hey, I enjoy Machiavellian theories.

    Realistically though, I think the bill has been mismanaged unnecessarily from the get-go. People like Jane Philpott and Judy Wilson-Raybould have done an outstanding job ushering this piece of legislation through but the House Leadership has been a bit of a disappointment. Everything from Motion 6 to “Elbowgate” could have been avoided if some individuals had been better in their roles. I’m inclined to believe the theory of the Liberals preferring no law to any law, but I just don’t see how constantly taking it on the chin for something that wasn’t even in your election platform was worth all this.

    If the Liberals want a watered down piece of legislation, then they should lean into it and draft something like that. They won’t have the support of Conservatives, but they weren’t ever going to get their support anyway. They’ll placate the NDP and Rob Oliphant will get on board as well. From a PR perspective, this just seems more logical than pissing off both nay sayers and yeah sayers.

    Ultimately, the Liberals would be wise to draw this out until they leave for break. That’ll give Canadians the summer to digest the law-less state of situation and if no 17 year old gets euthanized, then the Liberals have a case for drafting up a C-14 “lite” — if need even be.

  8. billg says:

    Troubles the NDP never had to face, promises from a 3rd party that very few, even their leader thought would win.
    What exactly is the rush on this, its worked, its not perfect, but, its worked, and, as someone who has had 2 parents leave this world this way I can say that.
    What’s the rush on changing our method of electing governments, same thing, its worked well for us, why screw with it.
    He can get away with it because he’s young and fresh and good looking, so, roll with it, move on to something important, they keep getting stuck in the mud when the road is paved.

  9. MississaugaPeter says:

    Another Bishop Carroll staple. WK, first teenage crushes now high school religion, midlife hitting you? Is the last one graduating or do you have one left? The last of my 4 is, and I find myself doing likewise.

    Anyways, “Mature Minor”, is totally asinine. I would high five any Senator who voted against this.

    In a majority parliament, with the trained seals, the Senate is the only thing that protects us from a tyrant. It saved us under Harper, and will save us under Trudeau. This is the only time I have felt an older, more mature, UNELECTED Senate has ever made sense. Change is usually good, except when it isn’t. This is one of those cases.

  10. bluegreenblogger says:

    You say this is un-necessary? I am going to disagree vehemently. As a boy, I held my mothers hand as her eyes rolled back…She had ALS, and was at the end of a horrific slow death. My Mother was a Catholic, she bore her burden for love of a god I doubt exists. I, and all my siblings, and our children have exaggerated chances of the same fate. In the absence of legislation, and in the full knowledge of what’s coming at me, I would plan my death before I became too enfeebled to carry it our myself. You see, ANYTHING is better than suffocating to death over a year long period. The leadup is bad enough, losing walking, arms failing, fingers weakening, but when every breath is almost an accident….. Maybe a cure is on the horizon, but it would not be worth the risk. Why should anyone make such a choice for an early death when it should be delayed until it truly is the only answer? YOU cannot possibly dictate the morality of someone else’s choice, and it is wrong that you turn away from the discussion wishing it never came up. If it’s a moral dilemma for you, then it likely is for many others, which makes an actual debate and discussion a good thing. Resolve your dilemma or not, everyone will have more information to judge by. It is up to all the rest of us, who are not obliged to make such horrible decisions, to get over our self absorbed squeamishness, and help those who really need it. NOBODY with an ounce of intelligence would, or should, be obliged to die like that.

  11. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Better a flawed or insufficient law than none at all. You simply can’t allow this to proceed without goal posts and red lines.

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