Voting results here: Vote on Euthanasia Bill 384

For the first time in Francine Lalonde’s three attempts to legalize euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide, there was a vote and her private member’s bill C-384 was easily defeated 228-59.

Introduced in May 2009, C-384 received its first hour of debate in October. Lalonde then traded backwards three times in the order of precedence to delay the second hour of debate and a final vote. According to Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director Alex Schadenberg, Lalonde knew C-384 was going to be defeated and attempted to delay the inevitable. When Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament in December, C-384 had to revert back to requiring both the first and second hour of debate. On March 16, it again received its first hour and second reading and vote took place on April 21.

During the debate, many MPs told of personal stories. Nicole Demers (BQ, Laval) discussed her mother’s passing and how she believed a doctor gave her too much morphine to end her life, a decision Demers supports in hindsight. She supported the bill, she said, because, “I think doctors would also be relieved to finally have legislation that allows them to end people’s suffering, without facing any accusations.” Schadenberg said last fall that one reason there is a push to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide is not to give such rights to patients, but to define what physicians may and may not do and protect them from prosecution or professional discipline.

Tim Uppal says euthanasia is 'not a solution'.

Tim Uppal (Con., Edmonton-Sherwood Park) said, “I do not support the general principle behind the bill. I do not believe doctors should be given the power to end a human life in this way. Bill C-384 offers death as a solution to pain and suffering. I do not believe that this is the right solution for Canadians.” Like many of those who spoke against C-384 this year and last, Uppal addressed some of the definitional problems contained in the bill — how will a patient be determined to be “lucid” for example — but made it clear that he not only opposed Lalonde’s deeply flawed and poorly written bill but euthanasia in general.

Michael Savage (Lib., Dartmouth-Cole Harbour) said that he had heard from the disability community who “are very concerned about this bill. They do not know exactly where it will lead.” For that reason, among others, he was voting against C-384.

Among the 59 yes votes were 43 Bloc Quebecois, eight Liberals, five NDP, two Conservatives and one independent. (See pages 16-17 for voting details.) In total, 139 Conservatives voted against C-384, along with 57 Liberals, 30 NDP, and two Bloc. When the vote was completed, a pair of Liberal MPs, Ken Dryden and Ujjal Dosanjh, rose to say they incorrectly voted yes and asked permission to change their vote to no. The Speaker of the House asked if their fellow parliamentarians agreed to change the record, but by voice vote, the Commons refused.

Also after the vote, Steven Fletcher (Con. Charleswood-St James-Assiniboia), a quadriplegic and member of the cabinet, said he was abstaining from the vote. He said he wanted people like him and their families to have access to euthanasia and assisted suicide but first wanted increased supports for vulnerable, disabled and dying individuals.

Immediately after the vote, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s Alex Schadenberg said, “We would like to thank every member of parliament who voted against Bill C-384. We would also like to thank all of our supporters who made this victory possible.” Janet Epp Buckingham, director of the Laurentian Leadership Center in Ottawa, wrote in Christian Week to “applaud” pro-life and Christian groups that “mobilized” opposition to the bill, saying it is no easy task: “As soon as one (euthanasia) bill is defeated or dies on the order paper, another one is introduced.” She said “don’t think for a minute that this issue is over.”

Schadenberg told The Interim he “wouldn’t be surprised to see another euthanasia bill after the next election.” He said “the battle is not over” but the EPC is “working to turn the debate on this issue to a debate about on how Canadians can live with dignity.”

The EPC is working with the newly created Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care which will work on strategies to promote palliative care, curb elder abuse, fight depression and suicide, and fully welcome the elderly and disabled into society.

The EPC will also convene a strategy meeting and open discussion forum on Turn the Tide on the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide on June 19 at the Best Western-Toronto Airport from 10 am – 4 pm. (The cost is $50 and includes lunch.)