Skip to main content

Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee says Quebec’s right-to-die law will take effect in two weeks.Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Quebec will forge ahead with the province's right-to-die law despite a request from Ottawa to put it on hold.

The health and justice ministers said Thursday the law will still enter into effect on Dec. 10, with the outcome of a legal challenge against Bill 52 the only possible obstacle.

The legislation, which was passed in 2014, would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with medical help.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last February that Canadians with unbearable and irremediable suffering could be eligible to end their lives with a doctor's aid, but the justices stayed their decision until Feb. 6, 2016, to give Parliament time to replace the existing law if it so chooses.

On Wednesday, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould asked Quebec to suspend its law while her government prepares its own legislation on the issue.

Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee ruled that out, saying the law will take effect in two weeks.

"We're staying the course, obviously" she said.

Earlier this month a handicapped woman as well as a coalition of physicians said they wanted to obtain an injunction to block the law.

They argue the Supreme Court's ruling was based on a case in British Columbia that occurred before the Quebec law was adopted in June 2014.

They also say a patient's consent cannot be free and informed if he or she has not been offered all palliative care options, which is not always the case in the province due to a lack of accessibility to certain treatments, drugs and services.

Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said Thursday only the injunction being granted could result in the law being put on hold.

"You have a group that has no relation whatsoever with that issue that is going to court to ask for an injunction," he said. "That is quite surprising.

"That being said, we are in a situation where there is a legal procedure that we have to attend and we have to reconvene in that conversation after the decision has been made."

A Quebec court is expected to rule Monday on the injunction request.

A palliative care centre in Sherbrooke, Que., said earlier this month it would provide the service starting Feb. 1. La Maison Aube-Lumiere, which provides care to those with terminal cancer, said it is the first facility of its kind to adopt such a policy.

It expects to see only two or three cases a year.

Neither Ottawa nor the remaining provinces have regulated doctor-assisted death yet, but a federally appointed panel is looking into legislative options to govern the practice.

Editor's Note: An earlier digital version of this story incorrectly described federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould as federal health minister. This online version has been corrected.