The Liberal government has decided not to whip the vote on the physician-assisted dying bill set to be tabled Thursday, so backbench MPs can vote according to their conscience.
The government's bill will take a narrow approach to the issue of physician-assisted dying, ignoring many of the key recommendations made by a joint parliamentary committee struck to study the issue this winter.
In February, Liberal House Leader Dominic LeBlanc told The Globe and Mail that backbenchers would be forced to toe the party line on the legislation because it is a Charter of Rights issue. But he later suspended that decision, calling it "premature."
Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who co-chaired the committee, told The Canadian Press the government should pre-empt any court challenges by referring the new law to the Supreme Court to determine whether it is Charter-compliant.
A source familiar with the legislation says it will exclude those who experience only mental suffering, such as people with psychiatric conditions, and will not allow for advance consent – a request to end one's life in the future – or for mature youth to end their own lives with the help of a doctor.
The Supreme Court gave the Liberal government until June 6 to pass a new law after unanimously striking down the Criminal Code ban on assisted dying last February. The court said the current laws infringe the Charter rights of competent adults who have grievous and irremediable medical conditions that cause enduring suffering, and who consent to ending their own lives.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Health Minister Jane Philpott will speak about the bill at a news conference on Thursday.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould told reporters this week the government has been working "thoughtfully" on the legislation, which seeks a balanced approach.