The House is back and will vote on assisted dying

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Image: Scotti

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

The House is back and preparing to deal with the physician-assisted dying legislation, which the Supreme Court instructed the government to enact by June 6.

There is a vote scheduled for Monday evening.

It was the government's haste to pass that measure that created all that Elbowgate fuss and bother in the Commons during the week before the break.

The NDP's little delaying tactic, which turned into a major confrontation, was a mild protest against a measure to limit debate on that highly sensitive, complex and contentious legislation.

The public view -- not nourished by those who make their living reporting on Parliament, nor by members of Parliament on either side of the House, but by legions of social media trolls -- is that the New Democrats were the real villains of the piece.

Prime Minister Trudeau's intemperate intervention was entirely normal and justified, in this view, because NDP leader Mulcair and his colleagues were behaving like kids in junior high.

The PM, who, in this view, is not only the chief executive of government but also the boss of everything that happens in the House, had no choice but to assert his notional (if entirely imagined) authority. 

Members of Parliament have a rather different perspective.

They believe they have a duty to speak in the House on the assisted dying bill.

The right to die is not, and should not be, a political and partisan matter, and MPs have been receiving an enormous volume of correspondence on it from their constituents. Canadians want their voices heard on assisted dying.

Praise for the government -- and concern about its disregard for Parliament

In the aftermath of Elbowgate, one of the new crop of MPs elected last time, Vancouver Island NDPer Sheila Malcolmson, expressed extreme frustration at her inability to represent her constituents' deeply felt views on the legislation to allow doctor-assisted death.

When she spoke, Malcolmson first made a conscious and quite deliberate point of lauding the government for its early efforts to cooperate constructively with all parties.

She mentioned the justice minister working with her NDP colleague Randall Garrison on transgender rights, and the House's non-partisan debate on the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat. And she praised the Prime Minister, personally, for, as she put it,  "raising the profile of feminism."

"We have a unique opportunity in the world right now to truly bring gender equality and to bring gender into all our conversations," Malcolmson said, "and I commend the government for setting that tone."

But the British Columbia MP also told the House she was

"frustrated and disappointed that I have come to work on four days this week being ready to give a speech on physician-assisted dying, to echo the extremely high volume of mail and advice that I am getting from my constituents. Four days in a row I have shown up ready to give that speech, and the Liberal government has changed its mind, saying, 'We are going to talk about immigration.' or 'Over the next hour we are going to talk about the RCMP.' How can the minister justify shutting down debate when we need to be having these important conversations in this House?"

Malcolmson expressed concern that the government seemed to be turning away from its original cooperative, compromising, open-minded approach to Parliament.

Using closure five times for fifteen bills was five times too much, Malcolmson said, and then added, with particular reference to the assisted dying legislation:

"I encourage the government to back down from its strong-arming of this legislation. It should allow us to do our work, to represent our voters and our ridings, and to speak true voice to all the important issues before the House."

The government will not, however, back down. It is mindful -- perhaps too mindful -- of the Supreme Court's June 6 deadline.

A number of those independent Senators appointed by Trudeau have said, however, they do not feel bound by any deadline, and have doubts about key elements of the assisted dying bill, which they do not believe would withstand a court challenge. 

And so, Members of the Commons might very well get another chance to express themselves on assisted dying, when an amended version of the bill comes back from the Senate. 

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Image: Scotti

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.