Maple Maple Ridge-Mission MLA lone 'no' vote

Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton. - TIMES files
Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton.
— image credit: TIMES files

by Rob Shaw/ Special to the TIMES

Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton said he is "very concerned about the introduction of euthanasia in Canadian society."

Dalton made the comments in relation to comments from B.C.'s health minister Terry Lake, in regards to a report.

Lake said he won't develop policies on the contentious issue of physician-assisted suicide until he sees how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau handles a courtimposed deadline to craft new legislation.

Lake said Tuesday the Trudeau government might seek an extension from a Supreme Court of Canada ruling, which earlier this year struck down a federal law banning physician-assisted dying and gave federal and provincial governments until February to set up new rules.

"It would be obviously appropriate to see what the federal government is going to do, whether they are going to seek an extension or not," Lake said.

"Once we have that information, it frames the work we need to do to make sure we're aligned with the Supreme Court."

Lake refused Tuesday to adopt the recommendations of an all-party committee of MLAs that had researched the issue of physician-assisted dying for several months and produced an interim report.

The NDP and Liberal MLAs received 374 submissions from the public, and ultimately recommended the government incorporate equitable access to physician-assisted dying across the health care spectrum, including within home care, support living, acute care, extended care, hospice and palliative care.

The MLAs also suggested physicians, pharmacists and other medical professionals who disagree with assisting death be allowed to conscientiously object from providing such a service.

"The overwhelming majority of submissions we received were from British Columbians supporting dying with dignity," said New Westminster NDP MLA Judy Darcy, deputy chair of the committee.

Dalton was the lone committee member to vote against the report. The MLA said he opposes the idea of assisted suicide and the committee didn't do enough to get input from those against the practice.

"That is based upon what is happening in other jurisdictions, such as the Netherlands and Belgium ... for example, Holland has gone from voluntary to involuntary in many cases. It's been extended to people who are depressed, to youth," he said.  "I'm concerned about the pressure upon the elderly and I am concerned personally about the weakest in our society, the disabled, the elderly and the infirm ... I just feel that we need to ensure those voices are heard."

The issue became further politicized Tuesday after Liberal MLAs refused to allow the legislature to adopt the report, instead insisting it be tabled, released publicly and studied further.

"We haven't read the report, so I think it's incumbent upon MLAs to have the opportunity to read the report before adopting it," Lake said.


Rob Shaw is a reporter with The Vancouver Sun

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