Arguments will be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada on Monday, as it considers giving the federal government six additional months to deal with the divisive issue of doctor-assisted death.
The federal government is insisting a comprehensive response to the top court’s judgment requires extensive work by Parliament and provincial legislatures that cannot be completed by the original February deadline.
“This court recognized that the task facing legislators, of weighing and balancing many competing interests, was a difficult one,” the government said.
“Parliament needs access to the best information available.”
The court recognized in a landmark 2015 ruling that consenting adults enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering have the right to end their lives with a physician’s help.
A decision by the Supreme Court was suspended for a year to allow Parliament to respond, should it so choose, by introducing legislation consistent with the constitutional limits set out in the ruling.
The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and those who spearheaded the case say an extension would only further violate the rights of Canadians who are suffering.
The association argues that if the court grants more time, it should include a built-in exemption to allow individuals a physician-assisted death.
Currently, Canada’s Criminal Code provisions banning doctor-assisted death will cease to exist next month after they were deemed unconstitutional by the court last year.