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An Act Respecting Abortion (1991)

An Act Respecting Abortion

Date: 1991
Bill: C-43
Sponsor: Hon. C. William Doody (NL)
Downloads:  Read the Act 


In 1969, Parliament amended section 287 (then section 237) of the Criminal Code to legalize abortion. Subsection (4) states that criminal sanctions against abortion do not apply to a doctor performing an abortion or a female obtaining one if the abortion has been previously approved by a therapeutic abortion committee of an accredited or approved hospital, and is also carried out in an accredited or approved hospital.

In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled this section (then section 251) unconstitutional because it infringes section 7 of the Charter which guarantees an individual’s right to “life, liberty and security of the person”.  As the Chief Justice of Canada stated, “Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman’s body and thus an infringement of security of the person.”

In 1989, the government introduced Bill C-43 in the House of Commons, where it passed a year later. It was then sent to the Senate for consideration.  The bill proposed to make it a criminal offence to induce an abortion on a woman unless it was done by, or under the direction of, a physician who considered that the woman’s life or health was otherwise likely to be threatened. “Health” was defined as including physical, mental and psychological health.


On 31 January 1991, the Senate voted on Bill C-43. As with the House of Commons, it was a free vote except for cabinet ministers in the Senate. Of 86 senators present, 43 voted for the bill and 43 voted against it. Under the Rules of the Senate, a tied vote is deemed to be a negative vote; therefore Bill C-43 was defeated.  In Canada, abortion today remains a private matter between a woman, her conscience and her doctor.



Getting ready: For a New Generation of Active Seniors (2017)
Dementia in Canada: A National Strategy for Dementia-friendly Communities (2016)
Canadians Saving for their Future: A Secure Retirement (2010)
Issues and Options for an Aging Population (2008)
Embracing the Challenge of Aging (2007)
The Demographic Time Bomb: Mitigating the Effects of Demographic Change in Canada (2006)

Getting ready: For a New Generation of Active Seniors

Date: June 2017
Committee: National Finance
Chair: Hon. Percy Mockler (NB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Anne C. Cools (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


This first interim report presents the effects of aging demographics on Canada’s economy.

It spells out the uneven nature of aging across Canada’s regions and that federal health transfer payments to the provinces and territories need to be topped up for aging populations.

The report recommends changes required to health care, pension reform and workforce development. It urges the government adopt a national seniors’ strategy to help control the rising costs of aging Canadians, while ensuring they get the care they need.

It also calls for new measures to increase the labour force participation of underrepresented groups, including Indigenous peoples and people with disability, to slow a growing shortfall of workers due to retirements.

The Senate committee held five meetings and heard from 14 experts from across the country.


The report was cited in a presentation at the University of Toronto’s 2018 Long-Term Care Convention.

It was highlighted by the National Association of Federal Retirees in July 2017, noting that they had been actively advocating for a national seniors’ strategy for many years.

It was mentioned in media outlets, including CBC and Halifax Chronicle Herald.

Dementia in Canada: A National Strategy for Dementia-friendly Communities

Date: November 2016
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Acting Chair: Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Art Eggleton (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


According to forecasts, 1.4 million Canadians will be living with dementia by 2031, costing $293 billion in annual direct and indirect costs. As of this report, Canada was one of only two G7 countries without a national strategy for dementia.  This report looked at the context and background of dementia in Canada and internationally, what role the federal government might have in addressing dementia, as well as reviewed programs and services for people with dementia. It also investigated the needs of dementia patients and their families currently, what gaps exist, and to what might be needed in the future as dementia cases increase. The committee also reviewed dementia strategies from other countries.

The report found that there were various areas where more resources and more collaboration were needed. More funding for research is needed; in fact, there was evidence presented that the budget for dementia research should more than double to $100 million. Earlier diagnosis was key to dealing with dementia, as was enhancing the capacity of health sector professionals and employees to deal with dementia through increased training and education. When it came to care, a better integration of health services was a priority, as was emphasizing support for informal caregivers, homecare and community care. The report noted that by creating more affordable housing, this would keep individuals living with dementia appropriately housed, supported and out of hospital or long-term care for as long as possible. Finally, reducing the stigma of dementia in the public by improving public awareness about the disease was important.

The main recommendation of the report was to strike and fund a Canadian Partnership to Address Dementia whose mandate would be to develop a National Dementia Strategy. Research funding was to increase to 1% of current direct costs for dementia, or approximately $100 million. Adequate funding for a robust surveillance program was proposed, as was a public awareness campaign. The report recommended more support for informal caregivers through the compassionate care benefit, caregiver tax credits, and through such things as education and training and respite services. A $3 billion increase to homecare was suggested, as was supporting to integrate health services, for example through integrating social services into dementia care. A $540 million investment into improving and building continuing care infrastructure was recommended, as was emphasis on rural and Aboriginal communities. The committee was keen to see people living with dementia included in the development of this strategy.


The report received significant exposure when it was released in November 2016. It appeared on the websites of Canadian Virtual Hospice, Seniors Health Knowledge Network, All About Estates, and the Rural Dementia Action Network. Articles about the report appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, the Halifax Chronicle Herald and Castanet. Organizations supporting the report included the Alzheimer Society of Canada and Dementia Justice, although the latter worried the report did not include recommendations about those with dementia who become involved with criminal law.

The committee also undertook advocacy work after the report’s release, running a successful social media campaign so that people could share their support for a National Dementia Strategy on social media.

There has been significant progress towards some of the recommendations in this report. In February 2016, a private member’s bill, Bill C-233, was introduced in the House of Commons designed to develop a national strategy for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It came to the Senate in February 2017, after which time the Senate committee had completed its study. After conducting a clause-by-clause study of the bill, the committee endorsed Bill C-233 without amendment.

Other recommendations of the report were also addressed. Budget 2017 also included significant investments in homecare and affordable housing. Caregiver tax credits were streamlined and expanded. A major homecare funding announcement provided a $3 billion investment over five years that was extended to $6 billion over 10 years. There was also a 10-year, $40 billion National Housing Strategy announced in November 2017, although the provinces and territories must match this amount to release the funding. The report mentioned that senior women will be supported, which again aligns with the Senate report that stated that 72% of dementia sufferers are women. The report also recommended that people living with dementia (people with lived experience) be included in the strategy’s development, a feature the National Housing Strategy also included.  Finally, in February of 2017, $1 million was announced as part of the CIHR Dementia Research Strategy to support research into Indigenous persons living with dementia, again aligning with committee recommendations.

Canadians Saving for their Future: A Secure Retirement

Date: June 2010
Committee: Banking, Trade and Commerce
Chair: Hon. Michael A. Meighen (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Celine Hervieux-Payette (QC)
Downloads: Read the Report


This report details the findings from the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce with respect to Canada’s retirement savings vehicles. It concludes that, for most Canadians, the current retirement savings system provides adequate coverage. Low income Canadians are covered by the Old Age Security (OAS) program to ensure a minimum income level during retirement. Higher income Canadians, on the other hand, can rely more on RRSPs and personal savings. Recognizing that a gap exists between these two income groups, the committee focused its recommendations on middle income Canadians, the self-employed and employees and employers of small to medium sized businesses.

The committee’s recommendations include a call for the creation of a Canada wide voluntary plan to create another level of savings with lower associated fees. Furthermore, the committee recognizes the need to develop ‘financial education literature’ to ensure Canadians understand the functions of the retirement savings system.


The Canada Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), whose members administer more than 70 percent of Canadian pension plans, openly praised the report’s recommendations, especially the idea of flexible multi-employer plans. The Insurance Investment Journal summarized the report in its June 21, 2010 issue, noting as well that the CLHIA strongly supported the report.

Issues and Options for an Aging Population

Date: March 2008
Committee: Special Senate Committee on Aging
Chair: Hon. Sharon Carstairs (MB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Wilbert Joseph Keon (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


This report followed up on Embracing the Challenge of Aging (see below). It proposes that the government consider acting on 84 policy options.  The Special Committee on Aging is currently engaged on the third phase of its study.

Embracing the Challenge of Aging

Date: March 2007
Committee: Special Senate Committee on Aging
Chair: Hon. Sharon Carstairs (MB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Wilbert Joseph Keon (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


This is a preliminary report which identifies priority issues for a study related to Canada’s aging population. The issues are grouped into four broad themes:

Defining Seniors
Many retirement programs in Canada use age 65 as a determinant for eligibility. In some other countries, this age is being adjusted to respond to a variety of pressures. Is there any need or advantage to changing that age base in Canada? Should alternative criteria be created to replace age-based measures?

Diversity of Seniors
How can programs, policies and services be designed to meet the needs of diverse senior populations? Does the National Framework on Aging still reflect current thinking on policy formulation that is inclusive of diversity? If not, should it be updated? Has it been effective? Does anything need to be done so that it is used more?

Policy Approaches
Several frameworks can be used to orient and co-ordinate policies, including the life-course perspective, healthy aging, and active aging. What are the advantages and limitations of each of these, to what extent are they already being used by the federal government, and should they be used more extensively?

Federal Government Role
What are the direct and indirect roles of the federal government? What policy and program initiatives can and should the federal government take independently, and what should be done in partnership with provinces and territories? What should the federal government’s priorities be?

The Demographic Time Bomb: Mitigating the Effects of Demographic Change in Canada

Date: June 2006
Committee: Banking, Trade and Commerce
Chair: Hon. Jerahmiel S. (Jerry) Grafstein (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. W. David Angus (QC)
Downloads: Read the Report


The report examines issues dealing with demographic changes that will occur in Canada within the next two decades; implications for Canada’s economy, labour market and retirement income system; and possible federal actions that could mitigate these implications.



A Growing Concern: How to Keep Farmland in the Hands of Canadian Farmers (2018)
Innovation in Agriculture: The Key to Feeding a Growing Population (2014)
Beyond Freefall: Halting Rural Poverty (2008)
Understanding Freefall: The Challenge of the Rural Poor (2006)
Cattle Slaughter Capacity in Canada (2005)
Value-added Agriculture in Canada (2004)
The BSE Crisis – Lessons for the Future (2004)
Canadian Farmers at Risk (2002)
Soil at Risk: Canada’s Eroding Future (1984)

A Growing Concern: How to Keep Farmland in the Hands of Canadian Farmers

Date: March 2018
Chair: Hon. Diane Griffin (PEI)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Ghislain Maltais (QC)
Downloads: Read the Report


This reports on the acquisition of farmland in Canada and its potential impact on the farming sector.

Canadian farmland must be kept in the hands of farmers, the report argues, with attention needed to ensure young farmers continue to have access to farmland.

It comes after more than two years of study that included testimony from about 60 witnesses from around the world. The committee was prompted to study the issue of farmland after the concern was raised by stakeholders during other studies.

The report highlights provincial tax deferral programs, funding for land clearing, the importance of land financing programs, and common land-use policies between levels of government as key elements of protecting farmland.


The senators paint an urgent picture of Canada’s future food security, one that demands action and attention.

The report was highlighted on the website, which mentioned land use restrictions in Quebec are keeping farmland values down. It was shared on, with articles in the National Observer and National Newswatch.

Innovation in Agriculture: The Key to Feeding a Growing Population

Date: June 2014
Committee: Agriculture and Forestry
Chair: Hon. Percy Mockler (NB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Terry M. Mercer (NS)
Downloads: Read the Report


Canadian farmers can produce two and a half times more food than Canadians consume.  Nevertheless, global populations are expected to expand from 6 to 9 billion by 2050.  As the fifth largest agricultural producer in the world, Canada would need to increase production even further if future global demand were to be satisfied.

Canadian farmers are, however, presented with several domestic challenges that limit their ability to increase production rates. A lack of interest on the part of young people in farming is causing a shortage of farmers, for example, and more sustainable agricultural practices are needed to reduce the impacts of climate change. Economic factors such as high exchange rates and high grain prices have also negatively impacted Canada’s agricultural industry.

In this report, the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry argued that Canadian farmers must refocus on innovation. In pursuit of this goal, the Committee made 19 recommendations, highlights of which included the following:

  • Continue Health Canada’s ongoing research activities related to the efficacy and safety of pesticides;
  • Review the patent application process and evaluate the impact of renewing or extending the length of patents;
  • Encourage the use of second- and third-generation biofuels in conventional fuel, and establish funding programs for research and commercialization of such biofuels; and
  • Earmark funds to develop long-term data-sharing tools when providing financial support to research projects; reinstate agri-food as a priority research area for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the National Research Council (NRC).

Impact: described the report as detailed and noted the committee’s emphasis on long-term thinking in funding research and innovation in Canada’s agricultural industry.  UkrAgroConsult also applauded the report’s conclusions, noting the importance of innovation in creating added value as a driving force for the industry. The report was further covered by several other news organizations such as the Western Producerpeicanada.comThe Pig Site and Atlantic Farm Focus.

Beyond Freefall: Halting Rural Poverty

Date: June 2008
Committee: Agriculture and Forestry
Chair: Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (AB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson (SK)
Downloads: Read the Report


This report finalizes a study on rural poverty begun two years previously. It makes 68 recommendations, including a new Department of Rural Affairs whose first task would be to move 10% of the public service out of big cities and into the regions. Other key recommendations address low incomes, education, health and industry issues.

Create a national poverty reduction strategy:

  • develop a green paper on guaranteed annual incomes;
  • enhance the Canada Child Tax Benefit and Working Income Tax Benefit programs; and
  • revise the Farm Families Options Program to improve income stability for low-income farmers.

Enhance support for rural education:

  • introduce a new early learning and childhood education program sensitive to rural realities;
  • provide resources for cooperative vocational schools in rural Canada;
  • establish more university and college programs in rural Canada;
  • increase funding for student loans and grants that is sensitive to rural needs; and
  • increase funding for adult literacy programs.

Create a Rural Health Human Resources Initiative:

  • provide funding for tele-health;
  • support rural-based health education; and
  • restore the Office of Rural Health.

Address farm and forest industry issues:

  • compensate farmers for providing environmental stewardship services; and
  • develop a national forest strategy to deal with massive layoffs and mill closures that have been occurring in rural areas.


Saying it offers a “respectful and positive picture of low-income rural Canadians”, the Canadian Association of Food Banks is one of several organizations which responded positively to Beyond Freefall.  The National Anti-Poverty Organization has strongly endorsed the call for a green paper on guaranteed annual incomes, for example, while others like Rural Women Making Change, the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia and the Ontario Rural Council have featured the report on their websites.

Understanding Freefall: The Challenge of the Rural Poor

Date: December 2006
Committee: Agriculture and Forestry
Chair: Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (AB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson (SK)
Downloads: Read the Report


This interim report examines the extent and reasons for rural poverty in each of Canada’s regions. The report looks at:

  • the dimension and depth of rural poverty in Canada;
  • Canada’s comparative standing in this area, relative to other OECD countries;
  • key drivers of reduced opportunity for rural Canadians; and
  • recommendations for measures mitigating rural poverty.


The BC Rural Women created a chat room to discuss the Senate’s report.  Many other rural organizations have adopted the report to use as part of their advocacy work.

Cattle Slaughter Capacity in Canada

Date: May 2005
Committee: Agriculture and Forestry
Chair: Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (AB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson (SK)
Downloads: Read the Report


This report is a follow-up to The BSE Crisis – Lessons for the Future (see below). It gives an overview of efforts to date and provides directions to reach the goal of increased domestic slaughter capacity.


Less than a month after the Committee tabled its interim report, the government announced an infusion of $17.1 million to help expand Canada’s slaughter capacity. It was quickly followed by another announcement – again consistent with the Committee’s recommendations – of a further million dollars for a ruminant slaughter facility assessment assistance program. The program is designed to assist Canadian producers with the costs of feasibility studies, business plans, marketing plans or other start-up costs for federally inspected ruminant slaughter plants.

Value-added Agriculture in Canada

Date: December 2004
Committee: Agriculture and Forestry
Chair: Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (AB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson (SK)
Downloads: Read the Report


The report briefly defines value-added agriculture, outlines factors influencing its growth, and reviews the benefits and opportunities it offers. Broad cross-sectoral categories from food safety to marketing and on-farm processing to research and innovation are discussed. The remainder of the report highlights witnesses’ concerns with respect to national and international trade.


Since 2005, the government has developed several initiatives that fall along the lines of the Committee’s recommendations including:

  • measures to improve access to capital for farmers considering entering value-added processing (slaughterhouses, biofuels, etc.);
  • funding of marketing initiatives through the Canadian Agriculture and Food International (CAFI) Program; and
  • implementing national regulations on organic agriculture.

The BSE Crisis – Lessons for the Future

Date: April 2004
Committee: Agriculture and Forestry
Chair: Hon. Donald H. Oliver (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (AB)
Downloads: Read the Report


In May 2003, a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in Alberta. This report gives an overview of the 2004 situation in the beef industry and proposes some policies for the longer term. It recommends shifting the industry from being ‘live animal oriented’ to ‘meat and processed products oriented’ and increasing Canada’s meat processing capacity.


The government agreed that Canada must restructure its packing industry and, on September 10, 2004, announced a four-pronged strategy based on:

  • reopening the US border;
  • facilitating increased domestic slaughter capacity;
  • sustaining the industry until capacity is increased; and
  • increasing the international market share of Canadian beef.

Federal funding for the strategy was initially budgeted at $488 million, including $66.2 million to increase ruminant slaughter capacity and $384.7 million for industry support.  See additional impacts under the follow-up report, Cattle Slaughter Capacity in Canada, above.

Canadian Farmers at Risk

Date: June 2002
Committee: Agriculture and Forestry
Chair: Hon. Leonard Gustafson (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. John Wiebe (SK)
Downloads: Read the Report


The Committee appraised international trade in agricultural and agri-food products, as well as short-term and long-term measures for the health of the industry in all regions of Canada. The report proposes 21 measures to improve industry outcomes. For example, it recommends that formalized, comprehensive reviews of agriculture and agri-food policy be conducted every five years in a manner like reviews undertaken in the United States and by the European Union; and that the government commit itself to spending at least one percent of Canada’s gross domestic product for assistance to agriculture.


This report accompanied the governments’ effort to develop the Agricultural Policy Framework, a five-year federal-provincial-territorial agreement on agriculture that came into force in 2003.  Programs that the committee considered essential such as Environmental Farm Plans and the Canadian Adaptation Rural Development fund were kept and improved in the years following release of the report.

Soil at Risk: Canada’s Eroding Future

Date: February 1984
Committee: Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Chair: Hon. Herbert O. Sparrow (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Jack Marshall (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


Senator Sparrow (SK) first became interested in soil degradation when, flying over his home province of Saskatchewan one day, he noticed that soils were becoming eroded.  Shortly thereafter, the Senate authorized its Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Committee to examine soil and water conservation issues in Canada.

The committee produced a groundbreaking report titled “Soil at Risk: Canada’s Eroding Future.”  It highlighted the immense danger in failing to act quickly to counter soil erosion. The Senate warned that Canada was faced with its most serious agricultural crisis to date, and that inaction would lead to a huge loss in the country’s agricultural capabilities.


Soil at Risk achieved best seller status, a rare feat for government publications. Twenty-five years after it first appeared, reporters still found the report newsworthy.

The Senate’s call to action succeeded in raising awareness and helped focus conservation efforts. According to Prairie Agricultural Landscapes, half of all prairie soils now receive some form of protection from soil erosion, an important achievement credited largely to the Senate.  The report may have also contributed to the rise of organic farming which puts a greater emphasis on nurturing soils.

On March 21, 2012, Senator Sparrow was honoured by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada for his lifetime leadership in soil and water conservation and inducted into the Conservation Hall of Fame.



Rising to the Arctic Challenge: Report on the Canadian Coast Guard (2009)
The Coast Guard in Canada’s Arctic (2008)

Rising to the Arctic Challenge: Report on the Canadian Coast Guard

Date: May 2009
Committee: Fisheries and Oceans
Chair: Hon. Hon. William Rompkey (NL)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Ethel M. Cochrane (NL)
Downloads: Read the Report


The Senate committee examined challenges facing the Canadian Coast Guard in the Arctic which include:

  • projecting and consolidating sovereignty,
  • renewing Canada’s aging icebreaking fleet,
  • maintaining search and rescue capabilities, and
  • responding to environmental disasters.

Recognizing that the Coast Guard’s role in the Arctic will become more critical in the future, the Senate report discussed how Canada will need to build up the Coast Guard with added capabilities, equipment and funding.  It concluded that Canada must develop a much stronger year-round, national presence and enforcement capability to show the world that Canada is serious about controlling the Northwest Passage and protecting Canadian interests.


On October 8, 2009, the Government of Canada responded to the Senate report. It agreed with the committee’s conclusions that Canada needs to support its sovereignty in the North, to engage with the international community and to deploy icebreakers operated by the Canadian Coast Guard.  CBC News released an article outlining the Senate’s recommendation to create a committee that would help ensure Canada’s sovereignty and security in the Arctic.  Brian Flemming, a lawyer writing under the auspices of Dalhousie’s Marine and Environmental Law Institute, cited the Senate’s report in Arctic Routing and Potential Impact on Global Shipping Patterns.  An article published in Environments Journal agreed with the Senate’s recommendation to implement a Nunavut Marine Council, primarily claiming such a council would improve marine conservation planning.

The Coast Guard in Canada’s Arctic

Date: June 2008
Committee: Fisheries and Oceans
Chair: Hon. William Rompkey (NL)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Ethel M. Cochrane (NL)
Downloads: Read the Report


Calling the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) “an orphan” within the federal bureaucracy, the Committee stated that the CCG needs to be better prepared, mandated and funded to meet future challenges in a rapidly changing Arctic. It went on to make nine immediate recommendations, including a long-term strategic vision for the CCG, a commitment to hire Inuit “with their unique knowledge of the region”, and completion of seven port facilities in Nunavut.  The report also called for a mandatory system to register and monitor domestic and foreign vessels in the Arctic, as is already the practice in Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters.


Two months after the Senate’s report was published, the Prime Minister announced that ships will be required to register with the Coast Guard via the NORDREG system before travelling in Canada’s Arctic waters.  This move was duly noted in a New York Times editorial which concluded that international cooperation is needed in the region.  A similar view was also expressed in the Embassy magazine.



Criminal Code (Medical assistance in dying) (2016)
Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centred Approach (2016)
Still Not There – Quality End-of-Life Care: A Progress Report (2005)
Quality End-of-Life Care: The Right of Every Canadian (2000)
Of Life and Death – Final Report (1995)

Criminal Code (Medical assistance in dying)

Date: June 2016
Bill: C-14
Chair: Hon. Bob Runciman (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer (BC)
Bill sponsor: Hon. George Baker (NL)
Downloads: Text of the Bill


Bill C-14 was necessary due to a 2015 Supreme Court ruling (Carter v. Canada) that decided that Canadians’ constitutional rights were being denied by the current Criminal Code prohibition on medically assisted dying. The Court gave the government an extended deadline of June 6, 2016 to provide legislation allowing medical assistance in dying (MAID). The issue was studied by a Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying (House and Senate) which provided its report on February 25, 2016. This report, along with others, served as the basis for drafting Bill C-14.   

After it passed the House, the bill went through first and second reading in the Senate and was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. This committee did not propose amendments itself. Instead it produced a report that was tabled in the Senate with recommendations, but no actual amendments.  


The committee chose this route because it felt many senators wanted input into crafting the amendments, and it would not be appropriate to do so on their behalf. Accordingly, on May 31, 2016, the Senate struck a Committee of the Whole to be held during third reading debate of Bill C-14. On June 1, 2016, the Ministers of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and Health appeared before the Senate in a special televised session. This was the first time a Senate session had ever been televised.

The major amendment that resulted from this debate was a change to who was eligible for MAID. The Senate felt that the Supreme Court wording should be used (“grievous and irremediable”) instead of C-14’s wording that a person’s death needed to be “reasonably foreseeable.” Bill C-14 stated that only those who are near the end of their lives should qualify for MAID. The concern was that by changing the Supreme Court’s language, C-14 would still not comply with the Charter, and that this would create two classes of suffering Canadians: one near death and another who were not. The Senate also suggested six other amendments: two technical and four of which were more substantive. The first was on requiring people choosing MAID to first have a consultation on and be aware of palliative care options available to them. The second was to bar beneficiaries of the person’s estate from being involved in the MAID process. The third was to ensure consistency and the proper collection and use of data on MAID. The final amendment called for independent status reports back to Parliament related to MAID within two years.

The House of Commons accepted six of the amendments but did not accept the change of wording for those eligible for MAID. During debate of the House’s message, a motion was made by Senator Joyal to suspend the “reasonably foreseeable” phrase in the bill until the government could obtain a reference from the Supreme Court, but this was voted down. The lengthy Senate debate continued past the Supreme Curt’s June 6, 2016 deadline and Canada was without criminal law about assisted dying for a short time. The Senate eventually passed C-14 (64-12-1) as per the government’s wishes on June 17, 2017.

As the Senate predicted, a constitutional challenge soon followed on June 27, 2016, just 10 days after passage of the bill. Lamb v. Canada was filed in a BC court, becoming the first challenge to Bill C-14’s eligibility criteria.

In December 2016, the federal government requested the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) to study the possibility of expanding MAID’s eligibility criteria to include three vulnerable groups: mature minors; individuals with mental illness as the primary medical condition; and advance requests.

A progress report was released one year after C-14 became law by Dying with Dignity Canada (DWDC). It reported 1,300 people had accessed MAID services to April 2017. Certain emerging issues that DWDC tracked included problems with the interpretation of the term “reasonably foreseeable”; certain healthcare facilities having banned MAID services on-site; too few physicians willing to provide MAID services; and the need for consistent MAID reporting nationally.

Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centred Approach (2016)

Date: February 2016
Committee: Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying
Joint Chair: Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie (NS)
Joint Chair: Hon. Robert Oliphant (MP-ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


In December 2015 both the House and the Senate passed motions to create a Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying that had a membership of five senators and 10 MPs. The report provided 21 recommendations which included some that proved controversial in discussions around the final bill. These included:

MAID be available “to individuals with terminal and non-terminal grievous and irremediable medical conditions”

individuals with psychiatric conditions should be eligible for MAID

individuals should be able to set up advance requests for MAID in certain circumstances

competent mature minors should have access to MAID within three years of the bill’s passing (subject to study in the interim)

The report also had a dissenting opinion from the Conservative members, especially about allowing people with a psychiatric condition to access MAID services and advance requests. The New Democrat members also provided a supplementary opinion that emphasized recommendations around allowing healthcare professionals to opt out of providing MAID services and improving palliative care services and support for informal caregivers.


The joint committee’s role was to conduct research to help draft legislation on medical assistance in dying (MAID). This legislation eventually became C-14. The recommendation around eligibility was not built into the bill, with the government instead deciding to limit eligibility to those with terminal illnesses (whose death was “reasonably foreseeable”). The other three recommendations above were eventually referred for further study.

Still Not There – Quality End-of-Life Care: A Progress Report

Date: June 2005
Author: Hon. Sharon Carstairs (MB)
Downloads: Read the Report


This is a private report written by Senator Carstairs, who chaired Quality End-of-Life Care: The Right of Every Canadian (see below). Over 100 letters were sent out requesting input, and witnesses before the 2000 Committee were asked to update their submissions. The report charts progress on each of the recommendations from the 1995 and 2000 reports (see below). It also provides new recommendations on where efforts to support palliative care should now be directed. Highlights of the report include recommendations in the following key areas:

  • National Strategy,
  • Patient and Caregiver Support,
  • Training and Education for Formal and Informal Health, Care Providers,
  • Government and Citizens Working Together, and
  • Planning for the Future.


The Quality End-of-Life Care Coalition of Canada responded to the report in June 2005, saying it “provides an excellent overview of the current hospice palliative care landscape” and supporting its recommendations.

Quality End-of-Life Care: The Right of Every Canadian

Date: June 2000
Committee: Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Chair: Hon. Sharon Carstairs (MB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Gérald A. Beaudoin (QC)
Downloads: Read the Report


An update to Of Life and Death (see below), the report makes recommendations on palliative care pain control, sedation, withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, and advance directives.


Compassionate care leave tax benefits were established in January 2004 (see Bill C-28 passed in June 2003).  Other impacts include:

  • a Cabinet Minister responsible for palliative care was appointed from 2001 to 2003;
  • the Secretariat on Palliative and End-of-Life Care was established within Health Canada;
  • in March 2002, the Secretariat hosted the National Action Planning Workshop on End-of-Life Care in Winnipeg;
  • an aide memoire to Cabinet in June 2002 outlined the Canadian Strategy on Palliative and End-of-Life Care with five priorities: best practices; research; public information and awareness;
    surveillance; and education for professional health care providers;
  • palliative care was explicitly mentioned in health accords of 2003 and 2004; and
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research funding increased substantially for palliative care beginning in 2002.

Of Life and Death – Final Report

Date: June 1995
Committee: Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
Chair: Hon. Joan B. Neiman (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Thérèse Lavoie-Roux (QC)
Downloads: Read the Report


This report addresses both euthanasia and palliative care. When the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the prohibition against assisted suicide in 1993 (the Sue Rodriguez case), the Senate was asked to “examine and report upon the legal, social and ethical issues related to euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.” Not all the Committee’s recommendations on euthanasia were unanimous, but all Committee members agreed on recommendations relating to palliative care.


The report set the stage for a full and open national debate that has continued over the past decade. See above for follow-up reports Quality End-of-Life Care: The Right of Every Canadian (2000) and Still Not There – Quality End-of-Life Care: A Progress Report (2005).