Parliamentarians can run from the resurging right-to-die debate all they want but the past suggests that they will not be able to hide forever.
Once in every political generation, a societal issue creeps up unto MPs’ radar despite the strenuous efforts by a majority of the country’s legislators to look the other way.
Successive Parliaments spent the best part of the ’80s trying to ignore the abortion debate and the ruling Liberals supported Reform/Alliance efforts to keep the door to same-sex marriage firmly shut for most of the ’90s.
But even by the reactive standards of those episodes, it seems that calls to decriminalize assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia are falling on even more deaf parliamentary ears than usual.
In the current House of Commons, the right-to-die-with-dignity issue is essentially an orphan.
In the dying days of the last Parliament, a private member’s bill sponsored by veteran Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde was defeated 228 votes to 59.
Lalonde has since retired and the vast majority of those who supported her bill are no longer in the House.
Whoever takes up this cause will essentially be starting from scratch without the active backing of his or her party.
In the past the NDP could be counted on to man the barricades of social change.
But today’s empowered New Democrats are apparently no longer as keen to take the risks associated with being on the leading edge of a rights debate.