Canadians suffering solely from mental illness will remain excluded from pursuing assisted death until 2027 because the health care system is not ready, Health Minister Mark Holland said on Thursday.
A provision preventing those people from accessing medical assistance in dying (MAID) had been due to expire in March. Holland said he had introduced legislation to extend that period by three years.
"At issue here is a question of readiness," he told reporters. "What we want to make sure is the system is trained."
The government said earlier this week the healthcare system was not yet ready for such an expansion. Opposition parties have called for an indefinite pause on broadening the category of people who were eligible, according to CBC News.
Canada legalised MAID in 2016 for people with a terminal illness and expanded it in 2021 to people with incurable, but not terminal, conditions. The procedure, which usually involves an injection, is carried out by medical professionals in the 10 provinces and three northern territories.
If passed, the draft law introduced by Holland would also require an assessment of the healthcare system's readiness in two years.
"What I specifically heard from my health counterparts in provinces and territories is in order to get to that state they were going to need a significant amount of time," he said.
More than 30,000 people have died with medical assistance in Canada since 2016, more than 10,000 of them in 2021 when the law was expanded to people whose deaths were not "reasonably foreseeable."
Last year disability rights and religious advocates told Reuters that the pace of planned changes brought additional risks of people opting for MAID because they were unable to access social services.