Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to call to order this session of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, completing our clause-by-clause review of Bill C-14. When I use the word “completing”, I do mean completing.
I congratulate the members of the committee on their expeditious work so far, and hopefully today will be as collaborative as yesterday was.
Unfortunately, we have the challenge of the bells. We'll try to get as much done as possible between votes, and we'll figure out, when we go for the second vote, whether it pays to come back before the third vote or whether we stay there and just come back after the third vote. I guess we'll figure it out based on timing.
We're moving right now to the preamble of the bill, as we have covered all of the clauses.
I'd ask everyone to turn to the preamble, which is on page 1. We will go in order on the list of amendments for the preamble, but at various times there has been some collaborative work done to amend some amendments. We may be dealing with a different amendment from the one that's actually in the package.
The intent of this amendment is actually very simple, and that's to recognize an element in the Carter decision from the Supreme Court that references the sanctity of life. I just think it's important that it also be included in the preamble.
I just want to put the government's position on the record. The government opposes this amendment. The charter provides a constitutional guarantee of the right to life, liberty, and security of the person, which has informed every aspect of this bill. The provisions of Bill C-14 protect the sanctity of life, and the preamble already recognizes the inherent and equal value of every person's life.
Bill C-14 carefully weighs many important interests, including personal autonomy and the protection of the vulnerable. Separately recognizing a positive responsibility on the part of Parliament to uphold the sanctity of life is not necessary. The bill acknowledges the importance of suicide prevention, respect for Canadians with disabilities, and promotion of well-being more generally.
While I recognize what Mr. Casey has said, I think this just adds a little bit of clarity and sets the proper tone and provides the lens through which the rest of the bill should be viewed. It's a very simple amendment. It's nothing that should be controversial, and I don't think it's anything that's redundant. This just clearly reiterates what the Supreme Court ruled in their decision on the Carter case.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Next we will move to amendment CPC-34.
Just to note, CPC-34 is in conflict with amendment CPC-34.1. If CPC-34 is adopted, CPC-34.1 cannot go forward. Given that Mr. Viersen is not here, is there one you'd particularly choose, Mr. Falk, perhaps one that you drafted?
Next we get to CPC-35. It is is in conflict with PV-13, NDP-5, and CPC-35.2, so basically I want to note that all the others would fall if CPC-35 were adopted. I would ask if any of the members here would want to move it. If not, CPC-35 goes by the wayside, and we move to the next one, which is CPC-35.1.
This is an amendment that would clearly state that this bill in no way minimizes the efforts and the important public policy of the Parliament of Canada about suicide prevention. This is a significant public health issue, and we just want to recognize that in the preamble. Nothing after that minimizes this.
It is pretty straightforward. I like somebody who is simple and straightforward.
We will move to the vote on CPC-35.1.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Mr. Rankin's new proposal, which was an attempt at bipartisan discussion and bipartisan drafting—which hopefully will be somewhat satisfactory—actually comes now, because it is after line 12. This would be NDP-4.2.
The one on mental health falls right here. It goes before PV-13.
Mr. Clerk, can I ask a question? In the preamble, is it as important to go sequentially as it is elsewhere?
A voice: It is the same principle, yes, unless the committee wants to do otherwise.
The Chair: My comment here is this. Mr. Rankin has a number of amendments—not the conscience one, the others—that tie into issues that everybody has been trying to work on. Would the committee be okay—since I think there still may be more discussion to have on that—to move to the other amendments and then come back, separately, to those dealing with palliative care and mental health that weren't put forward originally? Even if we go past that, we would be flexible to put them in the preamble, wherever they really fit. Would the committee be okay with that?
No, I certainly won't forget. It is important to me, too.
We will go back to where the package was, and then we will come back to these when people have had a chance to talk at a break.
Next is Ms. May's PV-13, from the Green Party. She is not here, but the amendment is deemed moved because it was submitted by her on time. It is about replacing lines 22 and 23 on page 1 with the following: “competent adults who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes them enduring and intolerable suffering strikes the most appropriate balance be-”.
I agree with that. I don't believe that the Green motion can be withdrawn in that way. It should be voted on. I can't rule it out of order, because the words are actually in the bill. She's substituting one word from the bill for another word from the bill, so theoretically it is receivable, but I think it's easy, if we just debate or vote.
Is there anybody who wishes to debate this one?
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
Yes. Just withdraw it. Thank you very much for you co-operation on that.
Now we come to amendment NDP-6. It is being replaced by a variety of others.
Again what I'd ask is the indulgence of the committee to deal with the others first and then allow us to work on the wording of the revised issues related to palliative care and mental health and aboriginal issues. Then yours will all be accepted to go after we get through that.
I'll just quickly read it: “Whereas it is not against the public interest to hold and publicly express diverse views about medical assistance in dying, including the view that participating in a person's death is intrinsically morally and legally wrong;”.
This is an amendment that I would say adds clarity to the fact that people can hold different views about this and that we don't have to all think alike, and that if we don't all think alike, it's not considered hate. I think it's important that it be in here that we don't all subscribe to medical assistance in dying, as being something that for any other particular individual might be morally or ethically acceptable. This just gives them a little bit of protection.
Obviously we've inserted wording in the act making sure that it's crystal clear, for greater certainty, that there's nothing that compels an individual to participate in medical assistance with dying. We're working collaboratively to try to come up with wording in order to ensure that conscience rights are protected.
I don't see how this adds anything to those ends and I don't believe it would be appropriate to discuss morality of that nature in the preamble. I don't think it's rationally connected to the bill itself or anything in the bill, other than in marginally or incidentally being tied to conscience rights. We're trying to deal with that in what I would see as an appropriate way, so I can't support the amendment.
While I would agree with you that it doesn't add anything, it also doesn't take anything away. It doesn't add anything to the situations that you describe, but what it does add is that people outside of the medical profession, outside of the group of people who might be involved, can hold a view as to this practice, as to medical assistance in dying, without experiencing any negative consequences.
This particular amendment does not apply to people inside the medical field. I'm not looking for conscience rights protection. I'm looking to simply state that you don't have to agree with this, and that doesn't make you a criminal or it doesn't make you hateful. You can have a different opinion.
I'm pleased to be moving this. It's the work of Mr. Fraser and Mr. Cooper, as well, and it's an objective that we tried to achieve in two phases.
The first was Mr. Fraser's amendment that was accepted for greater certainty, a clause that was added to the bill itself that there was no compulsion to provide or assist in providing medical aid in dying. This would do that by simply acknowledging that everyone has freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the charter: “Whereas nothing in this enactment affects the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion”. That was an objective we worked out together in this language in order to achieve a clear statement that nothing in the work we're doing would affect a person's conscience rights, which I want to stress was something the Supreme Court itself in Carter emphasized.
Before he subamends—because I don't think he was willing to go that far—he was asking you, as the mover, whether it was something you thought was appropriate, which is what I think Mr. McKinnon was asking.
I'm looking to my two colleagues to see how they react. I don't want to be in contradiction to the position they might take. There is a careful compromise that was reached among three parties, and to add words may be problematic. That's why I'm a little hesitant.
I was going to say we worked collaboratively to come up with this wording. The point of adding the wording was to link it and to refer to the conscience rights in the preamble. That wording is not in the bill itself. The word “compel” is in there, and we were careful not to include that word for constitutional purposes. I don't see what adding “expression” would have to do with it. I don't think that's been anything that we've heard from the testimony of witnesses that shows it was a concern. I would prefer if we left it this way, but I'll leave it to my friends.
As the chair, I would have to struggle with that addition because we did add a clause into the bill that deals with conscience rights, It's perfectly appropriate to insert that in the preamble. That clause had nothing to do with expression.
I was just going to say that obviously we heard from witnesses who were concerned about this. I think everybody agrees the conscience rights should obviously be protected, and we had to find a way that was appropriate in a Criminal Code amendment to do that. I believe inserting these words into the preamble is the appropriate way, especially since we dealt with it by using the word “compel” and not limiting it to this wording in the bill itself. I believe it was a collaborative effort in order to get the wording that everybody can agree with.
Just to add to Mr. Fraser, yes, Mr. Rankin, Mr. Fraser, and I worked collaboratively to find a resolution to some of the concerns around conscience rights. I think this preamble makes it absolutely crystal clear as to what the intent of the amendment in the legislation is, which is to protect conscience rights.
I do not support the amendment. I believe the purpose of this “And whereas” clause in the preamble is to allude to the review provisions that are in the bill itself. Those do include the situations giving rise to requests from mature minors, advance requests, and requests dealing with mental illness.
I believe that was the purpose of putting it in the preamble in that fashion, and I believe it should stay. Deleting those three other cases would basically limit the scope of what was being attempted here in the preamble that I think is appropriate.
I would agree once again with Mr. Fraser. I think it's important that the government's position that these are issues that need to be explored as a consequence of...around the whole problem of assistance in dying, that are not dealt with in this bill, but there is actually no commitment that they will in fact be done; it's just that they need to be looked at, they need to be studied, and they need to be recognized.
In that paragraph a little earlier on, it actually does say “the Government of Canada has committed to develop”, and that's troubling. I mean, earlier in our discussions with the amendments, one of the amendments put forward was that the government is committed to doing a review, and to study, but it's not committed to developing regulations.
The only thing I could propose, though, is that if some of us have to meet, maybe it's easier, if it's going to take 10, 15, or 20 minutes, to meet in Centre Block and not come back from there until after vote three.
We are now reconvening this meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We are resuming our work on the amendments to the preamble of Bill C-14.
Before we do so, I have a small housekeeping note.
Mr. Rankin, in the amendment that was just unanimously adopted—we had this discussion yesterday, and probably should have dealt with it at the time—the word “enactment” is not the right.... The clerk advises me we should put the word “act”.
I want to say again that it was a collaborative piece of work, and I'm proud of the result.
It builds on the three or four separate preamble suggestions that we brought forward and puts them together in one “whereas” clause, which I'd like to read: “And whereas the Government of Canada recognizes that there are diverse circumstances in the living conditions of Canadians and that different groups have unique needs, it commits to working with provinces, territories, and civil society to facilitate access to each of the following: (a) palliative and end of life care; (b) care and services for individuals living with Alzheimer's and dementia; (c) appropriate mental health supports and services, and (d) culturally and spiritually appropriate end of life care for indigenous patients.”
Although I'm not really debating on the provisions of what you've stated in the preamble, I want to congratulate the committee. Just watching all of you huddle over there provided a great feeling, to know that democracy is truly at play here.
It was only brought to my attention just a moment ago from one of the department officials, in fact, who caught it, that the blues that were circulated.... I haven't had a chance to read them, but in what the clerk had adopted, I guess, as the amendments that were passed yesterday, there seems to be some conflict under the regulations that the minister may make. I inserted “(iv) for information to be collected by coroners and medical examiners“
There apparently is a conflict between the blues and what I actually said and how it's actually written, in what seems to be the interpretation of the clerk.
I don't have a copy of any of this, so I don't know what the problem is, but there seems to be a conflict there.
Well, we received a document that has a list of all the amendments that were adopted, and the list seems to show that the committee adopted your amendment LIB-9 as it was originally drafted, plus subparagraph (iv)—
Bill C-14 is called medical assistance in dying, but make no mistake, Bill C-14 is physician-assisted suicide.
The Supreme Court was very clear that physician-assisted suicide is not a charter right, but an exemption that could be provided on an exception basis provided that individuals meet certain criteria. The person must be a competent adult who clearly consents to the termination of life and who has a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.
Bill C-14 clearly goes beyond this Supreme Court decision, with a mandate to study making physician-assisted suicide available to mature minors, advance directives, and mentally disabled individuals. This committee heard testimony from approximately 42 individuals and/or groups who have a vested interest in this issue, in addition to officials from the justice department and the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health.
Over 100 amendments were presented to committee, based on evidence from witness testimony that was provided to committee. Sadly, the government did not present, and in fact voted against, any meaningful amendments. The Conservatives presented many thoughtful amendments that would have strengthened the bill and added important safeguards. This is a missed opportunity.
Let me highlight a few of these missed opportunities. These amendments included assuring that only fully trained and qualified medical practitioners would assess the individual and administer the lethal cocktail that would procure death. We also provided an amendment that would remove psychological suffering as an eligible consideration for physician-assisted suicide. We also suggested that “reasonably foreseeable death” should be replaced with “imminent” or at least “expected death within 30 days”.
Insofar as safeguards, we presented amendments that when a person is self-administering suicide, a physician would be required to be present. We also presented an amendment where we thought judicial review... to ensure that all criteria for physician-assisted suicide eligibility had been met. We also presented an amendment where palliative care consultation, including awareness of all the options and ensuring that palliative care access was available and offered.
We also presented an amendment that would require psychiatric examination to confirm capacity to consent, when mental health was a factor. We also had an amendment that would require reasonable proof that all the criteria had been met, and not just an opinion to that extent.
Finally, we presented an amendment to Bill C-14 that would have provided meaningful conscience protection for individuals and institutions that do not want to participate in the killing of human beings for reasons of conscience and/or religious beliefs. We got a weak compromise.
Regrettably, Mr. Chairman, these opportunities based on evidence from the testimony and interventions of committee witnesses have been forfeited. Bill C-14 is a bill that could have been and should have been better and a bill that I can't support.
I would like to begin by thanking you, Chair, for an excellent job as chair of this committee. I see nodding around the room. I think you did an excellent job.
I must regretfully agree for different reasons that I cannot support this bill.
I believe this bill to be unconstitutional. I take that on the basis of advice we have received from eminent lawyers from coast to coast, from the Canadian Bar Association, from the Quebec bar association, and my own understanding of constitutional law. I believe that to have defined “grievous and irremediable medical condition” as this bill does not only flies in the face of the recommendation of the special joint committee that recommended that we not do that; I believe it fundamentally undercuts the victory that people achieved in the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case.
I do not believe this bill to be either Carter-compliant or charter-compliant. As a lawyer, I am simply unable to support a bill that I believe to be fundamentally unconstitutional.
Not hearing anybody, we're going to move to the vote on the bill as amended.
Shall the bill as amended carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed
An hon. member: On division.
The Chair: Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed
The Chair: Shall the committee order a reprint of the bill as amended for the use of the House at report stage?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: May I just close our review of clause-by-clause of the bill by thanking every single person on this committee; all I think have worked extremely hard where it was possible to forge compromises, and where not, were incredibly respectful in terms of both tone and manner of debate.
Thank you all so much.
Mr. Fragiskatos, I have to name you. Thank you so much for coming to our committee.