The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I am glad to be joining this debate at this late hour. I understand this is an issue that is very close to many people's hearts, and a lot of members wanted to rise. I wanted to make sure I caught your eye on this one.
“The Lord rewards a good deed but maybe not right away.” That is a Yiddish proverb I have often heard. I have heard it in Polish. I love Yiddish proverbs, as many members know. Growing up in my family, my grandmother used to say them. She said them in Polish. It turns out that nearly all of them are Yiddish in their origin. That was something humorous I would talk to her about.
In this case, some members of the public think we have actually voted through things that we have not voted through. All we are doing here, directly in the summary of this legislation, is delaying making a final decision until March 17, 2024, on the repeal of the exclusion from eligibility for receiving medical assistance in dying in circumstances where the sole, the only, underlying medical condition identified in support of the request for medical assistance in dying is a mental illness.
I am prepared to speak on this piece of legislation as I have done in past Parliaments. I have been here since the 42nd Parliament, so I have been through the debate on Bill , and the debate on Bill .
Bill was originally the response to the Carter decision rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada. In it, the Supreme Court found that there was a constitutional right to seek an assisted suicide from a medical professional. It is an exemption to a part of the Criminal Code, but do not ask me to quote which section of the Criminal Code. I have, fortunately, not been burdened with a legal education, so I come at this with a layperson's eyes.
It provided an exemption. Sometimes, when I have a back-and-forth with constituents back home, I raise that point. It is an exclusion to that particular section of the Criminal Code. Then, it becomes incumbent on the federal government to put in place some measures to protect the vulnerable in society.
There were a few people who emailed me over the last few months to talk about that vulnerability, people from different sectors of our society, and how they would be affected. This is not a unanimity in my riding, but the vast majority of the people who contacted me are opposed to the extension of medical assistance in dying, or assisted suicide, for people with a mental illness, when it is the sole condition that they have. They have been very clear on this. Some of the emails are quite emotional. Some of them are a dissertation of what has happened to their family, essentially, and they give particular cases.
I want to do them justice by reading some of their thoughts without using their full names, just to protect their anonymity in the emails. I was also here for the debate on Bill . I remember this debate quite vividly, because Bill C-14 came after the Truchon decision. In that decision, the court found that there was a wording we had used, irremediable or unforeseeable deaths. I remember debating in a previous Parliament and saying this would likely be struck down by the court. It was such a broad term that it could mean anything. It went beyond what the Carter decision said. It was struck down by a court. Let that be said to my friends who are lawyers. I am occasionally right on the law and about what the courts would do. They did strike it down in Bill C-14.
Now we are going back again. I understand that, today, the special committee on medical assistance in dying, which was struck by the House, finished its review and tabled the report. I have not yet had the time to completely review that report. To the constituents in my riding who have emailed me over the last few months as this issue has gained more traction, I want to read a part from Allison.
Allison wrote to me, “A family member with complex health conditions said she was asked so many times about it,...” it being medical assistance in dying, “...she wondered if her Dr. would get a commission for the procedure!! Where are the safeguards and regulations? Who protects vulnerable patients from being coerced by subtle suggestions?”
She goes on, “To be human is to experience pain, suffering and vulnerability. In my family, we have had people that have struggled with mental illness and recovered to live productive, healthy lives, thanks to support from family and community.” She is saying, “let us help you live better” should be the message we send people who are suffering from a mental health condition or a mental illness of some sort. I have known people in my life, around me, who have gone through that as well.
Lisa in my riding emailed me in December and said, “As a citizen who is deeply invested in the going ons with MAID and disability services in this country I keep current in what is happening and research.” She started off by saying that she is the mother of a child with a disability. Her son has no siblings and no close family to look out for him and advocate for him. She mentioned that once she and her husband are no longer alive, she is worried what type of country will be left behind for her son.
She uses some pretty harsh language, but it is parliamentary; I checked. She went on to say, “The way in which Canada has expanded MAID is nothing short of predatory, opportunistic and ableist.” Those are the words she uses. She asked some questions, and I do not have easy answers for her, but I will ask them openly here: “Why are they not being offered better mental health and physical health supports? Why is the government expanding MAID without first expanding holistic supports to our disabled people?”
She then says, “As a mother of a vulnerable child who one day will be left alone who may be exceptionally impressionable and dependant on our broken system I am deeply concerned about the expansion of MAID and its possible implications.” She implores us, “Do better Canada!” That was from Lisa in my riding.
Bev in my riding is very concerned about MAID being expanded to adolescents. I know that debate is going on concurrently. It is not directly in Bill , because we are just talking about delaying for a year the approval of mental illnesses and mental health issues as the sole underlying conditions for applying for medical assistance in dying. However, in her email to me, she noted how vehemently opposed she is to MAID being expanded to adolescents or children and to making this expansion permanent in the law. She went on a bit, but some of it is not entirely parliamentary, so I will avoid violating the rules of the House.
Joe in my riding mentions the following: “We have already had someone in the Department of Veterans Affairs advocating Maid for those with PTSD. What terrible advice to give our veterans. Please do not proceed with eliminating those whose only problem is that they are mentally ill.” I have talked to Joe many times. He is what I would call one of my regulars, as he emails me quite often. He is very passionate about public education, I will add.
Cindy in my riding said, “At no point does a healthy family or community decide that one of its dearly beloved members is better dead than alive. The veneer of compassion is easily seen through.” She went on to make a point that really struck me:
It is indeed a slippery slope to offer MAID to the mentally ill, depressed, bipolar, and any other non-detectable illness—especially when removing the requirement that death be considered reasonably soon.
By expanding MAID in this way, the floodgates are opened for Canadians to easily choose despair over meaning in their lives.
This is the wrong direction for Canada, and an embarrassment on the international stage.
The last one I will read is from Shirley, which is very simple. She said, “Has the world gone mad?” She talks about expanding MAID to those who have a mental illness, expanding it to young people, and on and on.
Those are the types of emails I have been receiving, on top of phone calls, and those are the worries I wanted to express on the floor of the House.
Some are suffering and going through difficult times, and some are diagnosed with really serious chronic conditions that are essentially terminal, conditions like Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease. The original foundational decision that Carter was gripped with was what to do about ALS, an awful condition. It is degenerative, chronic and pretty much incurable. There are many therapies out there to delay the condition. There was a member in the 42nd Parliament, an honorary chair occupant for a day, Mauril Bélanger, who passed away from it. Since then, I have met others whose family members have passed away. What I think the judges and the court were trying get at is that these are the people we should be looking after.
I want to lay this before the House. When a doctor gives up on someone, they are much more likely to give up on themselves. I have seen this time and time again. I have also experienced it myself when my disabled daughter was so sick that the four doctors in the room termed the condition “not conducive to life”. There is nothing like being told this by physicians who are supposed to look after a child, and seeing, essentially, the gentle and subtle push that my constituents talked about, which is repeated over and over. There is also the consumption of resources. That will lead to more people using the system when they have other options. Resisting the urge to just give up is difficult to do at the best of times, and people need community and family support all around them.
Madam Speaker, I want my constituents to know that I am staying in the riding to take care of my newborn, but I am happy to participate, in hybrid fashion, on their behalf on this very important subject.
Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding medical assistance in dying, seeks to delay the expansion of medically assisted death to individuals whose sole condition is a mental illness. We are here today because of previous legislation in the last Parliament, Bill , that responded to the Truchon decision and the 's interpretation of it by removing critical safeguards to accessing MAID, particularly that death must be reasonably foreseeable. However, Bill C-7 contained an arbitrary deadline of March 17, 2023, to expand MAID to those whose sole condition is a mental illness, and now the government is seeking to delay that arbitrary deadline another year down the road.
As I do not want MAID to be offered to those who are solely suffering from a mental health issue, I will be supporting the bill, but I do so in the context of very big and life-altering concerns regarding the direction the Government of Canada has taken since the debate on MAID commenced in 2016.
The Conservatives believe that we should never give up on those experiencing mental illness and should always be focused on offering help and treatment rather than assisted death. The Conservatives will bring forward alternative proposals to support those with mental illness instead of the government's approach.
Going back to 2016, the preamble of Bill spoke about the vulnerability of persons. It states:
Whereas vulnerable persons must be protected from being induced, in moments of weakness, to end their lives
It also states:
Whereas suicide is a significant public health issue that can have lasting and harmful effects on individuals, families and communities
Man, have we seen a lot of change in the last seven years.
Conservative members at the time, despite these assurances in Bill , observed that the approach of the government was going down a slippery slope. The member for highlighted a concern that has sadly now become a reality in Canada. He stated, “many believe that the policy will be used prematurely to end the lives of those who have become a burden to their families, society, or the medical system.”
At the time, because of big public concerns, many Liberal members were careful when it came to speaking about expanding MAID in the future. The former justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, said, “In terms of eligibility, the policy choice made by the government was to focus on persons who are in an advanced state of irreversible decline and whose natural deaths have become reasonably foreseeable.” The current member for said, “Bill C-14 would not normalize medically assisted dying as perhaps has occurred in Belgium and the Netherlands, the two most often cited examples of the slippery slope.”
In the last Parliament, in his charter considerations on Bill , which expanded MAID to include those without a reasonably foreseeable death, the current cited inherent risks and complexity as a reason not to expand MAID to those with mental illness as a sole condition. However, the Minister of Justice, unfortunately, as we find today, is speaking on both sides of this issue very irresponsibly. On the one hand, he communicated in the Bill charter consideration that due to the complexity and inherent risks, we should not be expanding MAID to those with mental illness as a sole condition. On the other hand, in the same bill, he included a sunset clause to expand MAID to these Canadians and said that his hands were tied by a Quebec court decision. However, not only has the government refused to challenge it at the Supreme Court, but leading legal experts in our country have stated that his interpretation of the decision is flawed.
After telling Canadians time and again that the legalization of MAID would not lead to a slippery slope by allowing death on demand for any citizen whenever they may want it, the government seems set on expanding MAID to anyone.
I plead with the backbench members of the Liberal Party to stand up against the today. You have more influence than any Canadians right now to stop what he is trying to do.
Do not forget that in 2016, on Bill , he voted against the—
Through you, Madam Speaker, I implore the Liberal members of Parliament to stand up against their and the irresponsible decisions he is taking.
Across Canada every year we celebrate Bell Let's Talk. Mental health services have expanded in hospitals, schools and universities because there is an inherent belief by all Canadians that mental health challenges are things we can overcome. Every family in this country is impacted by mental health, and it pains me to see my country considering offering death to those suffering at their lowest points. We do not need to do this.
Again, through you, Madam Speaker, I implore Liberal members to challenge the on his overly broad interpretation of the Truchon decision, a ruling of the Quebec court, and to stop what he wants to do.
A recent article in The Globe and Mail talked about Donna Duncan, a 63-year-old woman from my community. Her daughter successfully delayed, through the court, her mother's access to MAID because her mother suffered from a mental illness. However, just hours after leaving the hospital, Donna received a medically assisted death without her daughters being informed, even though their mother already suffered from a mental health condition that was documented.
Both daughters, Alicia and Christie, testified at the medical assistance in dying committee and they made a number of recommendations.
The first, which seems so sensible, is “mandatory access to health care”.
The second is an increase in the required number of independent witnesses to be formally interviewed as part of the assessment, to at least three.
The third is “...a pre-death assessment review. Doctors should be required to submit all assessments to an independent review board prior to a patient's death.”
The fourth is “continuity of care. Multiple assessments should be completed by the same medical professional.”
The fifth is “mandatory wait periods”.
The sixth is “...mandatory release of records. Hospitals and health authorities should be required to release unredacted copies of their MAID assessment records to those who are entitled to them.”
I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that, when Bill was tabled in Parliament, the Association of Chairs of Psychiatry in Canada called for this delay at the beginning of December. I will note as well that University of Toronto law professor Trudo Lemmens and numerous colleagues from across Canada challenged the on his actions today.
Again, my plea today is to the Liberal caucus, through you, Madam Speaker, to challenge the decision of the , not to irresponsibly expand MAID in one year's time for those suffering from mental health. Canadians know that mental health can be overcome. Canadians know that this does not have to be the solution. Canadians know that they want to take care of people when they need to be taken care of.
Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise on behalf of the people for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, especially when we are talking about something that is really quite critical and that is quite important to a number of people in the House.
This is an issue that really tugs at the heartstrings of a number of Canadians. My hope, and what I have seen so far, is that we can have a rational debate on this issue. What we are debating in this bill is the one-year postponement, putting it in my words, of the provision of medical assistance in dying to people who are suffering solely from mental illness. It is also intertwined with the greater question of what we, as Canadians, should be doing. If there is no other place that we should be debating this, it is right here.
I want to reflect a little bit on how we got here and also where I anticipated we might go, based both on what materials have been provided to the and what the government has put out through its charter statement.
It was not that long ago that I was in high school. Maybe it was a while back, 1993, if I recall.
Mr. Mark Gerretsen: I thank the hon. member for being honest.
Mr. Frank Caputo: Madam Speaker, the member for Kingston and the Islands commended me for my honesty. I appreciate that. I like to think I am always honest in this place.
In 1993, if memory serves, we had the Rodriguez case. I am probably simplifying this, but that was a question on the right to die. It was a five-four split, but the Supreme Court of Canada said that there was no charter basis for that decision. It has been a while since I reviewed that in depth, but that is my recollection.
We fast-forward 22 years to the Carter decision in 2015, which came to the opposite conclusion. That case, I believe, was a per curiam decision for the court, which means that all nine justices found that the prohibition did offend the charter. The question that often comes to the House after that occurs is how Parliament should respond. I was not here then. I got here in 2021. Being here has been 18 of the best months of my life.
I can say that, from 2015 to 2023, we have seen a dramatic shift in what seemed to be envisioned both in the legal community and in the Canadian community at large, that change from medical assistance in dying for people who had irremediability, a terminal condition or a condition that was not going to get better, with death being foreseeable. My understanding when I was growing up, and it was an issue when I was in high school and university, was that this was really at the crux of the issue. Should somebody who is terminally ill have a right to euthanasia? That is how we framed it.
I am going to go to the minister's charter statement, dated October 21, 2020. I am going to note that I am not sure whether or not a charter statement has been provided for Bill . I was with the minister at committee yesterday and no charter statement had been provided, so here we are debating a bill on a very serious issue, and we do not have a charter statement.
I am looking at everybody on the government benches. There are a couple of people here on the opposition benches as well. I hope we can all agree that not having a charter statement, which is supposed to accompany legislation like this, is a problem. What is adding to that problem is that, when the minister was asked about that by one of my colleagues yesterday, there was no definitive answer. He was asked where the charter statement is and when it is coming.
We are being asked to decide on this issue inside of what I would call a legal vacuum, where we do not even know what department officials think about this proposed legislation. I would hope, and I would think, that all of my colleagues believe that to be a problem.
The charter statement on Bill was tabled on October 21, 2020. This was before the legislation was amended by the Senate. On page 7 of 18, the charter statement says, “While expanding eligibility for MAID to include people whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable, the Bill would exclude individuals whose sole medical condition is a mental illness.” On the next page it continues, “In particular, the exclusion would apply only to mental illness”.
Further on, it says:
The exclusion is not based on the assumption that individuals who suffer from mental illness lack decision-making capacity and would not disqualify such individuals from eligibility...if they otherwise meet the requirements, for example, if they have another medical condition that is considered to be a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability. Nor is the exclusion based on a failure to appreciate the severity of the suffering that mental illness can produce.
This is the key part:
Rather, it is based on the inherent risks and complexity that the availability of MAID would present for individuals who suffer solely from mental illness. First, evidence suggests that screening for decision-making capacity is particularly difficult, and subject to a high degree of error.... Second, mental illness is generally less predictable than physical illness in terms of the course the illness will take over time.
These are static points, and by that I mean these things will not change with time. It is not like in 2020 there were inherent risks and complexity of judging MAID for people who suffer from mental illness, but now it has changed. We asked the about this, as I recall, yesterday. In any event, the minister has not articulated, and the government has not articulated, what changed. Either the charter statement was wrong, or something changed.
Neither has been put forward before the House. How is that possible? Was the charter statement wrong, or have the inherent risks and complexity changed? Has the predictability of mental illness over the course of time changed, or was the charter statement wrong? These are questions that, in my view, the has to answer.
One of the more difficult things we discussed yesterday at committee with the happened when one of my hon. colleagues asked him about a letter that was written by 32 academics. These are not insignificant people. I know some of these 32 law professors. The minister was asked flat out by the member for if the professors were right, or if the minister was right. The minister said he was right.
I am going to list a few of these 32 professors, because the hon. has said that they are wrong. There is Archibald Kaiser, professor of law in the department of psychiatry at Dalhousie; Tess Sheldon, from the faculty of law at the University of Windsor; Elizabeth Sheehy; Brandon Trask; Brian Bird, a friend of mine who clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada and did his thesis on conscience rights for a Ph.D. in law; Janine Benedet, who I have heard speak to issues that relate to sexual assault; and one of my very good friends, Dr. Ruby Dhand. I am going to give her a few props here. She had five degrees by her 34th birthday. Professor Dhand is one of the smartest and most brilliant people I know.
The told us yesterday that he is right and these people are wrong. They wrote a letter saying that what the government is saying is the case with MAID, that it is rooted in Canadian law, is just simply not accurate. That is what they said. Who is wrong: them or him?
Madam Speaker, we are here for what is really such a deeply personal and complex discussion on Bill . I want to start by saying the discussion tonight is about Bill C-39, and it has been the discussion here for the last few nights. I say this because some time ago, and I believe it was in November, we had a one-night discussion in the House, a take-note debate on mental health, in which I participated. Frankly, there were very few participants in that debate. A number of colleagues were here for that.
However, the discussion tonight is not about mental health. It is about Bill , the legislation before us, to delay the implementation of MAID as it pertains to mental illness by a year. The core of the crux is that there is a mental health literacy discussing this problem in the chamber, and perhaps even across the country.
I want to start by saying what mental health is and what it is not. Mental health is really, at its core, in the day-to-day for all Canadians and all of us in the House, who work really hard and have stress for ourselves and our constituents. We have been going through a really challenging time these last two plus years through COVID.
Mental health is the ability to navigate and recover from a challenging situation and to be able to move forward with a sense of self. It does not mean that when we are stressed, when we have anxiety or when we are facing a tough period where there may be ebbs and flows of depression, we are struggling from mental illness. That is mental health.
We really need to start the conversation there. Truthfully, for any human being, and I have two teenage daughters, day-to-day things are up and down. We are not meant to always be happy all the time. We are not always meant to be in a positive state of being. There are ebbs and flows to life, just as there are for every Canadian across this country. Having two teenage daughters, I am sure many colleagues in the House can relate.
The truth of the matter is that mental health is not the opposite of mental illness. When I talk about people being diagnosed with a mental illness, I mean people who are diagnosed by a physician, which means a psychiatrist, a medical professional who is familiar with the categorizations of diagnosis under the DSM-5.
There are individuals with mental illness who are treated for it who have good mental health. Can members imagine that? One can have good mental health while one struggles through mental illness. That is a reality for many, many individuals who deal with mental illness. About 15% to 20% are medically diagnosed with mental illness.
There is a mental health crisis for many Canadians in this country, with many social determinants, whether it be poverty, housing or inflation, that are impacting the mental health of many Canadians, but they are not struggling with mental illness. I really feel strongly that is where we need to start the discussion.
Bill is not about mental health. Bill C-39 is about mental illness and those who have struggled with mental illness who have been presented treatment after treatment, have tried everything imaginable to address their suffering, and have not found relief. They have not been able to find that ebb and flow of life many of us experience in mental health. We need to acknowledge that.
I heard a lot of disturbing statements in the House, such as this legislation being euthanasia or medical treatment by death. Shame on them for disparaging the DSM categorizations of medical professionals and using fast and loose language in the House on what is a profoundly serious categorization of suffering for individuals in this country.
Frankly, this is a hard issue. MAID is a hard issue for so many of us. It is so hard for us to know people we love may be suffering from a disorder or a terminal condition there is no relief from.
I want to move now into what Bill is, because we need to go over that.
Bill is asking for a year. It is asking for a year to pause on allowing for mental illness as the sole determinant for an individual requesting MAID, so that it can be reviewed and so that it can be put into place well. What do we mean by “well”? We have a health care crisis in this country. We have gone through two years of COVID. Doctors, nurses and health care practitioners are exhausted, and they need to be trained on this. They need to understand the DSM-5. They need to understand what the treatment protocols are for those who suffer with mental illness. We are not there yet. We want to ensure that the best practices are in place, and done with compassion and with a deep sensitivity for the individual suffering.
It is about the individual. Many of us in the House have beliefs, which may be religious beliefs or personal beliefs, about how they feel about MAID in general or how they feel about MAID in relation to this particular categorization of mental illness. At the end of the day, it is about the individual. It is not about us. It is about them. We need to remember who is at the core of this legislation and why it has been put forward, and the compassion and time that have been put in by medical experts. One can present me with one panel or another panel. At the heart of this is human suffering. I would not wish on anyone in the House to know what it is to have a loved one who suffers from mental illness, because I did.
I had a 15-year-old nephew who suffered from mental illness. Every treatment was offered to him, every treatment, and he refused. I lost my nephew to suicide, not because we did not have hope, not because there were no resources, not because we did not try, but because everything that was put on the table, and trust me, I am a fierce mama, did not help him. I have to live with that loss, and the grief of that loss, of his choice. He did not make his choice in a medically assisted format. He chose suicide. We need to understand the difference.
Why do I share this? I share it because this is a personal issue. I also have a dear friend who had ALS. She suffered for years, but we put into place protocols for her so that when she knew it was enough, we would be by her side in her choice. There were friends who did not show up for her choice. There were many of us who debated about her choice, that it was gut-wrenching. Each step of the way, we had check-ins with her, even when she could only communicate through her eyelids. Was she sure that this was what she wanted? Was she ready? It was heartbreaking to leave that room that day, but it was her choice.
At the core of this, as hard as it is for members of this House to understand, it is about the individual. We have an obligation to provide every guardrail to every professional framework that is caring and compassionate, and that is why we need time to build it and set it out.
At the end of the day, these are professionals. This is mental illness. To the degree that individuals are suffering at that level, one should never have to watch individuals suffer to that degree.
Even if they go and ask for it from their psychiatrist, even if they are contemplating this, that is the beginning of the process. It is not an automatic decision. Then, their entire history of treatment needs to be reviewed, every protocol questioned. Every stone needs to be turned and reviewed by another professional. This is not even sober second thought, as we would have in the Senate. This is sober after sober after sober, three times, four times, five times, until every check has been done with the individual who is truly suffering.
I want to get out of the speak of professionals and all of that because at the core of this is the human being who is suffering. We need to know our language and be clear about that.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill this evening. As a legislator and member of Parliament for Lévis—Lotbinière since 2006, I have been told about, and sometimes even witnessed, some very difficult situations involving people or families in distress.
On May 3, 2016, in the House, I allowed myself the privilege of expressing the thoughts sent to me at the time by several of my constituents during the sensitive debate on MAID. It is a topic that leaves no one indifferent.
I want to emphasize that, regardless of their political allegiance or their position on this issue, all parliamentarians are once again demonstrating courage by taking part in this debate, which is difficult for all of us.
The Supreme Court gave members of Parliament the daunting task and responsibility of setting the foundations of a law. This forced us to do some soul-searching about the purpose of our lives and the lives of the citizens we represent. We were aware that the law as a whole would not be perfect, that it would merely be acceptable, given all the changes it made to our way of seeing life and living in the future.
It is always a great privilege for me and a sign of undeniable trust when people share heartfelt confidences with me, especially when they deal with matters of life and death. The expansion of MAID to people with mental health disorders definitely falls into that category. I see parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and friends worried about the expansion of the MAID legislation. When we stop and think about it, obviously we all want to keep our loved ones with us as long as possible.
Surprisingly, however, many of the discussions I have had with my constituents have revealed another very important issue that can cause mental health problems. I am talking about how the Liberals have trivialized the consequences of cannabis use, even though they knew the extent of the consequences when legalization was studied in committee. Several studies confirmed that use in adolescence would cause mental health challenges for those who already had a genetic predisposition.
We were promised that a lot of money would be invested in programs for people grappling with that addiction, as well as mental health services. Unfortunately, given the challenges that already exist across Canada in terms of access to regular health care, we suspected that specialized mental health care would be inaccessible and insufficient for Canadians. Therein lies the rub. One can easily imagine what will happen when hard drugs are legalized in Canada, again by the Liberal legacy that is destroying the Canada we once knew.
I would like to share that I will soon be a grandfather for a sixth time. I am obviously very happy, but I am also very concerned about our Canada, which has been deteriorating by the day since 2015. Canada is deeply broken, and millions of Canadians are suffering because of the erosion of their sense of security and quality of life.
I would like to use the time that I have to speak to Bill as an opportunity for honest reflection. As members no doubt know, humans need to give meaning to their lives to fully appreciate all the good things life has to offer. It is human nature to seize the best opportunities we get to enjoy life. However, what do we do when the government takes away those opportunities by implementing policies that go against our well-being and we lose faith and hope in the future?
Is it right for us, in the near future or the next few years, to allow people with mental health challenges to put an end to their lives, when they might have a better quality of life if we were to give them ways to fix what is going wrong and more resources so that they could find balance in their everyday lives?
I think the public is aware that nothing is working anymore and that we are living the opposite of what we are used to in so many aspects of our lives.
In spite of that, we must not see the future as inevitable. There are always solutions, and, as fragile as life may be, we have the privilege of sharing love and friendship. We can strengthen our bonds and help one another.
Our society is constantly changing. It shapes our fundamental, cultural, religious and spiritual values when it comes to life and the end of life. What was personally unacceptable yesterday may change tomorrow. We need to respect one another here, because we all have a say in this Parliament. That being said, the end-of-life choice that is acceptable to the individual is based on their convictions, their beliefs, their physical health and perhaps, ultimately, their mental health.
We have to be careful about that fourth point, mental health, because when it comes to care and scientific advances, we are still making progress. Who knows if we will find drugs that open up new possibilities for people who currently do not see any solutions?
We are faced with the same question we had to answer when the initial law was drafted in 2016: How can we ensure that this will not get out of control? It will be difficult to include safeguards in the law that will cover all of the very different cases of people with mental health issues.
I think it is wise to make the right choices for Canadians' safety and for future generations. Once again, time will tell whether this change in direction was a good one. All parliamentarians in the House and the Senate will make a significant contribution to this debate. We must all bring a rational and moral tenor to this bill as we align it with Canadian values and thinking in a way that respects all of our Canadian communities. We will live with the future changes that will come from this law. We have to ensure that it will be interpreted in accordance with our guidelines, because the consequences will be irreversible.
I am pleased that we are giving ourselves some time to address this delicate subject in order to protect vulnerable people and not to do something irreparable to people who are precious and who have the potential to live a better life with dignity.
Madam Speaker, I understand I am the last member to speak on this debate. I doubt, however, that I will be the last word on this. I am not. I see that I am neither the last speaker nor the last word then.
I have been kind of reluctant, frankly, to engage in this debate because I do not consider myself to be an expert. I have not participated in committee hearings, and I have not had the benefit of listening to the expert witnesses. Therefore, the only thing that I bring to this particular debate is 25 years in and around the mental health system in the eastern part of the GTA. This is due to the fact that my son, technically my stepson, has schizophrenia.
The schizophrenia started to manifest itself when he was about 15 years of age; he is now about 40. As a family, we have been able to make some observations about the current state of the mental health care system in our neighbourhood. We are a well-resourced family; we have been able to access the best that there is on offer in and around the city of Toronto.
Our son has spent some weeks at the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital east of Toronto, one of the best that Ontario has to offer. He has also spent some time at the CAMH in downtown Toronto, which is possibly the leading health care facility in this particular area of health care. He has also spent time at our local Scarborough Health Network; this is a good health network, but my observation is that it is just absolutely overwhelmed.
The previous speaker talked about access in the order of 12 to 18 months. This has been our experience as well, even though we have supported him as a family. As I said, we are well resourced, and his mother, in particular, is fierce in her protection of him.
We started to notice his erratic behaviour when he was around 15. For three or four years, we really did not know what it was, in spite of taking him to various health care experts. When he went off to university, he had his first diagnosed psychotic break. If members know anything about schizophrenia, they know that when one is recovering from that psychotic break, one never regains everything. Over the years, he had a number of psychotic breaks, and each time, he did not fully come back.
The observation is that when one is around 40 years of age, that is as good as it is going to get. One neither gets any worse nor certainly any better. He fills the definition of somebody who has an irremediable condition. It is medically diagnosed, and he has had episodes where we had the police there and things of that nature. Fortunately, as I said, his mother is a fierce advocate for him, and we have been able to stabilize his housing. He is well housed and well fed, which has not always been the case. However, at this period of his life, he is stable.
Over the course of these 25 years, we have made some observations of the system. The first observation is that it is overwhelmed. If the general health care system in Ontario is at its maximum stretching point, the health care system is always stretched beyond that point. I will not say it is broken, but it certainly is stretched.
This is not a condemnation of the people or the personnel who are in the system. They are good-hearted, overworked and exhausted. It is the patients who suffer. I do not have a great deal of faith, based on my observations, that one year from now somehow we will have a better system than we have today. My guess is that it will be closer to generations.
One of my hon. colleagues from the NDP raised the issue of poverty, homelessness and all the other issues that people face. Again, it has been our observation that we as a family have been able to shield him from a lot of things that mental health patients face on a daily basis, such as how they are going to eat, where they are going to sleep, all that sort of stuff.
Therefore, from time to time, it appears that ending one's life is an attractive alternative. I fear that, primarily for those people who are not well resourced and not well shielded from the vagaries of life, who have no job, no relationships and a limited appreciation of their own reality, it would be an attractive alternative to end their life, and that will be made available to them and, I dare say, available a little too readily at times.
These are observations we have made over 25 years. We have made them in the context of a family trying to support someone who would fall within the specific categories that are delineated in the legislation. We frankly have no real faith that this might not be an alternative for our son. That would be tragic for us all because it would not be a death in isolation.
I would also make the observation that we are long on talk in this place and short on resources. We talk about fixing the system. We talk about making resources available. One can pretty well go back through the speeches in Hansard for the last year or two years or five years or 10 years, and each incident of legislation comes with a promise of resources. I wish that were true, but it is not. In our observation, it is only getting more challenging.
In some respects, this legislation is a way out of doing what we need to do to facilitate the health care challenges of our most vulnerable citizens. While I will, with colleagues, support this legislation, I frankly do not think things will change in a year. It may be that they will change in 10 years. I think this is the kind of timeline and horizon that we would be realistically looking at in order to deal with people who would fall within the specific delineated categories as set out in this legislation.
Madam Speaker, that was a powerful speech and it gives me great hope. We will probably come out of this on two different sides, in different parts of our lives, but I can tell that the member is a good dad and a good person.
For the people watching at home or watching this clip on Facebook later on, even the intervention from my colleague from the NDP gives me great hope. This is not finished. This is not done. We have an opportunity here because there are good people in all parties. I think that this year, this opportunity, gives us, hopefully, some time to reflect on what is important and hear stories like the ones we just heard, that including mental diseases and conditions in MAID is wrong. It shall not be in our society that people seeking help for depression could possibly be turned to medically assisted suicide.
I believe this is a blessing, that we have one year to hopefully convince enough of my colleagues, in all parties, that we need to not just pause this but scrap the idea that we could potentially solve one's mental health problems by providing suicide.
We talk about why we are here and why we are having so much trouble with mental health. I think mental health and addictions, if we talk to different specialists, go hand in hand. I believe we are on a very dangerous course right now with the explosion of mental health issues and the acceptance of hard drugs in our country.
We have an epidemic of overdoses happening right now. That is not medically assisted suicide. That is drugs-assisted suicide. This is not to say that there is an analogy to it, but it is wrong. We should not be allowing this in our society.
We have to do more. We have to do more for mental health in Canada. This is a serious subject. I do not want to get partisan, but our health care system was garbage before the pandemic. It was underfunded and it was on life support before the pandemic. We went through the pandemic and we put our population through so many pressure points that no doubt we were going to have a spike in the abuse of drugs and mental health issues.
The health care system, before the pandemic, was on life support. We kind of muddled our way through it, and here we are today. Other than the announcement a week ago, we have not had an increased health transfer to the provinces, which provide the health care these patients need. They need proper mental health supports, not the MAID 1-800 number.
I am very frustrated with where we are as a society, that this is what the case is, that we cannot get help in this country. It is broken. We cannot find a doctor. We cannot get treatment. We cannot get addiction beds: “Come back in 18 months and we might have a spot for you.” How is that treatment?
I have heard people say that the health care professionals will have check boxes and forms and it has to go through a secondary step and it is going to get signed off on by another professional. Who has time for that? We cannot even find family doctors to see patients for common colds, but we are going to have all these health care professionals who are going to go through all these applications and somehow weed out the ones that should not be there. It is just not going to happen.
It is frustrating that we are here tonight debating this. There is no court in Canada that said that we need to expand MAID for people suffering from mental health issues. Not a single court ruling said to blow this wide open and offer it to anyone who is having issues.
We need to spend this year to think about the ramifications of this.
We heard the member talk about his 40-year-old son. This is the part that gets me. I am a relatively new dad. My two boys are not 40, but nine and seven, and they are going to have challenges as teenagers. We all had challenges as teenagers. We all know teenagers who had challenges, and hopefully not too many of us know teenagers who took their lives. Life is hard sometimes. Teenagers have pressure where it seems like the whole world is on them, and they make that choice. We cannot stop what young adults do.
I worry about my two kids, who are going to go through the same things that everyone in this chamber has gone through: the pressures of being an adolescent, or as was said in here, a mature minor. They are not mature minors; they are teenagers who are going to have tough days. I had tough days.
I do not want my two boys to think that just because they are depressed and having a tough go of it, or maybe having more serious mental health concerns, they can just access MAID and be done. That is the wrong approach for Canada. I will do whatever I can in the next 12 months to convince enough members of this chamber that this bill needs to be—
There being no further members rising for debate, pursuant to order made on Monday, February 13, the motion is deemed adopted and Bill , is deemed read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.
(Bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): It being 8:41 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 8:41 p.m.)