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View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2021-06-07 15:46 [p.8030]
Mr. Speaker, I want to present a few petitions.
The first petition I am bringing to the attention of the House is signed by Canadians from across Canada. They are concerned with the Senate amendment to Bill C-7 that would allow Canadians with mental illness as their sole medical condition to access euthanasia.
The petitioners recognize that suicide is the leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 19. Therefore, they are calling on the government to reject the Senate amendments to prevent those struggling with mental illness from obtaining assisted death and to protect Canadians struggling with mental illness by facilitating treatment and recovery, not death.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, the third petition I am presenting is with respect to Bill C-7 that recently passed and the issues raised in it around euthanasia or medical assistance in dying for those with mental health challenges. The petitioners are very concerned about the decision of the government to add in euthanasia for those with mental health challenges at the last minute, when it had previously said it did not support these measures. They want to see the government do more to protect Canadians struggling with mental illness by facilitating treatment and recovery, not death.
The petitioners are also supportive of the idea of having a national, three-digit suicide prevention line.
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
moved that Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (intimidation of health care professionals), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise today to begin the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-268, the protection of freedom of conscience act. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge this bill is built on the hard work and determination of former members of Parliament. The first iteration that sought to address this issue was introduced by the late Mark Warawa in 2016, but it did not progress when the government introduced Bill C-14.
I do consider it a tremendous honour that my bill is the same number, C-268, as his was. After Bill C-14 was passed into law, my former colleague David Anderson introduced his private member's bill, Bill C-418, which died on the Order Paper when the election was called in 2019.
I would like to thank all those who have been championing this issue for many years and for their willingness to work with me.
Experts throughout Canada provided information and advice, while thousands of Canadians have voiced their support for protecting our fundamental freedoms. While there are numerous dictionaries that define conscience, they are consistent in defining it as an individual's inner sense of knowing the difference between what is right and wrong and that guides their behaviour.
An article by Cardus called “The Imperative of Conscience Rights” references the following:
“Conscience” traces to the Latin conscientia, and is related to the Greek synderesis. While conscientia refers to the application of our moral knowledge to particular situations, synderesis refers to the moral awareness built into each person and that urges us to do good and avoid evil.
Bill C-268 is straightforward as it seeks to enshrine in law a minimum national standard of conscience protections for medical professionals while respecting the jurisdiction of my provincial colleagues to expand on it. It is a response to calls from disability rights groups, first nations, the Ontario Medical Association and many hundreds of medical and mental health professionals to protect conscience rights.
It would ensure the medical professionals who choose to not take part in, or refer a patient for, assisted suicide or medical assistance in dying would never be forced by violence, threats, coercion or loss of employment to violate the freedoms protected in section 2(a) of the charter. This bill also serves to protect the rights of patients to receive a second opinion, and by doing so, would protect our health care system.
In my consultations, I spoke with disability rights advocate Heidi Janz. She told me about being born in the Soviet Union. Doctors told her parents that Heidi would never walk, talk or think and that she would be dependent on others for the rest of her short life. They told her parents to put her into an institution and forget they ever had her. Heidi Janz has severe cerebral palsy.
Her parents did not listen to the dominant narrative of their day. They loved their daughter and believed her life had value. Eventually, they found the support they needed. Today, Dr. Heidi Janz holds a Ph.D. and is an adjunct professor of ethics at the University of Alberta. In her spare time she is a playwright and author, and somehow, despite how busy her life is, she also serves as the chair of the ending of life ethics committee for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.
Dr. Janz is a remarkable woman. While some might pity her, she will have none of it. She says that everyone talks about how bad it must be to have a disability, but that she chooses daily to live in opposition to that narrative. She also says that disabled people can be so much more than their diagnosis, and that she is proof of that fact.
If it had been up to the dominant view of her day, she would never have had the chance to disprove that narrative. If her parents did not have the option to find the help they wanted to get that crucial second opinion, none of my colleagues in this place would be hearing about this marvellous woman. This is not just a theoretical story.
In a similar vein, earlier this year the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, who is a doctor herself, wrote to her constituents about her experience of ageism in our health care system as it related to her 93-year-old father.
While I will not repeat the whole story, I will just quote her last two sentences:
My Dad got better without needing the ICU, but I remember thinking that as an MD I had been able to firmly take a stand. I worried that other families wouldn’t have been able to question the clear ageism in the choices being put in front of them.
The minister's father and all Canadians have the right to find a doctor who will offer them hope, offer them another choice, offer them a second opinion. All Canadians deserve that same right.
Now, this is anything but a guarantee in Canada. We have passed laws that have the unintended consequence of forcing doctors and medical professionals to provide patients death, regardless of whether they believe it is in their patient's best interest. Bill C-14 and Bill C-7 create a federal standard for medical assistance in dying and assisted suicide, but not for conscience protections. Despite the claims of some, it is patently absurd to argue that a conscience rights bill would somehow interfere with the role of the provinces while the legalization of medical assistance in dying does not.
We are speaking of the very first fundamental freedom laid out in the charter. Ensuring that conscience rights are protected is the responsibility of Parliament and of the Government of Canada, which is why I introduced this bill and why it should be passed. Above all, it is the right thing to do for patients and medical professionals.
Some have tried to frame conscience rights as the rights of the patient versus the rights of the doctor. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, conscience rights are critical to how our health care system works. Patients have the right to a second opinion, but there can be no second opinion if every medical professional is forced to provide the exact same list of options.
Health care is fundamentally about the doctor-patient relationship. Take the case of a psychiatrist who supports MAID in certain circumstances, but who has spent 15 years counselling a patient who suffers from bouts of depression and suicidality. For 15 years, they have built up an understanding and trust. What would happen if that patient, suffering from a bout of suicidality, should demand assisted suicide? Under the current law, that psychiatrist would be forced to refer the patient to someone else so that the patient could die. The psychiatrist must do this, despite knowing that the suicidal thoughts are temporary, that otherwise the patient is joyful and loves life, and that ending that life is wrong. The psychiatrist's hands are tied. Is that what passes for medical care?
Some might claim that there are safeguards in place to prevent such tragedies, but I ask, are members completely sure? With the passage of Bill C-7, many of the safeguards have been removed. We are talking about ending a human life. There is no room for “maybe” when a life hangs in the balance. Should the first line of safeguards not be the expertise of the medical professionals who know best? If they do not believe death is the answer, should we not at least consider if they are right? This is, after all, a matter of life and death.
Medical assistance in dying and assisted suicide are readily available throughout all of Canada. There are information phone lines, hospitals staffed with willing medical professionals, even email addresses to help set up appointments. In a word, MAID is becoming the status quo. To claim that protecting the conscience rights of medical professionals will somehow block access for those who truly want it is both misleading and nothing but baseless fearmongering.
The Canadian Medical Association stated clearly that conscience protections would not affect access, because there were more than enough physicians willing to offer MAID. This is further reinforced by a McGill study that showed that 71% of recent medical school graduates would be willing to offer MAID.
Every court case on the subject, as well as common sense, has stated clearly that the charter rights of medical professionals are breached when they are forced to either offer or refer assisted suicide or medical assistance in dying. Surely, we are clever enough to ensure access to MAID while still protecting the fundamental charter right to freedom of conscience.
I believe it is no accident that former prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, placed conscience rights as the first of the enumerated rights in our charter. It is an acknowledgement that the state cannot and should not attempt to force any one of us to do what we believe is immoral.
Dozens of first nations leaders wrote to every MP and senator. They said that, “Given our history with the negative consequences of colonialism and the involuntary imposition of cultural values and ideas, we believe that people should not be compelled to provide or facilitate in the provision of MAiD.”
We claim to be a pluralistic, free society. If that is true, it demands of us a tolerance of the moral views of others. Some have argued that protections already exist in Bill C-14. While I applaud the former minister of justice, the hon. member for Vancouver Granville, for ensuring that conscience rights were acknowledged in that legislation, acknowledgement is no longer enough. There are examples of medical professionals being forced or bullied into participation in assisted suicide against their conscience.
Dr. Ellen Warner, an oncologist who has served her patients for 30 years, told me about her experiences. She said:
I think it will shock Canadians to hear of healthcare providers being coerced into participating in MAID, yet such coercion has been happening frequently. A brilliant colleague of mine was bullied into becoming the physician legally responsible for MAID on his hospital ward. It was a great loss to us when he left for a different position. Two other co-workers told me that, despite strong, moral objections, they would carry out MAID if asked to do so for fear of losing their jobs. At one of our staff meetings, a psychiatrist stood up and announced that any physician who does not actively support MAID should not be working at our hospital.
Finally, some have suggested that medical professionals should leave their morality at the door. However, no one truly believes or wants that. As an example, no one would want a doctor to forget their morality if they were offered a bribe to move someone up on a waiting list. If we hold our medical professionals to a higher standard, we cannot then tell them to ignore their personal moral standards. As Dr. Ellen Warner stated, “In the absence of conscience protection, the group with the most to lose are the patients—the people we are all trying to help,”
This bill would protect the doctor-patient relationship by ensuring that doctors and other medical professionals are always able to recommend and provide the care they believe is best for their patient. Canadians need this bill to pass. Canada's medical professionals need this bill to pass. Additionally, they will need individual provincial governments to protect their rights through provincial regulations and legislation.
I encourage all members in this place to do our part and pass the protection of freedom of conscience act.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-05-27 17:59 [p.7528]
Madam Speaker, in light of the extensive protection for conscience rights in the charter; in the statute originally passed, Bill C-14, which the member opposite mentioned; and in the Carter decision, I am personally unaware of a single instance of a prosecution having been levied against an institution for compelling a doctor or nurse to provide MAID.
I wonder if the member opposite can provide this House a single example of such a prosecution, a human rights complaint at the provincial level or a wrongful dismissal suit. I am struggling to understand the problem she is trying to identify and address with this private member's bill.
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, I introduced this bill as it addresses the very real challenges that doctors and other medical professionals are facing regarding their conscience rights as defined in the charter and as a result of the legalization of medical assistance in dying in 2015 and the recent expansion of it through Bill C-7.
Doctors have come forward to tell us that they are being forced to offer death as a treatment option regardless of a patient's medical history. In my discussions with stakeholders, I heard that, without conscience rights, some medical professionals may choose to leave their field or the profession altogether. Furthermore, we have heard that there are doctors who are not necessarily opposed to MAID in theory but who are deeply concerned as to where the law has gone.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2021-05-27 18:00 [p.7528]
Madam Speaker, Quebec's legislation on medical assistance in dying requires that a doctor who does not practise MAID refer the case to a doctor who does.
The bill my colleague has introduced would make this requirement in Quebec illegal.
I do not need the details, but I would still like to know whether my colleague agrees that the bill not only interferes in Quebec's jurisdictions but also specifically tries to do indirectly what it cannot do directly.
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, I would completely disagree with the member when it comes to the bill trying to do indirectly what it cannot do directly. That is exactly what compelling a doctor to refer someone to do would actually be doing. It is important to understand that a referral is a medical procedure and is essentially an endorsement by the referring doctor of the treatment in question. It is the same as a doctor saying a treatment is right for someone.
In every court case regarding rights and MAID, the courts have clearly stated that forcing doctors to refer patients is a violation of their charter rights. If we do not protect conscience in referrals, we end up with the same ethical issues we started with, which is what we are hearing from physicians.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, I respect that the member has introduced this bill out of a clarity of conscience of her own. It always distresses me when we distort the law on medical assistance in dying by calling it assisted suicide, since people must have a terminal condition before they can even be considered eligible. When the member refers to people being required to refer, what she is referring to are the professional standards set by the College of Physicians and Surgeons in most provinces.
Is she saying that we should take away the ability of doctors and nurses to regulate their own professions and substitute her judgment in her bill for that of professional associations?
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, what I am saying is that freedom of conscience is entrenched in our charter. It must be protected. Support for legislated conscience rights protection varies between associations and colleges as well as from province to province, and that should come as no surprise.
What is becoming more clear every day is that medical professionals are calling for conscience protections as a result of the legislation that has been introduced over the last six years.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-05-27 18:03 [p.7528]
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-268, the protection of freedom of conscience act.
This bill proposes to create two new offences to protect the freedom of conscience of health care professionals in the context of medical assistance in dying, or MAID. The first offence would prohibit using violence or threats of violence, coercion or any other form of intimidation to compel a health care professional to take part in MAID. The second offence proposed would criminalize persons who refuse to employ or dismiss from employment health care professionals because they refuse to take part in MAID.
Protecting the freedom of conscience of our health care professionals is obviously a laudable goal. We have all recently debated Bill C-7, which amended the Criminal Code's MAID regime to remove the reasonably foreseeable death criterion. Some Canadians are very much in favour of MAID for anyone with decision-making capacity, others are profoundly opposed to it in any circumstance and many have opinions that fall somewhere in between those two positions. Many of my constituents in Parkdale—High Park, for example, are largely in favour of MAID, in favour of providing autonomy to Canadians and to empowering them with the tools to reduce suffering, with important safeguards being put in place to protect those who are vulnerable.
Our government understands that medical assistance in dying is deeply complex and personal. We were proud to have passed Bill C-7 in March of this year, which responded to the Superior Court of Quebec's September 2019 Truchon ruling and to the emerging societal consensus on the specific issues relating to MAID. We remain committed as a government to protecting vulnerable individuals and the equality rights of all Canadians, while supporting the autonomy of eligible persons to seek medical assistance in dying. We are working with the provinces and territories to implement the changes in Bill C-7 and ensure adequate access to health care support services and medical assistance in dying to all Canadians who wish to seek it.
This range of views also exists among health care professionals who are the ones directly involved in MAID, whether it be providing MAID, assessing a person's eligibility, dispensing the substances, being consulted or supporting the patient. Clearly there are practitioners who do not want to be involved in MAID at all and there are others who find meaning in responding to the wishes of their patients who are suffering by providing MAID.
Let us get to the heart of what is being moved by the member opposite. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects freedom of conscience and religion from government interference. That is subsection 2(a) of Canada's charter. That freedom is subject to reasonable limits prescribed by law that can be justified in a free and democratic society. It is important to keep in mind that the charter, not the Criminal Code, is the source of that constitutional protection for freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.
I also think it is critical to underscore that the Criminal Code does not in any way compel anyone's participation in MAID. Let me be crystal clear on this point, because it was raised by the member opposite. Concerns about conscience protection also arose in 2016 when she and I were both members of this House, when we enacted Canada's first MAID regime. In order to be abundantly clear, while the preamble already articulated this, our government supported an amendment to Bill C-14, which added to the Criminal Code. I am going to read it for the purposes of clarity. This amendment was to subsection 9 of section 241.2, which states, “For greater certainty, nothing in this section compels an individual to provide or assist in providing medical assistance in dying.” We have the charter, we have the preamble and now we have subsection 9.
This provision exists to protect the conscience rights of medical practitioners, but it will not stop there. The entire MAID regime was prompted by the Supreme Court's decision in Carter. I will read from paragraph 132 of the decision of the court, which said, “In our view, nothing in the declaration of invalidity which we propose to issue would compel physicians to provide assistance in dying.” The court itself has been crystal clear on this issue.
When I asked the member, in the context of the debate this evening, whether there is any evidence of criminal prosecutions against institutions that are compelling physicians or nurses to provide MAID, instances of a wrongful dismissal suit or a human rights complaint, the member was not able to provide a single instance of such a situation arising, which begs the question whether there is actually an acute problem that the member is trying to address or whether, apropos of the question posed by my Bloc colleague, this legislation is simply an attempt to address a broader concern about MAID generally that perhaps is held by the member opposite and members of her caucus.
While there may be requirements for practitioners to participate in MAID in some form, it is at the level of regulation of these practitioners as professionals. That was raised by the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke. For example, in Ontario, The College of Physicians and Surgeons has an effective referral policy for MAID. It requires that practitioners refer their patients in good faith to a non-objecting, available and accessible physician or agency if they do not personally want to participate in medical assistance in dying. That policy was challenged in court under subsection 2(a) of the charter, the very provision that I put to members in this chamber. In 2019, the Court of Appeal for Ontario upheld the policy and that policy was never taken to any higher level of court afterward. That is the highest example of a court ruling in this country on whether effective referral violates the charter. It does not, according to Canadian jurisprudence.
This is one example of an effective referral policy from a regulatory body created by provincial legislation that aims to reconcile patient access to MAID with physicians' freedom to refuse participating in MAID. As the Ontario Court of Appeal noted, it is a solution that is neither perfect for the patients nor perfect for the practitioners, when questions like MAID raise difficult moral issues that are hard to reconcile with absolute perfection.
I would also note that neither of the offences the bill proposes would have an impact on an effective referral policy from a regulatory body. Such policies are not using violence, threats or intimidation to compel participation in MAID and the colleges that would issue them are not the health care professionals' employers. The offences proposed in this bill are not aligned with that particular objective of the bill.
I also have some questions about the proposed offences. The offence of intimidation reflects an opinion that I think we all hold. Health care professionals should not be the victims of violence, threats of violence or intimidation, whether it is to force them to provide medical assistance in dying or for any other reason. That is such a fundamental principle that the Criminal Code already sets out offences that prohibit such behaviour, regardless of who the victim is and regardless of the objective of the violence, threats or intimidation.
What is more, we have not heard about any doctors being forced by threats, violence or intimidation to provide medical assistance in dying, or MAID. Although the offence of intimidation set out in Bill C-268 may send a message regarding the importance of not engaging in such behaviour to force a health care professional to provide MAID, it would duplicate the offences currently set out in the Criminal Code, such as assault, uttering threats, extortion and intimidation. In fact, it would not provide any additional protection and seems to target a problem that we have no proof even exists.
The employment sanctions offence raises questions about the appropriateness of using the criminal law, which is a very blunt tool that brings about significant consequences, including the deprivation of liberty to punishing employers who refuse to hire or who would fire health care professionals because they did not want to take part in MAID.
Again, I think many of us would agree that practitioners should not face employment consequences if they object to participate in medical assistance in dying, but this seems to me like an improper use of the criminal law to try and push feelings of conscience and religion in the workplace.
I reiterate that our government is committed to the protection of health care workers, now more than ever, given how much they have worked for Canadians during this pandemic. As well, we are committed to ensuring that all Canadians have access to the right of medical assistance in dying. Our government is proud of what we have achieved in Bill C-14 in the last Parliament, and Bill C-7 in this Parliament.
I look forward to working with the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying to review where medical assistance in dying in Canada will be going with respect to the laws on MAID in Canada and recommending any necessary changes.
I urge all members to keep these things in mind as we continue our study of Bill C-268, a private member's bill.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
2021-05-27 18:13 [p.7530]
Madam Speaker, Bill C-268 is part of a movement we have seen a number of times in recent years, especially in committee, to prevent individuals from accessing medical assistance in dying.
This is deplorable because the roots of the current system, which was brought in when Bill C-7 was passed in March, go back a long way. The idea was not to please certain lobby groups. The idea was to meet the needs of the general population and satisfy the courts' requirements.
Seven years ago, on June 5, 2014, under the leadership of MNA Véronique Hivon, Quebec passed Bill 52, the Act respecting end-of-life care. The bill contributed to a palliative care continuum.
Earlier, my Conservative colleague urged us to think twice because this is important, this is about terminating a human life. I would argue that this is not about ending a life. We are not talking about ending a life. We are talking about helping people who opt to end their own life do so with dignity and without pain. Those are two very different concepts. This is not about murder; this is about helping people exercise their rights as set out in our charters and laws. Quebec dealt with the issue on June 5, 2014, with Bill 52.
In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada added in Carter that criminalizing a person who wishes to end their days is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In April 2016, Parliament passed Bill C-14, which was the first iteration of Canada's medical assistance in dying legislation. That legislation had some flaws; it was not perfect, but it was a step in the right direction. It was consistent with the decision of the Quebec National Assembly and the values of all Quebeckers and Canadians.
Subsequently, in September 2019, the Quebec Superior Court issued a ruling in Truchon. Based on that ruling, a criterion in Bill C-14, specifically the provision requiring a reasonably foreseeable natural death, was inconsistent with our laws and charters, and we were told that it had to be removed.
Just recently, on March 17, Bill C-7 received royal assent. Finally, the criterion requiring a reasonably foreseeable natural death was removed. This is a concept that I myself had been struggling with since 2016. In my view, from the moment one is born, death is reasonably foreseeable. We just do not know when it will happen. It is a bit of an odd concept.
Bill C-7 put an end to the debate, so that is good. Since March 17, we can proceed not only in accordance with the wishes of certain lobbies, but also while respecting the wishes of the vast majority of the population and in compliance with the charters and the court decisions.
Secondly, introducing Bill C-268 into our debates is simply an attempt to upset the fragile balance we achieved with Bill C-7 at the federal level and with Bill 52 in Quebec. Bill C-268 upsets the balance between freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and the right of patients to dignity and comfort in their most difficult moments. This fragile balance was difficult to strike and I think we must avoid taking any action that might upset it. We do not have the right.
Bill C-268 is worded in such a way as to relieve health care professionals of any responsibility to a patient who says that they have an incurable disease that they are certain to die from unless they die of other causes first, that life is intolerable, that they want to end their suffering by dying and that they need help. Indeed, the bill says doctors are not obligated to help patients end their suffering by dying. Therefore, this is a way to release doctors from any responsibility related to their duty, and I find that absolutely deplorable.
Beyond all the human considerations I just raised and of which my colleagues spoke before me, there is also the jurisdictional issue, which is of grave concern to us. The federal government must refrain from interfering in areas of jurisdiction belonging to Quebec and the provinces, as Bill C-268 would do.
The way the physicians' code of ethics is managed and the way physicians process MAID requests are already set out in Bill 52 in Quebec and Bill C-7. I do not think we can tell a physician who is helping a patient end their suffering and assisting in their dying in accordance with Quebec law that he is committing a crime.
Criminalizing something that is under Quebec jurisdiction and already enshrined in Quebec law has no place. It cannot be allowed. We must ensure that the House of Commons respects the jurisdictions of the provinces and Quebec, especially when it comes to end-of-life care legislation.
What does the Quebec law say? The first part of section 30 states, and I quote:
A physician practising in a centre operated by an institution who refuses a request for medical aid in dying for a reason not based on section 28 must as soon as possible notify the director of professional services or any other person designated by the executive director of the institution and forward the request form given to the physician, if such is the case, to the director of professional services or designated person. The director of professional services or designated person must then take the necessary steps to find another physician willing to deal with the request in accordance with section 28.
If a doctor refuses to administer MAID, Quebec's Bill 52 provides specific directions to ensure respect for patients' rights and compliance with existing charters and the decisions of the Superior Court and the Supreme Court. In my opinion, Bill C-268 must not be allowed to interfere with Quebec's legislation.
I urge my colleagues in the House to think carefully about the need to respect jurisdictions and, most importantly, respect a patient's right to put an end to their suffering for which there is no other viable option.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-268.
This bill picks up a tiny portion of the extensive and important debates on medical assistance in dying that took place on Bill C-14 in the previous Parliament in 2016 and again on Bill C-7 in this Parliament. I want to start today by restating the principle that has guided the New Democrats through these debates.
We believe that medical assistance in dying is an important tool for helping to end unnecessary suffering for patients facing end of life issues and for avoiding the unnecessary suffering of their families, who have to accompany them on this journey. This is the reason the New Democrats will always defend the right of access to information about MAID and access to the service for all those who qualify for assistance and choose to proceed.
In the debate on Bill C-7, many issues arose concerning the challenges Canadians face at the end of life, some of which Bill C-7 addressed and some of which have not yet been addressed. Two important concerns were front and centre, and these, for me, were very important. The first was to help alleviate unnecessary suffering by eliminating the waiting period, which was a cause of great concern for patients who feared loss of capacity before they could complete the waiting period, as this would make them ineligible for medical assistance in dying. The second was allowing a waiver of final consent, which deals with the same issue. It was often known as “Audrey's amendment”. This is a provision that I knew quite personally, as a friend of mine chose to go earlier than she would have liked because of a brain tumour and her fear that she would lose capacity to consent at the last moment. Bill C-7 would make some important improvements on eliminating suffering at the end of life.
A second challenge was debated: How do we preserve as much autonomy as possible for Canadians who are dying? Most of the issues related to this still have to be dealt with at the special joint committee on medical assistance in dying that will begin its work next Monday. This includes questions of advance directives and whether protections for people with disabilities from being pressured to seek MAID are adequate. I was disappointed that Conservative senators spent a lot of time holding up the establishment of this new joint committee. It was very frustrating because the five-year statutory review of Bill C-14 was supposed to have started over a year ago. However, it is good news that this committee will commence its first regular meeting next Monday and will deal with the outstanding issues that were not dealt with in Bill C-7.
A third challenge that came up in the debate on Bill C-7 was access to services at the end of life. We learned there are a great many gaps in services in our Canadian health system for those who are facing death. There are gaps in diagnostic and treatment services, depending on where one lives, whether it is in a major city with excellent facilities or in a rural and remote area. We learned of important gaps in palliative care. Again, depending on where one lives, access to palliative care is highly variable. Of course, we also learned of gaps in the ability to access information about medical assistance in dying and the ability to access the service.
There are some very important questions here about the absence of services in rural and remote areas, about the inadequacy of services and about the shortage of trained professionals. Very important to me was the testimony we often heard about the complete absence of culturally appropriate services for indigenous Canadians and for new Canadians from different cultural backgrounds.
However, instead of addressing these challenges, the challenges of autonomy and the challenges of access to services, Bill C-268 is about something else. What this bill would do is override a patient's right to access information about, and to have access to, legally provided medical services, based on the personal beliefs of a service provider.
Let us put that in plain language. Let us suppose there are a variety of treatments available to a patient. It does not really matter in this case what they are. If a medical professional believes that one of them should not be available, this bill says there is no obligation to make sure patients find out all the options available to them. Professional organizations like colleges of physicians and surgeons and colleges of nurses have found this to be unethical behaviour, so they have required doctors, to varying degrees, to refer patients to someone who is supportive of those services and is accessible to them.
This requirement to refer, as mentioned in a previous speech, has been upheld by the courts. That is the main reason I cannot support this bill. It would result, on a practical basis, in the denial of access to necessary health services for many Canadians.
Many communities have a very limited number of doctors, and if one of those doctors, or even more than one of those doctors, is unwilling to let their patients find out about medical assistance in dying, then we are condemning those Canadians to suffer at their end of life in ways that other Canadians would not have to suffer. No health care professionals are, in fact, required by the law to participate. It is the professional associations who require some form of referral. Whether a referral is actually participation, I will grant to author of this bill, is debatable. I do not really believe it is.
An equally important reason for opposing this bill is the dangerous precedents that this bill would set. Its role as a potentially precedent-setting bill has already been noted by anti-choice advocates who have been vocal in their support of this bill. They recognize it would provide a precedent for denying referrals for access to contraception and abortion services. I want to point out that denials of service and denials of information are very real in our existing Canadian medical care system.
Just this year, Providence Health Care, which runs St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver and is building a new hospital with $1.3 billion of public money, announced that in this new facility, abortion and contraceptive services will not be provided, nor will medical assistance in dying. I find this particularly problematic. I know of several cases in Vancouver where those who wished to access medical assistance in dying were forced to leave the hospital where they were being cared for and transfer to another facility, at a time when they and their families were already in a great deal of distress.
This bill would also be a very bad precedent for the current attempts to deny trans minors the counselling and medical services they need to affirm who they are. Without access to the services that others may think are appropriate, this will leave families with trans minors struggling to find the information and support their kids need. If this kind of precedent is allowed, medical professionals would not have to provide a referral to someone who would be providing a medically necessary service.
As a gay man who lived through the AIDS epidemic, I am also concerned about any precedent that allows the denial of access to medically necessary services. The AIDS crisis was generally ignored by the public, and treatment for those suffering from HIV and AIDS was regularly denied to members of my community, who quite often suffered very painful and tragic deaths as a result of that.
As I approach the end of my comments today, I cannot end without mentioning yet another unfortunate precedent set in this bill, and that is its use of inflammatory language. I have no doubt, as I said in my question to the sponsor of this bill, of her personal convictions and their strength.
However, as sincere they may be, the language used in this bill conjures up a spectre of the use of violence to intimidate medical professionals, something of which there is no evidence of happening in Canada. Using the kind of language that involves violence is certainly not conducive to an informed debate on the real principles that are in question here.
I will close my comments today by restating that on principle, New Democrats are opposed to any legislation that would limit access for Canadians to medically necessary services based on the personal beliefs of others, no matter how strong the beliefs the others hold are. There is a right in this country to access legal medical services, and that right can only be effective when, as professional organizations have recognized, doctors who do not wish to participate make referrals to doctors who will provide those services.
There is no doubt that the end of life is a difficult moment for all families and medical assistance in dying, I still believe, is an important way of ending unnecessary suffering, both for patients and families at the end of life. I would not like to see anyone denied access to the information they need to make a choice that protects their own autonomy about how their lives end.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2021-05-27 18:32 [p.7533]
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in strong support for Bill C-268.
This is a straightforward piece of legislation, the objective of which is extremely important, namely to ensure that the charter rights of health professionals who conscientiously object to participating in medical assistance in dying, or MAID, are protected, charter rights that include freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, those rights being not any rights but fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the charter.
For that, I want to commend my colleague, the hon. member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, for her steadfast leadership in bringing forward this timely and targeted bill to address an issue of charter infringements on health care professionals. I would also acknowledge my former colleagues Mark Warawa and David Anderson for their leadership in bringing forward similar pieces of legislation in previous Parliaments.
Contrary to the assertion of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, the infringement of charter rights of health professionals is not a hypothetical. It is real. It is happening in Canada and has been happening since the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the blanket Criminal Code prohibition against physician-assisted death in the Carter decision.
Many health professionals have been pressured or coerced into participating in MAID, notwithstanding their conscientious objection to doing so. At the justice committee, on Bill C-7, we heard many witnesses who came forward and spoke about serious concerns about coercion and pressure, the need for clarity in the law and a set national standard. That is precisely what this legislation seeks to do by amending the Criminal Code to see that no one will lawfully be able to coerce or pressure health care professionals for the purpose of compelling them to participate in MAID, or refuse to hire or terminate one's employment on the basis of a health care professional objecting to MAID.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice made reference to Bill C-14 in his speech. It is a piece of legislation that I am very familiar with, because I sat on the special joint committee leading up to Bill C-14, and I sat on the justice committee when Bill C-14 was studied. At that time, there was much discussion around protecting conscience rights.
The parliamentary secretary is correct that the preamble of the bill was amended to include an expressed recognition of conscience rights. He is further correct to note that at subsection 241.2(9) of the Criminal Code, there is a “for greater certainty” clause that simply provides that no one shall be compelled to participate in MAID.
In that broad sense, there was an expressed intention of Parliament to protect health care professionals. However, what is missing is teeth. There is no enforceability mechanism provided for in the legislation. That was something that I saw as a problem at the time, and it has borne out to be so. That is precisely what this bill seeks to do, to fill that very real void.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice as well as my colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, spoke at varying lengths about the Ontario Court of Appeal decision in Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada v. the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and the issue of access, that somehow this bill would interfere or undermine access to medical assistance in dying.
I say two things to those who would raise the issue of access. Manitoba passed Bill 34, which provides for conscience protections, not dissimilar to what this bill proposes. There has not been one instance that has been brought forward where access has prevented a willing patient from accessing MAID in that province, a law that has been on the books for more than four years. With respect to the Ontario Court of Appeal's decision, although the court, in its analysis, looked at hypothetical issues around access, the court actually incorporated the divisional court's finding into its ruling. The divisional court said on the question of physicians who object on the basis of conscience, “...there was no direct evidence that access to health care is a problem caused by physicians' religious objections to providing care”. There we have it right from the Ontario Court of Appeal that on the issue of access, when it came to providing direct evidence, it simply was not there. At the justice committee, when we studied Bill C-7, it was not there either.
When we talk about the Carter decision, it is important to emphasize that it is predicated upon two things: number one, that there be a willing patient; and, number two, and equally important, that there be a willing physician. Too often over the last five years, we have focused singularly on the issue of a willing patient, which is very important, to the exclusion of a willing physician notwithstanding charter rights of those physicians that are very much at play.
In the Carter decision, the Supreme Court did expressly acknowledge the rights of health care professionals in terms of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, but the court actually went further. The court warned against compelling health care professionals to provide or otherwise participate in MAID. More specifically, at paragraph 132 of the Carter decision, the court said:
However, we note...in addressing the topic of physician participation...that a physician’s decision to participate in assisted dying is a matter of conscience and, in some cases, of religious belief.
Now, the foundational principles that underlie freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, guaranteed under paragraph 2(a) of the charter, were set out in the Big M Drug Mart Ltd. decision; and, in enunciating those principles, this is what the Supreme Court had to say:
Freedom can primarily be characterized by the absence of coercion or constraint. If a person is compelled by the state or the will of another to a course of action or inaction which he would not otherwise have chosen, he is not acting of his own volition and he cannot be said to be truly free.... Coercion includes indirect forms of control which determine or limit alternative courses of conduct available to others.
Those are precisely the principles that this bill seeks to uphold and on that basis I urge its passage.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to this private member's bill on a topic that I know has been discussed a lot in the House. I look forward to having the opportunity to conclude my remarks when it next returns to the House.
From the outset, this is a very hotly charged issue, one that I have spoken very passionately about in the House after going through the experiences of watching my father-in-law suffer through an extremely painful death just before Christmas last year.
I always admire any member for bringing forward legislation to the House for debate and I can appreciate that we might not always assume that it will become law. However, the House and members have made it very clear what their position is on this. I cannot help but think that the sponsor of the bill must have known its fate from the outset, particularly when I know that members of her own party support the MAID legislation. Trying to amend it in this manner is really contributing to fuelling the fire of the debate we continue to have in the House.
There are two sections in the bill. The first is on intimidation and making it an offence, and prohibiting any form of intimidation to compel a health care professional to participate in MAID. However, I would also point out, as the parliamentary secretary did, that the Criminal Code already prohibits all forms of this type of intimidation.
More important, the parliamentary secretary asked the question directly of the sponsor if she was aware of any cases where this may have been the case to which she was unable to reply. Not only did she not answer that, she completely deflected and went off onto another course instead of addressing his question.
If members are bringing forward legislation like this, it has to be backed up by reason and purpose that is quantifiable.
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
The hon. member will have seven and a half minutes the next time that this matter is before the House.
The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business is now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, conscience rights are a fundamental freedom protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Sadly, this right is being severely undermined for medical processionals in relation to medical aid in dying. When euthanasia and MAID were first legalized in 2015, the government promised that people would not be coerced to take part in euthanasia against their will. Without the force of law behind it, this promise has proven to be completely empty.
Physicians as well as other medical professionals are now constrained by law to offer MAID as a primary treatment option even in cases where they do not believe it is in the best interest of their patient. Without conscience rights, patients will no longer have access to a second opinion for their end-of-life care. As a result, patient rights and well-being are being undermined. My private member's bill, the protection of freedom of conscience act, seeks to address this deterioration of rights.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, and if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion:
That,
(a) pursuant to section 5(1) of An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons be appointed to review the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to medical assistance in dying and their application, including but not limited to issues relating to mature minors, advanced requests, mental illness, the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with disabilities;
(b) pursuant to section 5(2) of the Act, five members of the Senate and ten members of the House of Commons be members of the committee, including five members of the House of Commons from the governing party, three members of the House of Commons from the Official Opposition and two members of the House of Commons from opposition who are not members of the Official Opposition, with two Chairs of which the House Co-Chair shall be from the governing party and the Senate Co-Chair shall be determined by the Senate;
(c) in addition to the Co-Chairs, the committee shall elect three vice-chairs from the House, of whom the first vice-chair shall be from the Conservative Party of Canada, the second vice-chair shall be from the Bloc Québécois, and the third vice-chair shall be from the New Democratic Party;
(d) pursuant to section 5(3) of the Act, the quorum of the committee be eight members whenever a vote, resolution or other decision is taken, so long as both Houses and one member of the governing party in the House, one member of the opposition in the House and one member of the Senate are present, and that the Joint Chairs be authorized to hold meetings, to receive evidence and authorize the printing thereof, whenever six members are present, as long as both Houses and one member of the governing party in the House, one member of the opposition in the House and one member of the Senate are represented;
(e) the House of Commons members be named by their respective whip by depositing with the Clerk of the House the list of their members to serve on the committee no later than five sitting days after the adoption of this motion;
(f) changes to the membership of the committee, on the part of the House of Commons, be effective immediately after notification by the relevant whip has been filed with the Clerk of the House;
(g) membership substitutions, on the part of the House of Commons, be permitted, if required, in a manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2) and that they may be filed with the Clerk of the committee by email;
(h) until Wednesday, June 23, 2021, members may participate either in person or by video conference and witnesses shall participate remotely;
(i) until Wednesday, June 23, 2021, members who participate remotely shall be counted for the purpose of quorum;
(j) until Wednesday, June 23, 2021, except for those decided unanimously or on division, all questions shall be decided by a recorded vote;
(k) until Wednesday, June 23, 2021, when more than one motion is proposed for the election of the joint chair or vice-chairs, any motion received after the initial one shall be taken as a notice of motion and such motions shall be put to the committee seriatim until one is adopted;
(l) the committee have the power to sit during sittings and adjournments of the House;
(m) the committee have the power to report from time to time, to send for persons, papers and records, and to print such papers and evidence as may be ordered by the committee;
(n) the committee have the power to retain the services of expert, professional, technical and clerical staff, including legal counsel;
(o) the committee have the power to appoint, from among its members, such sub-committees as may be deemed appropriate and to delegate to such sub-committees, all or any of its powers, except the power to report to the Senate and House of Commons;
(p) the committee have the power to authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its proceedings and that public proceedings be made available to the public via the Parliament of Canada's websites;
(q) until Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in camera proceedings may be conducted in a manner that takes into account the potential risks to confidentiality inherent in meetings with remote participants;
(r) pursuant to section 5(5) of the Act, the committee submit a final report of its review, including a statement of any recommended changes, to Parliament no later than one year after the day in which it commenced their review;
(s) pursuant to section 5(6) of the act, following the tabling of the final report in both Houses, the Committee shall expire; and that a message be sent to the Senate requesting that House to unite with this House for the above purpose and to select, if the Senate deems advisable, Members to act on the proposed Special Joint Committee.
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.
It is agreed.
The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed will please say nay.
Hearing no dissenting voice, I declare the motion carried.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, the fourth petition I am tabling deals with Bill C-7, the government's euthanasia bill.
The petitioners are very concerned about the fact that the government is, through this bill, removing safeguards it said were vital not so long ago. They are expressing particular concern about the removal of the 10-day reflection period, the reduced requirement around witnesses, and other problems in the bill, including the government's inclusion, at a late stage, to allow euthanasia for those with mental health challenges.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, the third petition deals with Bill C-7. The petitioners are very concerned by the fact that this bill has removed vital safeguards associated with the euthanasia regime, safeguards which the government said were essential only a few short years ago.
The petitioners call on the government to restore the 10-day reflection period, restore the original requirement that a person must give consent to a life-ending procedure immediately before it is performed, restore the requirement for two independent witnesses, require medical professionals to do everything possible to enable the person to access life-affirming services to relieve their suffering, and accommodate persons with communication disabilities by clarifying their refusal of or resistance to administration of physician-assisted death.
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2021-03-12 11:11 [p.4971]
Madam Speaker, yesterday the Liberals invoked closure on their motion that significantly altered Bill C-7 by expanding medically assisted death to those with mental illness. They did so at the absolute last moment possible in the parliamentary process.
I have received hundreds of emails, letters and calls in opposition to Bill C-7, in particular from persons with disabilities and groups that advocate for them. Many of them wanted more time to speak out in committee against Bill C-7. The government has now expanded Bill C-7 so that MAID will be accessible by those with mental illness. This was done with no consultation directly on this issue in the House of Commons.
I call upon the government to actually listen to those who are raising concerns with the changes made by Bill C-7 and be willing to address them through the upcoming parliamentary review.
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2021-03-12 12:01 [p.4982]
Madam Speaker, the government has indicated that it plans to finally move forward with a parliamentary review of Canada's medical assistance in dying legislation, nearly one year late. Persons with disabilities and mental health advocates are worried that their concerns will continue to be ignored. They are concerned that engaging in the process will be a waste of their time. Can the minister confirm that all options will be on the table in this review, including reversing some of the changes pushed through in Bill C-7?
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-03-12 12:02 [p.4982]
Madam Speaker, yesterday, we moved a very important step closer to passing the critical changes to medical assistance in dying, through Bill C-7. We listened through this process to more than 300,000 Canadians. We heard from countless experts. We spent more than 45 hours of debate on this important legislation. However, the job is clearly not done yet.
We finally brought the unfortunate obstruction by the official opposition Conservative Party to an end in the House. Now it is up to the other place, the Senate, to complete this bill's journey so that these critical changes can become law and suffering can end for Canadians.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, the second petition raises significant concerns about Bill C-7, which just passed the House last night. The bill would bring in the possibility of same-day death by eliminating the 10-day reflection period. It risks making disabled Canadians second-class citizens when they access the health care system and undermines suicide prevention work through the changes related to mental health.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
View Mark Strahl Profile
2021-03-11 12:20 [p.4893]
Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a pleasure to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents. We are here today to discuss Bill C-24. Because of the government's failure to manage the House of Commons effectively, we are seeing its has created a crisis through its mismanagement. Once again we are up against a hard deadline, with benefits expiring for Canadians, and the government not managing the House calendar or its legislation so we can consider this fully. The bill before us today would expand the spending of the government by $12.1 billion. Because of how this is going to go, with members debating it for about six hours, that is about $2 billion an hour for every hour we will be able to discuss and review it here.
As has been said, this would fix a problem that is a result of the government's first attempt to provide benefits to Canadians, Bill C-2, which was rushed through the House at that time to meet a deadline the government knew about, but failed to plan for or to present legislation in a timely fashion to the House to address. That because the Prime Minister prorogued the House, shut everything down, eliminated all of the legislation that was on the Order Paper because of the WE Charity scandal. Things were getting a little too hot on that at the time, and it was time to shut down the investigations into the Prime Minister and his involvement in the WE Charity scandal, so he prorogued Parliament, which created this rush to get legislation before an October deadline when the CERB would end.
The bill was rushed through and Liberals did not realize that they had provided in that legislation a $1,000 bonus to people who had gone on leisure vacations outside of the country. People could apply and get $1,000 for the time they were at home during their 14-day quarantine after international travel. The bill passed, as has been said, because we needed to get the benefits to Canadians whose CERB was expiring, but there were no committee studies or debate in the House because of the government's mismanagement of this file. It saw a deadline, it did not care, and it rushed and made mistakes. That is indicative of the government's approach.
We are seeing it again today not only in this debate, but also in another important debate. I would argue that one of the most important debates the the House will have in this Parliament is on Bill C-7 and the Senate amendments to it. That debate is being cut short because of the government's failure to plan or provide legislation and opportunities for parliamentarians to intervene on behalf of their constituents. We have a situation where, later this day, debate will be shut down on Bill C-7 and the Senate amendments, which call for the expansion of medical aid in dying to include people who only have mental illness or disabling conditions and who will now have access to medical aid in dying, something that has not been studied by this Parliament or in committee.
Because of the government's mismanagement and failure to respond in a timely fashion to court decisions and legislative deadlines, we now have a situation where yet another bill, in addition to this one, is jammed up against a deadline. The Liberals are forcing parliamentarians to address complex issues, in this case, life and death issues, with almost no time in the House because of their failures and mismanagement. People in my riding are very concerned about this. They are concerned about the government's inability to manage the House and debate on legislation in a way that addresses their concerns.
People have written to me about it, and there is one organization in particular from my riding that I want to highlight. The Chilliwack Society for Community Living signed an important letter from the Vulnerable Persons Standard, calling on members of Parliament to do better. It says, “Bill C-7 sets apart people with disabilities and disabling conditions as the only Canadians to be offered assistance in dying when they are not actually nearing death.... Bill C-7 is dangerous and discriminatory.... Canadians with disabilities are hearing MPs and Senators arguing that lives just like theirs featuring disabilities just like theirs are not livable. This is harmful and hurtful and stigmatizing.”
It goes on to say:
Take your time, start over, and get this right. As you do so, be careful to heed the advice of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: "Listen closely to the most directly affected. Their antenna is highly attuned to ableism. When they see it, you should pause and reflect before proceeding."
Bill C-7 is not the answer.
This is another example, as is Bill C-24, of a government failing to take the time to allow Parliament to deliberate to get something right. If we had had the time to deliberate on Bill C-2, if the government had not shut down Parliament and rushed that up against the CERB deadline, I am sure that someone along the way, either in debate or as a witness at committee, would have identified this failure to focus the benefits where they were meant to be focused: on people who had to take sick leave because of COVID-19, not on those who needed to take a vacation. Had we had proper debate, that failure would have been identified.
Here again today, with just six hours of debate, it has to be rushed. After two hours, we are accused of being obstructionist and failing to do our job on behalf of Canadians. Only a Liberal government would think the solution to the problems it created by rushing a bill through Parliament previously could be solved by rushing another bill through Parliament again. That is the failure of the government.
What are we doing here? There is $12.1 billion to extend benefits to Canadians, which we have supported. All along we have supported the benefits going to Canadians who, through no fault of their own, have found their workplaces closed and their opportunities eliminated and have been forced into restrictive lockdowns. When governments force people out of their jobs and bring in conditions that restrict them from going to work, they have an obligation to provide them with an alternate income, but this cannot go on forever.
Here we are, and we are again extending it. The Conservatives support extending benefits to the people who need them, but what we also need is a plan to get past this, a plan to address the lockdowns, a plan to show Canadians there is hope for the future. That is why we have been calling on the Prime Minister to present that plan to Canadians. We have introduced a petition. The member for Calgary Nose Hill has called on the Prime Minister to use the tools we have gathered in the last year to help us get past this. We are calling on the Prime Minister to immediately present a clear plan to get Canadians safely out of lockdown. We are calling for it to include data-driven goals, a plan of action, and a timeline to achieve those goals and ensure the plan is articulated to Canadians so that they can have hope about when life and business will return to normal.
We know there have been some problems with vaccine procurement and rollout. We know there have been issues with conflicting advice being given to Canadians during this pandemic. Today we are a year into it; we have commemorated the lives that have been lost, but we also need to think about the lives that are being severely and permanently impacted right now. Some people are experiencing extreme mental health concerns. Others are not getting the health screening they need for cancer and heart disease. Other people are unable to join with others to worship freely, as is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We need to plan forward so that we are not coming up against deadlines again and again, as the government has, to extend these benefits over and over again. We will be there when Canadians need us, but we also need to start talking about a plan and the way forward to ensure that these are not permanent benefits. The next benefit is to help our economy grow and help people get past these restrictions safely while listening to public health advice. We need a plan from the government, and we have not received it. All we have seen from the government is incompetence, mismanagement of the House, and mistakes being made time and time again. We need to do better.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2021-03-11 12:32 [p.4895]
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. I do not want to challenge him but to correct the record for people listening.
It is not just that the government is pushing through Bill C-7; what it has allowed to happen here is for the unelected, unaccountable Senate to rewrite the law of Canada so that people with depression will be able to ask to die in two years, and this Liberal government is supporting that. This is ignoring what Parliament stands for.
Parliament does the hard work. If members of Parliament went back to their constituents and said that instead of having suicide prevention or mental health programs, they would like to make it easier for people with mental illness to die, there would be an outcry. There would be headlines and there would be debate. That would be democratic. It is the fact that this Liberal government is using the unelected and unaccountable Senate to fundamentally change a basic principle of the right to life in this country that I find appalling, and the fact the Liberals want to rush it through the House.
They say that we have obstructed; they are obstructing the democratic rights of this House.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
View Mark Strahl Profile
2021-03-11 12:33 [p.4895]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that question, and I would say that the Liberals are doing more than just obstructing. This is perhaps the most serious matter that we will ever consider, and it certainly is the most serious matter that we will have considered in my almost 10 years as an elected official.
I agree with the member. The government and unelected senators are saying to people in our lives, many of whom we have struggled to keep alive and to keep from making the wrong choice of taking their own lives, that if they want to take their own lives, there is now a system in place for it. Instead of standing up and increasing supports for people with mental health problems, instead of increasing supports for people with disabilities and different abilities, they are saying, “I know you are not at the end of your life, that there is no prospect of you dying, but now there is, because an unelected Senate has taken away the protections for people who have mental illness in this country.”
For the government to rush the bill through and to accept those terrible amendments is an affront to this democratically elected place, and the government truly should be ashamed of itself and for what this bill will do. There will come a time when future parliamentarians will stand up and apologize for what is about to happen later today when we vote in favour. We Conservatives will not be voting in favour, but when this government votes to make it easy for mentally ill and disabled people to take their own lives, it is a tragedy.
View Dave Epp Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave Epp Profile
2021-03-11 15:00 [p.4918]
Mr. Speaker, Dr. Mark Sinyor, a renowned psychiatrist, has stated with regard to MAID that “in medicine we quantify the harms of new treatments before deciding whether it is acceptable to use them.... The process that the Senate and the House of Commons propose to facilitate the provision of MAID for mental illness really reflects a sunset on the scientific method and usual medical standards. That should worry us all.”
So much for following medical and scientific advice. Does this not worry the Minister of Justice?
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question on this very sensitive and important topic and the very important bill that is currently before the House. We have, with mental illness, a very sensitive and serious challenge. We have proposed a committee of experts to look at it and to give us guidance moving forward, and in recomposing the parliamentary committee to review what was Bill C-14, passed in 2016, we are sticking to our original plan to look at that question with all seriousness.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2021-03-11 16:32 [p.4926]
Madam Speaker, I can appreciate the gravity of the debate that has been taking place on this very important piece of legislation. It is nothing new to members, no matter what side of the aisle they are on. Those who have been around for the last four or five years have literally seen hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of debate and discussion when we factor in what has taken place in the Senate and its committees, the hours of debate in second reading and third reading, the committee hearings and the special committee hearings.
An amazing amount of consultation has taken place, in particular, with the current minister responsible for the legislation. I know the parliamentary secretary to this particular ministry has done a phenomenal job in terms of reaching out and explaining the many complicated aspects of this legislation, and comparing it with what had taken place previously.
The issue of medical assistance in dying has been on the floor of the House and in our communities for years. We are in this position now because of a specific superior court ruling from the province of Quebec. I think the deadline is now the end of the month. This is the second or third, and final, extension, as has been made very clear. I believe that we need to have legislation dealing with medical assistance in dying and that it needs to comply with our courts. I very much support the rule of law in our democratic system.
I understand there are extremes on either side of the issue. There are those who, for personal and passionate reasons, believe that we should not have the legislation and those who, for personal and passionate reasons, believe that we have to have the legislation. I have chosen the side of supporting the legislation. I made that determination for a number of reasons. I respect the debates that have taken place over the years. I have seen tears on the floor of the House of Commons as MPs plead their position on MAID, at times with a great deal of passion. It is not easy for many, if not all, members of Parliament to ultimately make that determination.
We have heard from our constituents by email, by Canada Post, by telephone and by public meeting. Many of our constituents are following this issue and want us to make a decision from their viewpoint. What I have often found when speaking to constituents is that they understand why we are in the position we are in today. Some would ultimately not want to see this legislation pass, period. They are prepared to use whatever mechanisms they can. I am referring, in particular, to members of the official opposition. They will take whatever actions they can to prevent the passage of this legislation.
When asking a question of the Minister of Justice earlier, I indicated I had listened to many hours of debate on this issue, and I had posed questions to other members.
Let it be put on the record clearly that I believe there are members within the Conservative caucus who do not want this legislation to pass, period. End of story. As a whole, the Conservative Party has taken the position that it wants to continue debate and has somehow drawn the conclusion that it is inappropriate for the government to move closure. I want to highlight two aspects of that, because I think it is very misleading for the Conservatives to try to give the impression in any way that the Government of Canada has not been listening to Canadians, or is trying to ram through legislation.
First, we are in a minority government. We could not be doing this without the support of a majority of the members sitting in the House of Commons. That means that many opposition members are supporting the need to allow this legislation to come to a vote. I suspect, when it does come to a vote, that some of the Conservatives who voted against allowing it to come to a vote will vote in favour of the legislation, so the Conservatives are using the rules to try to prevent that. It is important to recognize that it is not just the government saying the official opposition is being irresponsible with respect to this legislation.
Second, the Conservatives are saying they want more debate and that is what this is all about. They do not want the government to bring in closure. That is just not true. That is not the case. I do not believe that for a moment. Those who are following the debate need to understand and appreciate that the Conservative Party of Canada was offered not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions the opportunity to continue to debate this issue for hours on the floor of the House of Commons. The Conservatives said no to every opportunity they were provided for additional debate. That clearly demonstrates that the Conservative Party is not interested in having more debate time; rather, it wants to filibuster this legislation. In one sense, the Conservatives would be very happy if we debated this bill every day. If we accommodated their so-called desire, they would criticize us for not having more debate on other government bills.
There is a finite amount of time on the floor of the House of Commons. In my opinion, the Conservative Party continues to abuse the opportunity to allow for healthy debate. With Bill C-7, we are talking about life and death. There are examples I could give that further show what I believe has been a very destructive attitude by the Conservative Party of Canada when it comes to the proceedings in the House.
If it were not for shaming the Conservative Party of Canada, some of the legislation and other things that have taken place in the last 24 hours would not have occurred. If Canadians understood the tactics the Conservative Party is using, I believe they would be outraged.
Today is about life or death and Bill C-7. On other occasions, and I would cite Bill C-14 as an excellent example, there were hours and days of debate. I suspect there were probably more days of debate on Bill C-14 than there were on a budget bill, and more speakers than on a budget bill. Conservatives wanted to talk it out. I believe we finally got it through because they were shamed into doing so.
Bill C-7, as I indicated at the beginning, concerns a complex and deeply personal issue. It is about reducing suffering, among other things. In previous debates on this issue, I have shared with the House my own experiences of the passing of my father at Riverview and of my grandmother in palliative care at St. Boniface Hospital.
In these debates, there has been a great deal of discussion about what else we could do. For example, the importance of hospice care and the issues of long-term care, recognizing the federal government has a role to play in those areas—
View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, we are debating a particular amendment that would allow facilitated suicide through the medical system for people struggling with depression and other forms of mental illness, and the member speaking did not address that whatsoever in his remarks.
The government is framing its approach to this issue as some kind of open-ended consultation, but it is not an open-ended consultation. If the amendment passes that government members want to concur with from the Senate, then the existing provisions on facilitated medical suicide for those struggling with mental health challenges will expire in two years regardless of whether the House has legislated it.
The House is welcome to study this issue, but why is the government not supporting our amendment, which would ensure people with mental health challenges were not automatically falling off a proverbial legislative cliff in two years? Why not support our amendment to these Senate amendments so the issue can be studied and legislated on in a reasonable time frame without the guillotine coming down?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2021-03-11 16:46 [p.4928]
Madam Speaker, as I indicated, I have listened to many, many hours of debate on the specific amendment the member is making reference to, as well as the wider aspects of the legislation. I can recall some members, even within the Conservative Party, talking about the importance of wording and the messaging sent out.
It is irresponsible for any member to say the government is trying to facilitate suicide. That is not an appropriate thing to be tying to the legislation, and I think many of my colleagues would suggest it is very insensitive. This is a very complex and deeply personal issue. I do not think a generalization of that nature does anything to contribute to a healthy debate on the matter at hand.
View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2021-03-11 16:48 [p.4928]
Madam Speaker, our Conservative colleagues do not seem to share our view that the role of the state in an issue as personal as someone's death is not to decide for Canadians what is best for them, but to preserve those conditions which allow them to exercise their freedom of choice and make a free and informed decision.
The Conservatives are very concerned about the protection of people with disabilities and about the state of palliative care. The government's motion provides that a committee will study precisely the points they are concerned about.
Can my colleague tell me why the Conservatives refuse to come to the table, responsibly and in good faith, to rationally discuss the points that matter most to them in a process that could result in a broad consensus?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2021-03-11 16:49 [p.4928]
Madam Speaker, if I may, I would just acknowledge and recognize my colleague, and thank him for supporting the need to seek closure, as his party has recognized that we do have a Superior Court of Quebec decision with a deadline. It is important for us to deal with this.
To answer the member's question a little more directly, there is a certain element within the Conservative Party, as I tried to point out, that has no intention, if it could, of ever allowing this legislation see the light of day. I believe that there are some Conservatives who want to see this legislation. Now the issue has been kicked off to the House leadership team and is being manipulated to a certain degree as a tool. That is most unfortunate and one of the reasons it was necessary for us to bring in closure.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2021-03-11 16:50 [p.4928]
Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary mentioned thousands of hours of debate around Bill C-14 and Bill C-7.
Would the member not agree that, in comparison, when we are talking about this amendment about mental health or those who are mentally ill having access to MAID, that such a little amount of time has been given to debate such a large expansion of the definition of MAID?
Could the member comment on the discrepancy between the thousands of hours that went into the beginning stages of this bill and the short timeframe we have been given for this new piece of legislation that is a critical component that, I think, we need more time for?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2021-03-11 16:51 [p.4928]
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question. I suspect that if we were to review the last 12 months, we would see that tens of thousands of Canadians have been engaged and that a wide range of things both in and outside the legislation were covered. There have been health experts and other stakeholders who have come before the House of Commons and the Senate. I believe we will continue to have opportunities in the future to look at ways to improve the legislation.
However, the current legislation, as it is with the amendments, will in fact not only meet the Superior Court's decision, but also be closer to Canadian societal mores.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-03-11 16:52 [p.4928]
Madam Speaker, with respect to the last comment, the consultations included 300,000 Canadians reaching out online, and many meetings conducted around the country by the three ministers, me, and two other parliamentary secretaries, where we heard from stakeholders, including persons with disabilities.
I want to touch on the parliamentary secretary's experience in the House and ask him how he interprets what I see as a bit of double standard. We have had the Conservative justice critic state in the Telegraph-Journal in New Brunswick that we need to have extended hours for debate. Yet, to the point made by the member from the Green Party, when the proposition was put to the Conservatives on three occasions for extending debate on these very Senate amendments, it was turned down.
How does the parliamentary secretary reconcile those two positions?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2021-03-11 16:52 [p.4928]
Madam Speaker, it is really important for anyone who is following the debate to recognize exactly what the Conservative Party has done here.
On the one hand, the Conservatives are saying that they want to have more debate. On the other hand, they are not allowing that additional debate. It makes no sense at all, unless they are using it as a destructive tool in the House against the legislative agenda of the government. To me, that is a fairly pathetic thing to be doing on such important legislation, using this as a tool to frustrate the government.
The Conservatives have been offered the opportunity for additional debate, and on three separate occasions they have said no on the floor of the House of Commons.
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2021-03-11 16:54 [p.4928]
Madam Speaker, I would like to address what the parliamentary secretary just said, because what has actually happened here is that the Senate has made significant amendments to this bill. It is a completely different bill from what was sent to it. The proper way of looking at it would be to have a committee before this bill is made into law. They want to reverse it.
What is really important for people with mental illness is that they be heard. The minister has said that he has a consensus. I have a letter from 129 organizations that support people with disabilities in the community. If the minister has a consensus, can he name one organization for people with disabilities that supports his position? I just want one.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2021-03-11 16:55 [p.4929]
Madam Speaker, it is important that we recognize the motivation of the Conservative Party. We saw their motivation back in December when they started the whole process of delay, and yes, it ultimately did pass and did go to the Senate. It has come back. Now the Conservatives see another opportunity.
In the minds of some Conservatives, I think they are genuine, but the Conservative House leadership team providing leadership on this, I think, is using it as a manipulative tool to frustrate the government's legislative agenda in the House. That is inexcusable.
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2021-03-11 16:57 [p.4929]
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for South Surrey—White Rock.
Madam Speaker, it has been very interesting to hear the Liberal speakers today on this sad day when the Liberals have brought in closure on what is a very important life-or-death amendment from the Senate, and to hear the Liberals spinning their wheels and making up excuses and pretending that past studies on other bills dealing with medical assistance in dying somehow should be taken and counted in support of the huge expansion suggested by the Senate, which has only had a very few hours of consideration in the House before this closure motion today.
For those who are watching, closure by the government means that members of Parliament will not be able to further debate or further study the application of medical assistance in dying to those suffering with mental illness.
It is important to have a bit of context on this because when the Minister of Justice appeared at our justice committee when we were studying this bill, we did not hear from those in the community dealing with suicide prevention and with mental illness because that was not an aspect of the bill. The minister at the time said that there was no consensus in Canada when it comes to mental illness, and there was no consensus among physicians when it comes to mental illness; yet now, a few months later, the Liberals are ramming this through today in a very unfortunate and contemptuous way.
I expect that desperation we hear in the voices of Liberal members is because they are getting the same emails, phone calls and messages that the rest of us are getting. These messages are from those who are fighting for vulnerable people, those who are fighting for people with depression and people suffering from mental illness, saying, “Please do not pass this Senate, and now Liberal government, amendment”.
From the beginning the government has mismanaged this issue. The Liberals say that Bill C-7 was originally aimed at responding to the Quebec Superior Court decision from 2019. Conservatives, at the time, said very clearly that the government should defend its law and should have appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. Instead, the Minister of Justice, who himself voted against Bill C-14 on medical assistance in dying because it did not go far enough, saw this as an opportunity to rapidly expand the medical assistance in dying regime under the cover of responding to that Quebec court decision.
I disagree with the position of the Liberals not to appeal this to the Supreme Court. As the Conservatives said, that would have given Parliament clarity on how to legislate going forward. However, the Liberals took the highly unusual approach of not defending their own legislation. If the Liberals simply wanted to respond to the Quebec court decision, they would and could have done that. They chose not to do that. Instead, today, they are trying to ram through this bill that goes dramatically beyond that. It is very clear that the Liberal government sees the work of Parliament as a nuisance and that anything other than complete acceptance of its legislation must be opposed.
When this bill was first introduced just over a year ago, it was done one week after the government had already asked for its first extension from the Quebec court decision. Therefore, the Liberals were already failing to meet the court deadline that they said was their goal. Then, rather than introduce a bill that simply addressed the Quebec court decision, the Liberals introduced a far more expansive bill that requires a significantly greater amount of scrutiny by Parliament.
Under Bill C-14, the government's original MAID legislation, a legislative review was required five years after the bill received royal assent. That was scheduled to take place last year. This review would have looked at the impacts of Bill C-14 and would have provided insight on how to proceed forward. Let me be clear: Rather than allow Parliament to do that work first, the government decided to expand MAID legislation in Bill C-7. Again, rather than simply responding to the court decision and allowing Parliament to do the work necessary to study this issue, the Liberals overreacted and brought in expansive new legislation.
The government ended up receiving an extension from March 11 to July 11, 2020, and, with the COVID outbreak, Parliament's scrutiny was limited for a number of months. As time ticked toward July 11, it was apparent that yet again the Liberals would not be able to ram their bill through Parliament, and another extension was requested on June 11, this time for December 18, 2020. When Parliament eventually resumed in September 2020, we could have had the opportunity to debate Bill C-7, but of course we were, ironically, prevented from doing so by the Liberals who are now so keen on passing Bill C-7, because they prorogued Parliament, wiping the legislative slate clean. We all know this was done to avoid scrutiny of the WE scandal to protect the Prime Minister and other senior members of cabinet.
Based on the communications over the past couple of days, one would expect that the Liberals may have had a sense of urgency to reintroduce Bill C-7, instead they did not introduce Bill C-7 again in the first week or the second week. It took the Liberals until the third week of Parliament after they prorogued to actually reintroduce Bill C-7.
The Liberals have set themselves up time and time again to miss their own deadlines, and they have set themselves up for failure, but now there is this rapid rush. however, as has been pointed out, this is an entirely new bill that has come back from the Senate because it includes what was explicitly excluded by our House of Commons, which is made up of elected members of Parliament from all across this country. The mental illness component was specifically and deliberately excluded, and now it is being added in.
By including mental illness as a sole underlying condition to be eligible for MAID, the government wants to expand MAID even further in a way that is a complete 180° turn from Bill C-7 as it was introduced a year ago. This is a completely different bill than was originally debated in the House. As the vice-chair of the justice committee, I know we did not seek to hear from experts on this topic because the government's bill explicitly said expanding medical death to those with mental illness was not being considered. Now, at this last stage of the bill, the government is recklessly accepting a dramatic expansion of the bill, an expansion to which the Minister of Justice himself said there was no consensus.
What are people saying on this mental illness issue? It is unfortunate because Canadians are not going to be able to be engaged and participate in this conversation before we vote on the matter tonight. However, for those of us who are listening, the CEO of the Mental Health Association sounded alarm bells in an article urging all members of Parliament to please vote against the Senate amendments. Her point in the article is that MAID should not be broadened to those with mental illness until at least the health care system adequately responds to mental health needs of Canadians.
She highlights that it is not possible to determine whether any particular case of mental illness represents an advance state of decline and capabilities that cannot be reversed. She concluded her article writing, “We have to cure our ailing mental health system in Canada before we even begin to consider mental illness incurable.”
In a CBC, Dr. Mark Sinyor, a psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto recently wrote, “As a scientist, I have to be open to the possibility that all of the claims advanced by MAID advocates are accurate. But enacting law, one which literally governs life or death decisions, based on a possibility isn't good enough.”
He continued, “In other areas of medicine, thoughtful scientists typically devote whole careers to meticulously studying benefits and harms of treatments before rolling them out. Here, that proven approach has inexplicably been replaced with hand-waving and moralizing.”
We know that it is our job as members of Parliament to study these things and hear about them at committee from experts, those that are directly impacted, before passing new legislation. We heard this week at a press conference from Wayne Wegner. He told his story of struggling with mental illness. Wayne had a series of difficulties in life that led him to a very dark place, and he urged members of Parliament to please vote against this legislation.
In conclusion, this is not how we should be operating. We should not be dealing with closure today. We should be listening to persons with disabilities and persons suffering from mental illness issues and their advocates. We should all do our jobs as members of Parliament and listen first before we act. That is our duty.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-03-11 17:06 [p.4930]
Madam Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his contributions. To begin, I do not think we are going to apologize for not only responding to Truchon, but also expanding on the regime to address the Audrey Parker amendment, which is critical for Atlantic Canadians and all Canadians.
Second, we did hear, and the member opposite knows this, at committee from Dr. Gupta, Dr. Gaind and other people on the mental illness issue.
Third, I take strong opposition to the member saying, which I wrote down, “the government deems the work of Parliament is a nuisance”. That is absolutely illogical when we are entertaining the acceptance of three amendments by the Senate, a chamber of Parliament, showing that the work of Parliament is not only venerated, it is validated.
I would like to point out to the member opposite the logical inconsistency of his own statements to the Telegraph-Journal in his own province when he said that we need to sit evenings and weekends to deal with the very important amendments that have been suggested, but then his party did an about-face in rejecting three different opportunities to do just that.
Could the member please respond?
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2021-03-11 17:07 [p.4931]
Madam Speaker, as the parliamentary secretary knows, even as late as today at the justice committee, Liberals rejected an opportunity for us to hear from mental illness professionals, from those who would be impacted by this legislation, and that is our job. We are listening.
I received a letter signed by 129 organizations, such as Inclusion Canada, the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association and the DisAbled Women's Network. There are 129 organizations asking us to please support the Conservative amendment, and please do not include mental illness as a grounds for someone to receive assisted dying.
We need to listen to the experts first, and the parliamentary secretary knows that we have not done that. We had committee meetings on Bill C-7, but this was not part of Bill C-7 when we had those meetings.
View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2021-03-11 17:08 [p.4931]
Madam Speaker, I just want to let you know that the interpretation has not come through a few times now, so I do not hear you when you call on me. I am sorry.
My colleague wants us to keep studying this issue. I agree with him, but the motion before us would enable us to bring in the people he is talking about and engage in a multi-party thought process about the best solutions.
What does he have to say to Sandra Demontigny, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's and very much wants the right to make an advance request?
What does he have to say to Ms. Gladu, who had to take her fight to court and won in the end? Ms. Gladu said that Bill C-14, which the member voted against because it was too much for him, violated her right to life because it forced her to cut her life short.
What does he have to say to those people?
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2021-03-11 17:10 [p.4931]
Madam Speaker, as the hon. member would know or should know, as it is his party that is enabling the shutting down of debate today by supporting the Liberals' motion for closure, the minister has testified at the Senate that Alzheimer's and dementia is not included in the definition of mental illness, so this expansion by the Senate would now include people who are suffering from mental illness, suffering from severe depression, to be considered for medical assistance in dying.
Many of the individuals we have heard from are contacting our office and saying to please vote against this Senate amendment because it will have an impact on people like them who are suffering and are at a low point. We are sending the message that maybe their life is not worth living, and I know that is a message that parliamentarians do not want to send.
View Kerry-Lynne Findlay Profile
CPC (BC)
Madam Speaker, I find myself more distressed today, after nearly six years of service in this House, than I have on any other day, in any other debate. With the Liberal government's closure motion limiting debate, stifling the people's representatives in the very place we are elected to to give voice to the voiceless, the egregious affront to public policy creation playing out before us, the terrible precedent this sets for the future and the abandonment of the vulnerable in our society, I am left with the echoes of persons with disabilities and those I know who have come out the other side of the suffering of mental illness. This will not be a legacy to be proud of.
What started out as a bill that many in my community could and did get behind, if proper safeguards stayed in place and if conscience rights were protected, has gone from a scenario of some hope to a bad dream, to a nightmare. We know where this is going. The Liberal government will recklessly bring in legislation that grievously affects those who are struggling with mental illness, add them to the list of Canadians struggling with other disabilities, and say, “For you, fellow Canadians, for you, our most vulnerable, we have an exit plan, one we know you may not agree with, but one we have decided is best for you and society as a whole.”
How dare they? How dare the Liberals propose to abandon these Canadians? How dare the parliamentary secretary question my motivation or the motivations of my constituents? They are changing our legislative landscape without proper debate, without even allowing the justice committee to hear witnesses and without the legislated mandatory review that the government has ignored. I tell my colleagues to stop and consider that their actions fly in the face of testimony that has already been heard in committee, coercion does exist and not all Canadians are treated with equal dignity.
The Minister of Justice testified at committee today that his party members have been given a free vote, so it is up to each person elected to this place to be counted. The minister also stated that he will create a committee of experts to study the sensitive issues before us after this Senate-amended bill is voted on. If it is that important, if there is no consensus, as the minister previously stated, why would we pass an appointed Senate's version of a life or death bill? Why would we not give the proper thought and hear from the experts first?
To those whose sole underlying condition is mental illness, why are they are not worthy of being heard? When they are at their lowest in terms of coping with their lives, why should MAID be what is suggested to them? Why not suggest hope, or comfort, or a path to recovery? Where is the funding for this? Where is the debate on this? Where is our humanity?
I have had times in my life when I suffered from what is termed situational depression, which is a recognized mental illness diagnosis not due to an underlying chemical imbalance but to a coping challenge brought about by my situation at that time, when my husband suddenly died, leaving me with small children to raise on my own, and when my baby son died.
Life can be very tough at times. When people are in the grips of depression, they do believe that the world, and even those who depend on them for their fundamentals, would be better off without them. These ideations can be, and in my case were, transient, but I needed time and support to find my bearings again. What of those who have just suffered a catastrophic injury?
As a member of the justice committee, I studied this bill very closely, or at least a bill by the same name. In committee, we considered the impacts of expanding MAID to Canadians whose death is not imminent and the efficacy of removing many safeguards that were put in place in the original MAID regime in 2016, such as the requirement for two witnesses and 10-day reflection period. What we did not review is expanding assisted dying where the sole underlying condition is mental illness.
Whether members generally support the bill or not, and even if they support this specific Senate amendment, they cannot deny this: As elected representatives whose constituents rely on us to do our work in a measured, intelligent and compassionate way, we are not being given the opportunity to study this expansion and hear from those who are directly affected.
What of the experts who may assist us? We are told we will hear from them later. Will we, or will the government ignore the review mandate, just as it ignored the first one?
Is this our process now? Is this how Canada's Parliament creates good defensible public policy, with no diligent consultation and no close review of the implications? Are we just going to wing it now? Are we not going to challenge amendments from the Senate that fundamentally change this bill or other bills? This amendment would make Canada's assisted dying regime by far the most permissive on the planet.
The minister stated today that we were always going to study this very complex change carefully and look at it with the help of experts, yet here we are voting it into law and even closing down debate. How does this work?
I do agree with the minister's other statement today that we are parliamentarians and we have a responsibility. Yes, we are, and yes, we do.
Why not study this at committee? The Conservatives brought forward a motion to sit next week during a constituency week to study this. This motion was voted down. Minister Lametti also stated this morning that the Senate—
View Kerry-Lynne Findlay Profile
CPC (BC)
Madam Speaker, the minister also stated this morning that the Senate, for perhaps the first time, is actually doing its work and acting as a place of sober second thought. That is not what this is. The Senate did not just tweak this bill; it entirely changed its scope, affecting the lives of millions of Canadians.
If members think I am exaggerating, a simple online search shows that one in five Canadians experiences a mental illness or addiction problem at any given time, that 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence and that those under 24 years of age are particularly affected. By the time Canadians reach 40, one in two has had a mental illness.
It was bad enough when the Liberals seemingly ignored calls for more safeguards from nearly every advocacy group for Canadians with disabilities, but to not even review this complex expansion is an offensive abandonment of responsibility. The Liberals' willingness to run with it is a complete 180° about-face.
On November 3, the Minister of Justice said at committee:
Bill C-7 proposes to exclude persons whose sole medical condition is a mental illness.... Experts disagree on whether medical assistance in dying can ever be safely made available in such cases...unpredictable illness trajectories mean there is always the possibility of improvement and recovery.... The exclusion gives Parliament more time to reflect on this complex question, which is fraught with serious risks....
Was this Senate amendment always part of the Liberal plan? Do we not need more time and more reflection?
The appointed Senate has entirely overreached and overstepped its mandate. Every member who votes in favour of this amended bill today should really think hard. I do not say this because I do not agree with their policy preferences. I have policy disagreements with members of my own party. However, this is no longer a discussion about policy. This is about fulfilling our role as parliamentarians. To vote in support of a bill fundamentally amended by an unelected Senate without review is an abdication of responsibility.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given everything Canadians have gone through in the last year, how can we today, of all days, pass this law without study? There is still time to wake up from this nightmare before the bells ring. As John Donne famously wrote, “Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-03-11 17:21 [p.4933]
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for South Surrey—White Rock for her contributions at committee and for her contributions today through the deeply heartfelt and very personal speech she just gave. However, I take issue with some of the points she raised.
First, with respect to coercion, the evidence indicates that no discipline or prosecution has taken place against any doctor or nurse in this country in the five years we have had MAID. Second, the notion that we would have the most permissive regime on the planet should these amendments pass is speculative. We know, for example, that the safeguards we would put in place are yet to be determined and that in the Benelux countries, for example, minors can avail themselves of medical assistance in dying. That is not on the table here.
No one takes issue with the fact that we need supports for people who have a mental illness, but I would ask the member opposite to comment on the Truchon case. As she is a lawyer, I know she reads jurisprudence, just as I do.
In the Truchon case, the court said that people with disabilities need to have the autonomy and competence to make decisions about their lives and—
View Kerry-Lynne Findlay Profile
CPC (BC)
Madam Speaker, I am a lawyer, as is the hon. member, but one of my fundamental disagreements with how this has proceeded is that the Truchon decision was a Quebec Superior Court decision, a court of first instance, in fact. It did not go to the Quebec Court of Appeal, nor did it go to the Supreme Court of Canada. It could have even gone to the Supreme Court of Canada by way of reference, but the government did not do that. The plaintiffs in the Truchon case do not speak for all persons with disabilities, as we clearly heard at committee.
View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2021-03-11 17:23 [p.4933]
Madam Speaker, I hate to say it, but listening to the Conservatives, I am left with the impression that they are exploiting the realities of persons with disabilities.
Who is more vulnerable than someone living with an irreversible medical condition, who is suffering intolerably and has reached their tolerance threshold? Ms. Gladu lived her life, but she had a degenerative disease that affected her physical autonomy. She was experiencing intolerable suffering, but even in a wheelchair, she was able to go to court and assert her moral autonomy.
I do not understand why the member is unwilling to come and discuss her concerns in a parliamentary committee to try to pinpoint exactly what her concerns are.
View Kerry-Lynne Findlay Profile
CPC (BC)
Madam Speaker, I find the hon. member's question fundamentally offensive because he is not talking about process. He is not talking about dealing with the Senate amendment through a proper committee review. He is talking about an overall bill, which we are not really speaking about here today. We understand the overall issue of persons with disabilities clearly, and we understand what plaintiffs had to say and why they took their case to court. However, that is not what we are dealing with here today. To suggest that I do not care about them is nonsense.
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2021-03-11 17:25 [p.4933]
Madam Speaker, I have an important question to ask my colleague.
We have heard some Liberals say that no one is being forced to choose MAID. I have had experiences in my life with people who are extremely depressed. Because the mental health system in this country is not there for them and is not supportive, sometimes they feel there is no choice. Now we have a government that wants to bring in an entirely new bill without proper debate and without allowing us to hear from the people who would be affected and the experts.
Could my colleague please comment on the idea of choice? If there is no choice, there is MAID.
View Kerry-Lynne Findlay Profile
CPC (BC)
Madam Speaker, we heard from witnesses at the justice committee on this very issue. People with disabilities felt they had been coerced and that MAID had been inappropriately suggested. They said even though their quality of life may have, to the outside observer, not seemed full, it was full to them. What they were suffering from was a lack of support.
Let us put money into hospice care. Let us put money into helping those with mental illness. Let us help people, not put forward an amendment from an unelected Senate.
View Jeremy Patzer Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Yorkton—Melville.
It is an honour to stand in the House today and give this speech on behalf of the constituents of Cypress Hills—Grasslands. This has been a very heavy issue for a lot of my constituents, and there has been a lot of engagement on it.
The Liberal government, already with many other scandals and failures, has hit an all-time low with the bill. The Liberals were already seeking to legally expand assisted suicide in ways that are unnecessary and uncalled for. However, now for Canadians everywhere, especially those with disabilities or mental health challenges and our medical professionals, the situation has suddenly gotten much worse.
The other place sent Bill C-7 back to us with some radical and outrageous amendments. They are unthinkable and should have been rejected immediately. Instead, the Liberals have accepted the unacceptable, and at the last stage of the process, they somehow thought to allow the bill to be made even more dangerous than it already was. They have been trying to rush it along ever since, and now they are shutting down debate after everyone has barely started to process what exactly is going on.
The Liberals have shown complete disregard and disrespect for the public, who are supposed to be represented in our democratic process. However, what is even more disturbing and offensive is the statement they are making to the people who are most at risk of suffering the consequences of their legislation. The message is already clear, not only in Canada but in the rest of the world.
We are supposed to be a place that cares about human life and dignity. We are supposed to a country that leads the way and takes a principled stand for people's rights. This is Canada.
Before the government agreed to make Bill C-7 even worse, The Washington Post published an article about it entitled “Canada is plunging toward a human rights disaster for disabled people”. In a way, it is more shocking to hear it from outside observers. This is a warning sign of where our country is headed. However, the point is not new. The article focuses on Roger Foley, who keeps fighting to survive and demands better from government and the health care system. He wants assisted life before he is ever offered assisted suicide.
Major disability organizations in Canada, which are now joined by mental health advocates, have been calling out the same discrimination and dangers involved. At the same time, the United Nations has specifically called out Canada for these same issues with MAID under the current law, never mind what the Liberals are bringing forward and what the Senate has put forward here now. Before the Truchon decision happened, the special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities publicly stated:
I am extremely concerned about the implementation of the legislation on medical assistance in dying from a disability perspective. I have been informed that there is no protocol in place to demonstrate that persons with disabilities have been provided with viable alternatives when eligible for assistive dying. I have further received worrisome claims about persons with disabilities in institutions being pressured to seek medical assistance in dying....
Since then, a new person has filled the role of special rapporteur, who, while testifying on Bill C-7, said, “even if safeguards would be strengthened to ensure genuine consent, the damage is still done by portraying—not directly but effectively nonetheless—that the lives of persons with disabilities are somehow worth less than others.”
However, we are not even talking about stronger safeguards either here. The government is choosing to remove multiple safeguards for disabilities, and now for mental health because of the amendments that the Senate sent us. The problem is clear to different Canadians, regardless of whether they support the law currently in place for MAID. I have heard this from several members, even within my own party, for example. The problem is that we are not discussing MAID anymore, and these amendments have made that absolutely clear, if it was not before.
I recently finished reading the book 1984 by George Orwell. Some members will say this sounds cliché and exaggerated, but they need to pay more attention to the point he makes about doublespeak and the meaning of words. If we twist the meaning of words, we subliminally change the values of society. If we do not say what we mean and mean what we say, we can easily lose sight of reality. What is worse, we can cover up harm and injustice.
We heard a Liberal minister defend Bill C-7 in a very telling way when he said, “Mental illness is a very serious illness. It is an illness. It needs to be treated as an illness. It was always going to be looked at in the second stage of the bill.” This was in response to a question about the concern of mistreating Canadians with mental illness.
The Bell Let's Talk Day was not long ago, and there are several other initiatives for mental health throughout the year. Are we going to contradict the message we all unanimously used in the House back then as we were supporting people who were dealing with mental health or are we now going to think of suicide as treatment? Are we supposed to believe it is an option for improving someone's mental condition? I should hope actual treatments and care are provided and that suicide is actively prevented rather than offered, even as a last resort, for those who want to kill themselves but are not dying. This is no way to treat people who are suffering.
When people consider suicide, we offer them a help line. We reaffirm their value that their lives are worth living. Suicide prevention is already hard enough. How are we going to convince them? If this law passes and if it keeps us from reaching them in time, what message is that telling those people who are signalling that they have already lost hope and that this bill essentially offers them no further chance at hope? This new law and the tangled web it weaves will not make any sense whatsoever.
When the government first opened a Pandora's box for assisted suicide back in 2016, it said there would be a required review process in five years. Five years went by and it never happened. It would have been a perfect opportunity to address the growing concerns with the current law for MAID. The Liberals did not wait and they did not prioritize doing it before trying to expand the law in response to a provincial court ruling.
In case anyone forgot, Bill C-7 goes far beyond the actual decision of the court, which the Liberals claim is a time restraint even though they did not bother to appeal it in the first place. They are forcing us into last minute amendments with one afternoon, really, of debate; and that is it.
I do not believe these rules reflect the true Canadian spirit. They would silence too many voices and perspectives that deserve to be heard after ignoring them for the past year and more. The average Canadian does not find it hard to be horrified at these changes, especially when they have barely seen the light of public scrutiny. Whether we live with or love people with disabilities and mental health challenges or if we have the basic idea of respecting the dignity and value of our fellow human beings, the problems are obvious. Someone who for any reason is distressed by what this decision represents is apparently not worth the government's time or consideration.
The Liberals say they have run out of time, but they have failed to make time or give time to those who need it most. They are the ones who control the legislative calendar. It was up to them. It is a lot like getting stuck with a pushy sales rep who avoids questions while trying to make a quick sale. By now, Canadians are used to Liberal excuses for their incompetence, but it is becoming clearer than ever how some of their radical views on social issues try to get passed through unnoticed.
This is all the more reason why we needed to have a thorough review of the current law, which was promised but not kept. The government now says that it will accept one amendment, requiring a review after the bill comes into effect. We will have to see how that goes.
Despite all the frustration and discouragement coming forward from strong advocates and citizens, which I share right now, I still have hope in the human spirit for the future. If the government wants to take us backward and if its allies in Parliament turn a blind eye, it will not be able to stop the truth and justice from winning out. It makes me think of a line sung by Johnny Cash, “What's done in the dark will be brought to the light.”
It is a shame that there will not be much longer to speak today, because there are so many more things that do need to be said about this important issue about these amendments from the Senate. Human life is worth far more than just a few minutes of debate and discussion.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-03-11 17:36 [p.4935]
Madam Speaker, this narrative of abandonment that we are hearing from Conservative interveners in today's debate is a bit concerning. The view of the court and the view of our government is that we are trying to empower individuals to make choices, including difficult choices. I commend to the member opposite the fact that Monsieur Truchon and Madame Gladu were persons with disability who were seeking constitutionally protected access to the MAID regime.
The notion that the amendments proposed by the Senate are radical and outrageous, to quote the member opposite, is false on its face. Collecting race-based data and other data about vulnerable communities accessing MAID is important. So too is having a joint study, which are two amendments to which we have agreed.
Does the member opposite agree and appreciate that we are not proposing to allow access to those with mental illness as a sole underlying condition, tomorrow or even next month, but only after a one-year review by an expert panel followed by a one-year review by Parliament, so Parliament can do the work that the member seeks to have done, which is test the safeguards to ensure that embarking in this area is done in a measured and appropriate manner that protects vulnerabilities?
View Jeremy Patzer Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, ultimately, all the sunset clause does is delay the inevitable. It is still signalling to these people, the people who are struggling with mental health and mental illness, that their life is not valuable. However, that is not true. Every single life matters and should be dignified. These amendments do not do that. They do not afford that and that is wrong.
View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2021-03-11 17:38 [p.4935]
Madam Speaker, at this current juncture, the Bloc Québécois is far from convinced that MAID should be broadened to include individuals whose sole medical condition causing suffering is mental illness.
Why? Because suicidal ideation is often a manifestation, a symptom of mental illness, and suicidal ideation is reversible.
I do not understand how my colleague can confuse these two things and how the Conservatives' amendment can allude to the fact that reversible suicidal ideation is suddenly an inclusion criterion, while the real criteria are the irreversibility of the disease and intolerable suffering. Why are they getting these things mixed up?
We may have to give it more thought, and that is what the government's motion is challenging us to do. It is challenging us to think about the issue across party lines.
Is my colleague prepared to sit down, invite the people he wants to invite, and correctly define the issue and find a solution?
If the expert panel and the special committee arrive at the conclusion that mental health should be excluded, it will be excluded. I do not see why they insist on remaining within the parliamentary framework of a debate which is getting us nowhere.
We need to think about this across party lines and reach a broader consensus. I am eager to hear what my colleague has to say in committee.
View Jeremy Patzer Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, the whole point is rather than rushing to include a sunset clause in legislation, let us have that conversation now. Why wait a year or two years? We need to have that now. That is the whole point of this debate. That is what we have been saying over and over. These amendments need to go to committee so that conversation can happen now.
My other point is that suicidal thoughts are reversible. He is absolutely right. The problem is that suicide and medical assistance in dying are not reversible, and that is the whole point. That is why so many people are concerned about this. We need to have these conversations now. It needs to go to committee now. Not in a year or two from now; it needs to take place now.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2021-03-11 17:40 [p.4936]
Madam Speaker, could my colleague comment on the hypocrisy of the government to be putting money toward suicide prevention and, at the same time, deciding it is not enough to let people kill themselves, but that they will get medical professionals to help them out when they have mental illness?
View Jeremy Patzer Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, when we watch a movie and a person is standing on a bridge, people are coming to help that person, to reaffirm the value of his or her life. Those people are not taking the person by the hand and leading him or her up to the bridge. No, they are trying to take the person off of the bridge, to walk the individual back from the edge.
I find it absolutely appalling that the government is doing what it is doing. I mentioned in my speech that we have had the Bell Let's Talk Day. We also voted on a motion in the House for the 988 suicide prevention hotline. Immediately after that, the House also voted in favour of Bill C-7. What are we trying to do? Do we support people or do we not?
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2021-03-11 17:42 [p.4936]
Madam Speaker, as I begin my speech today, I am grieved to the core of my heart by the amendments from the other place that reveal an even greater lack of compassion for the most vulnerable in our society through expansion of Bill C-7 to those with mental illness. These amendments go well beyond what the House voted on last year and go well beyond the Truchon decision itself.
The Senate-Liberal Bill C-7 justifies a fulsome debate and more amendments in addition to the one introduced by my colleague from Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes. I must respond to Canadians' alarm with the worrisome evolution of assisted suicide propagated by the other place and the Liberal government.
Opening the door to mental illness as a stand-alone reason to request assisted death is a frightening revelation of the lack of compassion and care for those who need and deserve it most. What is the underlying intent of such an outward attack on the value of the lives of vulnerable people? The message to those who face mental illness as well as those who have dedicated themselves to the care and treatment of anxiety, personality disorder, panic attacks, gender dysphoria, mood disorders, dissociative disorders, sleep disorders, on and on, is no longer a message of hope and “Let’s talk”.
Where is the merit in collecting race-based data when they ignore the pleas of indigenous leaders, palliative care and mental health professionals, physically and mentally disabled Canadians raising strong concern over the lengths gone to by both places to normalize and prioritize assisted suicide? It is this legislation in itself that will cause greater harm to the marginalized and the disadvantaged. A culture of suicide prevention is what we in this place should all strive for as caretakers of the people’s business.
In a letter recently penned to federal and provincial parliamentarians as well as health care regulators, indigenous leaders, including Siksika Health Services' CEO Tyler White, former lieutenant governor of New Brunswick Graydon Nicholas, retired senator Nick Sibbeston, indigenous health and suicide prevention advisers and elders, the desire for a culture of assisted life is made clear, “Bill C-7 goes against many of our cultural values, belief systems, and sacred teachings. The view that MAiD is a dignified end for the terminally ill or those living with disabilities should not be forced on our peoples.”
They are concerned that the government will not respect their indigenous beliefs and values by shutting down a palliative care facility. No doubt they should be concerned as this would not be the first example of a left-leaning government in Canada shutting down a palliative care facility, which also sought to stay true to its calling to provide a service perpetuated by a unique belief and values connection to their communities, a place where assisted suicide is not offered, a place to die a natural death with dignity.
They have called on the Liberals to respect their right to determine how health services are delivered in first nations communities. Indigenous leaders have been working tirelessly on strategies to combat the crisis of suicide in their communities. At the same time, the government is creating an environment that enables assisted suicide. The Liberal government is turning its back on indigenous people.
Renowned Dr. John Maher, an ACT psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of severe mental illness, was frank in his assessment of the proposed amendments. He has made clear that the long, drawn-out process of mental health treatment makes it irrational to offer or provide assisted death to patients. In his experience, not only is initial treatment expected to last up to three years in which symptoms are brought under control, but several more years need to be accounted for in order for patients to thrive under their condition. Dr. Maher is clear that not only is it possible for those who live with mental illness to survive, but they can live satisfying lives.
The Canadian Mental Health Association stated, “As a recovery-oriented organization, CMHA does not believe that mental illnesses are irremediable.” Psychiatrists, doctors, nurses and professors from the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Health Authority have expressed grave concern over the inclusion of mental illness as grounds to request assistance in dying. They appeal to the dedicated and wise leaders of our country to “please help protect the young people of Canada, our greatest resource for the future.” Today, we will see who the dedicated and wise leaders are.
Rather than champion hope for those suffering with mental illness and those who care for and provide treatment for their healing, the Liberal government hides behind an all-encompassing MAID regime. It cannot continue to offer suffering Canadians a skeleton of suicide prevention measures with one hand and an ever-expanding assisted death regime with the other.
As Dr. Maher has confirmed, better results can be realized through a culture of life and attentive treatment.
I had the personal privilege, and that is exactly what it was, an incredible privilege, to serve as a nurse’s aide in a long-term mental hospital, taking care of patients with very deep scars. I have given daily care to precious elderly residents in seniors homes and level 4 nursing homes. I have assisted students with special needs in elementary and high school education. Every experience has made me laugh and made me cry. Without any reservation, all these human beings have made such a significant difference in the quality and purpose of my life.
This bill is also deeply disturbing to veterans and their families. I have no desire to share their names here today or their personal experiences. Many are my personal friends. Those veterans who suffer with mental illness as a result of their service see this as another blow to their value to their country.
There has been an ongoing long-term lack of access to mental health care for themselves and their families, exacerbated by VAC's downgrading of OSISS to an online service and its failure to replace coordinators who were on the ground with them, backlogs that mean the care they need is so far away that hope turns to despair, while mental health counselling for their spouses and children who are deeply impacted by their loved one’s injuries must prove that their treatment is required for the health of the veteran.
There are a growing number of suicides in our armed forces and veterans communities already. At a time when a culture of life and of accessible and timely treatments is what is needed, the government is sending them the opposite message.
As I close, I want to encourage every member of the House, every member of the other place and every Canadian to watch a YouTube video called “Tell Me to Stay”. It is a plea from the young woman whose words will end my intervention today.
These are Garifalia’s words:
“Unless you have attempted suicide before, you will not understand how patronizing it is to hear health care practitioners and politicians talking placidly about suicidality as if it were different from MAID. Suicidality is supposedly about wanting to die, the argument goes, whereas a request for MAID is a rational and well-thought-out desire to end one’s suffering, not merely a desire to die for the sake of dying. And yet, if you had told me when I was 16 years old that I could live and not suffer, I would have chosen that option over the death that I sought.
For me, both then and now, any delineation between MAID and suicide as methods of ending suffering is a distinction without a difference. The outcome is the same—one is just medicalized.
People talk about safeguards as if they would prevent someone like me from accidentally or intentionally slipping through the cracks. As a highly intelligent individual with over 10 years of experience in pretending to be okay, let me be clear: The proposed safeguards will not catch me. Had I been able to access MAID in the depths of my struggle, the full life that I have since lived would never have happened...
As someone who endures ongoing and at times debilitating psychological suffering, I firmly believe in and support physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual responses to suffering. What I do not support is the creation of a two-tiered system that would offer suicide prevention to one person and suicide assistance to another.”
She continues to say, “I ask you to prioritize the mandatory review so that the Government of Canada can do its due diligence and consult with Canadian society appropriately first, rather than recklessly expanding the legislative framework based on one judge’s reasoning, thereby undermining the democratic process on which our country is built. I ask you to heed the feedback of disability rights groups, indigenous communities, and international legal scholars, all of whom have spoken out against Bill C-7. Finally, I ask you to prioritize the needs of the vulnerable and the marginalized—the indigenous, the disabled, and the mentally ill.”
March 11, 2021, will be remembered as the one-year anniversary of the COVID pandemic. If this bill is passed, March 11, 2021, will be the day the Canadian government chose to tell Canada's disabled, mentally ill, marginalized and vulnerable people that they are not needed, not valued and not worthy of care.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, just focusing on the timelines, I really wish I could have posed this question to the previous speaker, the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands, because in response to one of his questions, he said that we need to have this conversation now and deal with this issue now, because it cannot wait.
I moved a motion three times in the last sitting week to extend hours into the evening, not asking anybody to do anything more than just stay in their place to debate this very important topic, and on all three occasions the Conservative Party voted against it. It is as if its members were saying that they do not want to talk about this issue.
I am wondering if the member who just spoke can shed some light for me on why Conservatives did not want to debate such a very important issue.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2021-03-11 17:52 [p.4938]
Madam Speaker, my question is this: Why does that side of the floor not even show up to debate, if this is so important? Where is their proof? This issue has been debated in the past for what it was, and now it is something entirely different.
We passed four different pieces of legislation in this House in just this week alone, so I will not take this from the member when the Minister of Justice, in response to the member for Kelowna—Lake Country, implied that because of our delaying, which was actually our responding to the needs of Canadians as they were coming at us in waves, somehow we deserved to not have this debate go forward any longer. Who is playing games here?
View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2021-03-11 17:53 [p.4938]
Madam Speaker, several times, I have been touched by the speeches and have been able to understand where my Conservative colleagues are coming from. I am in favour of any speech urging more social measures to help the most vulnerable and marginalized people.
When we consider the position of the Conservatives, who voted against Bill C-14 and Bill C-7, we get the impression that the only solution for dying with dignity is palliative care.
Unfortunately, palliative care and suicide prevention require investments in health and social services. How can the Conservatives get so worked up over the idea that these conditions could be trivialized, when they made cuts to health transfers, reducing the escalator from 6% to 3%? It takes money to offer social services, suicide prevention services and access to care. I cannot follow their logic.
For 50 years, holding up palliative care as the only solution has not resolved the end-of-life issue, as they know full well. Why do the Conservatives not sit down with us in 30 days? They could invite anyone they like, and we could have a cross-party discussion to find solutions.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2021-03-11 17:55 [p.4938]
Madam Speaker, the government agreed to a motion to bring in a framework for palliative care across this country and has done nothing. We cannot compare palliative care to assisted suicide when it does not exist to the extent it should in this country.
If he wants to talk about money, I assure him that the government has been printing it faster than it can spend it and in these circumstances has not done anything to help those who are facing a bill that says they have no value.
I repeat what the young woman said in regard to this legislation, which is basically that there is no way any safeguards the government tries to put in place will work, because those who are mentally ill need the opportunity to live, not to be faced with a circumstance in which their government says, “You do not really have any value. Here is an option for you, and by the way, we will will not focus on mental health and palliative care the way we should.”
View Lianne Rood Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Speaker, I have heard from thousands of my constituents in Lambton—Kent—Middlesex who feel this bill, with its changes, is getting the elderly, chronically ill, disabled and those suffering from mental illnesses to choose death over choosing to live. I am wondering if the member agrees that Canada's laws on doctor-assisted death are putting undue pressure on the elderly, those in long-term care, or those who have a disability or a mental illness to choose death when it is not even their preference?
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2021-03-11 17:57 [p.4938]
Madam Speaker, I really appreciate that question, because the truth of the matter is that there is not a focus in the Liberal government on valuing life. There is not a focus on valuing children, on valuing families, on valuing our elderly or on valuing our veterans.
There is no question that the amendment we brought forward today is the only way to fix this legislation. Mental illness should not be a means of getting assisted suicide. I am very disturbed, as are the thousands and thousands of Canadians that the government refuses to listen to.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-03-11 17:58 [p.4938]
Madam Speaker, the member indicated that the message being sent is that persons who are mentally ill are not needed, valued or worthy.
What I would reiterate for her is that this issue about persons with disabilities and their competence and autonomy was squarely before the court in Truchon. What the court squarely found in paragraph 681 of the decision is that there is a “pernicious stereotype” about persons with disabilities, and that is “the inability to consent fully to medical assistance in dying.” The decision goes on to say:
Yet the evidence amply establishes that Mr. Truchon is fully capable of exercising fundamental choices concerning his life and his death. As a consequence, he is deprived of the exercise of these choices essential to his dignity as a human being due to his personal characteristics that the challenged provision does not consider.
As such, he must be provided access.
The issue is clearly about providing value and dignity and worth to persons—all persons, including persons with disabilities—and ensuring that they have the competence and autonomy to make decisions, including very serious decisions, after careful consideration, about the timing of their passing.
I wonder if the member for Yorkton—Melville would like to comment on that aspect of the Truchon case.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2021-03-11 17:59 [p.4939]
Madam Speaker, no, I am not interested in responding to the Truchon case, because we are long past that. We are at the place where the government has decided it is more than happy to go along with what the Senate has put forward and to give people with mental illness, on its own, the ability to choose assisted suicide.
That is not in the best interests of Canadians. It is not in the best interests of anyone who, in the case of mental illness, cannot be in a solid state of mind when they are considering assisted suicide.
View Dane Lloyd Profile
CPC (AB)
View Dane Lloyd Profile
2021-03-11 18:59 [p.4947]
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Sarnia—Lambton.
Today will be a historic day for Canada, a day that will be looked back on for decades to come as a day of infamy for the rights of vulnerable, disabled and mentally ill Canadians. Years from now, our country will be rocked by a political scandal when it is revealed how tens of thousands of vulnerable Canadians ended their lives through medical assistance in dying. We will discover how many of these vulnerable Canadians, whose deaths were not reasonably foreseeable and who suffered from depression and other mental health challenges, were allowed to end their lives with little to no safeguards.
Righteously angered families will demand justice from the government. They will demand parliamentary inquiries and they will fight through the courts to reveal the truth that, for decades, the government failed to support vulnerable Canadians and, instead, allowed them to end their lives in the absence of real assistance. On that day, a prime minister will stand across the way in the House to give a tearful apology for the lives of so many lost as a result of the Liberal government's negligence. Parliamentarians will vote for serious reform to affirm the lives of vulnerable people and reinstate firm restrictions to protect the rights of the disabled and mentally ill. Together on that day, we will vow never again to stand idly by and let legislation pass in the House that would put vulnerable lives at risk.
The vote tonight will determine whether that is the bleak future this country will have, and today we have a choice, as parliamentarians: Do we stand up for the rights of disabled Canadians, those suffering with mental health challenges, or do we vote for radical legislation that will imperil the lives of many of them? Tonight I will vote with a clean conscience knowing that I have done my duty to uphold the rights and dignity of Canadians, and I urge MPs in the House to look deep into their consciences and ask themselves if they want history to remember them as those who went along and voted for this travesty.
Some members of the House may scoff at my claims, but if they will not take it from me, they should take it from the very people whose lives are being held in the balance because of this vote. They should take it from those in the disability community who have been speaking vocally about the pressure they face from society to end their own lives. They should take it from suicide survivors who know that under this legislation, their lives would have ended before they could recover and live fulfilled lives. The Liberal government likes to praise itself for its deference to the experts, but in this case, it is kowtowing to special interests who are pushing a radical agenda.
If the Liberals really wanted to craft a bill that reflected what the experts are saying, they would heed the words of Dr. Sonu Gaind, the former head of the Canadian Psychiatric Association. I will note that Dr. Gaind is live-tweeting tonight's proceedings. He has raised the alarm that doctors under this legislation, many of whom are not equipped to make judgments on whether a patient with mental health issues will be able to recover, will also be given the power to grant death to these patients. He has raised serious concerns about the motivations of this legislation that seek to grant more autonomy for privileged people to end their lives, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, seriously risk further marginalizing the lives of those who do not have the privilege of being able, of having a sound mind or of having access to the best mental and physical life supports.
He has raised the alarm that nowhere has anyone considered the risk of this legislation for those who are suffering with suicidal ideations. Where are the protections for those contemplating suicide? We recently commemorated International Women's Day and I became aware recently that women are twice as likely to receive medical assistance in dying and twice as likely to attempt suicide. What analysis has been done to ensure that women, particularly disabled women and those suffering with mental health challenges, will not be marginalized by this legislation? I think this can be said of a lot of racialized communities and others as well.
Disability groups have pointed out that, in a cruel irony, today is the 11th anniversary of Canada's decision to adopt the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Did the government plan this slap in the face to the lives of disabled people who struggle every day to live their lives and who will now soon live with the added struggle of the constant pressure to seek assistance to end their lives?
This year, of all years, there is no excuse for ignorance when it comes to the plight of those suffering mental health challenges, the disabled, and those who are contemplating suicide. We have seen the significant impact that suicide is having on our society. In some cases, death by suicide has outstripped deaths from COVID-19. In a year when we have learned so much about the gaps in assistance and its fatal consequences, how can we move forward with this out-of-touch and radical legislation that seeks to make it even easier for vulnerable people to receive death? The situation that we have been placed in, as parliamentarians, in response to these proposed amendments from the Senate, is precarious.
Canadians are still adapting to the groundbreaking decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case. They are still grappling with the subsequent legislation passed in the last Parliament, which legalized medical assistance in dying. Now with the Truchon decision, we have been called to enact new changes less than five years into the coming into force of the previous medical assistance in dying legislation. If that were not enough, now we are being asked by the Liberal government to go even further than the Truchon decision, which did not even consider mental illness as an exclusive justification for seeking and being granted medically assisted death, and we are being called on now to pass this legislation in a rushed manner.
I suspect, and I know in my riding, that if we ask the average Canadian if they want medical assistance in dying for minors or for those solely with a mental illness, we would receive a resounding no; yet, the overwhelmingly Liberal dominated Senate has taken it upon itself to push the agenda of special interests forward, to the detriment of vulnerable peoples. It was not that long ago that the Supreme Court ruled that there was no right to a medically assisted death. The Carter decision, I believe, was in many ways a deviation from the previous law, but today, to many, it may seem quite conservative because, at least in that case, the courts had a desire to place clear parameters around this novel practice.
It is clear to me that the Minister of Justice wants to implement a radical agenda that would almost see euthanasia legalized for every occasion. I think he said as much in his vote when he voted against the previous legislation. The Liberals did not feel that Carter went far enough. They did not feel that Truchon went far enough. They could not get a pass through the House, so they got a pass through the Senate. The justice committee did not contemplate mental health, and inasmuch as the committee did contemplate mental health the testimony it heard advised against including mental health.
There are so many Canadians who are going to be devastatingly hurt by the recklessness of this legislation, and Canadians have not had an opportunity to fully pass judgment on this legislation. When we have an election in the next few months or years, we need the government to stake out a clear position on where it wants to go with euthanasia, before Canadians go to the polls. I do not recall any party, in the last election, putting forward a policy that said it wanted to seek mental illness inclusions in the medical assistance in dying regime. The government does not have a mandate from Canadians to pass this radical legislation.
It is time to be on the right side of history and stand with vulnerable Canadians against this dangerous and radical legislation.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-03-11 19:08 [p.4948]
Madam Speaker, by way of clarification, first, the constant pressure that the member referred to simply does not exist. There is no evidence anywhere in this country of any discipline or criminal prosecutions against any medical practitioner in the entire history of MAID's being available the last five years.
Second, the notion of the impact on the vulnerable would be addressed by one of the Senate amendments that we are proposing to adopt, which is to collect race-based data and data on persons with disabilities.
Third, respecting the issue of the courts' never having dealt with the issue of mental illness, while it not addressed squarely in Truchon, it was addressed in a case that comes out of that member's province, the E.F. case, through the Alberta Court of Appeals, which found that mental illness should be a condition for which MAID is made available.
Would the member opposite agree that the community of persons with disability is not a monolith? Chantal Petitclerc, the senator who sponsored the bill, is a person with a disability. Steven Fletcher, a former Conservative cabinet minister, is a person with disability. Both have spoken eloquently, as have the litigants in the Truchon case, about the need to ensure that their autonomy and their competence is respected.
Would the member agree with that statement?
View Dane Lloyd Profile
CPC (AB)
View Dane Lloyd Profile
2021-03-11 19:09 [p.4949]
Madam Speaker, I think it is incredibly sad that the hon. parliamentary secretary would discount the testimony, the views and deeply held beliefs of so many disabled Canadians. I would just say that it is easy to claim that there is no evidence when the government has never set up any regime to collect evidence that would suggest there are abuses happening. The government is not looking for abuses, and so it claims that these do not exist. It is time for the government to start putting in a regime that would hold every member in this profession accountable so that we could get the facts and the data.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2021-03-11 19:10 [p.4949]
Madam Speaker, does my colleague not find it inconsistent that when considering the Senate amendments, the government ruled that the advance consent one was beyond the scope of the bill, even though it had put some advance consent measures in the bill? Moreover, it then decided that mental illness was acceptable to include as not out of the scope of the bill when that had not even been mentioned originally.
View Dane Lloyd Profile
CPC (AB)
View Dane Lloyd Profile
2021-03-11 19:10 [p.4949]
Madam Speaker, my thanks to the member for her thoughtful question and her advocacy on this issue. I guess that is something we should be thankful to the government for, that it actually found some aspect of the Senate's amendments objectionable.
Frankly, I think that a political game is being played here. The Liberals have claimed that Conservatives have been obstructing debate and that they had to force this closure. The fact is that Canadians have been caught unaware by the government's radical changes of adding mental illness to this. As Conservatives, we are only standing up for the right of Canadians to have time to actually digest this legislation and the radical new changes that the government is including. Canadians have only been given a couple of weeks to digest what is literally life-and-death legislation.
The Liberals like to say that the Conservatives are holding this up, but the fact is that they were trying to sneak this in in the dead of the night, and we are not going to let them do it. If I can judge by the hundreds and thousands of emails I am receiving from Canadians, who are furious about this, we are only hitting the tip of the iceberg here and Canadians need more time to review this legislation.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, the reality of the situation here is that we did ask for more time. We asked the Conservative Party last week. I stood in this place right here and asked on three occasions to sit until midnight to have a healthy debate on this very, very important issue, and the Conservatives routinely voted against that.
The Conservatives did not want to continue to debate this issue, so when they claim that we not interested in debating this and are playing tricks and games and all of that stuff, the reality is that it is the Conservatives who are. The leader of the opposition said in a National Post article just two weeks ago that the Conservatives were ready to work day and night to get the job done, to get legislation through.
Here we have a piece of legislation that we are mandated to complete by a certain date by a superior court and are up against deadlines, and we are asking the Conservatives to stay late and to work overtime to get it done, and they have refused to do it.
View Dane Lloyd Profile
CPC (AB)
View Dane Lloyd Profile
2021-03-11 19:13 [p.4949]
Madam Speaker, the Conservatives will always work hard to ensure that we pass legislation to help Canadians who are going through a year of pandemic and bankruptcies and who have the highest unemployment rate in the G7, but what we will not do is allow the Liberals to sneak a bill through the dead of the night on a—
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2021-03-11 19:13 [p.4949]
Madam Speaker, I am glad to be able to rise this evening to speak to these amendments from the Senate on the medical assistance in dying bill.
It is unfortunate that we have such a short amount of time to talk about these amendments, because this is quite literally a matter of life and death. I would think the government, on something as serious as this, would want to spend some time thinking about these changes, which are far outside the scope of the original bill.
Let me talk about the purpose of the Senate. The Senate was put in place at its inception as a mechanism to look at the legislation from the government of the day and decide whether it was good for Canada. If not, it was to provide fixes for it and send it back. Clearly, what has happened with Bill C-7 is far beyond that.
The unelected members of the Senate have come with items like MAID for people suffering only from mental illness, advance directives, and all kinds of things that were beyond the scope of what was presented. That is not its role, and the government, by accepting these things outside of its scope, is really putting ideas in the minds of the senators to encourage them to continue to do what is not their role.
Let us go through the amendments one at a time. The first one allows those with only mental illness to have access to MAID and says we will talk about it in a while: not in 18 months, but in 24 months. This is really unacceptable. After the first medical assistance in dying legislation was brought in, the Liberal government put together consultants and a panel from the Council of Canadian Academies. This was done by the honourable Jane Philpott and the hon. member for Vancouver Granville, to study whether people with mental illness only should have access to MAID.
That working group could not agree that this was a good thing to proceed with. It was quite concerned about whether people with mental illness really had the capability to give informed consent. It was concerned as well that we were going down the wrong path. Even the Netherlands, which has such a broad euthanasia range, only allows people with dementia to have medical assistance in dying, and there is still a ton of controversy with that. Even the Netherlands has not gone down this very dark path.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health issued a report to the government and said:
Canadians themselves are divided on the issue of MAiD, and most do not support making it available to those with only mental illness.
If the government is not going to listen to Canadians when they say this is not what they want, that is a concern.
These experts from CAMH also said:
The federal government should not make an amendment to MAiD legislation for people with mental illness as their sole underlying medical condition at this time due to a lack of evidence that mental illness is an irremediable medical condition in individual cases.
CAMH also expressed:
The concern is that many individuals with mental illness...[may have] impairments in [their] reasoning capacity that [would] make it difficult for them to connect their symptoms with their illness, fully understand the risks and benefits of treatment, and/or make...decisions based on personal goals and values.
With that, the Liberal government should be listening to Canadians who do not think this is a good idea, the mental health experts who do not think this is a good idea and the many people who are suffering from mental illness.
Not to be coarse, but the reality today is that people who only have mental illness as their condition can already commit suicide. In fact, sadly, thousands of Canadians are doing it, and thousands more are likely to do it as a result of the failure of the government to address the pandemic and restore the economy. People are losing their businesses and their livelihoods, and they have been under lockdown. This is a very serious condition.
A time when the government is talking about suicide prevention is no time to be saying, “Let us put extra help in here so people can have medical professionals assist them in their suicide efforts.” That is offensive at the very least.
The second amendment has to do with the review of the MAID regime. Absolutely, I see the government wants to have a review, but the fact is, there was a review in the first legislation, and the government did not do it. That was unacceptable and should have been addressed then. I do not think we need a new formula on how to do a review. I think we just need to do the review.
The third amendment is about collecting race-based data regarding MAID. I see in the discussion of this and it has been mentioned that we collect this kind of data on other things, such as palliative care. Well, palliative care, as members know because my private member's bill on palliative care was unanimously supported in the House, is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. In fact, the framework on palliative care to get consistent access for Canadians was begun because the data shows that where there is good quality palliative care, 95% of the people choose to live as well as they can for as long as they can.
However, sadly, this government has prioritized the killing of people through medical assistance in dying and de-emphasized palliative care. When we talk about people who, maybe due to their race and social standing, do not have good access to palliative care, we are talking about 60% of Canadians left without any access. That certainly should have been the priority for the government, instead of expanding the regime to help people end their lives.
I see that the clarification of neurocognitive disorder not being considered a mental illness was rejected as an amendment. The justice minister clarified in his testimony that the exclusion is not intended to capture neurocognitive disorders that are due to Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. Well, the justice minister has a habit of needing to clarifying things, because what is in the bills is never clear enough. We saw that in Bill C-6 where a clarification had to be put on the website about the definition. It was not in the bill, but it needed to be done because of the hurry with which these things are brought forward. I think that we need to take the time to get things right and not rush.
With respect to the advance request amendment, I would say that the same group that was put together to consult on this issue consulted on advance consent. The government already had this information, and it was not recommend that we go with advance consent. There were concerns about a few things.
First of all, who decides what is intolerable suffering when the person has lost capacity? When do we take action? How do we prove that it is informed consent? How do we make sure there is a third party responsible to enforce the decision if there is a disagreement after the person has lost capacity? These were the issues that had been brought forward, and they were ignored altogether in this discussion. I would add that Belgium and Luxembourg only allow advance consent when a person is permanently unconscious, and so that should be a consideration.
I would be remiss on the palliative care discussion if I did not do a plug for the Granfondo Cycle of Life fundraiser in my riding on April 9 at 7:30 p.m. Members can get details from my web page.
The other topic of discussion is about the work that needs to be done to actually make sure there are alternatives. We talked about the need for mental health supports and the need for palliative care. These are important considerations.
In short, I feel that the Senate overstepped its bounds with the amendments that it brought. I feel that the government should have appealed to the Supreme Court with the Quebec decision in the first place. Certainly, the government should not be expanding the scope of medical assistance in dying without doing its due diligence on the review that was originally desired, and spend more time listening to what Canadians want and what the people who are going to be impacted are feeling.
With that, it is clear that I will be voting against these amendments, as well as the medical assistance in dying legislation that has been brought forward.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2021-03-11 19:23 [p.4950]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton for her speech.
My question has to do with the mental illness aspect, which she talked about.
She said that there are risks. However, in 24 months, we can expect the process and requests to be carefully regulated based on medical opinions, as is currently the case for other requests.
She also spoke about the fact that people who are suffering may commit suicide.
In that context, would it not be better to give people the option of dying with dignity, if necessary? We want them to be able to consult with a doctor to find the best solution for them, which could even prevent their suicide or use of medical assistance in dying.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2021-03-11 19:24 [p.4951]
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question.
In my view, there have to be alternatives to MAID. In the case of mental health, more help must be made available. This help is lacking in Canada, and people cannot afford these services. This is a priority. I think the government must make it a priority to actually help Canadians, not to help them die.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-03-11 19:25 [p.4951]
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Sarnia—Lambton for her commentary, but I find it is much in the same vein as many of her party colleagues in terms of the level of hyperbole and the terminology that has been used. She has used terms about things being offensive. Many of the members who have spoken this evening are missing some of the fundamental points about this legislation.
Regardless of the discussion on mental illness, entry into the entire discussion of MAID requires informed and voluntary consent and that people be enduring an intolerable level of suffering. That is exactly what we are trying to address.
The second point about the inconsistency in approach is not borne out by the facts, because $11 billion was committed by our government in 2017 to address palliative care and mental health supports. She urged us to “spend more time”. Twenty-four months is the time that will be spent to ensure that when this clause sunsets, there will be a review by an expert panel and at least 12 months of deliberation by Parliament. Is that the type of time that the member opposite is seeking?
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2021-03-11 19:26 [p.4951]
Madam Speaker, I think I did quote quite a few facts and that most Canadians do not want to have medical assistance in dying for the mentally ill. I think I presented the fact that the government itself has consulted and received answers that say that this is not a good path to go down, including with regard to advance consent. This was not recommended after they had consulted.
In terms of the time that needs to be spent, there is no point in spending time consulting if we do not listen to the results of the facts that come out of that consultation. I would encourage the government to review the consultations that have already been done, and in terms of Senate amendments, we have had only a very brief amount of time to talk about these despite the fact they are the most radical of the suggested changes.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2021-03-11 19:27 [p.4951]
Madam Speaker, I do not blame the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton for not knowing the historical reality that the Senate of Canada has done much more egregious things against the democratic will of the House of Commons. In November 2010, which I remember vividly, the Senate killed a climate accountability act that had been brought forward by Bruce Hyer, Bill C-311. Bruce went on to become a Green Party colleague of mine in the House, but what the Senate did was even worse than anything we can imagine, in that it killed the climate legislation without first referring it to committee as a result of procedural shenanigans ordered by the PMO.
To come back to the main point here of the legislation before us, Bill C-7, I agree with the hon. member that we we have not had adequate time to review the changes the Senate has proposed in relation to mental health provisions. I am deeply troubled by how quickly we are now moving ahead with something that just weeks ago I stood in the House to support, namely, the original bill. That bill specifically said that we were not dealing with mental health issues, and yet now here we are. To that extent, I agree with my colleague. I am very troubled by how quickly we have to move—
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2021-03-11 19:28 [p.4951]
Madam Speaker, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands always has a valid point, so yes, the amount of time we have had is not adequate. I would agree that although the Senate does good work, at times senators are overstepping their bounds. Senators are not the elected House and we need to make sure that they understand that as well.
View Rosemarie Falk Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, I want to note that I will be splitting my time this evening with the member for Oshawa.
It is interesting that we are speaking to Bill C-7 today under these circumstances. As legislators, we have a very weighty responsibility to do our due diligence in considering legislation. We have a duty to Canadians and the constituents who elected us to thoroughly analyze and review the legislation that is passed in the House. When we are considering issues of life and death, that responsibility is only heightened, and it is absolutely reprehensible that the Liberal government is limiting debate on this legislation and hastily accepting amendments from the other chamber without due diligence.
When the House last debated Bill C-7, mental illness as the sole underlying condition was explicitly excluded from the eligibility criteria for accessing medically assisted death. The explanation to allow for it is therefore obviously significant. It requires additional scrutiny. It was not part of the justice committee's study of the legislation, and members of the committee did not have the opportunity to hear from mental health advocates on this expansion. There has not been an adequate parliamentary review of this change.
In addition to that, and of greater concern, there is no consensus in the medical community that mental illness should be considered irremediable. There is no consensus that MAID should be expanded to include persons with mental illness.
The Liberal government is amending this legislation at the end of the parliamentary process to, as I can imagine, avoid scrutiny by ramming it through the House. To proceed with this significant expansion of MAID would be absolutely reckless. This legislation endangers vulnerable Canadians and, frankly, we owe them better. We owe the one in five Canadians who struggle with mental health and mental illness better.
There are a range of effective treatments available for mental illness. However, we know that access to these treatments is limited. That is where the focus of the government should be. It should be focused on providing additional mental health supports, not recklessly expanding MAID.
The need to improve access to mental health supports has been even more pressing during the pandemic. We know that the pandemic is negatively impacting the mental health of many Canadians. We have heard about the impact that pandemic restrictions have had on the well-being of seniors in particular. Depression and loneliness are spiking, and I am reminded of the heartbreaking stories of seniors who chose MAID. They did this to avoid continued isolation during the pandemic.
To only offer a person MAID when they are at their most vulnerable point is indefensible. For those who have a mental illness, the only attainable tool in their tool box cannot be medically assisted death.
There is a serious and reasonable concern that expanding MAID to include persons with mental illness will undermine suicide prevention initiatives and recovery-based care efforts. In fact, the justice minister's own department has expressed that concern. This reckless amendment paves the way for Canadians suffering from mental illness to prematurely end their life.
We also cannot ignore the fact that this legislation continues to pre-empt the required parliamentary review of the existing MAID framework. The Liberal government's entire agenda of broadening access to medical assistance in dying in advance of that review is, on its own, deeply concerning. We have heard from persons with disabilities and medical professionals who have clearly stated that the expansion of MAID in Bill C-7 is dangerous and requires greater scrutiny.
As the Liberal government continues down this path of broadening access to MAID without ensuring proper access to appropriate care, it is actually eroding the value we place on human life. It is robbing a person of the opportunity to live with dignity.
Medical assistance in dying should not be a solution to all forms of suffering, but as the government broadens access to MAID to persons whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable, we as a society are moving away from medical assistance in dying and ultimately toward medical-assisted suicide. The underlying message of moving in that direction is that death is a treatment for suffering.
It is my core belief that as a country, government, society and community, we have a responsibility and moral obligation to care for one another: to care for the elderly, the poor, the sick, those with disabilities and the vulnerable. We cannot sidestep our duty to care by offering death as a treatment for suffering. If the desired goal is to increase personal autonomy, we cannot accomplish that without meaningful choice. We certainly cannot do that at the expense of ensuring appropriate safeguards to protect vulnerable persons.
The united voice of disability advocates across the country who have come out in strong opposition to the bill should give all of us great pause. Shamefully, the Liberal government is not putting on the breaks. Rather, it is moving forward, full steam ahead, ignoring the serious concerns that this legislation is fast-tracking the deaths of persons with disabilities.
By removing the reasonably foreseeable death clause in the current MAID framework, this legislation opens MAID up to persons with disabilities who are not themselves when close to death. Simply put, this legislation is discriminatory and promotes ableist assumptions. Intended or not, it suggests that the lives of people with disabilities are not worth living. Instead of ensuring that a person with a disability has the accommodations and supports they need to thrive, it offers them medically assisted death as a solution.
This is particularly salient when we consider that concerns regarding a lack of appropriate safeguards for persons with disabilities in the existing MAID framework pre-existed this legislation. The former UN special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities expressed concerns to the Liberal government on this very issue. She raised the issue that there were no protocols in place to ensure that a person with disabilities was offered viable alternatives to assisted death.
She recommended to the Liberal government that it investigate allegations that persons with disabilities were being pressured into seeking medical assistance in dying. She also recommended that safeguards be in place to ensure that persons with disabilities are not requesting MAID simply because there are no other appropriate alternatives available to them. These same concerns have been raised by disability advocates across the country. However, the justice minister and the Liberal government have not addressed them. Instead, they are removing and weakening the safeguards that were in place.
If we as a country offer MAID to the vulnerable while depriving them of adequate care and the resources to have a dignified, secure and healthy life, then we have failed them. We cannot pursue increasing personal autonomy at all costs. We cannot, in the name of autonomy, sacrifice safeguards for the vulnerable, undermine suicide prevention efforts, erode respect for human life and perpetuate negative stereotypes about age, abilities or illness. There has to be a balance.
Certainly, we cannot make decisions lightly without proper scrutiny and review, and that has not happened. The Liberal government has not allowed a parliamentary committee to hear from a single witness about expanding MAID to include those with mental illness. It is ignoring the pleas and serious concerns raised about this legislation. It has limited debate on it and continues to delay a mandated parliamentary review of the existing MAID framework.
I urge all members of the House to oppose the Liberal government's attempt to recklessly adopt significant amendments to this legislation in the final hours, and to oppose its efforts to steamroll these legislative changes through this place without proper scrutiny and care. Let us do our proper due diligence on this legislation. We owe that to all Canadians and the lives that hang in the balance.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-03-11 19:39 [p.4953]
Mr. Speaker, I point out that the issue of discrimination was squarely before the court in Truchon and the findings are exactly the opposite: that not making MAID available to those who are not at the end of life, including persons with disabilities, violated their competence, their autonomy and their dignity.
The second point is that scrutiny has been provided with respect to this bill. One hundred and thirty-nine MPs have spoken, and 45 hours of debate have occurred. On three separate occasions, given the opportunity to extend debate to discuss these very amendments, the Conservative Party turned it down.
Would the member opposite agree that it is entirely speculative to say that the only thing that will be offered to persons who are mentally ill is MAID, which I believe is what she effectively just stated, given the fact that even under the current regime of Bill C-7, prior to the Senate addressing it and working to amend it, there were already protocols in place, such that one must be informed of counselling, mental health supports, disability supports, community services and palliative care, and that those must have been discussed and appropriately considered?
View Rosemarie Falk Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, as somebody who worked on the front lines and experienced failed suicide attempts of children and adults coming into a hospital and who needed help, and as somebody who has seen first-hand another option being suggested as easier, or people being offered a suggestion of looking at something else, it is a very fine line with who that is being offered to. This is why we have such an important and weighty decision. We do not want to be the catalysts, at least I do not want to be a catalyst, in the premature death of somebody who may be considered vulnerable because they may be homeless or may have a disability.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2021-03-11 19:41 [p.4953]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her speech.
I find it somewhat presumptuous to say that there will be no safeguards for people with mental health problems, given that we will still have 24 months to provide better guidelines for dealing with this situation.
The member also spoke of the need for support. Would that not actually be an option to consider? Should we require a person to have tried certain forms of support or medications before they can seek MAID? It may be worthwhile to consider this solution and discuss it. What does the member think of that?
View Rosemarie Falk Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I spoke about the balance of autonomy. We have to make sure that the cost of autonomy will not be people falling through the cracks. Just last fall, there was a senior from Ontario, who I referred to in my speech, who decided on MAID because she did not want to live through another lockdown. I hope that we can offer hope to people, and that medical practitioners are being first given the opportunity to offer hope as opposed to suggesting MAID, because it happens. People suggest something else might be easier. We saw it also with a Canadian in Ontario to whom it was again suggested that this was an option, and that is completely unacceptable.
View Richard Bragdon Profile
CPC (NB)
View Richard Bragdon Profile
2021-03-11 19:43 [p.4953]
Mr. Speaker, it is very important for all of us to step back and reflect or, I would say, take a pensive pause when it comes to major decisions such as this. When we have seen legitimate concerns from associations such as Inclusion Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association and other groups that are looking at this and saying this is literally a life and death situation and life and death legislation, should we not take the pause?
View Rosemarie Falk Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, we absolutely have to take the pause because there has not even been a review of the existing framework, which was supposed to be done already. COVID can be used as the excuse, but I do not think we should just leave it up to chance that good things will be done or safeguards will be put in place.
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2021-03-11 19:44 [p.4954]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her speech, which truly was a speech of hope. As always, it is a pleasure for me to stand today to speak for the citizens of Oshawa, but especially those who are most vulnerable, those who today may be at their lowest point. Hope is exactly what they need.
Today, we are commemorating a year since we have been locked down with COVID. I think of all of us here and in our constituencies. I think the increased mental health issues, the suicides, the anxiety and the overdose deaths. I feel so sad that today the government brought in closure for this bill. It is shutting down debate on Bill C-7, and the irony is not lost.
This is a substantially different bill than was originally debated in the House. It is substantially different from the bill that was studied in committee. It is substantially different because it opens up MAID, medical assistance in dying, to those with mental health issues.
Last month, many of us contributed to Bell Let's Talk Day. I remember being a parliamentary secretary when Bell started this initiative. Everyone was very supportive of it. I was so happy that Bell took this on. I applauded and supported them. In the House were saying to those who were suffering from mental health issues that their lives were important, and we all embraced that House.
Last night I was watching T.V. and I saw the commercial put out by CAMH. It was quite sad. It is a man who is sitting alone, and it talks about “not today“. It is about someone who is down and at his worst and needs that support. I do not know if members have seen it.
It is important that we get the opportunity to debate principles. If we look at our legal system, it is based on the principle that it is wrong to take an innocent human life. When the state is making an exception to this principle, it is incumbent that we are very careful. Why? Because the results are permanent and irreversible.
The original bill that was provided to the House had many things that the people Oshawa could support. However, substantial changes have been made by the Senate that would open MAID up to those with depression and mental health issues. I cannot support this changed bill. Frankly, I am extremely disappointed and upset with the government. The Liberals are not even allowing us to properly debate this new bill. They have invoked closure.
Today, the minister said that there was consensus, but that is simply not true. The minister said of the original bill that there was no consensus on MAID for people with mental illness. Instead of allowing committee to call witnesses affected by the bill, and the experts, the minister wants to push this bill through tonight and close down debate. He wants to pass this bill and then create a committee of experts to study the bill. This is exactly the opposite of the normal process of the House. We are here today making Canadians aware of that, because this is unprecedented. I have never heard of this before. It is almost like the government telling us to trust it, that it is going to do do this, not to worry about it and to let us get this through. However, the minister and the government have a credibility issue.
I know I am challenging the minister, and I hope he questions me about it. He needs to make things clear. The original MAID bill was due for a legislative review after five years, which was supposed to happen last year. That did not happen. We know the government prorogued. We know it had the WE scandal it wanted to cover up. If it did not do its legislative duty for the original bill, how can Canadians trust the Liberals and the minister to follow through? Instead of challenging the Quebec court's decision, the minister did not even defend his own legislation, and I find this incredibly unusual.
We are talking about trust, and when people are depressed and at their lowest, they need a government they can trust. In Oshawa, we have one of the most prominent experts in palliative care. Her name is Gillian Gilchrist. She practised medicine for over 50 years. She started a palliative care clinic in 1981 and was the first chair. I called her today, and she told me that when people are on a cliff, they need someone to trust. They need someone to talk to. They need someone to care. They need someone to be there. They need someone to talk them down. She said our system needs more resources for people with mental health issues.
Proper medical care is expensive, but MAID is not. I heard the Liberals say today that no one is forced to choose MAID. However, we have heard colleagues today in the House, and I think some of our Bloc colleagues said over and over today, that we need more resources for health care. I would argue that we need more resources for mental health care, because when Liberals say that no one is forced to choose MAID, if there is no proper mental health help available and there is no one to talk to, no one to listen, no one to care and no one to say “not today”, I submit there is no choice. Until the government invests more in mental health care for that choice, the only option offered is MAID. How sad is that?
I am suggesting that the minister has to address his credibility problem. Today he said he has consensus for the bill, but in committee he said there is not consensus for MAID for people with mental health issues. I have a letter from Vulnerable Persons Standard. This letter has been signed by 129 organizations, which tells us that the minister does not have consensus.
The Liberals were mandated to do a legislative review of the original bill after five years. That would have been last year, but, as I said earlier, instead of doing what they were legislated to do, they prorogued to cover up a scandal because they have a credibility problem. I say they cannot be trusted to follow through on this one either.
This is not from Conservatives. Three United Nations experts have warned the minister that Bill C-7 will violate international human rights conventions to which Canada is a signatory, but the minister is closing down debate today. Canadian legal experts warned that Bill C-7 will violate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but the minister is closing down debate today.
The people of Oshawa and the people of Canada expect us to debate these difficult issues and to study this bill at committee. This bill is sanctioning the taking of the life of someone who is mentally ill and the taking of someone's life when the mental health care system is not there for them, someone who is depressed, someone who is at their most vulnerable and someone who is reaching out to us for their voice and their life. What is more important than that?
Today I am sad because I fear our system will fail. It will fail Canadians with disabilities and with depression who want real choices. It will fail Canadians who want us to listen to their views, who want to be given the opportunity to hear from experts in committee, who want to make sure someone is there for Canadians with disabilities and depression to tell them “not today”.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-03-11 19:53 [p.4955]
Mr. Speaker, earlier the member posed a question for one of my colleagues about associations or groups that support the direction of this legislation. I would put it to him that the Quebec Psychiatric Association has raised valid questions about how this could be handled going forward, not purporting to have all of the answers but at least guiding some of the conversation, as well as Dying with Dignity.
Second, I would put to him that there is a serious danger with regard to the expiration of the last court deadline extension that was granted. If it lapses, then the safeguards, which the member opposite and some of his party colleagues have termed “insufficient safeguards”, such as the 90-day assessment period and having at least one expert among the panel of assessors being an expert in that particular condition, would lapse in their entirety.
He talked about choice at the end of his commentary. The narrative I would put to him is that we, on this side of the aisle, believe that this bill, in its current incarnation and with the amendments proposed by the Senate, is about facilitating choice, including very permanent and serious choices for those—
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2021-03-11 19:54 [p.4955]
Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of respect for the parliamentary secretary. He is a very smart individual who is arguing this with, let us just say, an extremely academic framework.
I asked earlier if the Liberals could come up with one association in favour of what they are doing. This letter includes 129 associations, not individuals, that are against what the Liberals are doing. He has not come up with names. He said they kind of have ideas.
My issue with the Liberals in terms of the choice on this is that they have no credibility. They were supposed to review the original legislation after five years, which was a year ago. Instead of looking after Canadians, the Liberals prorogued Parliament and let this go, and now at the last minute they are trying to push this through. They have no credibility. We cannot trust them.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
2021-03-11 19:55 [p.4955]
Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to my Conservatives colleagues speak all day.
It is clear to me that no matter what guidelines or safeguards are in place, they absolutely do not want to make medical assistance in dying available in cases of mental illness.
We have been talking about depression, so would my colleague acknowledge that there are some psychiatric illnesses that cannot be treated with drugs or other methods and that cause intolerable suffering?
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2021-03-11 19:56 [p.4955]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague is asking a valid question. It is not that we do not want MAID for people with mental health issues; the issue is that it has not been studied. I am surprised that my colleague from the Bloc is believing the Liberals. The Bloc members stood up today asking for more resources for the health care system. Of course, the Liberals are not going to be giving such to the provinces, which is provincial jurisdiction.
What I was talking about are valid choices, and also legitimacy in the process. The Bloc members believe that the Liberals will form a committee of experts after the fact. I say they have no credibility. They did not do the review when they were supposed to do it, and the member should not be naive in thinking they are going to convene the proper committee afterward.
View Dave Epp Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave Epp Profile
2021-03-11 19:57 [p.4955]
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague speaks with such an even and measured tone and yet with such power and eloquence.
It seems that the current government has a habit of picking and choosing when it wants to follow science, when it wants to follow medicine, when it wants to adopt United Nations resolutions and when it does not. I am going to quote an article from a week ago, reported by the CBC, citing the renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Sinyor:
The United Nations Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights, for example, recently put out a statement condemning the practice [of MAID] for those with disabilities on the grounds that it will lead to a devaluing of their lives.
How is that consistent with following United Nations directives? How is that consistent with following science and medicine?
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2021-03-11 19:58 [p.4956]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his work on this issue, because this is so important: this is life and death.
Regarding the United Nations, it was not just one expert with the United Nations who said that, but three. The Liberal government consistently quotes the United Nations when it is convenient.
What I am saying today to Canadians is that the Liberals have no credibility. They knew they had a legislative duty to review the original bill. They failed to do so. They did not do it. They prorogued Parliament because of a scandal. They want to twist the entire process backwards with this substantially new bill. It should be going to committee. We should hear from the people who are affected and the experts in the field, and then move forward with the process.
All we are asking for is a reasonable process to move forward with a life-and-death bill. Please, tonight, will my Liberal colleagues vote—
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2021-03-11 19:59 [p.4956]
Mr. Speaker, I support medical assistance in dying, and I know what I am talking about.
Thirteen years ago, when I was a member of the Quebec National Assembly, I was part of the group that spent six years studying medical assistance in dying. It took six years for Quebec to come up with a policy on MAID. I voted in favour of that policy.
Five years ago, I was part of the parliamentary team that brought together senators and members of the House of Commons to discuss the first version of MAID at the federal level. A few weeks ago, I voted in favour of Bill C-7 in the House, and I was not alone: 15 Conservative members voted in favour of Bill C-7, including men and women from Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta.
I am in favour of MAID, and I am in favour of Bill C-7, but that is not what we are debating this evening. We are debating the senators' amendments to Bill C-7. The amendment we are most concerned about relates to the Senate's decision to open the door to MAID for people with mental illness. Quebec studied this issue for six years and never looked at the mental illness element. Five years ago in the House of Commons, mental illness was not part of the conversation. Mental illness was not a factor in the first iteration of Bill C-7. Even the current Minister of Justice told the parliamentary committee that there was no consensus around this issue in Canada.
Now some senators have decided to bring MAID for mental illness into the conversation without the notion ever having been debated or studied in the House of Commons, and the government is supporting the Senate's stance.
I am very surprised and disappointed because, earlier, the Minister of Justice said, “Canada is ready to accept this practice”. That is surprising. What is he basing that on? This is the same person who said a few weeks ago that there was no social consensus on the subject in Canada. Now, he is even saying that there is a consensus across Canada.
Everyone has the right to change their mind, but there is a way of doing that, particularly when the person in question is the Minister of Justice. Why did the minister not have, shall I say, the courage to address this issue in the original version? Why did he go through the Senate to say that we must move forward?
It is not just people like me who are concerned about this. Take, for example, the Toronto Star, which is not a very conservative group. An article on this issue in that newspaper said:
The potential for abuse is both obvious and frightening.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
That was in the Toronto Star, but it gets better.
The Justice Department's own website still states the following regarding extending MAID to those whose only underlying condition is mental illness, which is precisely what the Senate amendment is all about:
...could be seen as undermining suicide prevention initiatives and normalizing death as a solution to many forms of suffering.
The Department of Justice still has that posted on its website. This is the department led by the same Minister of Justice who today said that Canadian society was ready for this practice and that there was a consensus in society.
This is all to say nothing of the many groups, such as first nations, that oppose this, much like a number of psychiatrists' and psychologists' associations, because, at this point in time, there is still no scientific proof that mental illness is irreversible, unlike the other issues associated with MAID and with which I agree.
I am even prepared to reopen the debate and allow for consent from people with incurable cognitive or neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, which can cause terrible suffering. That is my opinion. I am open to that, but we all know people who have struggled with emotional or mental illnesses all their lives. These people have their ups and downs, and sometimes those downs are very low and may involve suicidal thoughts. Are we prepared to give them the option of medical assistance in dying in these circumstances?
As the Department of Justice website says, this could normalize “death as a solution to many forms of suffering.” Those are not my words. That is a quote from the Department of Justice.
In closing, there were a lot of questions suggesting that the Conservatives did not want to debate this bill. That is completely false.
First of all, the reason we are struggling to meet this very tight deadline is entirely the government's fault. It was the government that decided to prorogue Parliament for six weeks this summer, forcing the House to go back to square one with the review of this bill, which was already under way. The prorogation caused the House to lose 25 sitting days. What is more, the government dragged its feet. If this bill was so important to the government, it could have introduced it the day after the Speech from the Throne in September. Instead, this government waited seven days before introducing it. It dragged its feet, it took no action, and it is the government's fault we are late. That is where we are with Bill C-7.
Let us now talk about the Senate amendments. The Senate voted on a Wednesday evening. The very next day, we were prepared to debate the amendments, but first they needed to be brought before the House. However, the first thing the government did was say that the Conservatives were calling for an extension. We did no such thing. It was the government that requested an extension.
Rather than taking a stand and immediately tabling the Senate's amendments in the House, the government asked the court to extend the deadline. That was its choice and its right. This government accuses us of dragging our feet, and yet it took five full days to respond when everyone knew which amendments would be adopted and which would be declined. That was its right and its responsibility.
Twelve hours after the government tabled its proposal for the Senate amendments, the debate began in the House and lasted a full day. However, the government never put the debate on the Senate amendments back on the agenda for the subsequent regular sittings of the House. It could have done so on the following Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, or on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, or even today. Instead, it decided to move a closure motion today. That is its right, I acknowledge that.
However, I take exception to people, and in particular the government, saying that the Conservatives do not want to have this debate. That is completely untrue. This is not a matter of politics or party allegiance. The Conservatives have some serious concerns about making medical assistance in dying available to people with mental illness. The NDP shares this point of view and is against the bill, so members need to stop saying that this is a right-wing opinion. Some people are in favour of the bill, while others are against it. That is all.
I was one of the 15 Conservative members who voted in favour of Bill C-7. I support medical assistance in dying, but not for people with mental illness.
In a few minutes, we will vote on the amendment proposed by the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, which would remove the amendment that deals with mental illness and allow us to proceed with Bill C-7 as is.
I am calling on all parliamentarians: if they have any doubt whatsoever about MAID for people with mental illness, I am asking them to vote in favour of our amendment. They could then go on to vote for the rest. If they have any doubt, our amendment removes that provision and accepts the rest of Bill C-7.
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