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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?
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