Madam Speaker, I do not want to keep members in suspense for too long. The Bloc Québécois will support the government's motion, and I will explain why.
I would like to tell all my colleagues that we need to work across party lines on these sensitive issues and find a way to move forward.
I remind my colleagues that Quebec's end-of-life legislation has often been cited as an example, not only because it is a good system, but also because of the way all members of the Quebec National Assembly worked together to create that system. Quebec's act came into force in 2015. The Select Committee on Dying with Dignity was created in 2009. The legislation was passed in 2014 and assented to in June 2014. This means that there was a process that ultimately involved debate. The Quebec National Assembly was able to consider all the differences and find common ground, which served as the foundation for the act. At the end of the process there were very few people against the act. There was broad consensus on this piece of legislation, both in the National Assembly and among Quebeckers.
In Ottawa, members have always taken action in response to court rulings. The amendments that need to be made to the Criminal Code in order to incorporate all of these sensitive issues are related to a court ruling. In this case, the legislators finally need to take action because the law has been deemed unconstitutional and found to violate fundamental rights.
According to Baudouin and Carter, Bill C-14 deprives people of the right to life. For example, it was depriving Ms. Carter, Ms. Gladu, Mr. Truchon and Ms. Taylor of their right to life because they were being forced to shorten their lives. That is not a trivial matter. It is serious.
My Conservative colleagues are saying that we need to protect human dignity and life. I completely agree, but it is important that we not create the opposite effect of what we claim to defend through government paternalism. Vulnerable people are capable of defending and exercising their rights.
However, it is rather appalling to see that, since Bill C-14 was introduced and since a decision was rendered in Carter, we have placed on the shoulders of vulnerable people, people with irreversible diseases, people who are enduring unbearable suffering, the burden of defending their case before the court in order to get access to medical assistance in dying.
Why are we agreeing to vote in favour of the motion? We are doing so because we need to make progress in a debate like this.
I have said this before and I will come back to it again later. Even though we said that we agree with the underlying principles of Bill C-7, we would have liked for the bill to go a little further. However, we still need to recognize that Bill C-7 responds to situations like those of Ms. Gladu, Mr. Truchon and Ms. Parker.
Bill C-7 also makes it possible for people in the terminal phase of life—I am not talking about the terminal stage of an illness when death is not foreseeable—to avoid waiting the mandatory 10 days with two witnesses before finally proceeding. Many people with cancer go through a long process. Even in the most aggressive cases, it takes a few months. People wait until the last minute to proceed because nobody wants to die. Everyone wants to wait until the last minute and push the limits of what they can tolerate. Once they reach that limit, these people want help.
Once in the terminal phase of life, a person who had been receiving palliative care at home may be taken to the hospital urgently, where health workers will note their rapidly deteriorating condition. Consider a person who, for the past two years, six months or three months, has always told their therapists that they want medical assistance in dying because they do not want to suffer. This person has been receiving palliative care and medication at home, but their condition is deteriorating. Why should they have to wait 10 days for access to medical assistance in dying in the terminal phase of life when the process of dying has begun and is irreversible? Bill C-7 covers this situation and offers this option. That is a step in the right direction.
There are of course other sensitive issues to be addressed, such as mental illness as the sole underlying medical condition. In my remarks last December, I had the opportunity to say that, as a parliamentarian and legislator, I did not have the expertise to reach a decision on that point. I think it is wise that the motion implies two things and that an independent panel of experts is being set up. The panel will have to look at the recommended protocols, guidelines and safeguards for MAID requests from patients with mental illness as their only condition.
Earlier, my Conservative colleague was talking about the requirement to have safeguards that protect the individual and help prevent abuse. Our Conservative colleagues would have us believe that we are in some sort of house of horrors, as though the health care system itself were inherently evil, and we need to protect persons with disabilities because our prejudices about these individuals might cause health care professionals to give up, as though people are going to be coerced and euthanized without their consent. I find it very difficult to understand that kind of rhetoric.
A similar independent panel of experts was set up in Quebec and a report was prepared. I think we should carry on with this work to get a clearer picture. Not only will the panel of experts deal with this issue, but there will also be something else we have been asking for for a long time and that is the creation of a review committee for the entire body of work. Bill C-7 could have included amendments to C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, which could have led to a new review of the legislation in two, three or four years. In just 30 days a special joint committee will study the issues of mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with disabilities.
Whether or not an election is triggered and there ends up being a change in government this committee is enshrined in law and will begin sitting in 30 days. It will work for a year before tabling its recommendations. We may reach a consensus or hold discussions for at least 12 months, which the court-imposed deadlines did not allow Parliament to do in relation to Bill C-7 and its previous version, Bill C-14. I think it is necessary.
To come back to the social acceptance of Bill C-7, I would point out to my Conservative colleagues that an average of 80% of people across the country approve it, from 88% in Quebec to 77% in Alberta. I think moving forward is a reasonable compromise. If in 24 months MAID is made available to people with mental illness, this deadline will help determine the necessary safeguards to make practitioners comfortable with this as well. In fact, we need to hear their point of view on this.
On the issue of advance requests for medical assistance in dying, I find it timely that the committee will start sitting in 30 days and that its members will work hard across party lines for the benefit of people who are suffering, like Sarah Demontigny. We will not forget these people, and we will establish a process to ensure that the advance requests they are drafting today will apply once our work is done. That is my hope.
Without making assumptions about the results of our efforts, I think we can come up with something better than the amendment proposed by the Senate if we have meaningful discussions and hear from witnesses. This would make it possible for Quebec, which is responsible for implementing this practice of advance requests, to properly regulate it. We could identify how to best amend the Criminal Code to allow for this.
I spoke about the legal aspect, but I will now come back to the fundamental principles. We are in the process of reaching a compromise because reason dictates that we must move forward. Bill C-7 represented a step in the right direction with the official commitment of an expert panel on mental health. I think it would be a good idea that the special committee I mentioned be a joint committee. This would ensure that everyone is doing the same work and hearing the same witnesses at the same time to eventually arrive at a conclusion, rather than having a game of ping pong between the two chambers—one of which is outdated, in our opinion. Let us rally together.
We are doing this for those who are suffering, who have waited too long and who, today, have hope that we will finally complete this work. I believe that the government's motion represents the light at the end of the tunnel for these people, because there is a deadline and we will get there if we all act in good faith and without partisanship.
Bill C-7 already contains fundamental principles, which I will repeat. First, death—my death, just like my life—belongs to me. Why did I say that and why did I say earlier that the Conservatives are practising government paternalism?
I said those things because my own death is a very personal thing, and the state must not tell me what to do or make decisions for me. The state should be creating a framework to protect my decisions. I do not think people should be pressured or forced to go into palliative care until their last breath or to request medical assistance in dying.
During any clinical study, the patient is the standard. When someone who is ill has determined their own limit of what is tolerable, we need to listen to what they are telling us and what comes out of their suffering. This allows us to provide support.
I find it very disturbing that in the debate on medical assistance in dying, MAID and palliative care are always pitted against each other, but in reality, it is a continuum and they complement each other. Later in my speech I will define the notion of human dignity.
Who would not want to receive palliative care before dying from a serious degenerative disease that causes intolerable suffering? We all want relief; no one wants to suffer.
When it comes to end-of-life care, the least you can give someone is palliative care. Unfortunately, for the past 50 years, palliative care has not been the only answer for everyone, unless one is ideologically committed and determined to prove it. At that point, someone comes to the patient's bedside and imposes some religious or other ideology. No, that is not it.
We are in a process where it is imperative that we consider that palliative care can be successful even when a patient's request for MAID emerges. Why? Because the patient is at peace and ready to let go. In fact, I hope all my colleagues are at peace and able to let go when the time comes. This could also be an example of very good palliative care. Palliative care is about support when someone is dying, the easing of suffering and psychological support. It is possible that some will die after suffering until the end, but it is also possible that some are ready to let go. That is when they can be supported.
It is not up to the family or the state to make decisions on behalf of the dying patient or the person suffering from a serious and irreversible condition causing intolerable suffering. The underlying principle of Bill C-7 puts into perspective what is enshrined in law for every human being, namely self-determination.
The law guarantees everyone the right to self-determination. Why take this right away from me at the most intimate moment of my life, meaning my death? Why should the state be allowed to take away my right to self-determination in my decision to suffer until I die in palliative care or to seek MAID? It would be utterly absurd for the state to assume that power.
The state must provide us a framework to be able to do this. I often hear members talk about human dignity. Human dignity implies that we must absolutely—