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.