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Results: 1 - 15 of 331
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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?
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