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.