Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to rise again to speak on the bill.
I want to recognize that we have come a long with the bill. At every turn, we have had the disability community step up and be the voice that we needed to hear on this particular bill.
The Senate, the other place, has started a pre-study and has heard from over 85 witnesses. While they brought varying perspectives from across the country, all of them were opposed to the bill and asked that the government go back to the drawing board and come up with a bill that would protect the interests of all Canadians, particularly the interests of disabled Canadians.
As we have seen in the news today, the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River has said that he cannot, in good conscience, support the bill, and I know that there are other members. The minister responsible for disability inclusion, when she was in the other place giving testimony, said that she was concerned, and that she was hearing from the disability community about safeguards and how this will affect those folks who live with disabilities. We know that we are on the side of the angels with this one. We know that we are working to protect the vulnerable.
We heard extensive testimony from Mr. Foley, who gave compelling testimony from his hospital bed. He stated that he had been informed several times of the fact that he was eligible for MAID. This was not something he requested. He wanted to live, and that was something that he definitely was not requesting. Yet, it was being suggested to him that he was eligible for it. This is not something that is happening somewhere else, it is happening right here in Canada.
We want to ensure that folks who live with disabilities in this country are included in our society, feel included in this society and in no way feel that they are a burden to our society. Therefore, we need to ensure that those Canadians are offered the same rights and freedoms as all Canadians and not given a separate stream.
In the case of an able-bodied Canadian on their worst day thinking that it all should end, they are offered suicide prevention techniques. Canadian society has worked very hard to ensure that suicide prevention is something we value. It is well funded. There are hotlines across the country and 24-hour counselling services available. As a Canadian, I am proud that we have a suicide prevention regime in this country that is effective. It is one that all of us can be proud of.
However, with the bill before us, we see a change in direction. We see two classes of Canadian citizens. There are the able-bodied Canadians, who are offered suicide prevention on their worst day, and there are the disabled, who are then eligible for MAID. Now, I am not saying that in every case one would be offered that, but it changes the sentiment.
My friend Taylor has cerebral palsy. She lives her life independently, but she lives in a wheelchair. I have had the opportunity of helping her out with her wheelchair, which gets very dirty in the winter, especially around Ottawa with the salt and slush everywhere. Once a year, in the spring, I bug Taylor and say, “Taylor, it's time to wash that wheelchair of yours”. I'll load it in my van and haul it over to the car wash. It is a motorized wheelchair, and we pressure wash it and get it looking nice and clean again.
However, Taylor got a cold two winters ago, shortly after the MAID legislation was introduced. After a few days of not feeling well, the batteries on her wheelchair were dwindling and she was struggling with life in general. She went to the hospital, and she was asked if she needed oxygen, would she like to have it.
She asked herself what they meant by asking if she needs oxygen, would she like oxygen. She needs oxygen to live, so if she needs oxygen, by all means give her oxygen. That is the sentiment that many folks living with disabilities are concerned about. That is the experience of my friend Taylor, and that is the experience of Mr. Foley and many of the advocates who we heard from over the last few months.
The Liberals have been in a self-made rush to pass this legislation. The member for Timmins—James Bay, who spoke before me, asked why the bill is here when it was a junior court in Quebec that struck down this law. Why was there no appeal of this?
Most Canadians do not consider this, and our parliamentary system is not as delineated as the American system, but in Canada our executive branch lives inside of the legislative branch. Sometimes this leads to a feeling that the government and the legislature are one and the same. That is not the case. The legislature passes the legislation and the executive, the cabinet, is called to enact that legislation. They do sit in here, and they are also members of the legislative body, but they are to do the bidding of the legislature.
What is frustrating about this situation is that the ink was barely dry on the original euthanasia regime in this country when the court struck it down. The executive branch, rather than appealing that and abiding by the wishes of this place, of the entire legislature, chose not to appeal. While that was a legal decision for them to make, and they were able to make that decision, given the fact that they are to do the wishes of this place, it would seem to me that they should have appealed that decision just on the basis that this was the law that was passed in this place recently.
It was hard work. I remember it took a while to get the first bill through, and we worked to get the balance right. I remember specifically the health minister at the time and the justice minister at the time stood up repeatedly, while members from their own party were saying this did not go far enough, and they continually held the line and repeated, “We got the balance right”.
I remember at the time pointing out that I thought we were at the top of a fairly steep, slippery slope. Little did I know that we would be here four years later. We are picking up speed on the slope, no doubt.
The minister says that we have to abide by this self-imposed deadline to some degree. There is some frustration around that as well because of the fact that for 24 days in this Parliament we did not have the opportunity to have a debate because Parliament was prorogued. That was not the Conservatives' tactics. It was definitely not the Conservatives' tactic to prorogue Parliament. That was the Liberals.
The other thing that is really frustrating about prorogation is that the bill then dies and comes back. They had already heard from the disabilities community before prorogation that the bill was incomplete, that it did not have protections in it and that it did not do what it was saying it was going to do. The Liberals had the opportunity to fix the bill during the time of prorogation.
They had the opportunity to fix the bill and to make amendments to it. They could have saved face. They could have made these changes on their own over the time of prorogation, but they chose not to. They chose to reintroduce the same bill, and here we are. There were 85 witnesses in the Senate, and all of them are opposed to the bill. The bill should be sent back. We need a new one that recognizes the needs of disabled Canadians.