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Results: 1 - 15 of 35
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I want to present a few petitions.
The first petition I am bringing to the attention of the House is signed by Canadians from across Canada. They are concerned with the Senate amendment to Bill C-7 that would allow Canadians with mental illness as their sole medical condition to access euthanasia.
The petitioners recognize that suicide is the leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 19. Therefore, they are calling on the government to reject the Senate amendments to prevent those struggling with mental illness from obtaining assisted death and to protect Canadians struggling with mental illness by facilitating treatment and recovery, not death.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, the fourth petition is from Canadians across the country who are calling on the government to ensure that physicians are not forced or coerced into performing procedures or acts they are not comfortable with. They are calling on the Canadian government to protect physicians and their consciences as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, the final petition I have here today is from Canadians from across Canada. They are calling on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be respected in terms of religious freedom and conscience rights around the euthanasia issue. They are looking for conscience rights for doctors and institutions. They have signed this petition and have asked me to present it.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
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.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, the legislative review the member mentioned is an important thing, and that is why it is so frustrating that the government did not appeal the lower court decision out of Quebec. This review is coming up, and the Liberals wanted to make all these changes to the bill. Many of the changes that are proposed in Bill C-7 have nothing to do with the Quebec court decision. They have put those things in there. The legislated review could have accommodated some of those things, if that is what the government wanted to do.
To use the court as an excuse is extremely frustrating to me, given the fact that it was the government's job to appeal that decision.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, that sentiment is shared across the House, and I just want to recognize my friend Joel. Joel and I started school together in grade three and we went through all the way to grade 10 together. He often comments on my Facebook page now. He is very proud of where I have gone, and I am very proud of him.
He has been a Cutco salesman for a long time. I do not know if members have ever used Cutco knives, but he has been a Cutco salesman for a while. He works at Walmart. He is fully integrated into our Canadian society, and that is something that I am very proud of. In his larger extended family there is a whole army of people who work to make sure that Joel is an included part of our society, and I am very proud of Canadian society in that folks like my friend Joel enjoy full participation.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, I am excited to hear that free votes are becoming contagious and are spreading across this place. I look forward to hearing if the NDP, the Green Party and the Bloc will also be having free votes on this.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, I want to relay for the hon. member a bit of a story. Recently, on my Facebook page, I shared a picture of a clinic that had “Suicide Prevention” written on the front door with a set of stairs going up, and “Assisted Suicide” on the side door with a ramp going up. Something I often raise about this bill is that it would create two classes of citizens in the country.
Ms. Keay, a constituent of mine from Whitecourt, recently reached out to me. She was concerned that the picture I shared on my Facebook page was not reflective of the current situation in Canada. I have assured her that it is indeed reflective of it.
I wonder if my hon. colleague could comment on the two classes of citizens we would create with this bill.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, I was just wondering if the hon. member is not concerned about the two classes of citizens the bill would create. The first is if they are able-bodied Canadians, then suicide prevention measures would be given to them at their first request. The second is if they are disabled Canadians on their worst day and they are attempting suicide, then they would be provided with MAID.
Is the member not concerned about the two streams and the two classes of citizens that we would be creating with the bill?
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, the second petition I am presenting today is from people from across the country. They are calling on the House of Commons to protect the conscience rights of physicians and health care institutions. They recognize that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees these rights, and they are calling for the House of Commons to recognize this.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, I know this is something my hon. colleague cares about deeply. Has he seen the testimony of Mr. Foley at committee?
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, in the evenings there are fewer people around here, so it is always a challenge to keep an audience, but I appreciate that you are in the chair for sure. I know that you always listen to my speeches with rapt attention.
I know that the member for Winnipeg North, without a doubt, is here listening with rapt attention as well. We are sometimes concerned that he never leaves that chair or that he sleeps there. He is usually in that chair before I appear here, and he is usually here after I leave. There are rumours that he may actually live here. I do not mean any disrespect, as I appreciate his interventions. I can recognize his voice from a mile away.
Today we are at report stage for Bill C-7. The report stage is reporting to the House on what was discussed at committee. The committee heard some very compelling testimony from witnesses. Most impactful to me was the testimony from a Mr. Foley.
Mr. Foley gave testimony via Zoom to the committee and he was in a hospital bed. He has a degenerative disease that has made him immobile, and he needs full-time care. It was suggested to him several times that perhaps he should pursue MAID. The bed he is in is a very expensive spot to be taking up, and they are not able to move him out of the hospital into a long-term care bed, so it has been suggested to him that MAID is a viable treatment option for him.
It was shocking to listen to him from his hospital bed tell us that. If colleagues have not had a chance to see his testimony, I recommend they have a look at it. The fact that this is being brought up by medical professionals as if it is another treatment is very concerning to me. Assisted suicide is not a treatment. Assisted suicide is eliminating the patient, not the symptoms and not the pain. It is eliminating the patient.
That was very much the concern that everybody had when assisted suicide was introduced back in 2016-17. I remember that was one of the first pieces of legislation I had to deal with my career here. It was a traumatic bill at that time because I really felt that this was a complete shift away from one of the traditions of western civilization, the Hippocratic oath, which is nearly 2,000 years old. I also feel that it is the government's job to defend life.
At that time I said that this is a slippery slope. Who gets to decide who gets to live and who gets to die? I was assured that that was, indeed, not the case, and that this was where they were going to hold the line. I remember specifically the former justice minister and the former health minister assuring us that they had gotten the balance right. I take them at their word. I do believe they firmly believe they had gotten the balance right.
I do not impugn any of their motives, but both of those individuals are no longer in those positions, and here we are, four short years later, with a gentleman in his hospital bed saying that he is being offered assisted suicide, euthanasia, as if it were just another treatment option. We have treatment option A, treatment option B, and assisted suicide or euthanasia, as if someone should pick one. One is relatively inexpensive and it will free up the bed. The other options will take us a little longer.
Mr. Foley said that he does not want to die. He does not. He still enjoys life even though he is incapacitated to a large extent, so the testimony of Mr. Foley was very telling for me.
The Senate has begun its study and has heard from disability advocates, over 85 witnesses to this point, and none of them has been supportive of the bill. The disability community is very concerned, as the testimony of Mr. Foley really points out. They are very concerned about the pressure that is placed on folks with a disability to pursue MAID, euthanasia or assisted suicide.
One of the most interesting witnesses at committee was the minister for folks with disabilities. At committee, when concerns were raised, she agreed that those were concerns she shared, and that they were also the concerns she had heard from stakeholder groups, which she is closely tied to because this is her portfolio. The voice of the minister responsible for folks with disabilities in Canada had not been heard at the cabinet table or when the bill was drafted.
What is most frustrating about this is that we have seen opportunities for the Liberal government to listen to Canadians on this in several instances. The bill was introduced at the beginning of the Parliament. Then there was the WE scandal, so to get out of that, the government brought in prorogation and the bill was reintroduced after prorogation. The government had heard many of the concerns about the bill prior to prorogation, so it had the opportunity to fix some of the issues it had heard prior to prorogation. It could have reintroduced the bill with some of those fixes, but it never did. It chose not to do that.
Then at committee, I think there were 16 amendments, but the government ignored the amendments that the disability community was seeking. Liberals ignored the amendment to prevent same-day death. Many in the disabilities community said our worst day should not be our last day.
When people are at their worst and say they do not want to do this anymore, that should not be their last day. They should be able to reconsider. This is literally life or death. There is no coming back from this. Many of them brought in amendments to say a 10-day waiting period is acceptable and even a seven-day waiting period would be acceptable.
I heard from a fellow living with a disability who said it takes him longer to get a wheelchair than it would to get assisted suicide. That is one of the major concerns we have. If other treatments are not readily available, then we will see folks being pushed into making a choice that is not really a choice, which is to choose between assisted suicide or going on without treatment for days and days. There were a number of amendments to eliminate the same-day death.
There was also an amendment that was probably the best one in terms of dealing with Mr. Foley's concerns that this is not treatment. It is not a treatment option, and it should be something that is always brought up by the individual. I moved several amendments at committee to Bill C-14 in the previous Parliament around this not being health care. I thought it should definitely be taken out of health care system because I did not want to see euthanasia and assisted suicide being treated as a treatment option.
There was a great amendment to Bill C-7 brought to committee that would have ensured that health care professionals would never be allowed to be the one to instigate the conversation on MAID or assisted suicide. The Liberals also ignored that amendment. The disabilities community is very concerned about the bill. The Liberals have refused to listen to them, and I hope to see the bill get amendments from the Senate.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I do not know who said it, but I remember a quote from somewhere that says, “I'd rather be right than be president.” To some degree, that is kind of the case here as well. I am not that concerned about how many political parties the member can line up and say agree with the Liberals.
The truth and what is right do not necessarily depend on what the majority is. We should come to this place, debate these issues and hear out the testimony of these individuals. We do have a vote in this place, but it does not necessarily make it the best decision. We have heard 85 witnesses at committee, and all of them in the Senate have been opposed to this bill.
Just because one side of the political spectrum happens to not agree with those witnesses does not mean their testimony is invalid. The Liberals should bring this bill back to—
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, at committee, the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith moved an amendment I was very excited we could support. I believe he worked with Inclusion Canada, and he might correct me, and they had brought forward that amendment. I do hope we can continue to work together to get an amendment like that passed in this bill.
When the Liberals say everybody is supportive of this bill, it is not necessarily true in this place. Other political parties, such as the Greens, put forward amendments that were very easy for us to support. They should have been very easy for the Liberals to support as they have wide support across the Canadian population.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I remember the member's first speech on the bill, an impassioned speech he gave about his mother who suffered from Alzheimer's. A small miracle happened, in that he got his mother back for a few hours or days, I don't quite remember, but it was a miracle nonetheless. Those are the things that I hope that most Canadians get to experience.
In this debate around Bill C-7, there is unanimity in the disability community that there are not two sides to the debate. There is unanimity in the disability community that this is a bad bill. We should send it back and get it fixed.
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