Mr. Speaker, today we rise to discuss a matter of the gravest importance, literally a matter of life and death.
It has been my practice as a member of Parliament to favour the expansion of free choice and individual human agency in all our decisions. I believe that government's principle role is to protect the life and liberty of its people, and that doing so means allowing people to make decisions for themselves with minimal application of force, in essence to minimize force and maximize freedom.
I am the finance critic and I have applied that principle to all economic matters, such as how can we allow individuals to make their own decisions with their own money. Here we talk about a matter that is more important than money, the matter of life and death.
I look upon this bill to determine whether it extends or withdraws individual freedom and free will from the people to whom it will apply. As I look through the practical application of the bill, it is my view that the bill will do more to withdraw individual choice and freedom than it will to extend it.
Let me begin by quoting the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, a physician and Liberal member of Parliament, who said:
My biggest concern, as someone who has spent my whole life trying to avoid accidentally killing people, is that we don't end up using MAID for people who don't really want to die.
Medical assistance in dying was supposed to be exclusively for people who did want to die, who, having been presented with all the worldly alternatives, chose death. We have a member of Parliament and former physician on the government side saying that the bill will have the effect of forcing people to a decision they would not otherwise make.
This is not just a theoretical issue. Allow me to read the story of Mr. Roger Foley. This is from a CTV story, which states:
Foley suffers from cerebellar ataxia, a brain disorder that limits his ability to move his arms and legs, and prevents him from independently performing daily tasks.
Roger Foley, 42, who earlier this year launched a landmark lawsuit against a London hospital, several health agencies, the Ontario government and the federal government, alleges that health officials will not provide him with an assisted home care team of his choosing, instead offering, among other things, medically assisted death.
In other words, we have a state health care system to which everybody is forced to pay and of which everyone is forced to be a part, from which it is impossible to avoid receiving care because paying out of pocket is illegal, private insurance is not allowed for essential care. When this gentleman then went to the care, the only care the government would allow him to have, it said that it could not provide him with that care, but what it could do was end his life, that he could pack it in, that he could just give up.
That is not free choice. That is the state effectively compelling a man to end his life or face endless years of unnecessarily turmoil that could have been avoided were appropriate care allowed. For that reason, I cannot support the bill.
I add my voice to thousands of people from the community representing persons with disabilities. The government is often fond of quoting the UN. The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities was “extremely concerned about the implementation of the legislation on medical assistance in dying from a disability perspective. I have been informed that there is no protocol in place to demonstrate that persons with disabilities” deemed eligible for assisted dying “have been provided with viable alternatives.” Mr. Foley's case is a prime example of that.
Therefore, those most vulnerable are not given a choice, but rather they are funnelled toward one inescapable outcome and compelled by the state to end their lives at threat of merciless and unnecessary suffering. Rather than providing these people with the care that would mitigate their suffering and fulfill the wishes of a happy life, they are told they have no choice but to end life altogether.
I will quote from disability groups, 72 of which wrote a letter to the government expressing their opposition to the bill.
I will start with Krista Carr, the executive vice-president of Inclusion Canada, an organization that works with Canadians with intellectual disabilities. She stated, “Bill C-7 is our worst nightmare.... The community of Canadians with disabilities and their families have long feared that having a disability would become an acceptable reason for 'state-provided suicide'.”
There are the words of Dr. Goligher, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, who said, “Bill C-7 declares an entire class of people, those with physical disabilities, as potentially appropriate for suicide — that their lives are potentially not worth living. Indeed were it not for their disability, we would not be willing to end them. I cannot imagine a more degrading and discriminatory message for our society to communicate to our fellow citizens living with disabilities.”
We are meant to give a voice to all Canadians, but most of all to the voiceless, and the voiceless are speaking through their advocates. Seventy-two groups have spoken out against the bill, the dehumanizing way with which it treats persons with disabilities and the manner by which it robs them of their free will and human agency. I fear that it adds to the quiet and sometimes unspoken narrative of certain politicians and opinion leaders who suggest that persons with disabilities do not have the same worth as others, a concept I find repulsive.
The lives of persons with disabilities are every bit as valuable and precious as the lives of the rest of us. No legislation should ever pass through the House or the next House that devalues the precious gift of life that persons with disabilities should have the right to enjoy. No bill should rob people of their free choice and human agency to live on in peace and dignity should they so choose.
This bill does not contain any protections against scenarios where people who are conflicted might try to suggest upon a person with disabilities that they should simply accept death. We put forward an amendment to ensure that a case like Roger Foley's would never happen again by banning medical professionals and other caregivers from raising the issue of assisted dying with a patient rather than letting the patient raise the issue himself or herself. The government opposed that.
The government is removing the requirement that there be two witnesses to sign off before someone dies. It is removing the 10-day waiting period, which allows people, who might be in a burst of urgent distress, to consider and reconsider their decision, a decision that we all know is absolutely irreversible, the most irreversible of all decisions, and that is to end one's life.
Why the government would oppose such protections that would ensure the patient truly does consent to end of life I do not know, but I do know one thing and will conclude on this. We must protect the freedom and choice of all our people and we must recognize the dignity and worth of every human life.