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Results: 1 - 13 of 13
View Mark Strahl Profile
View Mark Strahl Profile
2021-03-11 12:20 [p.4893]
Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a pleasure to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents. We are here today to discuss Bill C-24. Because of the government's failure to manage the House of Commons effectively, we are seeing its has created a crisis through its mismanagement. Once again we are up against a hard deadline, with benefits expiring for Canadians, and the government not managing the House calendar or its legislation so we can consider this fully. The bill before us today would expand the spending of the government by $12.1 billion. Because of how this is going to go, with members debating it for about six hours, that is about $2 billion an hour for every hour we will be able to discuss and review it here.
As has been said, this would fix a problem that is a result of the government's first attempt to provide benefits to Canadians, Bill C-2, which was rushed through the House at that time to meet a deadline the government knew about, but failed to plan for or to present legislation in a timely fashion to the House to address. That because the Prime Minister prorogued the House, shut everything down, eliminated all of the legislation that was on the Order Paper because of the WE Charity scandal. Things were getting a little too hot on that at the time, and it was time to shut down the investigations into the Prime Minister and his involvement in the WE Charity scandal, so he prorogued Parliament, which created this rush to get legislation before an October deadline when the CERB would end.
The bill was rushed through and Liberals did not realize that they had provided in that legislation a $1,000 bonus to people who had gone on leisure vacations outside of the country. People could apply and get $1,000 for the time they were at home during their 14-day quarantine after international travel. The bill passed, as has been said, because we needed to get the benefits to Canadians whose CERB was expiring, but there were no committee studies or debate in the House because of the government's mismanagement of this file. It saw a deadline, it did not care, and it rushed and made mistakes. That is indicative of the government's approach.
We are seeing it again today not only in this debate, but also in another important debate. I would argue that one of the most important debates the the House will have in this Parliament is on Bill C-7 and the Senate amendments to it. That debate is being cut short because of the government's failure to plan or provide legislation and opportunities for parliamentarians to intervene on behalf of their constituents. We have a situation where, later this day, debate will be shut down on Bill C-7 and the Senate amendments, which call for the expansion of medical aid in dying to include people who only have mental illness or disabling conditions and who will now have access to medical aid in dying, something that has not been studied by this Parliament or in committee.
Because of the government's mismanagement and failure to respond in a timely fashion to court decisions and legislative deadlines, we now have a situation where yet another bill, in addition to this one, is jammed up against a deadline. The Liberals are forcing parliamentarians to address complex issues, in this case, life and death issues, with almost no time in the House because of their failures and mismanagement. People in my riding are very concerned about this. They are concerned about the government's inability to manage the House and debate on legislation in a way that addresses their concerns.
People have written to me about it, and there is one organization in particular from my riding that I want to highlight. The Chilliwack Society for Community Living signed an important letter from the Vulnerable Persons Standard, calling on members of Parliament to do better. It says, “Bill C-7 sets apart people with disabilities and disabling conditions as the only Canadians to be offered assistance in dying when they are not actually nearing death.... Bill C-7 is dangerous and discriminatory.... Canadians with disabilities are hearing MPs and Senators arguing that lives just like theirs featuring disabilities just like theirs are not livable. This is harmful and hurtful and stigmatizing.”
It goes on to say:
Take your time, start over, and get this right. As you do so, be careful to heed the advice of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: "Listen closely to the most directly affected. Their antenna is highly attuned to ableism. When they see it, you should pause and reflect before proceeding."
Bill C-7 is not the answer.
This is another example, as is Bill C-24, of a government failing to take the time to allow Parliament to deliberate to get something right. If we had had the time to deliberate on Bill C-2, if the government had not shut down Parliament and rushed that up against the CERB deadline, I am sure that someone along the way, either in debate or as a witness at committee, would have identified this failure to focus the benefits where they were meant to be focused: on people who had to take sick leave because of COVID-19, not on those who needed to take a vacation. Had we had proper debate, that failure would have been identified.
Here again today, with just six hours of debate, it has to be rushed. After two hours, we are accused of being obstructionist and failing to do our job on behalf of Canadians. Only a Liberal government would think the solution to the problems it created by rushing a bill through Parliament previously could be solved by rushing another bill through Parliament again. That is the failure of the government.
What are we doing here? There is $12.1 billion to extend benefits to Canadians, which we have supported. All along we have supported the benefits going to Canadians who, through no fault of their own, have found their workplaces closed and their opportunities eliminated and have been forced into restrictive lockdowns. When governments force people out of their jobs and bring in conditions that restrict them from going to work, they have an obligation to provide them with an alternate income, but this cannot go on forever.
Here we are, and we are again extending it. The Conservatives support extending benefits to the people who need them, but what we also need is a plan to get past this, a plan to address the lockdowns, a plan to show Canadians there is hope for the future. That is why we have been calling on the Prime Minister to present that plan to Canadians. We have introduced a petition. The member for Calgary Nose Hill has called on the Prime Minister to use the tools we have gathered in the last year to help us get past this. We are calling on the Prime Minister to immediately present a clear plan to get Canadians safely out of lockdown. We are calling for it to include data-driven goals, a plan of action, and a timeline to achieve those goals and ensure the plan is articulated to Canadians so that they can have hope about when life and business will return to normal.
We know there have been some problems with vaccine procurement and rollout. We know there have been issues with conflicting advice being given to Canadians during this pandemic. Today we are a year into it; we have commemorated the lives that have been lost, but we also need to think about the lives that are being severely and permanently impacted right now. Some people are experiencing extreme mental health concerns. Others are not getting the health screening they need for cancer and heart disease. Other people are unable to join with others to worship freely, as is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We need to plan forward so that we are not coming up against deadlines again and again, as the government has, to extend these benefits over and over again. We will be there when Canadians need us, but we also need to start talking about a plan and the way forward to ensure that these are not permanent benefits. The next benefit is to help our economy grow and help people get past these restrictions safely while listening to public health advice. We need a plan from the government, and we have not received it. All we have seen from the government is incompetence, mismanagement of the House, and mistakes being made time and time again. We need to do better.
View Charlie Angus Profile
View Charlie Angus Profile
2021-03-11 12:32 [p.4895]
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. I do not want to challenge him but to correct the record for people listening.
It is not just that the government is pushing through Bill C-7; what it has allowed to happen here is for the unelected, unaccountable Senate to rewrite the law of Canada so that people with depression will be able to ask to die in two years, and this Liberal government is supporting that. This is ignoring what Parliament stands for.
Parliament does the hard work. If members of Parliament went back to their constituents and said that instead of having suicide prevention or mental health programs, they would like to make it easier for people with mental illness to die, there would be an outcry. There would be headlines and there would be debate. That would be democratic. It is the fact that this Liberal government is using the unelected and unaccountable Senate to fundamentally change a basic principle of the right to life in this country that I find appalling, and the fact the Liberals want to rush it through the House.
They say that we have obstructed; they are obstructing the democratic rights of this House.
View Mark Strahl Profile
View Mark Strahl Profile
2021-03-11 12:33 [p.4895]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that question, and I would say that the Liberals are doing more than just obstructing. This is perhaps the most serious matter that we will ever consider, and it certainly is the most serious matter that we will have considered in my almost 10 years as an elected official.
I agree with the member. The government and unelected senators are saying to people in our lives, many of whom we have struggled to keep alive and to keep from making the wrong choice of taking their own lives, that if they want to take their own lives, there is now a system in place for it. Instead of standing up and increasing supports for people with mental health problems, instead of increasing supports for people with disabilities and different abilities, they are saying, “I know you are not at the end of your life, that there is no prospect of you dying, but now there is, because an unelected Senate has taken away the protections for people who have mental illness in this country.”
For the government to rush the bill through and to accept those terrible amendments is an affront to this democratically elected place, and the government truly should be ashamed of itself and for what this bill will do. There will come a time when future parliamentarians will stand up and apologize for what is about to happen later today when we vote in favour. We Conservatives will not be voting in favour, but when this government votes to make it easy for mentally ill and disabled people to take their own lives, it is a tragedy.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2021-02-23 15:57 [p.4463]
Madam Speaker, I would like to mention Dr. Sonu Gaind, who is the co-director of the division of adult psychiatry and health systems and an associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1999. During a consultation with medical professionals that I attended this past weekend, he indicated that the number of elderly people requesting MAID since COVID restrictions have been causing isolation and growing depression has grown from 1,200 to 21,000.
Does this not illustrate the exact concern of the member in regard to Bill C-7 being brought forward to this House during such a challenging time for all Canadians, and especially for our most vulnerable?
View Damien Kurek Profile
View Damien Kurek Profile
2021-02-23 15:58 [p.4463]
Madam Speaker, I will start by thanking that hon. member for the work she has done surrounding this issue, as I know other colleagues have as well, to try to bring light to some of these serious concerns.
That is why I talked about the irony. We are talking about what has been spent collectively in COVID response by different levels of government in this country. It is more than a trillion dollars. We are talking here about enabling a regime that may not put effective safeguards in place to protect the most vulnerable among us. That is setting us up for a national tragedy, and I hope that every person in this place takes this issue seriously. We need to ensure that we are putting in place the measures to protect the most at risk within our society: the elderly, indigenous peoples, and those who are disabled. That is certainly something I take very seriously.
View Ted Falk Profile
View Ted Falk Profile
2021-02-23 16:01 [p.4463]
Madam Speaker, as I reviewed the amendments to Bill C-7 that have been proposed by the Senate, I was struck by how quickly some legislators have embraced radical, unstudied changes to Canada's medical assistance in dying. In many cases, the direction these amendments take Canada's MAID laws was rejected just a few short years ago.
When Parliament legalized medical assistance in dying in 2016, there was a commitment included in that legislation to review the impacts of the law five years after it received royal assent. That was June 17, 2016. We have not yet arrived at that five-year mark. We have not yet done a proper and thorough review of the original MAID legislation, yet now, before this review is even under way, not only are some in this place pushing to expand the accessibility and availability of MAID without the benefit of that study, but we are also considering amendments that disregard all the thoughtful and considered debate of this House, the Senate and the committees of each place that wrestled with this complex subject matter and initially chose not to go down the road that many of these new untested amendments would take us.
The Council of Canadian Academies considered some of the amendments now being proposed, producing several reports in 2018. Former MP and health minister Dr. Jane Philpott and the member for Vancouver Granville wrote in a Maclean's article about the council's conclusions. The article states, “...there is very limited guidance on these issues because there are not enough places in the world that have allowed broader access to assistance in dying.”
That is the context in which we are having this discussion, so it is troubling that the Liberal government has essentially accepted the amendments to throw the doors wide open to MAID for patients with mental disorders, something the justice minister previously had said there was no consensus on. This is a significant reversal that the Liberals ought to explain to the thousands of Canadians who have expressed concerns about the expansion of MAID to those with mental illness.
I am certainly mindful of the fact that COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed by governments as a result have created a tenuous mental health situation in Canada. Loneliness, social isolation and reduced care for vulnerable populations are all very real concerns.
Law professor Trudo Lemmens and Leah Krakowitz-Broker wrote this in a piece for the CBC:
Introducing a social experiment by expanding MAID when people are more vulnerable than ever is not progressive policy making — it is reckless. In its desire to accommodate some who want to control the timing and manner of their death, it puts others at risk of premature death.
I am reflecting on the question of why we are even here at all. Why are we having this discussion before meeting the five-year commitment for the MAID review? It is because the Liberals chose not to appeal the ruling of a Quebec judge.
As Senator Plett said:
Bill C-7 is a result of the federal government choosing to cave in to the opinion of one judge in one province who decided to unilaterally strike down legislation which had been extensively debated and passed by both houses of parliament.
I am speaking, of course, about the Truchon decision in Quebec. The Liberals could have simply appealed the decision in recognition of the upcoming review. It would have allowed for a substantive and careful discussion about the impacts of opening the door to MAID for seriously vulnerable individuals. Even in the Truchon decision, the assumption was that there would be enforcement of strict requirements that ensure the capacity and informed consent of those requesting MAID. Bill C-7 removes some of those very safeguards, including the requirement that the patient remains competent until the very end.
Truchon was also premised on the conclusion that medical assistance in dying, as practised in Canada, is a strict and rigorous process that in itself displays no obvious weaknesses, but that simply has not been shown to be true. According to the chief coroner of Ontario's review of 2,000 MAID cases, case reviews have demonstrated compliance concerns with both the Criminal Code and regulatory body policy expectations, some of which have recurred over time. As well, according to the Quebec end-of-life commission, at least 62 cases in Quebec between 2015 and 2018 did not fully comply with federal and/or provincial law. How can we move forward like this without properly responding to these serious failings?
In one of our last debates in the House, when I suggested that if Bill C-7 were to pass as it was, even before the amendments by the Senate were added, it would be believed to be the most permissive bill with respect to MAID in any country in the world, one of my colleagues expressed surprise that I did not think it was a good thing, as if being the most permissive jurisdiction was somehow inherently a good thing. A law's success should be judged by its outcome, not its permissiveness.
Any time life is devalued or death is made easy, clearly, is not good. Life is to be valued and treasured as the gift it is, which is why we need to put our energy into supporting positive alternatives, such as strengthening a patient-focused palliative care service for all Canadians. There was unanimous agreement from the special joint committee studying physician-assisted death on the need for a pan-Canadian strategy on palliative care with dedicated funding.
Those suffering deserve the best possible care. After all, there is no real choice for Canadians facing end-of-life decisions without adequate palliative care options available to them.
As parliamentarians, we have a high calling to actively listen. Our obligation is to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Unfortunately, none of the proposed amendments addresses the serious concerns raised by disability advocates. As many in the House have mentioned during these debates, over 70 of Canada's leading disability rights organizations and advocates have expressed deep concerns regarding this bill. Therefore, so should we.
We should be especially concerned for disabled Canadians who lack socio-economic means and face a greater risk of coercion. If there is even a tacit suggestion that their lives are not worth living, we should care about the implications of that. Their lives matter. Canadians should never feel pressured or as though the law perceives their lives as a burden.
The Christian Legal Fellowship writes that by singling out life with a disability as the only existence deserving state-sanctioned termination, Bill C-7 perpetuates ableism in a most dangerous way.
We have already discussed in the House what UN experts have highlighted as a contradiction in Canada's international human rights obligations. We do not want to create a two-tiered system in which some would get suicide prevention and others get suicide assistance based on their disability status and specific vulnerabilities.
The justice committee was faced with very difficult stories where some of our most vulnerable felt pressured to accept MAID. Numerous groups were represented. Fifty religious organizations and faith leaders, including Jews, Muslims and Christians, expressed their opposition. Nine hundred physicians and 145 members of the legal community stated their positions.
It is not just the disabled who are vulnerable. Practising physicians fear that they will face legal charges if they refuse to participate in the deaths of their patients. There are blatant inequities and legitimate anxieties with this legislation.
Let us be clear: any inequities of support, systemic discrimination, family network or specific community should be addressed before people choose death. We need to make every accommodation for people to choose life, which is why I am perplexed by the Liberal government's decision to support the Senate amendments based on race-based data collection.
There is nothing wrong with collecting data to better inform policy, but we are sure going about this in an odd way. Rather than considering how expanded access to MAID would impact marginalized communities today, this amendment suggests we should investigate the impact when it is already too late for those many who have already accessed MAID.
This amendment seems to acknowledge that, but data may have a troubling story to tell us while opting to study that impact on the fly, before we understand what it will mean for the life-and-death decisions of the members of marginalized communities.
That being the case, we should refer back to the Council of Canadian Academies' expert panel, which identified a number of concerns associated with expanding MAID in this way. Its claim suggests that the data is predictable, as having a mental disorder is strongly correlated with certain social, economic and environmental inequalities such as poverty, unemployment, homelessness, social isolation, stigma and discrimination, and that people with mental disorders face impediments to accessing appropriate mental health care in Canada. Let us not wait for people to feel forced to make the choice of death to collect this data.
It has not taken long for us to forget the safeguards that we put in place for the protection of our most vulnerable just a few short years ago. I have expressed my deep concern for this bill a few times in the House. My conviction is that life is a gift to be valued. These amendments only heighten my deep concern.
Life is a gift. I am reminded of when my kids and grandkids brought home gifts that they had made at school. Sometimes they were not very attractive and, quite frankly, perhaps I was not the proudest to put them on my mantle or display them on my fridge, but they were gifts.
Life is a gift. I did not then take those gifts and give them back, saying that I did not really want their gifts because they did not look very nice. No matter what the gift looked like, no matter in what condition it was, it was a gift and I recognized the gift. I showed appreciation to my grandchildren for the expression of their love toward me. For each and every Canadian, life is a gift and we need to appreciate it for what it is. They do not all look the same and some life circumstances put some of our constituents and fellow citizens in situations that are not desirable, yet we have to recognize that life is precious and life is a gift.
View Nelly Shin Profile
View Nelly Shin Profile
2020-12-02 17:08 [p.2830]
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today as one of 338 federal lawmakers in Canada whose duty it is to make good laws that will have a positive impact on the lives of Canadians now and for generations to come.
The weight of my duties as an MP have become more evident as I have been serving my constituents through the pandemic. Canadians have been struggling intensely for nine months as a microscopic organism called the coronavirus has caused us to shut down our lives and institutions on so many levels.
Today, as I speak on Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code on medical assistance in dying, the weight of my parliamentary role is compounded because what I say today may be the most important thing I have spoken about in the 12 months I have been an MP. Today, I am compelled to speak from the depths of my heart, conscience and love for my fellow humans, and nothing less, because the very flow of life and death in our nation is in my hands and the hands of each member of this House through Bill C-7.
Bill C-7 came about after the Superior Court of Quebec struck down the reasonably foreseeable natural death clause of this legislation as unconstitutional. This ruling resulted from a case of two individuals with degenerative diseases, Truchon and Gladu, who had sought to repeal this provision in the law and access MAID. The judge asserted what the plaintiffs were really looking was for the law to recognize equally the suffering, dignity and, ultimately, autonomy of people who, like them, are affected by serious and irremediable health problems without any hierarchy, whether death is near or not.
Bill C-7 would eliminate the clause that requires a 10-day waiting period between when MAID is requested and when it can be administered when death is reasonably foreseeable. Bill C-14, the original MAID bill that was given royal assent on June 17, 2016, already allowed for this period to be waived under specific circumstances, which are if two medical practitioners are both of the opinion that the person's death or the loss of their capacity to provide informed consent is imminent, or any shorter period is considered more appropriate by the first medical practitioner or nurse practitioner in the circumstances.
Many lawyers, doctors, families and advocates for individuals with disabilities feel Bill C-7 has gone beyond what the ruling in the Truchon-Gladu case called for. They feel Bill C-7 is discriminatory to the disabled and risks the abuse of MAID.
Amy Hasbrouck, a representative from the group Not Dead Yet, said this about the court ruling in a press interview: “Basically this decision is saying that as far as society's concerned, it's better to be dead than disabled”. Hasbrouck feels governments should improve services for people with severe disabilities to help improve their quality of life and allow them to continue living in their own homes.
This bill has also raised the concern of deepened challenges on the conscience rights of doctors. There are limited protections for the conscience rights of medical professionals already, and loosening restrictions will cause greater strife to those already uncomfortable with MAID. Throughout the debate, Bill C-7 has raised a lot of concern that as it expands MAID accessibility, it risks palliative care suffering. As a result, patients will view MAID as a better option. Unless there is more focus on improving and expanding palliative care so that palliative care is more accessible, MAID may appear to be the more practical solution for Canadians.
I now speak on Bill C-7 as a potential trigger to another pandemic within a pandemic. Canadians are currently experiencing multiple pandemics within the pandemic. They are struggling with depression and anxiety about their future because of economic uncertainties and collapse. They are facing social isolation. Although uncertain about the full ramifications of the coronavirus, in order to prioritize and protect the health and safety of Canadians, multiple tiers of government across our nation opted to take drastic measures throughout the pandemic with lockdowns and travel restrictions, which have infringed on some civil rights.
Social isolation is putting seniors in a mental health crisis. Recently, Nancy Russell, a 90-year-old woman living in a seniors home, chose MAID because she did not want to go through another lockdown or isolation this winter. According to some MAID practitioners, there is a trend of more reports of seniors interested in MAID and accelerating their timelines because of COVID.
I would like to ask each member in the House this: Is the passing Bill C-7, with its safeguards removed, during a pandemic, when Canadians are vulnerable to depression and suicide, a responsible and timely action? The government had the option to appeal this, but it chose not to.
I fully appreciate that the debate on Bill C-7 brings issues of compassion, dignified death, suffering and personal rights into a complex but profound discourse. Medically assisted death is complex, and debates on human rights are important, but in this time of severe and drastic measures to protect lives and keep Canadians safe from a virus that has the potential to take many lives, the government has entered into emergency mode. It has put health and safety above many important things.
We have allowed the economy to fall apart to flatten the curve and save lives. Canadians put a precedent on saving lives over some basic rights.
Rights do not exist in a vacuum. They exist to support the overarching vision and mandate, which I hope unifies all of us in the House, which is to protect the lives, sustenance and flourishing of humans; to ensure all people, regardless of who they are, their behaviour, ideology or capacity, to be functional in life; to protect their existence and sustenance needs; and to provide individuals with fair opportunities to dream and make the most of their lives. I understand the principles of debate and rights, but in the context of this pandemic we are facing, my humanity and my heart burn like a mother bear for the lives of Canadians.
In a recent report from the Canadian Mental Health Association, 3,800 Canadians died in 2018-19 after being admitted into hospitals for self-harm. With the stress, hopelessness and trauma created by the pandemic, that number is on the rise, especially for the most vulnerable.
In a survey held by CMHA in May during lockdowns, 38% of the people surveyed said that their mental health had declined due to COVID-19, 6% had suicidal thoughts and 2% had tried to harm themselves in response to COVID-19. Based on this survey, if there are 30 million adult Canadians, then it would mean that 1.8 million adult Canadians have had suicidal thoughts and 600,000 have tried to harm themselves as a result of the challenges caused by the pandemic.
The count for the number of Canadians who have died from COVID-19 is 12,211 from yesterday's numbers. If only 6% of the 3,000 Canadians who participated in the survey had suicidal thoughts, that would still be 180 people. What does that translate to in Canada's entire population?
More survey results show that not everyone is affected equally. While 6% of the general population have had suicidal thoughts since the outbreak of COVID-19, suicidal contemplation has been happening with 18% of people already struggling with their mental health, 15% of people with a disability, 14% of people with low incomes and 16% of people who are indigenous. This is not fair.
This is the question I would like to ask all members: Do we, as members, take mental health seriously? Do we recognize that extraordinary suicide prevention must be part of our COVID response? Do we see the danger of passing a bill such as Bill C-7 in the context of a pandemic where we see rising numbers of mental health challenges and suicidal contemplation?
The mental health side of the pandemic does not end with a vaccine, because healing from trauma and financial restoration takes time. What is the message we want to send to the Canadian public right now as parliamentarians? In the name of saving lives, we have allowed families to be separated, and we have allowed businesses and institutions to be pulverized, but what support are we providing to counter the depression and hopelessness that comes from these drastic measures? We should be more focused on creating more access to counselling and mental health support.
For those who say that mental health is a provincial issue, I would say to them that mental health is a serious issue and one that all tiers of government must come to the table to discuss and implement solutions for. We have a responsibility as lawmakers to look at the big picture and understand the time we are in right now.
We do not see suicides reported, but all of us know someone, whether directly or by one or two degrees of separation, who has attempted or committed suicide. Let us be sober. The bill before us could open doors to a suicide pandemic during this pandemic. Our duty is to pass legislation that protects the life, sustenance and flourishing of our fellow humans and not make them more vulnerable and susceptible to death.
Canadians need hope. Will my colleagues, with a clear conscience, be able to say that they did everything they could to prevent suicide? Will they be able to say with conviction that they had helped someone find hope and not have to resort to death?
I want to be wrong. I hope there is no suicide pandemic, which the unpredictable waves and lockdowns of COVID-19 would exacerbate, but the government has chosen to put the priority of saving lives at a high cost. Were the drastic measures reasonable or too severe? I think most Canadians would say that saving lives was worth it. Will it be worth saving lives by stopping the spread of a culture of suicide through a bill like Bill C-7 during this pandemic?
The very life breath of Canadians are in our hands right now. I cannot support the bill in the name of mental health and saving lives in this pandemic. I do not want blood on my hands for the death of any Canadians who were inspired by the passing of Bill C-7 to cope with mental health challenges and hopelessness during the pandemic, especially when we do not have enough to give them more hope.
Being a parliamentarian comes with responsibility. Ideology comes with responsibility. Legislation comes with responsibility. Legislation is not separate from the current plight Canadians face. I encourage every member to examine this bill, recognizing there is not enough hope to safeguard against the dangers of Bill C-7.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2020-12-02 17:50 [p.2836]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for always telling us about what the people in her riding are talking about.
With respect to this legislation, I wonder if she could talk about the people in long-term care, who have been very isolated in this pandemic. I want to pick up on the theme that my colleague from Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam mentioned about the dangers there, as people like them might want to take advantage of assisted suicide.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
Madam Speaker, that is one of the concerns we are seeing. We know there have been many challenges during this pandemic, specifically with mental health and people who are in isolation.
I can look within my own family. My parents are not in long-term care but they are 80 and 84. I worry about their isolation within their own home, given the fact that they are not leaving their home very often. I think my mom has left twice in the last eight months. I can only imagine what it is like for residents in long-term care homes, where people are not able to come in to see them. They are not able to see their grandchildren. A lot of times, the spark of their lives is their family.
We have to work urgently to make sure we are dealing with rapid testing for COVID-19 and make sure that all of the supports for people living with disabilities or in long-term care homes are taken care of. We need to do better, and I am afraid we are not doing it under the government.
View Rosemarie Falk Profile
Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity to speak to this particular legislation before it went to committee for proposed amendments, or the hopeful change of amendments. At that time, I raised some very serious concerns that I had about the changes proposed, through the legislation, to the parameters around medical assistance in dying. I shared my concerns that with the removal of existing safeguards, this legislation was eroding protections for vulnerable persons.
Countless medical professionals and advocates for persons with disabilities have come forward to express their great concern with this legislation, but it seems that the government is more concerned with rushing to pass this legislation than with listening to the serious and valid concerns they have. These doctors have lived experience with vulnerable populations, and a deep understanding of not only the demand for medical assistance in dying, but also of broader medical needs. It is reprehensible that their voices are being ignored. We have to ensure that personal autonomy does not supersede the protection of vulnerable persons. When the consequences of getting this wrong are life-ending, we really cannot afford to get this wrong.
We know that Conservatives put forward a number of reasonable amendments to reinstate protections that the Liberal government would remove through this legislation. These amendments were sought in good faith to better protect vulnerable persons, such as reinstating the 10-day reflection period when death was reasonably foreseeable, maintaining the requirement for two independent witnesses or even requiring that patients be the ones to first request information on medical assistance in dying. I am beyond disappointed that these proposed amendments were rejected.
We have heard the testimonies and read the stories that persons with disabilities and elderly Canadians are being offered medical assistance in dying without requesting the service. In those moments, the underlying message being communicated to them is that their lives are “less than”, and that is just not okay. It is not okay for us to create the legislative framework that perpetuates ageism and ableism. Every life has value and every life is worthy of protection.
If members opposite do not believe Conservatives, disability advocates or medical professionals that this is happening, maybe they will listen to the words of their colleague, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. In speaking to Senate members about the personal experience of Roger Foley, a person with a disability who was offered, unsolicited, medically assisted death, the minister said:
I absolutely acknowledge and am quite preoccupied by the power imbalance between practitioners and patients, particularly patients who have been in systems that have discriminated against them and ignored their voices their entire lives. I have grave concerns with the particular circumstances of the individual that you spoke of. Quite frankly, I can tell you, he is not alone. I regularly hear from families who are appalled by the fact that they take their child, potentially their older child, in and are offered unprovoked MAID. I think that has to stop. That’s a matter of practice, I would suggest, and we need to get at that through our regulations, through working with our medical associations.
I agree with the minister. This has to stop. Every life is valuable, disability or not.
The rejected Conservative amendment to require patients to be the ones to first request information on medical assistance in dying could help that, but the legislative changes proposed in this bill, to make same-day medically assisted death available and to remove the requirement for the second witness, certainly would not make it stop. A person with a disability who may already feel disempowered would not be empowered by these proposed changes.
In the previous Parliament, I sat on the HUMA committee during the study of the accessibility act, Bill C-81. The guiding principle of that particular piece of legislation was to ensure the full and equal participation in society for persons with disabilities. I have to wonder how we can ensure their full participation in society while eroding these protections in the medical assistance in dying framework.
Why are we not listening to the disability advocates who are sounding the alarm? These advocates are telling us that the removal of existing safeguards in medical assistance in death has the potential to devalue the lives of vulnerable persons.
The other significant piece of this conversation is that we cannot truly assert that we are giving Canadians personal autonomy if there is no real choice. If palliative care and medical care needs are not available to a person, but medically assisted death is readily available, there is a problem.
The legislation passed in the previous Parliament required that an in-depth, five-year parliamentary review of the original medical assistance in dying legislation occur, and that the review also consider the state of palliative care in Canada. This government is recklessly pushing through this legislation before that work is done.
The reality is that we already know there is inadequate access to palliative care in Canada. There have been countless studies, and we hear it from medical professionals. We hear it from those who are seeking palliative care and from their advocates. Certainly, this legislation would be better informed if that in-depth parliamentary review had already occurred, and that would be the appropriate order of consideration.
As we navigate COVID-19, we certainly cannot ignore how the quality of care and physical restrictions might impact vulnerable persons. The story of Nancy Russell, who sought medically assisted death rather than face another lockdown in her care home, is heartbreaking. We can certainly imagine that Nancy was not alone in those feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.
First, this story emphasized to me the need for better supports in our care homes. COVID-19 has exposed the acute challenges in long-term care in Canada. These challenges have only been compounded by the pandemic. This government has a responsibility to ensure that there is adequate access to masks and rapid testing, so that our seniors are not forced into endless isolation to the point that ending their lives feels preferable.
Second, this story reinforced my strong belief that we have to be cautious that we are not promoting MAID to those who are experiencing moments of hopelessness. We have to ensure that we are delivering better and adequate supports and services to all Canadians. We need to ensure that there is adequate access to palliative care and home care needs. We have to make efforts to ensure dignity in living, not only dignity in dying. Without ensuring this, we are in fact eroding personal autonomy, and then choice is skewed. In effect, without true personal autonomy in the decision, there is no dignity in dying either.
I implore my colleagues in the House to pay attention to the alarms that have been sounded by so many Canadians, including countless medical health professionals and disability advocates. I ask them to seriously consider the impact of removing vital safeguards for medical assistance in dying, to consider making efforts to address systemic ageism and ableism and not reinforce it, and to not endanger the lives of vulnerable persons by allowing respect for individual autonomy to outweigh the protection of vulnerable persons.
In my view, the proposed legislation does not find that balance. We must do better to protect vulnerable persons, in fact, on all issues, but even more so on issues of life or death.
We owe it to Canadians to properly consult, review and consider legislation. They deserve that from us.
View Dane Lloyd Profile
View Dane Lloyd Profile
2020-10-28 17:10 [p.1375]
Mr. Speaker, today I am speaking in opposition to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding medical assistance in dying. I am also rising to raise the alarm and call on the government to put an immediate halt to medical assistance in dying in Canada's prisons until a full investigation can take place and legislative amendments can be made.
I believe, as a Conservative, my role is to be someone who stands athwart history yelling “stop” at a time when no one else is inclined to do so. History has shown us the consequences of people not speaking up in opposition to issues that may even have seemed overwhelmingly popular at the time.
Today is one such case, where years from now we may look back at these debates and wonder how we could push forward with such radical legislation and changes to our societal values. That is why I am speaking out today, despite the consensus, which appears to reign in this House, that medical assistance in dying on demand is the way to go.
Dr. Ivan Zinger, the head of the Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada, released a deeply disturbing report this past June. I presume the government has had access to this report for months, but it was just tabled yesterday in the House of Commons. The correctional investigator raises some serious allegations, citing three cases of prisoners undergoing medical assistance in dying that raise, as the report states, “fundamental questions around consent, choice and dignity.” His office also found serious omissions, inaccuracies and misapplications of the law and the policies surrounding medical assistance in dying.
In one case, a prisoner who was terminally ill and serving a non-violent two-year sentence was denied parole and any opportunity to serve out his remaining days in the community. The inmate wished to explore the possibility of a compassionate parole, but after being denied the opportunity to do so, he sought an assisted death. Before receiving his assisted death, the prisoner repeatedly sought an opportunity to seek out an alternative to MAID in prison. He was repeatedly denied the opportunity to do so. Therefore, he was left with what he felt was no choice but to seek out medical assistance in dying. He was later granted that.
This raises important questions on whether the government is adequately supporting Canadians, including Canadian prisoners, who are facing difficult end-of-life decisions, especially decisions where the power imbalance is so huge.
In another case, a prisoner, a dangerous offender with a terminal illness who was suicidal and suffering from mental illness, also received an assisted death. When prisoners are in a hopeless situation and disempowered, it is no surprise they would seek an assisted death.
In response to these cases, Dr. Zinger points out, “the decision to extend [medical assistance in dying] to federally sentenced individuals was made without adequate deliberation by the legislature.” He is talking about us. He also claims there is no oversight mechanism in the Canadian correctional services to ensure accountability or transparency for medical assistance in dying deaths in correctional institutions.
Given that the above cases were restricted to those with terminal illnesses who qualified under the previous requirement of death being reasonably foreseeable, I find it very concerning the government would be removing this requirement without first acknowledging and investigating the serious concerns and allegations of the corrections investigator.
The corrections investigator is actually calling for an absolute moratorium on all medical assistance in dying procedures in Canada's correctional institutions. Until such a time as we can craft legislation that protects the lives of vulnerable prisoners, who are clearly making a choice in a situation of severe duress, we should clearly consider holding off, or at least placing a moratorium, on medical assistance in dying in Canada's prisons.
This brings me to my next concern with this legislation, which is the need to protect the lives of vulnerable people like the disabled, the elderly and the mentally ill. When this legislation was originally considered a few years ago, Canadians were assured by the government that the legislation would protect the vulnerable. Restrictions that were put in were meant to protect people from being unduly coerced into making a decision to seek MAID. They also exist to encourage people to seek out alternatives before seeking an assisted death.
Everyone can sympathize with somebody nearing the end of their life who is in intolerable pain and seeking out an assisted death, but what Canadians did not expect four years ago was that today the government would be expanding this legislation to allow those who are not terminally ill or near death to qualify.
This raises important concerns for disabled people and those with mental illnesses. Many of them are not close to death and will now be eligible to seek an assisted death. The government has washed its hands of responsibility for restrictions and has left it up to individuals to make this choice for themselves. Choice has been enshrined as the overriding principle of medical assistance in dying legislation, while little or no concern is being given to the factors that can go into those choices.
Similar to the cases that I cited in our prisons, many elderly, disabled or mentally ill Canadians have been isolated for many months from loved ones in Canada's troubled long-term care centres. I wonder how many decisions to access MAID would not have otherwise been made had the situation in long-term care been addressed or how many decisions to access MAID would have been made if Canada had an effective system of palliative care centres for people to live out the remaining days of their life in comfort and peace.
We know from the government's own annual reporting that there is a significant number, and even one is too many, of Canadians, who did not have access to palliative care, who received an assisted death. No Canadian should be forced to choose an assisted death without the opportunity to access palliative care.
The government's annual reporting also revealed that in 2019 alone, 87 Canadians with disabilities received medical assistance in dying but were denied access to critical disability support services. That is simply unacceptable. Canadians with disabilities deserve better.
I am concerned that every time we remove a protection on medical assistance in dying, we are blurring the lines between an assisted death that is acceptable and constitutional and an assisted death that is not. I do not believe, for many in the House, that there is a single assisted death case that would be unacceptable. I challenge members to tell me what they think is unacceptable.
The consensus among most parties in the House, and most members, seems to be that we need to affirm individual choices. I think we can all recognize that no choice is made in a vacuum. Choices are made with a variety of factors, such as people's socio-economic status, the quality of their life, their relations with family and friends, their mental state and their physical state, and the list goes on. Simply boiling down this argument to a matter of individual choice ignores the very real factors that can go into making someone make the decision to seek out medical assistance in dying.
For example, do people feel they are a burden on their family or society? Do they feel there is no alternative to the pain they are feeling? Are there monetary reasons at play? A recent article in MoneySense magazine was advising readers on how to maximize their pension and life insurance benefits if they chose to undergo medical assistance in dying. Where we have come in our public discourse in four short years is shocking to me.
Given that I have outlined a number of factors in determining what factors could be behind someone's decision to seek out MAID, I would ask this. What provisions is the government putting in place to ensure that people's lives are being affirmed and that they are receiving the support they deserve? The fact is that I believe the government is ignoring the very important role that social workers can play in these decisions. By limiting the decision for medical assistance in dying between a doctor and a patient, the government is ignoring the fact that doctors are not always equipped to recognize situations where socio-economic factors or other factors could be at play in the decision. When the government takes away the requirement for two witnesses, it also creates a huge power imbalance, where essentially only one person, the doctor and the patient, is making the decision. There is very little accountability.
Finally, I want to raise the concerns of Dr. Leonie Herx, who is a chair at Queen's University and one of 750 doctors from across Canada who have urged the government to stop this legislation. In her words:
(MAiD) was intended to be a last resort when all other measures had failed and someone had irremediable suffering close to the end of life. (Bill C-7) makes death on demand available to anyone who wants it. It’s a radical shift for medicine.
I call on the government to heed the concerns of the 750 doctors as well as the report from the corrections investigator and immediately move to place new restrictions and protections on medical assistance in dying to ensure that vulnerable people are protected. We have a responsibility. Every Canadian life matters. We cannot get this wrong.
View Matthew Green Profile
View Matthew Green Profile
2020-10-21 16:43 [p.1040]
Madam Speaker, I want to acknowledge the words of the hon. member. I have known him to be a compassionate man.
He talked about people with disabilities living with dignity, yet, as it relates to the COVID situation, with so many people living with disabilities being left out of recovery packages and support, we are hearing that they are considering accessing MAID simply because they do not have the money to survive.
What does the member have to say about programs that have excluded people living with disabilities to the point where they are actually considering accessing this end-of-life scenario?
View Adam van Koeverden Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Adam van Koeverden Profile
2020-10-21 16:44 [p.1040]
Madam Speaker, I profoundly appreciate the work that my colleague across the floor has done for his community in Hamilton prior to his entering federal politics. I am well aware of his many contributions in areas of social justice and I am proud to call him a colleague. He is somebody who stands up for people and ensures their voices are amplified.
In areas of mental health concerns that our government has, we have taken many precautions to ensure that people are being heard and that the correct precautions are being made in order to ensure that mental health and people with disabilities do not fall victim to many of the inadequacies that are baked into the system. This is an effort to change the ways it has been dealt with in the past.
I fully recognize, from consultations with many constituents in my riding who live with disabilities, that the benefit we have promised is too little and too late and that we must continue to do more for Canadians with disabilities, in particular, with regard to mental health.
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