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View Kelly Block Profile
moved that Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (intimidation of health care professionals), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise today to begin the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-268, the protection of freedom of conscience act. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge this bill is built on the hard work and determination of former members of Parliament. The first iteration that sought to address this issue was introduced by the late Mark Warawa in 2016, but it did not progress when the government introduced Bill C-14.
I do consider it a tremendous honour that my bill is the same number, C-268, as his was. After Bill C-14 was passed into law, my former colleague David Anderson introduced his private member's bill, Bill C-418, which died on the Order Paper when the election was called in 2019.
I would like to thank all those who have been championing this issue for many years and for their willingness to work with me.
Experts throughout Canada provided information and advice, while thousands of Canadians have voiced their support for protecting our fundamental freedoms. While there are numerous dictionaries that define conscience, they are consistent in defining it as an individual's inner sense of knowing the difference between what is right and wrong and that guides their behaviour.
An article by Cardus called “The Imperative of Conscience Rights” references the following:
“Conscience” traces to the Latin conscientia, and is related to the Greek synderesis. While conscientia refers to the application of our moral knowledge to particular situations, synderesis refers to the moral awareness built into each person and that urges us to do good and avoid evil.
Bill C-268 is straightforward as it seeks to enshrine in law a minimum national standard of conscience protections for medical professionals while respecting the jurisdiction of my provincial colleagues to expand on it. It is a response to calls from disability rights groups, first nations, the Ontario Medical Association and many hundreds of medical and mental health professionals to protect conscience rights.
It would ensure the medical professionals who choose to not take part in, or refer a patient for, assisted suicide or medical assistance in dying would never be forced by violence, threats, coercion or loss of employment to violate the freedoms protected in section 2(a) of the charter. This bill also serves to protect the rights of patients to receive a second opinion, and by doing so, would protect our health care system.
In my consultations, I spoke with disability rights advocate Heidi Janz. She told me about being born in the Soviet Union. Doctors told her parents that Heidi would never walk, talk or think and that she would be dependent on others for the rest of her short life. They told her parents to put her into an institution and forget they ever had her. Heidi Janz has severe cerebral palsy.
Her parents did not listen to the dominant narrative of their day. They loved their daughter and believed her life had value. Eventually, they found the support they needed. Today, Dr. Heidi Janz holds a Ph.D. and is an adjunct professor of ethics at the University of Alberta. In her spare time she is a playwright and author, and somehow, despite how busy her life is, she also serves as the chair of the ending of life ethics committee for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.
Dr. Janz is a remarkable woman. While some might pity her, she will have none of it. She says that everyone talks about how bad it must be to have a disability, but that she chooses daily to live in opposition to that narrative. She also says that disabled people can be so much more than their diagnosis, and that she is proof of that fact.
If it had been up to the dominant view of her day, she would never have had the chance to disprove that narrative. If her parents did not have the option to find the help they wanted to get that crucial second opinion, none of my colleagues in this place would be hearing about this marvellous woman. This is not just a theoretical story.
In a similar vein, earlier this year the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, who is a doctor herself, wrote to her constituents about her experience of ageism in our health care system as it related to her 93-year-old father.
While I will not repeat the whole story, I will just quote her last two sentences:
My Dad got better without needing the ICU, but I remember thinking that as an MD I had been able to firmly take a stand. I worried that other families wouldn’t have been able to question the clear ageism in the choices being put in front of them.
The minister's father and all Canadians have the right to find a doctor who will offer them hope, offer them another choice, offer them a second opinion. All Canadians deserve that same right.
Now, this is anything but a guarantee in Canada. We have passed laws that have the unintended consequence of forcing doctors and medical professionals to provide patients death, regardless of whether they believe it is in their patient's best interest. Bill C-14 and Bill C-7 create a federal standard for medical assistance in dying and assisted suicide, but not for conscience protections. Despite the claims of some, it is patently absurd to argue that a conscience rights bill would somehow interfere with the role of the provinces while the legalization of medical assistance in dying does not.
We are speaking of the very first fundamental freedom laid out in the charter. Ensuring that conscience rights are protected is the responsibility of Parliament and of the Government of Canada, which is why I introduced this bill and why it should be passed. Above all, it is the right thing to do for patients and medical professionals.
Some have tried to frame conscience rights as the rights of the patient versus the rights of the doctor. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, conscience rights are critical to how our health care system works. Patients have the right to a second opinion, but there can be no second opinion if every medical professional is forced to provide the exact same list of options.
Health care is fundamentally about the doctor-patient relationship. Take the case of a psychiatrist who supports MAID in certain circumstances, but who has spent 15 years counselling a patient who suffers from bouts of depression and suicidality. For 15 years, they have built up an understanding and trust. What would happen if that patient, suffering from a bout of suicidality, should demand assisted suicide? Under the current law, that psychiatrist would be forced to refer the patient to someone else so that the patient could die. The psychiatrist must do this, despite knowing that the suicidal thoughts are temporary, that otherwise the patient is joyful and loves life, and that ending that life is wrong. The psychiatrist's hands are tied. Is that what passes for medical care?
Some might claim that there are safeguards in place to prevent such tragedies, but I ask, are members completely sure? With the passage of Bill C-7, many of the safeguards have been removed. We are talking about ending a human life. There is no room for “maybe” when a life hangs in the balance. Should the first line of safeguards not be the expertise of the medical professionals who know best? If they do not believe death is the answer, should we not at least consider if they are right? This is, after all, a matter of life and death.
Medical assistance in dying and assisted suicide are readily available throughout all of Canada. There are information phone lines, hospitals staffed with willing medical professionals, even email addresses to help set up appointments. In a word, MAID is becoming the status quo. To claim that protecting the conscience rights of medical professionals will somehow block access for those who truly want it is both misleading and nothing but baseless fearmongering.
The Canadian Medical Association stated clearly that conscience protections would not affect access, because there were more than enough physicians willing to offer MAID. This is further reinforced by a McGill study that showed that 71% of recent medical school graduates would be willing to offer MAID.
Every court case on the subject, as well as common sense, has stated clearly that the charter rights of medical professionals are breached when they are forced to either offer or refer assisted suicide or medical assistance in dying. Surely, we are clever enough to ensure access to MAID while still protecting the fundamental charter right to freedom of conscience.
I believe it is no accident that former prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, placed conscience rights as the first of the enumerated rights in our charter. It is an acknowledgement that the state cannot and should not attempt to force any one of us to do what we believe is immoral.
Dozens of first nations leaders wrote to every MP and senator. They said that, “Given our history with the negative consequences of colonialism and the involuntary imposition of cultural values and ideas, we believe that people should not be compelled to provide or facilitate in the provision of MAiD.”
We claim to be a pluralistic, free society. If that is true, it demands of us a tolerance of the moral views of others. Some have argued that protections already exist in Bill C-14. While I applaud the former minister of justice, the hon. member for Vancouver Granville, for ensuring that conscience rights were acknowledged in that legislation, acknowledgement is no longer enough. There are examples of medical professionals being forced or bullied into participation in assisted suicide against their conscience.
Dr. Ellen Warner, an oncologist who has served her patients for 30 years, told me about her experiences. She said:
I think it will shock Canadians to hear of healthcare providers being coerced into participating in MAID, yet such coercion has been happening frequently. A brilliant colleague of mine was bullied into becoming the physician legally responsible for MAID on his hospital ward. It was a great loss to us when he left for a different position. Two other co-workers told me that, despite strong, moral objections, they would carry out MAID if asked to do so for fear of losing their jobs. At one of our staff meetings, a psychiatrist stood up and announced that any physician who does not actively support MAID should not be working at our hospital.
Finally, some have suggested that medical professionals should leave their morality at the door. However, no one truly believes or wants that. As an example, no one would want a doctor to forget their morality if they were offered a bribe to move someone up on a waiting list. If we hold our medical professionals to a higher standard, we cannot then tell them to ignore their personal moral standards. As Dr. Ellen Warner stated, “In the absence of conscience protection, the group with the most to lose are the patients—the people we are all trying to help,”
This bill would protect the doctor-patient relationship by ensuring that doctors and other medical professionals are always able to recommend and provide the care they believe is best for their patient. Canadians need this bill to pass. Canada's medical professionals need this bill to pass. Additionally, they will need individual provincial governments to protect their rights through provincial regulations and legislation.
I encourage all members in this place to do our part and pass the protection of freedom of conscience act.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, the fourth petition I am tabling deals with Bill C-7, the government's euthanasia bill.
The petitioners are very concerned about the fact that the government is, through this bill, removing safeguards it said were vital not so long ago. They are expressing particular concern about the removal of the 10-day reflection period, the reduced requirement around witnesses, and other problems in the bill, including the government's inclusion, at a late stage, to allow euthanasia for those with mental health challenges.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, the third petition deals with Bill C-7. The petitioners are very concerned by the fact that this bill has removed vital safeguards associated with the euthanasia regime, safeguards which the government said were essential only a few short years ago.
The petitioners call on the government to restore the 10-day reflection period, restore the original requirement that a person must give consent to a life-ending procedure immediately before it is performed, restore the requirement for two independent witnesses, require medical professionals to do everything possible to enable the person to access life-affirming services to relieve their suffering, and accommodate persons with communication disabilities by clarifying their refusal of or resistance to administration of physician-assisted death.
View Rob Moore Profile
View Rob Moore Profile
2021-03-12 11:11 [p.4971]
Madam Speaker, yesterday the Liberals invoked closure on their motion that significantly altered Bill C-7 by expanding medically assisted death to those with mental illness. They did so at the absolute last moment possible in the parliamentary process.
I have received hundreds of emails, letters and calls in opposition to Bill C-7, in particular from persons with disabilities and groups that advocate for them. Many of them wanted more time to speak out in committee against Bill C-7. The government has now expanded Bill C-7 so that MAID will be accessible by those with mental illness. This was done with no consultation directly on this issue in the House of Commons.
I call upon the government to actually listen to those who are raising concerns with the changes made by Bill C-7 and be willing to address them through the upcoming parliamentary review.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, the second petition raises significant concerns about Bill C-7, which just passed the House last night. The bill would bring in the possibility of same-day death by eliminating the 10-day reflection period. It risks making disabled Canadians second-class citizens when they access the health care system and undermines suicide prevention work through the changes related to mental health.
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 Kerry-Lynne Findlay Profile
Madam Speaker, I find myself more distressed today, after nearly six years of service in this House, than I have on any other day, in any other debate. With the Liberal government's closure motion limiting debate, stifling the people's representatives in the very place we are elected to to give voice to the voiceless, the egregious affront to public policy creation playing out before us, the terrible precedent this sets for the future and the abandonment of the vulnerable in our society, I am left with the echoes of persons with disabilities and those I know who have come out the other side of the suffering of mental illness. This will not be a legacy to be proud of.
What started out as a bill that many in my community could and did get behind, if proper safeguards stayed in place and if conscience rights were protected, has gone from a scenario of some hope to a bad dream, to a nightmare. We know where this is going. The Liberal government will recklessly bring in legislation that grievously affects those who are struggling with mental illness, add them to the list of Canadians struggling with other disabilities, and say, “For you, fellow Canadians, for you, our most vulnerable, we have an exit plan, one we know you may not agree with, but one we have decided is best for you and society as a whole.”
How dare they? How dare the Liberals propose to abandon these Canadians? How dare the parliamentary secretary question my motivation or the motivations of my constituents? They are changing our legislative landscape without proper debate, without even allowing the justice committee to hear witnesses and without the legislated mandatory review that the government has ignored. I tell my colleagues to stop and consider that their actions fly in the face of testimony that has already been heard in committee, coercion does exist and not all Canadians are treated with equal dignity.
The Minister of Justice testified at committee today that his party members have been given a free vote, so it is up to each person elected to this place to be counted. The minister also stated that he will create a committee of experts to study the sensitive issues before us after this Senate-amended bill is voted on. If it is that important, if there is no consensus, as the minister previously stated, why would we pass an appointed Senate's version of a life or death bill? Why would we not give the proper thought and hear from the experts first?
To those whose sole underlying condition is mental illness, why are they are not worthy of being heard? When they are at their lowest in terms of coping with their lives, why should MAID be what is suggested to them? Why not suggest hope, or comfort, or a path to recovery? Where is the funding for this? Where is the debate on this? Where is our humanity?
I have had times in my life when I suffered from what is termed situational depression, which is a recognized mental illness diagnosis not due to an underlying chemical imbalance but to a coping challenge brought about by my situation at that time, when my husband suddenly died, leaving me with small children to raise on my own, and when my baby son died.
Life can be very tough at times. When people are in the grips of depression, they do believe that the world, and even those who depend on them for their fundamentals, would be better off without them. These ideations can be, and in my case were, transient, but I needed time and support to find my bearings again. What of those who have just suffered a catastrophic injury?
As a member of the justice committee, I studied this bill very closely, or at least a bill by the same name. In committee, we considered the impacts of expanding MAID to Canadians whose death is not imminent and the efficacy of removing many safeguards that were put in place in the original MAID regime in 2016, such as the requirement for two witnesses and 10-day reflection period. What we did not review is expanding assisted dying where the sole underlying condition is mental illness.
Whether members generally support the bill or not, and even if they support this specific Senate amendment, they cannot deny this: As elected representatives whose constituents rely on us to do our work in a measured, intelligent and compassionate way, we are not being given the opportunity to study this expansion and hear from those who are directly affected.
What of the experts who may assist us? We are told we will hear from them later. Will we, or will the government ignore the review mandate, just as it ignored the first one?
Is this our process now? Is this how Canada's Parliament creates good defensible public policy, with no diligent consultation and no close review of the implications? Are we just going to wing it now? Are we not going to challenge amendments from the Senate that fundamentally change this bill or other bills? This amendment would make Canada's assisted dying regime by far the most permissive on the planet.
The minister stated today that we were always going to study this very complex change carefully and look at it with the help of experts, yet here we are voting it into law and even closing down debate. How does this work?
I do agree with the minister's other statement today that we are parliamentarians and we have a responsibility. Yes, we are, and yes, we do.
Why not study this at committee? The Conservatives brought forward a motion to sit next week during a constituency week to study this. This motion was voted down. Minister Lametti also stated this morning that the Senate—
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-03-11 17:21 [p.4933]
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for South Surrey—White Rock for her contributions at committee and for her contributions today through the deeply heartfelt and very personal speech she just gave. However, I take issue with some of the points she raised.
First, with respect to coercion, the evidence indicates that no discipline or prosecution has taken place against any doctor or nurse in this country in the five years we have had MAID. Second, the notion that we would have the most permissive regime on the planet should these amendments pass is speculative. We know, for example, that the safeguards we would put in place are yet to be determined and that in the Benelux countries, for example, minors can avail themselves of medical assistance in dying. That is not on the table here.
No one takes issue with the fact that we need supports for people who have a mental illness, but I would ask the member opposite to comment on the Truchon case. As she is a lawyer, I know she reads jurisprudence, just as I do.
In the Truchon case, the court said that people with disabilities need to have the autonomy and competence to make decisions about their lives and—
View Kerry-Lynne Findlay Profile
Madam Speaker, I am a lawyer, as is the hon. member, but one of my fundamental disagreements with how this has proceeded is that the Truchon decision was a Quebec Superior Court decision, a court of first instance, in fact. It did not go to the Quebec Court of Appeal, nor did it go to the Supreme Court of Canada. It could have even gone to the Supreme Court of Canada by way of reference, but the government did not do that. The plaintiffs in the Truchon case do not speak for all persons with disabilities, as we clearly heard at committee.
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2021-03-11 17:23 [p.4933]
Madam Speaker, I hate to say it, but listening to the Conservatives, I am left with the impression that they are exploiting the realities of persons with disabilities.
Who is more vulnerable than someone living with an irreversible medical condition, who is suffering intolerably and has reached their tolerance threshold? Ms. Gladu lived her life, but she had a degenerative disease that affected her physical autonomy. She was experiencing intolerable suffering, but even in a wheelchair, she was able to go to court and assert her moral autonomy.
I do not understand why the member is unwilling to come and discuss her concerns in a parliamentary committee to try to pinpoint exactly what her concerns are.
View Kerry-Lynne Findlay Profile
Madam Speaker, I find the hon. member's question fundamentally offensive because he is not talking about process. He is not talking about dealing with the Senate amendment through a proper committee review. He is talking about an overall bill, which we are not really speaking about here today. We understand the overall issue of persons with disabilities clearly, and we understand what plaintiffs had to say and why they took their case to court. However, that is not what we are dealing with here today. To suggest that I do not care about them is nonsense.
View Jeremy Patzer Profile
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Yorkton—Melville.
It is an honour to stand in the House today and give this speech on behalf of the constituents of Cypress Hills—Grasslands. This has been a very heavy issue for a lot of my constituents, and there has been a lot of engagement on it.
The Liberal government, already with many other scandals and failures, has hit an all-time low with the bill. The Liberals were already seeking to legally expand assisted suicide in ways that are unnecessary and uncalled for. However, now for Canadians everywhere, especially those with disabilities or mental health challenges and our medical professionals, the situation has suddenly gotten much worse.
The other place sent Bill C-7 back to us with some radical and outrageous amendments. They are unthinkable and should have been rejected immediately. Instead, the Liberals have accepted the unacceptable, and at the last stage of the process, they somehow thought to allow the bill to be made even more dangerous than it already was. They have been trying to rush it along ever since, and now they are shutting down debate after everyone has barely started to process what exactly is going on.
The Liberals have shown complete disregard and disrespect for the public, who are supposed to be represented in our democratic process. However, what is even more disturbing and offensive is the statement they are making to the people who are most at risk of suffering the consequences of their legislation. The message is already clear, not only in Canada but in the rest of the world.
We are supposed to be a place that cares about human life and dignity. We are supposed to a country that leads the way and takes a principled stand for people's rights. This is Canada.
Before the government agreed to make Bill C-7 even worse, The Washington Post published an article about it entitled “Canada is plunging toward a human rights disaster for disabled people”. In a way, it is more shocking to hear it from outside observers. This is a warning sign of where our country is headed. However, the point is not new. The article focuses on Roger Foley, who keeps fighting to survive and demands better from government and the health care system. He wants assisted life before he is ever offered assisted suicide.
Major disability organizations in Canada, which are now joined by mental health advocates, have been calling out the same discrimination and dangers involved. At the same time, the United Nations has specifically called out Canada for these same issues with MAID under the current law, never mind what the Liberals are bringing forward and what the Senate has put forward here now. Before the Truchon decision happened, the special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities publicly stated:
I am 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 have been provided with viable alternatives when eligible for assistive dying. I have further received worrisome claims about persons with disabilities in institutions being pressured to seek medical assistance in dying....
Since then, a new person has filled the role of special rapporteur, who, while testifying on Bill C-7, said, “even if safeguards would be strengthened to ensure genuine consent, the damage is still done by portraying—not directly but effectively nonetheless—that the lives of persons with disabilities are somehow worth less than others.”
However, we are not even talking about stronger safeguards either here. The government is choosing to remove multiple safeguards for disabilities, and now for mental health because of the amendments that the Senate sent us. The problem is clear to different Canadians, regardless of whether they support the law currently in place for MAID. I have heard this from several members, even within my own party, for example. The problem is that we are not discussing MAID anymore, and these amendments have made that absolutely clear, if it was not before.
I recently finished reading the book 1984 by George Orwell. Some members will say this sounds cliché and exaggerated, but they need to pay more attention to the point he makes about doublespeak and the meaning of words. If we twist the meaning of words, we subliminally change the values of society. If we do not say what we mean and mean what we say, we can easily lose sight of reality. What is worse, we can cover up harm and injustice.
We heard a Liberal minister defend Bill C-7 in a very telling way when he said, “Mental illness is a very serious illness. It is an illness. It needs to be treated as an illness. It was always going to be looked at in the second stage of the bill.” This was in response to a question about the concern of mistreating Canadians with mental illness.
The Bell Let's Talk Day was not long ago, and there are several other initiatives for mental health throughout the year. Are we going to contradict the message we all unanimously used in the House back then as we were supporting people who were dealing with mental health or are we now going to think of suicide as treatment? Are we supposed to believe it is an option for improving someone's mental condition? I should hope actual treatments and care are provided and that suicide is actively prevented rather than offered, even as a last resort, for those who want to kill themselves but are not dying. This is no way to treat people who are suffering.
When people consider suicide, we offer them a help line. We reaffirm their value that their lives are worth living. Suicide prevention is already hard enough. How are we going to convince them? If this law passes and if it keeps us from reaching them in time, what message is that telling those people who are signalling that they have already lost hope and that this bill essentially offers them no further chance at hope? This new law and the tangled web it weaves will not make any sense whatsoever.
When the government first opened a Pandora's box for assisted suicide back in 2016, it said there would be a required review process in five years. Five years went by and it never happened. It would have been a perfect opportunity to address the growing concerns with the current law for MAID. The Liberals did not wait and they did not prioritize doing it before trying to expand the law in response to a provincial court ruling.
In case anyone forgot, Bill C-7 goes far beyond the actual decision of the court, which the Liberals claim is a time restraint even though they did not bother to appeal it in the first place. They are forcing us into last minute amendments with one afternoon, really, of debate; and that is it.
I do not believe these rules reflect the true Canadian spirit. They would silence too many voices and perspectives that deserve to be heard after ignoring them for the past year and more. The average Canadian does not find it hard to be horrified at these changes, especially when they have barely seen the light of public scrutiny. Whether we live with or love people with disabilities and mental health challenges or if we have the basic idea of respecting the dignity and value of our fellow human beings, the problems are obvious. Someone who for any reason is distressed by what this decision represents is apparently not worth the government's time or consideration.
The Liberals say they have run out of time, but they have failed to make time or give time to those who need it most. They are the ones who control the legislative calendar. It was up to them. It is a lot like getting stuck with a pushy sales rep who avoids questions while trying to make a quick sale. By now, Canadians are used to Liberal excuses for their incompetence, but it is becoming clearer than ever how some of their radical views on social issues try to get passed through unnoticed.
This is all the more reason why we needed to have a thorough review of the current law, which was promised but not kept. The government now says that it will accept one amendment, requiring a review after the bill comes into effect. We will have to see how that goes.
Despite all the frustration and discouragement coming forward from strong advocates and citizens, which I share right now, I still have hope in the human spirit for the future. If the government wants to take us backward and if its allies in Parliament turn a blind eye, it will not be able to stop the truth and justice from winning out. It makes me think of a line sung by Johnny Cash, “What's done in the dark will be brought to the light.”
It is a shame that there will not be much longer to speak today, because there are so many more things that do need to be said about this important issue about these amendments from the Senate. Human life is worth far more than just a few minutes of debate and discussion.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-03-11 17:58 [p.4938]
Madam Speaker, the member indicated that the message being sent is that persons who are mentally ill are not needed, valued or worthy.
What I would reiterate for her is that this issue about persons with disabilities and their competence and autonomy was squarely before the court in Truchon. What the court squarely found in paragraph 681 of the decision is that there is a “pernicious stereotype” about persons with disabilities, and that is “the inability to consent fully to medical assistance in dying.” The decision goes on to say:
Yet the evidence amply establishes that Mr. Truchon is fully capable of exercising fundamental choices concerning his life and his death. As a consequence, he is deprived of the exercise of these choices essential to his dignity as a human being due to his personal characteristics that the challenged provision does not consider.
As such, he must be provided access.
The issue is clearly about providing value and dignity and worth to persons—all persons, including persons with disabilities—and ensuring that they have the competence and autonomy to make decisions, including very serious decisions, after careful consideration, about the timing of their passing.
I wonder if the member for Yorkton—Melville would like to comment on that aspect of the Truchon case.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2021-03-11 17:59 [p.4939]
Madam Speaker, no, I am not interested in responding to the Truchon case, because we are long past that. We are at the place where the government has decided it is more than happy to go along with what the Senate has put forward and to give people with mental illness, on its own, the ability to choose assisted suicide.
That is not in the best interests of Canadians. It is not in the best interests of anyone who, in the case of mental illness, cannot be in a solid state of mind when they are considering assisted suicide.
View Dane Lloyd Profile
View Dane Lloyd Profile
2021-03-11 18:59 [p.4947]
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Sarnia—Lambton.
Today will be a historic day for Canada, a day that will be looked back on for decades to come as a day of infamy for the rights of vulnerable, disabled and mentally ill Canadians. Years from now, our country will be rocked by a political scandal when it is revealed how tens of thousands of vulnerable Canadians ended their lives through medical assistance in dying. We will discover how many of these vulnerable Canadians, whose deaths were not reasonably foreseeable and who suffered from depression and other mental health challenges, were allowed to end their lives with little to no safeguards.
Righteously angered families will demand justice from the government. They will demand parliamentary inquiries and they will fight through the courts to reveal the truth that, for decades, the government failed to support vulnerable Canadians and, instead, allowed them to end their lives in the absence of real assistance. On that day, a prime minister will stand across the way in the House to give a tearful apology for the lives of so many lost as a result of the Liberal government's negligence. Parliamentarians will vote for serious reform to affirm the lives of vulnerable people and reinstate firm restrictions to protect the rights of the disabled and mentally ill. Together on that day, we will vow never again to stand idly by and let legislation pass in the House that would put vulnerable lives at risk.
The vote tonight will determine whether that is the bleak future this country will have, and today we have a choice, as parliamentarians: Do we stand up for the rights of disabled Canadians, those suffering with mental health challenges, or do we vote for radical legislation that will imperil the lives of many of them? Tonight I will vote with a clean conscience knowing that I have done my duty to uphold the rights and dignity of Canadians, and I urge MPs in the House to look deep into their consciences and ask themselves if they want history to remember them as those who went along and voted for this travesty.
Some members of the House may scoff at my claims, but if they will not take it from me, they should take it from the very people whose lives are being held in the balance because of this vote. They should take it from those in the disability community who have been speaking vocally about the pressure they face from society to end their own lives. They should take it from suicide survivors who know that under this legislation, their lives would have ended before they could recover and live fulfilled lives. The Liberal government likes to praise itself for its deference to the experts, but in this case, it is kowtowing to special interests who are pushing a radical agenda.
If the Liberals really wanted to craft a bill that reflected what the experts are saying, they would heed the words of Dr. Sonu Gaind, the former head of the Canadian Psychiatric Association. I will note that Dr. Gaind is live-tweeting tonight's proceedings. He has raised the alarm that doctors under this legislation, many of whom are not equipped to make judgments on whether a patient with mental health issues will be able to recover, will also be given the power to grant death to these patients. He has raised serious concerns about the motivations of this legislation that seek to grant more autonomy for privileged people to end their lives, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, seriously risk further marginalizing the lives of those who do not have the privilege of being able, of having a sound mind or of having access to the best mental and physical life supports.
He has raised the alarm that nowhere has anyone considered the risk of this legislation for those who are suffering with suicidal ideations. Where are the protections for those contemplating suicide? We recently commemorated International Women's Day and I became aware recently that women are twice as likely to receive medical assistance in dying and twice as likely to attempt suicide. What analysis has been done to ensure that women, particularly disabled women and those suffering with mental health challenges, will not be marginalized by this legislation? I think this can be said of a lot of racialized communities and others as well.
Disability groups have pointed out that, in a cruel irony, today is the 11th anniversary of Canada's decision to adopt the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Did the government plan this slap in the face to the lives of disabled people who struggle every day to live their lives and who will now soon live with the added struggle of the constant pressure to seek assistance to end their lives?
This year, of all years, there is no excuse for ignorance when it comes to the plight of those suffering mental health challenges, the disabled, and those who are contemplating suicide. We have seen the significant impact that suicide is having on our society. In some cases, death by suicide has outstripped deaths from COVID-19. In a year when we have learned so much about the gaps in assistance and its fatal consequences, how can we move forward with this out-of-touch and radical legislation that seeks to make it even easier for vulnerable people to receive death? The situation that we have been placed in, as parliamentarians, in response to these proposed amendments from the Senate, is precarious.
Canadians are still adapting to the groundbreaking decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case. They are still grappling with the subsequent legislation passed in the last Parliament, which legalized medical assistance in dying. Now with the Truchon decision, we have been called to enact new changes less than five years into the coming into force of the previous medical assistance in dying legislation. If that were not enough, now we are being asked by the Liberal government to go even further than the Truchon decision, which did not even consider mental illness as an exclusive justification for seeking and being granted medically assisted death, and we are being called on now to pass this legislation in a rushed manner.
I suspect, and I know in my riding, that if we ask the average Canadian if they want medical assistance in dying for minors or for those solely with a mental illness, we would receive a resounding no; yet, the overwhelmingly Liberal dominated Senate has taken it upon itself to push the agenda of special interests forward, to the detriment of vulnerable peoples. It was not that long ago that the Supreme Court ruled that there was no right to a medically assisted death. The Carter decision, I believe, was in many ways a deviation from the previous law, but today, to many, it may seem quite conservative because, at least in that case, the courts had a desire to place clear parameters around this novel practice.
It is clear to me that the Minister of Justice wants to implement a radical agenda that would almost see euthanasia legalized for every occasion. I think he said as much in his vote when he voted against the previous legislation. The Liberals did not feel that Carter went far enough. They did not feel that Truchon went far enough. They could not get a pass through the House, so they got a pass through the Senate. The justice committee did not contemplate mental health, and inasmuch as the committee did contemplate mental health the testimony it heard advised against including mental health.
There are so many Canadians who are going to be devastatingly hurt by the recklessness of this legislation, and Canadians have not had an opportunity to fully pass judgment on this legislation. When we have an election in the next few months or years, we need the government to stake out a clear position on where it wants to go with euthanasia, before Canadians go to the polls. I do not recall any party, in the last election, putting forward a policy that said it wanted to seek mental illness inclusions in the medical assistance in dying regime. The government does not have a mandate from Canadians to pass this radical legislation.
It is time to be on the right side of history and stand with vulnerable Canadians against this dangerous and radical legislation.
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