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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 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 Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, the second petition raises serious concerns about Bill C-7, including the government's plan to eliminate the 10-day reflection period. The petitioners are also concerned about the government's plan to allow suicide facilitation for those struggling with mental health challenges.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, my fifth and final petition raises significant concerns about Bill C-7. It objects to how the bill would remove a 10-day reflection period. The petitioners are also deeply concerned about the fact that the government is now trying, through a Senate amendment, to legalize suicide facilitation and euthanasia for those facing mental health challenges. I am sure they would want to highlight to the House that our focus should be on helping people with mental health challenges find recovery, not facilitate their death. I commend all five of these petitions to the consideration of all members.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, the third petition is in opposition to many of the provisions in Bill C-7. The government has piled many things into that bill that are completely unrelated to the Truchon decision. Those things include, for instance, removing the 10-day waiting period, which would create a mechanism by which there could be same-day death in Canada.
The government is now also trying to allow euthanasia for those with a mental health challenge. Petitioners recognize that mental health associations have said that mental health conditions are neither terminal nor permanent, and euthanasia for people in that situation goes against the advice and opinion of experts.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, the final petition expresses grave concern about Bill C-7, the government's decision to try to remove safeguards, to open the door to euthanasia for those who are facing mental health challenges and to do so in all these policy areas in ways that are completely unrelated to the Truchon decision.
The petitioners call on the government to amend or stop this bill and, in particular, to remove those aspects of the bill which are completely unrelated to the Truchon decision, which, frankly, is most of them.
I commend these four petitions to the consideration of the House.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, the fifth and final petition is with respect to Bill C-7. The petitioners are very concerned about how the government's Bill C-7 would make people living with disabilities effectively second-class citizens when they are accessing our health care system. They are deeply concerned about provisions in this bill and want the bill to be either defeated or significantly amended.
I commend all these petitions to the consideration of the House. I hope the government will take very seriously the concerns raised by Canadians and people living with disabilities with Bill C-7.
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that, in relation to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), the House:
agrees with amendment 1(a)(ii) made by the Senate;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 1(a)(i) because this matter, including questions of most appropriate precise definitions, whether those definitions should be included in the Criminal Code or elsewhere, and whether any consequential amendments or protections relating to issues such as consent and capacity are necessary in relation to such an amendment, will also be addressed by the expert panel and the upcoming parliamentary review, and the Government will collaborate with provincial and territorial health authorities to ensure a consistent approach;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 1(a)(iii), 1(b) and 1(c) because it would permit advance requests for medical assistance in dying before an individual has a grievous and irremediable medical condition, a change which goes beyond the scope of the bill, and further, this expansion of the medical assistance in dying regime requires significant consultations and study, including a careful examination of the safeguards for persons preparing advance request and safeguards for practitioners administering medical assistance in dying, all of which could be part of the parliamentary review undertaken to study this important type of advance request to reflect the crucial input of Canadians affected by the medical assistance in dying regime;
proposes that, with respect to amendment 2:
the portion of paragraph 241.31(3)(a) before subparagraph (i) be amended by replacing it with the following:
“(a) respecting the provision and collection, for the purpose of monitoring medical assistance in dying, of information relating to requests for, and the provision of, medical assistance in dying, including”;
clause 241.31(3)(a)(i)(B) be amended by adding after the words “respecting the race” the words “or indigenous identity”;
subparagraph 241.31(3)(a)(i) be amended by deleting “and” at the end of clause (A), by adding “and” at the end of clause (B) and by adding the following after clause (B):
“(C) information — other than information that must be provided in relation to the assessment of eligibility to receive medical assistance in dying and the application of safeguards — respecting any disability, as defined in section 2 of the Accessible Canada Act, of a person who requests or receives medical assistance in dying, if the person consents to providing that information,”;
paragraph 241.31(3)(b) be amended by replacing it with the following:
“(b) respecting the use, analysis and interpretation of that information, including for the purposes of determining the presence of any inequality – including systemic inequality – or disadvantage based on race, Indigenous identity, disability or other characteristics, in medical assistance in dying;”;
as a consequence of amendments 1(a)(ii) and 3, proposes that the following amendment be added:
“1. New clause 3.1, page 9: Add the following after line 20:
“Independent Review
3.1 (1) The Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health must cause an independent review to be carried out by experts respecting recommended protocols, guidance and safeguards to apply to requests made for medical assistance in dying by persons who have a mental illness.
(2) A report containing the experts’ conclusions and recommendations must be provided to the Ministers no later than the first anniversary of the day on which this Act receives royal assent.
(3) The Ministers must cause the report to be tabled in each House of Parliament within the first 15 days on which the House is sitting after the day on which they receive the report.”;”
proposes that, with respect to amendment 3:
section 5 be amended by replacing it with the following:
5 (1) A comprehensive review of the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to medical assistance in dying and their application, including but not limited to issues relating to mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with disabilities must be undertaken by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament.
(2) The Joint Committee shall be composed of five Members of the Senate and ten Members of the House of Commons, including five Members from the governing party, three Members of the Official Opposition, and two Members of the opposition who are not Members of the Official Opposition, with two Chairs of which the House Co-Chair shall be from the governing party and the Senate Co-Chair shall be determined by the Senate.
(3) The quorum of the Committee is to be eight Members whenever a vote, resolution or other decision is taken, so long as both Houses and one Member of the governing party in the House and one from the opposition in the House and one Member of the Senate are represented, and that the Joint Chairs be authorized to hold meetings, to receive evidence and authorize the printing thereof, whenever six Members are present, so long as both Houses and one Member of the governing party in the House and one Member from the opposition in the House and one Member of the Senate are represented.
(4) The Committee must commence its review within 30 days after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.
(5) The Committee must submit a report of its review – including a statement of any recommended changes – to Parliament no later than one year after the day on which it commenced the review.
(6) When the report, referenced in paragraph (5), has been tabled in both Houses, the Committee shall expire.”;
section 6 be amended by replacing the words “18 months after” with the words “on the second anniversary of”.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks today by acknowledging the comprehensive study and debate of Bill C-7 in the other place. I applaud their diligence in holding a pre-study of Bill C-7 this past November and an in-depth committee study of the bill earlier this month, and a thematic third reading debate two weeks ago.
The matter of medical assistance in dying, or MAID, is a serious and complex one. The Senate has given it serious thought, and I believe we have given it serious thought in our response in this motion.
Before discussing the amendments, I want to remind hon. members of the process that got us here.
As members will recall, the bill proposes a legislative response to the Superior Court of Quebec's Truchon and Gladu decision in which the court ruled that it was unconstitutional to limit MAID to persons whose death was reasonably foreseeable.
To develop this bill, my colleagues, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, our parliamentary secretaries and I held round table discussions across Canada with over 125 experts and stakeholders.
The government also ran a public online survey, to which over 300,000 Canadians across the country responded. A report summarizing the consultations was released in March. Our government fulfilled its mandate by creating this legislation. The whole process resulted in the bill that was introduced in the House last February.
As hon. members know, we had a thorough debate on this bill before the work of the House was suspended.
The objective of the bill is to recognize the autonomy of individuals choosing MAID as a means of relieving intolerable suffering regardless of the foreseeability of their natural death, while at the same time protecting vulnerable persons and affirming the inherent and equal value of every person's life.
Bill C-7 proposes important changes to the Criminal Code's provisions on MAID in response to the Truchon decision and informed by the results of the January and February 2020 consultations. We recognize these changes represent a critical shift. Our government has been working very hard since the Truchon decision on responding to this important court ruling and remains committed to doing so as quickly as possible.
After months of review of Bill C-7 in both the House of Commons and the Senate, we are now at a critical stage. There are Canadians who are suffering intolerably and would become eligible for MAID under the government's proposed changes, but they are currently unable to access the medical assistance in dying regime. This matter has been thoroughly examined and Canadians need to be able to access the regime. We are renewing our commitment to the parliamentary review to look at the wide variety of other issues related to MAID outside of Bill C-7, but it is essential that we pass this legislation.
Following its thorough debate, the other place has adopted five amendments to Bill C-7. The most significant amendment is the sunset clause that would repeal the mental illness exclusion 18 months after Bill C-7 receives royal assent. I know that many senators and some witnesses from whom they heard believe that the exclusion of mental illness unjustifiably infringes the equality rights guaranteed by section 15 of the charter. I do not share that view. It is my opinion as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada that the mental illness exclusion is constitutional because it serves a protective purpose and is narrowly crafted.
I have spoken before about the inherent complexities and risks with MAID on the basis of mental illness as the sole criterion, such as suicidality being a symptom of some mental illnesses, the impossibility of predicting whether in any given case symptoms will improve or not and the increased difficulty of capacity assessments. These are the concerns that led the government to exclude mental illness as the sole condition for MAID eligibility, given the proposal to broaden it beyond the end of life context. This decision was accompanied by a commitment to further consider the issue of MAID for mental illness in the parliamentary review required by former Bill C-14.
We heard from witnesses who share those concerns, but we also heard from several others who said that excluding everyone with mental illness as a sole underlying condition could be stigmatizing and pointless.
Some mental health experts believe that practitioners can assess the eligibility criteria case by case, particularly the voluntariness of each request and each patient's decision-making capacity.
In November 2020, the Association des psychiatres du Québec released a discussion paper exploring safeguards and procedures that could be put in place for the provision of MAID on the ground of mental illness alone.
While I do think the exclusion is constitutional, and I do not believe that we are fully prepared to safely proceed with the provision of MAID on the ground of mental illness alone, I also hear the concern expressed by Canadians that this exclusion fails to address the issue of whether and when the provision of MAID will be permitted to alleviate intolerable suffering due to mental illness.
That is why I propose that we support the sunset clause, but with an amendment so that it would repeal the mental illness exclusion after 24 months instead of after 18 months, after Bill C-7 comes into force. In combination with this amendment, I am also proposing the enactment of the requirement that the Minister of Health and I establish an expert panel to review safeguards protocols for guidance for such cases. We would give this group of experts 12 months to consider these difficult questions and make their recommendations to us, which we will make public by tabling their report in Parliament. The government and Parliament would then have 12 additional months to consider what safeguards should be legislated before the exclusion is repealed.
We hope this compromise can be acceptable to the other place. While some work has begun on potential safeguards for this group of persons, the work is far from complete and enacting legislation takes time. We think 24 months is still an ambitious timeline to implement such an important change in Canada's MAID policy, but it still provides a fixed timeline in the relatively near future for considering MAID eligibility on the basis of mental illness.
We also welcome the Senate's amendment concerning the parliamentary review. We suggest making a few changes to the timetable for completing the work, and we think it is appropriate to include key issues that this review will address.
The parliamentary review should address important issues, most of which were highlighted during the procedures and committee debates on Bill C-7 in both chambers, including palliative care in Canada, protecting Canadians with disabilities, safeguards for persons with mental illness, medical assistance in dying for mature minors, advance requests for medical assistance in dying and the legislation on medical assistance in dying more generally.
The spirit of the amendment aligns with the government's commitment to make it easier to call for a parliamentary review as soon as possible following royal assent to Bill C-7. This review is absolutely essential for the future of medical assistance in dying in Canada.
During consultations and the committee process in the House and in the Senate, we noted that a certain number of issues should have been reviewed and addressed, but they required a more in-depth study than was possible to carry out within the court-imposed deadline.
Bill C-14 calls on Parliament to conduct that review, and we are using this message today to initiate the process. While the motion sets out important issues that need to be examined, I do not expect the list to be limited to only those issues. Medical assistance in dying is a very broad subject, and we hope to hear from many Canadians on a wide variety of subjects related to it.
Having heard from many witnesses and spoken to many Canadians about Bill C-7, I know that people have different views on these issues. They are challenging issues, and I look forward to the parliamentary review, to hearing from many more Canadians on the subject and to seeing what comes out of this review.
I will let other colleagues speak in greater detail about the Senate amendments to the MAID monitoring regime. I will say that I am proud to support this Senate amendment, with some modifications to make it more inclusive, as a necessary step in the right direction toward gathering better data to inform us all, going forward, about the operation of MAID in Canada. Good data is what grounds good policy, and by knowing more about who requests MAID and why, we can assess the impact of broadening the MAID regime and provide Canadians with the transparency and public trust that such a regime requires.
That brings me to two Senate amendments that I do not believe we can support.
The Senate adopted an amendment that will enable people whose death is not reasonably foreseeable to sign a waiver of final consent. Bill C-7 set out a general policy on the waiver of final consent that intentionally limited it to the most obvious cases with the least amount of uncertainty, specifically when a person's death was reasonably foreseeable and the person was ready to receive medical assistance in dying.
Since the question of expanding the circumstances in which medical assistance in dying can be administered in the absence of contemporaneous consent requires more in-depth study, it is best if it is addressed by the parliamentary review. I know that many people will be disappointed with that decision.
Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Sandra Demontigny, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at 39 years of age. She is an advocate for advance requests for medical assistance in dying. We had a long conversation. I was very touched by her story, her beliefs and her book. We will soon begin an in-depth study of this important issue during the parliamentary review.
Finally, while I appreciate the efforts at clarifying what constitutes a mental illness in the MAID context, this is a matter that can and will be addressed by the expert panel and the upcoming parliamentary review, and the government will collaborate with provincial and territorial health authorities to ensure a consistent approach. Through this work, I am confident there will be consistency on the scope of the exclusion, going forward.
Medical assistance in dying has always been a difficult issue that generates a variety of opinions on all sides of the issue. It is an issue that strikes deeply to every Canadian's personal morals and sensibilities. As such, it requires different interests to be considered. I firmly believe that Bill C-7 does so. The law would continue to require informed consent and a voluntary request made by a person with decision-making capacity, while also creating a more robust set of safeguards when the person's natural death is not reasonably foreseeable. These safeguards would require significant attention to be paid to all of the alternatives that might help alleviate suffering on the part of a person whose death is not reasonably foreseeable.
I believe that Bill C-7 is one important and prudent step in ensuring greater respect for the autonomy of a broader category of Canadians who are suffering intolerably. Our legislation would make only the necessary changes to ensure a MAID regime that is responsive to our experience to date and respects the charter rights and freedoms of Canadians to autonomy and safety. In Carter the court said, “the risks associated with physician-assisted death can be limited through a carefully designed and monitored system of safeguards”, and that is exactly what Bill C-7 would continue to do.
I look forward to working with all members of Parliament to pass these reasonable amendments prior to the court deadline on Friday. If the suspension period expires without the passage of Bill C-7, Truchon would come into effect without the benefit of the protection, safeguards and exclusions of our proposed bill. I encourage all members of the House to support the government's motion on the Bill C-7 amendments.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, the third and final petition raises concerns about some of the provisions in Bill C-7. In particular, it echoes the concerns of people in the disability community that Bill C-7 increases vulnerability and focuses on pushing people who are disabled toward death instead of providing them with the means and support to live their lives. The petition also raises concerns about same-day death: the possibility that someone could request and receive euthanasia on the same day as a result of the elimination of the 10-day reflection period. The petitioners want to see that reflection period left in place.
I commend all three of these petitions to the consideration of members.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, the third petition is respecting Bill C-7, the government's bill that seeks to dramatically expand euthanasia, or medical assistance in dying, in Canada. Concerns have arisen, especially from the disabled community, about how some people are eligible for suicide prevention, whereas others, as a result of their physical disability, may be subject to suicide facilitation. All disability communities that have spoken about this issue have raised significant concerns about it. Petitioners call on the government to restore important safeguards, which it is proposing to eliminate as part of this bill.
I commend these three petitions to the consideration of the House.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2020-12-10 10:13 [p.3252]
Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present.
The first is a petition from citizens who are concerned about Bill C-7's further removing safeguards from the current euthanasia regime. They are calling on the House of Commons to restore the 10-day reflection period for people whose death has been determined to be reasonably foreseeable, restore the original requirement that a person must give consent for the life-ending procedure immediately before it is performed, restore the original requirements for the signature of two witnesses, require medical professionals to do everything possible to enable a person to access life-affirming services and accommodate persons with communication disabilities by clarifying refusal or resistance to administration of physical-assisted death.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2020-12-10 10:44 [p.3257]
Mr. Speaker, today we rise to discuss a matter of the gravest importance, literally a matter of life and death.
It has been my practice as a member of Parliament to favour the expansion of free choice and individual human agency in all our decisions. I believe that government's principle role is to protect the life and liberty of its people, and that doing so means allowing people to make decisions for themselves with minimal application of force, in essence to minimize force and maximize freedom.
I am the finance critic and I have applied that principle to all economic matters, such as how can we allow individuals to make their own decisions with their own money. Here we talk about a matter that is more important than money, the matter of life and death.
I look upon this bill to determine whether it extends or withdraws individual freedom and free will from the people to whom it will apply. As I look through the practical application of the bill, it is my view that the bill will do more to withdraw individual choice and freedom than it will to extend it.
Let me begin by quoting the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, a physician and Liberal member of Parliament, who said:
My biggest concern, as someone who has spent my whole life trying to avoid accidentally killing people, is that we don't end up using MAID for people who don't really want to die.
Medical assistance in dying was supposed to be exclusively for people who did want to die, who, having been presented with all the worldly alternatives, chose death. We have a member of Parliament and former physician on the government side saying that the bill will have the effect of forcing people to a decision they would not otherwise make.
This is not just a theoretical issue. Allow me to read the story of Mr. Roger Foley. This is from a CTV story, which states:
Foley suffers from cerebellar ataxia, a brain disorder that limits his ability to move his arms and legs, and prevents him from independently performing daily tasks.
Roger Foley, 42, who earlier this year launched a landmark lawsuit against a London hospital, several health agencies, the Ontario government and the federal government, alleges that health officials will not provide him with an assisted home care team of his choosing, instead offering, among other things, medically assisted death.
In other words, we have a state health care system to which everybody is forced to pay and of which everyone is forced to be a part, from which it is impossible to avoid receiving care because paying out of pocket is illegal, private insurance is not allowed for essential care. When this gentleman then went to the care, the only care the government would allow him to have, it said that it could not provide him with that care, but what it could do was end his life, that he could pack it in, that he could just give up.
That is not free choice. That is the state effectively compelling a man to end his life or face endless years of unnecessarily turmoil that could have been avoided were appropriate care allowed. For that reason, I cannot support the bill.
I add my voice to thousands of people from the community representing persons with disabilities. The government is often fond of quoting the UN. The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities was “extremely concerned about the implementation of the legislation on medical assistance in dying from a disability perspective. I have been informed that there is no protocol in place to demonstrate that persons with disabilities” deemed eligible for assisted dying “have been provided with viable alternatives.” Mr. Foley's case is a prime example of that.
Therefore, those most vulnerable are not given a choice, but rather they are funnelled toward one inescapable outcome and compelled by the state to end their lives at threat of merciless and unnecessary suffering. Rather than providing these people with the care that would mitigate their suffering and fulfill the wishes of a happy life, they are told they have no choice but to end life altogether.
I will quote from disability groups, 72 of which wrote a letter to the government expressing their opposition to the bill.
I will start with Krista Carr, the executive vice-president of Inclusion Canada, an organization that works with Canadians with intellectual disabilities. She stated, “Bill C-7 is our worst nightmare.... The community of Canadians with disabilities and their families have long feared that having a disability would become an acceptable reason for 'state-provided suicide'.”
There are the words of Dr. Goligher, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, who said, “Bill C-7 declares an entire class of people, those with physical disabilities, as potentially appropriate for suicide — that their lives are potentially not worth living. Indeed were it not for their disability, we would not be willing to end them. I cannot imagine a more degrading and discriminatory message for our society to communicate to our fellow citizens living with disabilities.”
We are meant to give a voice to all Canadians, but most of all to the voiceless, and the voiceless are speaking through their advocates. Seventy-two groups have spoken out against the bill, the dehumanizing way with which it treats persons with disabilities and the manner by which it robs them of their free will and human agency. I fear that it adds to the quiet and sometimes unspoken narrative of certain politicians and opinion leaders who suggest that persons with disabilities do not have the same worth as others, a concept I find repulsive.
The lives of persons with disabilities are every bit as valuable and precious as the lives of the rest of us. No legislation should ever pass through the House or the next House that devalues the precious gift of life that persons with disabilities should have the right to enjoy. No bill should rob people of their free choice and human agency to live on in peace and dignity should they so choose.
This bill does not contain any protections against scenarios where people who are conflicted might try to suggest upon a person with disabilities that they should simply accept death. We put forward an amendment to ensure that a case like Roger Foley's would never happen again by banning medical professionals and other caregivers from raising the issue of assisted dying with a patient rather than letting the patient raise the issue himself or herself. The government opposed that.
The government is removing the requirement that there be two witnesses to sign off before someone dies. It is removing the 10-day waiting period, which allows people, who might be in a burst of urgent distress, to consider and reconsider their decision, a decision that we all know is absolutely irreversible, the most irreversible of all decisions, and that is to end one's life.
Why the government would oppose such protections that would ensure the patient truly does consent to end of life I do not know, but I do know one thing and will conclude on this. We must protect the freedom and choice of all our people and we must recognize the dignity and worth of every human life.
View Ted Falk Profile
View Ted Falk Profile
2020-12-10 11:01 [p.3259]
Mr. Speaker, what results from this bill is truly a matter of life and death. The decisions we make here always have some ripple effects on others, but this bill needs to be about protecting the rights of some of our most vulnerable.
It is from a place of deep conviction that I speak on Bill C-7. My hon. colleague for Thunder Bay—Rainy River echoed some of these concerns and convictions in a CBC article written by Kathleen Harris. He states:
I don't like voting against my party, but as someone with a medical background and somebody who has dealt with this issue over the years a lot, I think morally it's incumbent upon me to stand up when it comes to issues of health and life and death.
I find it heartbreaking that we are putting doctors and legislators in this position. As the member opposite suggests, the primary issue is protection of conscience rights for medical professionals, health care providers, and the rights of hospices and other institutions not wanting to cause the death of people in their care.
As a Maclean's editorial explains, many doctors who may be willing to expedite the natural process of dying, given their traditional role to relieve suffering, would likely be threatened by the qualitative and ethical distinction between hastening a death that is drawing near and ending a life that is expected to persist. This is a very valid point.
When one senator asked an expert witness whether it was true that medical professionals were leaving because of the lack of conscience rights, Dr. Leonie Herx replied that she knew of doctors who took early retirement for reasons of professional integrity or because of their own personal moral compass.
Do we want to harden the hearts of those who, because of their very own world view, cannot comply? These are people who feel that MAID is a betrayal of their professional commitment to save lives, a betrayal of their faith or a betrayal of their conscience.
A CBC article says it rather well:
Rather than instilling hope and helping to build resilience by focusing on options for living, health care providers will now be asked to discuss an early death.
Many helpful voices express serious reservation with this bill. Constitutional lawyer and author Don Hutchinson explains that this bill does not provide a sound structure and protection for all people, especially those living with disabilities, chronic pain or mental illness.
The executive vice-president of Inclusion Canada told us that for the disabled community, Bill C-7 is their worst nightmare. Their “biggest fear has always been that having a disability would become an acceptable reason for state-provided suicide.”
Colleagues may say that will never happen. Many of us never thought that we would be here debating same-day MAID, yet here we are. We are hearing stories that are happening today even with the current legislation.
Palliative care consultant Dr. Herx described the experience of Candice Lewis, “a 25-year-old woman with a developmental disability and chronic medical problems”. When she entered the ER, a doctor approached her mother and suggested that she consider MAID for her daughter. She refused. The doctor promptly told her she was being selfish.
The disabled community has made it very clear, time and again, that they have suffered at the hands of our current legislation and they feel directly targeted by this new MAID legislation, as no other community is directly referred to in the proposed amendments to the current legislation.
Despite the holes in the current legislation adopted in 2016, the government is pushing for a further expansion to the eligibility of MAID at an alarming pace. Krista Carr, executive vice-president of Inclusion Canada, explains that the community of Canadians with disabilities and their families have long feared that “having a disability would become an acceptable reason for state-provided suicide”.
According to the Council of Canadian Academies, without its reasonably foreseeable natural death provision, Canada would become more permissive with respect to medical assistance in dying than any other jurisdiction in the world.
There are also the voices of Lemmens and Krakowitz-Broker. They explain that, unlike in any other country in the world, the new bill fails to explicitly require that all reasonable options be made available and tried before allowing physicians to end a patient's life. Even when that decision for MAID is made, we absolutely need to reserve the right for people to have a change of heart.
Dr. Leonie Herx, the past president of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians and chair of the division of palliative medicine at Queen's University, sees life stories every day that show how people can change their minds with respect to MAID. She refers to one beloved patient who arrived at her clinic asking for MAID, but quickly abandoned his quest after being assured of his worth and that he was not a burden.
Recently, the member for Vancouver Granville asked the justice minister in the House why the 10-day reflection period and reconfirmation of consent were waived in this proposed new legislation. She said that the removal of these safeguards was not required by the Truchon decision: the ruling the Liberals chose not to appeal.
I noted the member's comments with great interest, given that she was the former justice minister who brought forward the original bill to legalize MAID in Canada, known as Bill C-14. In response to her questions and other critics, the current justice minister replied that the 10-day waiting period only increased suffering and that he had even heard of people who stopped taking their medications during this period.
Ensuring that all Canadians have access to care needs to be our top priority to address the needs of suffering Canadians. Death cannot, and should not, be the only choice to end excessive suffering. I have talked to many health care providers who say that we have the tools and resources here in Canada to alleviate all kinds of suffering, and even to alleviate the anxiety of individuals facing imminent death.
John Diefenbaker once said, “Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong.” Canadians value our right to think freely, to consider our thoughts and opinions, and to change our minds if we so choose. The elimination of the 10-day reflection period and the requirement to reconfirm consent takes this option away from those facing this difficult situation. How are we preserving the right for people to change their minds when we waive the waiting period? It would seem that this bill makes the choice for MAID to be final and irreversible.
That is not what is reported in the “First Annual Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada, 2019”. It says that 3.6% of the patients who made a written request for MAID subsequently withdrew that request. While that may not seem like a very significant number, to put it into context 263 people out of the 7,336 people who completed written requests later chose to change their minds because they had the opportunity to do that in the 10-day waiting period. That is 263 lives. Every single one of them deserved the right and the freedom to make that decision. This piece of legislation before us would take that right away from individuals.
Experts speaking to the Senate committee on Bill C-7 discussed how, in the proposed bill, MAID eligibility would apply to treatable diseases where death was not imminent. This is also where the bill adds a 90-day assessment period. It is no wonder that people with disabilities or chronic illnesses feel threatened by this legislation. This addition is especially concerning when people are faced with a sudden, dramatic life-changing illness or disability, as it often takes much longer than three months to gain a renewed perspective.
It is no wonder the former health minister, Dr. Jane Philpott, and the member of Parliament for Vancouver Granville wrote an editorial for Maclean's urging Parliament to proceed with caution, and questioning whether there was enough medical and social evidence to even understand the implications of these potential changes.
Saying that we are at a defining moment in history by approving this bill without further amendments is not an overstatement. I am thankful for the opportunity to highlight these very real risks, and I want to urge the Liberal government to address the bill's serious challenges.
View Corey Tochor Profile
View Corey Tochor Profile
2020-12-10 11:16 [p.3261]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to enter into the debate.
This is the first time I am speaking to Bill C-7. What drives my desire to speak today is the fact that we would take away the safeguards that were rightfully put in place to protect people from quick decisions and unnecessary death in Canada. This weighs on me because there are two individuals who I have witnessed pass away.
A good friend of mine, Scott Clarkson, had cancer. At thirty years old, he had a child, but unfortunately he succumbed to cancer. I watched as the angels who work in palliative care cared for him until the end. I think about the extra days he had with his son and his wife, but I know that Scott had tough days where it seemed pretty dark and bleak.
However, the bill, with its current safeguards, could catch an individual on a bad day, even without facing certain death, be it cancer or other conditions. On an off day, Scott might have been convinced that medically assisted dying was something for him. This is where I have an issue with the government not taking the amendment to include the 10-day reflection period. We all have tough days, but without the safeguard of a pause, there may have been times when Scott would have succumbed to the pain and made a different decision, and that would have resulted in less time with his wife and son.
This is why we need to revisit the bill. I encourage the government to please consider some of the reasonable amendments that we put forward, such as the 10-day reflection period.
The other person I think of is standing over my shoulder today, my father, who passed away during the summer. There were times when it must have been tough for him, but he was always a very positive man and believed that there were better days ahead, so much so that the month before he passed away after battling cancer for three years, he renewed his driver's licence for five years. He was always thinking that there were positive days ahead and that there were reasons to live. However, there were tough days, and I wonder what would have happened if the bill had passed in its current state and on one of those days my father might have made a different decision.
He was mentally stable right to the end and had great palliative care with some great doctors and nurses, but on a day when maybe family was not around, he might have thought it was right for him. My father died the same month as his 75th birthday, and without that reflection period, he may not have enjoyed that birthday with his family, and they may not have had that extra time with him.
These are the reasons I have entered into the debate today for the first time, to speak against Bill C-7. Primarily it is the issue that, at committee, no amendments were taken, and if we do not have safeguards in place there will be abuse. There will be individuals who decide to end their lives because of whatever pain and suffering they are in. That pain and suffering might end for them, but it passes on to their loved ones who are left to deal with those feelings. That is why we need to pause, go back to committee and draft a bill that has safeguards.
Other members have talked about all the people who have grave concerns about this bill and what it would do for people with disabilities. I think it is ironic that we are in the middle of a pandemic and we are asking health professionals and all Canadians to do whatever they can to save lives, and in the meantime parliamentarians are debating and are going to be passing, but hopefully not anytime soon, the opening up and lessening of restrictions on medical assistance in dying.
My colleague, the member for Cariboo—Prince George, is championing the cause of a national 988 suicide prevention hotline. This is not a partisan issue, and I encourage all parliamentarians to get behind that initiative. We would like to save the lives of people who are maybe finding themselves in tough situations. That is a noble cause.
We are talking about helping people, and unfortunately some are people with mental health issues who are committing suicide, we are trying to prevent those losses and the pain of those families. However, at the same time we are making people's ability to get a medically assisted death that much easier. I just cannot agree with that.
This is the first time I am speaking to the bill because of the personal nature of this. This is a tough subject. I entered into the debate so that we could understand who we represent. I represent Saskatoon—University, and the majority of my constituents want the safeguards to stay in place.
In conclusion, I implore the people of Canada, if they think we need safeguards, to contact their Liberal member of Parliament and in a respectful way please ask for some of the restrictions that were in place to be reintroduced on the bill. If we can come together in a respectful manner and find solutions, that is what Canadians want to do in the trying year of 2020, to find ways to bridge the gaps in our society. If we do not do this, if we do not consider other people's opinions and other views, I believe our society would be headed in the wrong direction, and the division we have seen in other parts of the world would come to Canada.
I plead with all reasonable people on the other side of the aisle to pause this. Let us go back to the drawing board, and let us make sure we have the safeguards in place to protect lives.
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