Madam Speaker, when this House opens most days, we take a moment to pray, reflect and ensure our words and our jobs of representing Canadians are done to our utmost ability. We are honoured to be in the people's House. My personal prayer today is that my words reflect the severity of Bill C-7, a very serious subject.
I have been closely following the Liberals' terrifying progress as they work to embed the practice of efficient death in our medical system. In January they held MAID legislative consultations online for a total of only two weeks; two weeks to hear from the public on legislation that is truly a matter of life or death.
There is a mandatory five-year review set for this June for our MAID law, but instead of working within that timeline, the Liberals have let one ruling from one Quebec judge dictate the legislative direction for the entirety of Canada. At minimum, this issue should have been referred to the Supreme Court of Canada.
I am fearful of the current justice minister who voted against MAID in the previous Parliament, not because he was against it, but because he felt it did not go far enough. That is the driving force behind some of these drastic changes.
As the Liberals have just tabled the bill this week, I have only had a short period of time to begin digesting it. I need to stress to the House today that these are my preliminary thoughts. In my opinion, this is a needlessly rushed process on a sensitive, significant issue that does touch every Canadian.
For the first four months of my term, I have heard from many concerned constituents, advocacy groups, differently abled individuals and organizations, and those in the medical profession.
What I need to emphasize at the outset of my time here tonight is the innate value of every human being, regardless of ability. I want to speak directly to those who are in physical pain, those in mental anguish and those who feel they are a burden. Everyone is loved, everyone is valuable and everyone is made in the image of God. There is a place in our society for patients in unbearable suffering with no possibility of recovery to be provided with end-of-life options. We owe this to Canadians. Autonomy and personal wishes do need to be respected.
There is a paradox, in that suffering is both hard and good. Everyone who suffers deserves our love, our care and access to appropriate palliative care. I will touch on palliative care in a moment, but presently I will address this bill, raise some of the concerns I have with it from my initial reading and voice the concerns of those it affects directly from whom I have heard, including our medical professionals and the vulnerable or disabled of our society.
Numerous organizations like Canadian Physicians for Life and Canadian Society for Palliative Care Physicians have raised numerous significant issues with Bill C-7. The organizations cite specific concerns with clauses of the bill and also relay an overarching general concern about how the proposed legislation erodes the trust that vulnerable people should be able to have in the medical profession.
We seek out medical aid when we are at the lowest, most vulnerable points in our lives. Vulnerable Canadians must be able to find protection within the medical community. In an ironic, tragic twist, the preamble of the bill recognizes the importance of protecting vulnerable persons from being encouraged to end their lives, but does nothing to support what should be foundational in our health care system.
The bill itself drops many of the already too few safeguards around MAID and places vulnerable people at an increased risk.
Point one is that the reasonably foreseeable natural death criteria has been removed, which would drastically reinvent MAID. It would no longer be an alternative to a painful death, but an alternative to a painful life.
Point two is that independent oversight has been reduced. Where two witness signatures were previously required on a patient's written request for MAID, the requirement would now be one. The bar would be lowered even further as that individual, that supposedly independent witness, can be the person paid to take care of someone, that is, medical staff.
Point three is that disturbingly, Bill C-7 also does away with the previous 10-day waiting period for those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable.
Under Bill C-7, one could be diagnosed and killed all in one day, with no opportunity for reflection or discussion with friends or family members. That is what this bill would do.
Point four is that the bill would also legalize physician-assisted suicide by advance request through a waiver of final consent and drop the requirement for consent to be given twice before MAID is performed. The existing law requires consent at the time eligibility is granted and again before termination of life occurs. Under the new law, once consent would be given, there would be no need for medical staff to confirm it before administering a lethal injection.
Can someone consent in advance to being killed once they reach a state they fear but which they are not experiencing now and, in fact, have never experienced? Once a person has signed an advance request and has lost capacity to consent to medical treatment, at what point should euthanasia take place? At what point should a person be killed?
In a technical briefing yesterday, officials were pushed to explain how MAID would be administered and what safeguards would be in place for the day, the hour, the minute euthanasia would be carried out. Shockingly, the legislation would only require one medical practitioner to be present. Therefore, even if an individual attempted to withdraw consent, there would be no mechanism to ensure their wishes were respected. One medical professional should not be permitted to conduct euthanasia alone. This would not ensure accountability and, in my opinion, is completely unacceptable.
Additionally, there is no provision for individuals to be able to seek doctors who would not counsel MAID as a treatment option. In fact, there is no mechanism for physicians to opt out of providing MAID or any conscience protections for medical professionals who refuse to participate in MAID or do not wish to refer a patient.
We are seeing this in British Columbia, where the Delta Hospice Society has been denied funding for refusing to offer MAID services. With this in mind, how then are individuals able to trust that the doctor will really care for their well-being? The frightening thing is that pro-MAID health care providers are not waiting for people to raise the possibility of euthanasia. In fact, we are hearing first-hand accounts of individuals who have been encouraged to pursue this option unprompted.
What about section 241 of the Criminal Code, which counts it an offence to counsel a person to commit suicide? Those staring at the precipice of potential death should not have the entire medical establishment looming behind them to pursue a certain option.
This brings me back to palliative care and the dismal record on caring for Canadians at end of life. There is nothing in the bill and little tangible government action taken to approve access to palliative care. The Conservative dissenting opinion from the committee's review of previous MAID legislation states, ”A genuinely autonomous choice for a person to end their life is not possible if they are not offered palliative care as they will see their choice as only intolerable suffering or PAD [physician-assisted death].”
The Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Association estimates that fewer than 30% of Canadians who need it have access to palliative services. The Conservative Party recognized this need in its 2019 platform and a Conservative government would implement the framework on palliative care in Canada.
As I referenced the Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Association, I need to make one its points crystal clear, which is that MAID is not part of hospice palliative care. It is not an extension of palliative care, nor is it one of the tools in the palliative care basket. Health care articles, the general media and, sadly, politicians continue to conflate and thus misrepresent these two fundamentally different practices.
Hospice palliative care focuses on improving quality of life and symptom management through holistic, person-centred care for those living with life-threatening conditions.
In conclusion, at my first reading, I am disappointed to say that the Liberal government's proposed legislation to amend MAID sadly misses the mark on many levels. It had the opportunity to increase safeguards for the vulnerable, provide conscience right for medical practitioners, implement protections for those living with mental illness and address many more legislative inadequacies. I hope that in the spirit of this minority government the suggested amendments coming from all sides of the House will be welcomed graciously and thoughtfully.
To my constituents, I am opposed to these changes and will urgently seek their feedback. Many of them live with stories and experiences on both sides of this issue and I need to hear from all of them.
To reiterate, to those who are in physical pain, who are in mental anguish and who feel they are a burden, they are loved, they are valuable and they are made in the image of God.