Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Beaches—East York.
It is an honour to stand up in the House of Commons and participate in the second reading debate for Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code to Canada's medical assistance in dying legislation.
In developing these amendments, Canadians were widely consulted in January 2020. During these consultations, approximately 300,000 Canadians completed an online questionnaire. In addition, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion met with stakeholders in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Quebec City to discuss proposed revisions to Canada's medical assistance in dying framework.
These experts and stakeholders included doctors, nurses, legal experts, national indigenous organizations and representatives of the disability community. The high level of participation in both the questionnaire and the in-person sessions is a reflection of the importance of this issue to Canadians. Moreover, the results of the consultations were critically important in shaping the government's approach to medically assisted dying as it evolves to reflect the needs of Canadians.
This bill would amend the Criminal Code to allow medical assistance in dying for people who wish to relieve their suffering through a medically assisted death, whether their natural death is reasonably foreseeable or not.
This bill would remove the reasonable foreseeability of natural death from the list of eligibility criteria. It would also expressly exclude people seeking medical assistance in dying solely because of mental illness.
The bill proposes a two-track approach based on whether a person's natural death is reasonably foreseeable. Existing safeguards remain and are eased for those whose death is reasonably foreseeable. In addition, new and modified safeguards would be applied to eligible persons whose death is not reasonably foreseeable.
In the spirit of “nothing without us”, I would like to mention the government remains focused on addressing the concerns of the disability community around vulnerability and choice. The proposed changes to the legislation support greater autonomy and freedom of choice for eligible persons who wish to relieve their suffering by pursuing a medically assisted death.
At the same time, full consideration has been given to the protection of vulnerable persons and to respecting the equality rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. In short, this bill would maintain and strengthen safeguards to support fully informed decision-making, while also respecting individual autonomy.
In terms of advance consent, many participants were comfortable with implementing advance requests for those who have been assessed and approved for medically assisted dying, but are concerned about losing capacity before it is provided. This bill would allow people who risk losing decision-making capacity to make arrangements with their practitioner to receive medically assisted dying on their chosen date, even if they lose decision-making capacity before that date.
The bill would also make advance consent invalid if the person demonstrates refusal or resistance to the administration of medically assisted dying. The bill goes on to clarify that reflexes and other types of involuntary movements, such as response to touch or the insertion of a needle, would not constitute refusal or resistance.
In addition, the bill would allow eligible persons who choose to self-administer to provide advance consent for a physician to administer a substance to cause their death if self-administration fails and causes them to lose capacity. This type of advance consent would be available for all eligible persons, regardless of their prognosis.
I would like to take a moment to speak to the progress the government has made with respect to the rights of persons with disabilities in Canada. In fact, last year, the government enacted the Accessible Canada Act, which aims to create a barrier-free Canada through the proactive identification, removal and prevention of barriers to accessibility wherever Canadians interact with areas under federal jurisdiction.
The act is one of the most significant advances in disability rights since the charter in 1982 and is designed to inspire a cultural transformation for disability inclusion and accessibility in Canada. The act created Accessibility Standards Canada, a new organization that will create and revise accessibility standards, and support and promote innovative accessibility research. The CEO and board of directors were appointed and operations began last summer.
That act also established National AccessAbility Week, a week dedicated to accessibility in late May and early June each year. National AccessAbility Week is an opportunity to promote inclusion and accessibility in communities and workplaces, and to celebrate the contributions of Canadians with disabilities.
It is also a time to recognize the efforts of individuals, communities and workplaces that are actively removing barriers to give Canadians of all abilities a better chance to succeed. The act applies to federally regulated organizations for now, but we know the culture shift will have a trickle-down effect, and that awareness and action on disability inclusion will increase across the country.
Our government is taking real action to address the rights of persons with disabilities. The careful writing of Bill C-7 is a testament to that. Representatives of disability organizations and leading disability scholars participated in consultations across the country. Their input informed the reforms proposed in the bill.
We recognize that disability inclusion requires more than legislation. That is why we are continuing to work with the disability community and other stakeholders to address stigma and bias. It is important to bring about a culture change to ensure that the important contributions made to Canada by persons with disabilities are recognized and valued on the same basis as those of other Canadians. Going forward, we will continue to focus on improving the social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities.
We will continue to work hard to ensure that all people are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, especially when it comes to deep and personal issues like ending life. It is imperative that the voices of all Canadians, including Canadians with disabilities, continue to be heard on the issue of medical assistance in dying.