Madam Speaker, Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code in relation to medical assistance in dying, is one that I believe was written with the intention of providing compassion to those who are suffering through an unfathomable, unbearable degree of pain by allowing a lawful, expedited termination of their suffering and granting access to a dignified death. The intention is kind. I see an urgency from the government to extend this expression of compassion to those who are suffering beyond comprehension.
However, from the perspective of a visionary and a lawmaker who cares for the long-term wellness and prosperity of our country, I would like to invite all members of the House to pause and bring into our dialogue the long-term effect of this bill and the impact of this bill on the guiding principles of lawmaking going forward.
I do not stand to speak on this bill with the moral authority of one who has reached a point of suffering equal to those who may be applying for MAID. I do not think most members of the House here have the personal experience to speak on that level. However, I do stand here to speak on this issue because there has been a force in my life that carried me through some very dark nights of the soul when adversity, pain and repeated cycles of injustice were poignant enough to wear down my will to fight and to try, sometimes causing me to question the value of my existence.
I have seen this force raise addicts, cancer patients and those experiencing deep depression from deep pits of psychological paralysis and darkness. This force transcends the distinctions of race, gender, socio-economic background, etc. It is almost as vital as life itself. It is a force that is central to the existence of the human race, and that force is called “hope”. While hope is easier to access for some than others, for others it may be almost impossible, because their painful experience is choking the light from their vision.
As caring individuals, as communities and as a nation that prides itself on compassion, it is our duty to turn over every stone to help others find hope when they can no longer access it themselves. Hope is a journey that demands an unrelenting search until it is found.
We saw it with Terry Fox. He is a national symbol of hope, because despite his painful struggle with cancer, he made the sacrifice he made with his cross-country campaign for cancer research because he was in search of hope and giving that hope to others. The story of his triumph over adversity, though his life was tragically truncated at such a young age, still continues to champion Canadians today, as Canadians respond by revering him as a national hero, because we value hope. We have seen the power of hope that compelled Terry to pass the finish line of his last breath.
We see hope whenever we see Team Canada send our paralympians to the Olympics. Many of them have overcome deep physical, emotional and mental suffering. Their focus, discipline and excellence have helped them to overcome their challenges.
Our nation is built on a foundation that values the sustenance of life and the right to prosper. We invest millions of dollars every year in first responders, medical services, infrastructure and laws to protect the survival, sustenance and prosperity of the people.
However, expediting the administration of death is counterintuitive to the inner reach for hope in the human condition. Our very Constitution is founded on the principles of the value of human life, the prosperity of each human being and each one's access to the opportunity to flourish.
While deep with the intentions of compassion and the appropriation of dignity, intervening with easier access to MAID opens a door to a very complicated path of further suffering, even for those who live on.
I would like to bring to the attention of the House the story of a man named Alan Nichols, from my province of British Columbia. As reported by CTV this past September, his family has stressed that Alan struggled with depression and should not have qualified for assisted death.
Alan's brother Gary told CTV:
He didn't have a life-threatening disease. He was capable of getting around. He was capable of doing almost anything that you had to do to survive.
Like many Canadians, Alan's life was altered dramatically when his father passed away. Especially since his father had been so involved in his life, his father's death made him particularly vulnerable, and he stopped taking antidepressants and became more angry and isolated:
Not going out in public, not seeing anybody, not eating properly.
This is how Gary described it.
Alan's family knows that he rid his home of furniture, apart from a bed and chair, and that he would refuse medication and food because of his depression. Another disturbing aspect to Alan's story is that despite his family's attempts to be involved in his life and an advocate for his life, his family members report that the hospital staff would not share information with them and shut them out from hearing the key facts.
There is more to this story, but I will leave it at that. This is accessible information.
The point I would like to illustrate here is that this is a very complicated issue. It is one that touches something so deep and necessary to our existence and our country, and that is hope. All because of the irreversibility of death, there is little intervention that can be done afterward when hope is terminated because there is no breath to receive the assistance of hope.
Rather than be in a rush to legislate this bill, we should focus on tackling things like the epidemic of suicide among first nations communities and youth. We should also focus on giving Canadians better access to mental health care so Canadians have greater access to hope when faced with situations of suffering, as people who are suffering so much consider MAID. We must do this until there are enough measures to show the flourishing of hope and human prosperity to counter a potential culture of death from capturing our nation, if we are to be too swift and lenient in our decisions surrounding issues of death.
It pains me to watch others suffer, but it also pains me to think that as lawmakers, our focus is on expediting access to death rather than expediting access to hope.
My statement in the House today is to inspire all members of this House to not only consider the dignity of the people suffering seeking release through death, but the dignity of existence and human prosperity for the long term.
Removing the mandatory 10-day waiting period reduces protections for vulnerable members of society. The government's original legislation, Bill C-14, went though extensive consultation. It is scheduled for parliamentary review this summer. I would ask the Liberal government to respect the process and allow the review to proceed rather than rush this very sensitive and complex issue in legislation. Let us give this time because death is irreversible.
I have decided to look at this bill through a filter of hope and preserving a culture of hope, as being a force that guides the laws we make not only today but for decades and centuries to come. Therefore, I stand today in the name of hope and invite my colleagues across all aisles to examine this bill through the lenses of hope and preserving hope in our country.