Mr. Speaker, I am here today to talk to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding medical assistance in dying.
It is very interesting for me to be here in a new Parliament discussing something we spoke about in the last Parliament. I was a fairly new member when Bill C-14 was before the House. I had a lot of constituents calling my office, sending letters and emailing us on this very important issue. I spent a lot of hours responding to people, talking to them on the phone and hearing their stories. What I really respected was the thoughtfulness. There were concerns of course, which is legitimate, but there was a lot of hope for some people as well.
Here we are back at it again. It reminds me of a dear friend and loved one who used MAID in his journey. His name was Joey. When I think of the core issue and value we are discussing today, which for me is unnecessary suffering, I cannot help but think of Joey.
Joey had an illness that was slowly killing him. In fact, it was so painful for him that he made this decision. He rearranged his time of death so I could be there with him, which was a huge honour for me. I was so grateful for that.
I think about the process we went through together that day. It was a beautiful process, but it was also a hard process. Part of the reason why it was so hard was he could not take any of his pain medication that day. He had to be totally able to answer that question. After a lot of thoughtful discussion, he had to stay in pain all day. We spent the day with him, but it was hard to see him suffering.
When we look at the bill before us today, that is what I hope all Canadians and all parliamentarians remember. We are here ensure nobody goes through unnecessary suffering like that.
One of the things that really struck me about the day when Joey passed was his doctor came to be part of the process. His doctor had made a decision that he did not want to be in a role to administer MAID, but he came. There were a lot of tears and remembrance of the long-term relationship. We also have to talk about the length of time some of our doctors have known us. Some have known us for years in some cases, and in Joey's case that was the reality. Another doctor was there for the process, but Joey's doctor was with him. His loved ones were around him. It was a peaceful process when he left us.
Today we are here to do this important work. I hope this goes to committee. I have had discussions with doctors in my riding who administer this process and they have a lot of good things to say about the bill, as well as some concerns they would like addressed, and I hope that will happen.
As this process started, a lot of people started writing my office again. We did some outreach. We wanted to let people know that this would be coming up. We wanted them to know that there was a process for them to connect with us and give their feedback to the government on this issue. A lot of my constituents participated in the process online. Not only did they participate, they were very thoughtful to ensure that the information they submitted was also given to my office. In front of me, I have a small portion of the comments from the people who sent us information and shared their stories.
I want to be clear about something, and we have to remember this as we go through the legislation. I represent a rural and remote community. The doctors who provide this service sometimes spend the whole day travelling to the community to provide this very important service.
There are some specific barriers and we want to ensure that in all our legislation we do not let those people in rural and remote communities down.
There are three of these doctors in my region. The riding I represent is just under 60,000 square kilometres, it has several ferries and many small islands. The doctors in that area provide the total service for that area plus a portion of my neighbour's riding. They deliver the service to a huge number of people over a vast distance.
Message after message thanked those doctors. In fact, Dr. Daws, a doctor in my riding, was mentioned repeatedly for being compassionate and for helping people go through this process in a very respectful way. People wrote me before they were going to participate in MAID. They just wanted tell me that this doctor had been very helpful.
I want to recognize the amazing health care providers in our country who provide this service, who do it in a sensitive and beautiful way. They are with people at one of the most precious moments.
I want to talk about Margaret who told us about her nephew. Her nephew had participated in MAID and that this was his decision. The biggest issue for her was the lack of the advance consent clause. He was given a choice of either going through this process two months earlier or not at all. Due to the medication he would have to take for his illness, it would automatically disqualify him from having the capacity to provide the consent.
This is the biggest issue for me, because people were having to leave sooner than they wanted to because they were afraid they would lose the capacity to give their consent.
I think of Megan who wrote about the experience her family went through. They were present for a friend's death. She said:
I fully support the idea of giving prior consent for MAID in case one is unable to give that consent immediately prior to the procedure, or in case one is in considerable pain and discomfort and would go through the process more calmly with adequate pain control at the end.
This really resonated with my experience with Joey, watching him suffer physically, and waiting for the relief. It was really hard. This is so important as we go through this process.
I think about Dolores, who sent me a beautiful message about ensuring the process was clear for people, wanting to have the accessibility to this be very clear and easy, and in an information package. Her biggest concern was that her family physician did not believe in this process and would not give her the information she needed to make the decision. She said that it would be good to have an information package that was a little more effective, so when a doctor was struggling with that personal choice, it would not impact the patient.
As a parliamentarian, these are the moments when I really respect the role I have on a whole new level, when people are telling me about the precious experiences they have had in their lives.
Another family talked about its father-in-law who spent seven years with dementia and was very well cared for, but in his last year, he rapidly deteriorated. His dignity plummeted. A loving son said that he was convinced that if he could have projected how his final years of deterioration would happen, he would have chosen MAID as an option, if it was available to him.
Then there is Milt whose wife is in a care home. Because of her Alzheimer's, she will not be able to express herself. He is so concerned that she will suffer way too long and he does not want to see that.
Another family talked about a friend who had cancer of the brain. Then she had a stroke. After her stroke, she was concerned that if she had a second stroke, she would be unable to state her wishes. Because of that, she participated in MAID sooner than she would have wanted.
This is a precious decision people make. It is a decision they make with their loved ones and their health professionals. I will be supporting the bill because I do not believe in people suffering unnecessarily. There are some challenges in the bill that I hope are clarified, especially looking at the realities for rural and remote communities. However, when people tell these personal stories, we hear again and again that they do not want to see people suffer, that they do not want to see people lose their dignity and that they want to ensure their wishes are honoured.
I am happy to be here to talk to the bill. I want to thank all of my constituents who have reached out to me. I always appreciate these beautiful stories that people share and some of the hard ones.