Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my colleague, the member for Saskatoon West.
As a new member of the justice committee, I look forward to the issues that we will be dealing with in this new Parliament. While I am not a lawyer, nor do I have any desire to become one, I hope my contributions and insight on the issues of the day will help in rebuilding trust in our judicial system.
I am fully aware that many Canadians have serious concerns. Many are looking for solutions that will keep our communities safe, and they want us to begin the process of rebuilding the public's confidence in our justice system.
The legislation we are dealing with today is about one of those issues that almost every Canadian has heard of and will be, undoubtedly, following in the news. As a member of the Conservative caucus, I can debate this legislation and vote on it as I see fit. It is my intent to improve this legislation and to do the best I can in representing the good people of Brandon—Souris.
Like many Canadians, I find discussing the implications of medical assistance in dying challenging. There is no sugar-coating the fact that, for many people, it is extremely difficult to openly discuss the issue of death. As a result of to the Carter decision, it was left up to Parliament in 2016 to determine the appropriate legislative response in order to be compliant with section 7 of the charter. It must also be said that the Carter decision was specifically limited to a competent adult who gave her consent in receiving medical assistance in dying.
When we were seized with dealing with the legislation, many members of Parliament felt the government's response did not go far enough. One of the Liberal MPs who voted against the legislation was none other than the Minister of Justice. Some members were quite concerned about the lack of clarity, such as in the term “reasonably foreseeable”, which was left undefined. Other members wanted Parliament to supersede the Carter decision.
Disagreement is not new in this place. It is to be expected in Parliament, with members from all political stripes and backgrounds. I would argue that our democracy is much better served having such divergent views as to guarantee that every position is fleshed out.
When we debated Bill C-14, our Conservative caucus studied the legislation with the rigour that Canadians demanded of us. We asked the tough questions, we put forward amendments and we did what we were sent here to do, which was to ensure the concerns of our constituents were put front and centre. It is my sincere hope that we once again invest the necessary time on this and be as inclusive as we can so that all Canadians have their say on Bill C-7.
It goes without saying that there are deep divisions on the overall issue of medical assistance in dying. I know every member of Parliament is hearing from constituents on this issue, and in the past couple of weeks numerous petitions have been sent to all members' offices. I would also note that in the election, I received inquiries on the future of the legislation and on whether Parliament would be reviewing it anytime soon.
One of the elements in the original legislation was to have an automatic review, which will be undertaken this summer. It is notable that the legislation now before us has pre-empted the automatic review on a few matters. This upcoming review will be far more comprehensive than the two-week online survey used for Bill C-7.
From what many were expecting, the legislation that was set to be introduced was to respond to the Superior Court of Quebec's ruling. We now know that this is not the case. In fact, yesterday during debate, the parliamentary secretary of justice acknowledged that the Liberals did go above and beyond, because that is what he thinks Canadians want. While that may be his opinion, it is concerning that the larger changes found within Bill C-7 could have been dealt with in the larger review this summer.
What we are debating today has numerous changes that go much further than deleting and replacing the phrase “reasonably foreseeable” in order to be compliant with the recent court decision. For example, the government is easing safeguards, which I might add is the actual language found within the presentation with which departmental officials briefed MPs.
As it stands, patients must make a written request for MAID that is witnessed by two independent witnesses. In Bill C-7, this has been changed to one independent witness. I believe it is incumbent on the government to justify this change and to outline the rationale for why it needed to be amended. The government is also removing the mandatory 10-day period after the written request is signed. Once again, this is a significant change that goes above and beyond what was required for the law to be in compliance with the Quebec Superior Court decision.
It is my intent to invite as many experts, health care professionals and provincial governments to committee to ask them about the proposed changes and to determine if they are in fact needed. We must be cognizant that MAID still has the necessary safeguards in place to protect the vulnerable.
I want to put on the record that many of the issues we raised in the last Parliament, such as enshrining conscience legislation in law for medical practitioners, has fallen on deaf ears. This was an almost universal position among my Conservative colleagues, and the Liberal government of the day did not adopt those measures.
We were also quite adamant about improving access to palliative care. Even though the delivery of health care falls under the purview of provincial governments, we passed a private members' bill to implement an action plan. My colleague from Sarnia—Lambton, who worked hard to get this legislation passed, is very disappointed that the government's five-year action plan failed to commit enough resources or outline a clear set of measurable outcomes. In a rural riding like mine, there are not enough palliative care services available. My heart goes out to those families who must send loved ones to a different community in the final days of their lives.
As a champion of rural Canada, I know first-hand the unique challenges that millions of people face every day due to their isolation or remoteness. I want to give the benefit of the doubt to the government that it is committed to rural Canadians, but its record says something completely different. While these issues cannot be fixed in this legislation, we cannot treat them in isolation while discussing MAID.
In closing, I want the government to know I am committed to working with it constructively on this legislation. I will ensure that the concerns of my constituents are heard. We know there is nothing more precious than the gift of life: to live freely, to live safely and to live healthy and happily. It is our collective responsibility to do what we can to improve the quality of life of all Canadians.
I look forward to what my colleagues have to say on this legislation, and if it is sent to our justice committee, we will do our due diligence to listen to witnesses and improve it where possible.