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View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
First of all, I'd like to say at the outset that I think every issue that comes before the committee is an important one, and I think this one is an important one as well. I think it's going to be up to the committee to prioritize and determine what is going to take priority with our limited time.
As an issue that I think is important to understand in the context of the physician-assisted dying, I think it's certainly relevant. My questions about whether or not it's prudent to open a study at this committee, though, are multiple.
For one thing, I understand that legislation is tabled today. I believe the government is tabling its response to the Quebec decision. If I understood Mr. Thériault correctly last time—and if I didn't, I apologize—he thought that this work we're doing in the committee might be able to inform that legislative response. I didn't think it would be done in time anyway, but now, with the legislation already tabled, there's no ability for this committee's work to influence the government's response to the Quebec decision.
The other thing, of course, is that the Quebec decision was limited to the issue of reasonable foreseeability. The part of the physician-assisted dying law that was struck down by the Quebec court was the part that required reasonable foreseeability. It did not in any way touch on the issues of mental illness, advance directives or, for that matter, mature minors. We already know that MAID has a mandatory statutory review upcoming. That is part of the law anyway. At the time that this law was considered, these issues of mature minors, mental health and mental illness and advance directives were thoroughly canvassed by that committee, and I have every expectation it will be thoroughly studied when that comes up again.
The other thing is that our research shows that this issue was just studied, not by a parliamentary committee, but by the Council of Canadian Academies in 2018. A report was issued in December 2018 specifically on the issue of mental illness and whether or not people suffering from it ought to have access to physician-assisted death. That's only 15 months ago that a report was issued on exactly this subject, although I realize it wasn't a parliamentary committee.
Finally, I wonder if Mr. Thériault might consider this. What I would say is that in the last Parliament, in many studies—as I'm sure my colleagues Ms. Sidhu, Mr. Webber and Mr. McKinnon will remember—the issue of mental health came up repeatedly in different aspects. When we were studying LGBTQ2IA health, for instance, the issue of access to mental health was front and centre, as it was in many other issues. I sort of view this as a very narrow issue. The issue of whether people who have mental health issues should have access to physician-assisted death is a very narrow slice of the much larger health issue of mental health in Canada and access to services.
I'm wondering if it might be just better for us to consider as a committee studying mental health in Canada. Now, on the other hand, the narrow focus of this study does have advantages as well. I think it takes a very discrete part of mental health and targets our thinking to one particular aspect, which is how it may impact a person's decision to end their life.
I would not be opposed to studying this if we wanted to, but for all those reasons I just don't think that it's the best use of the committee's time.
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