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Results: 1 - 6 of 6
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand and add my voice in support of Bill C-83, a piece of legislation that would make a number of changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. I am pleased to lend my support, as my colleagues have also done.
Bill C-83 proposes a number of important things. It creates the concept of patient advocates, as recommended by the inquest into the tragic death of Ashley Smith. Many of us in the House are very aware of the inquest and what happened to Ms. Smith, and the difficulties. We are very hopeful that Bill C-83 is going to help remedy some of those problems and prevent that from happening to some other young person.
The bill is meant to support inmates who need medical care, and ensure that they and their families can understand and exercise their rights. It would enshrine in law the principle that health care professionals working in the corrections system are autonomous and make decisions based on their medical judgment, without undue influence from correctional authorities.
It would enshrine in law the requirement that systemic and background factors be considered in all decisions involving indigenous people in custody, and it would expand the section of the law requiring the correctional service to be guided by respect for the diversity of the inmate population.
It would allow victims who attend parole hearings to access audio recordings of the proceedings.
It would create the legislative authority necessary for the Correctional Service of Canada to use body scanners to interdict drugs and other contraband, something that has been a problem for many years. There are people who have had to endure strip searches and so on. Having the body scanners would make it better for both the correctional service folks as well as for inmates. This technology is both less invasive than methods such as strip searches and less prone to false positives than the ion scanners CSC currently relies on.
It would also replace the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, or SIUs, as they are referred to. This new system would ensure that when inmates need to be separated from the rest of the prison population for safety reasons, they would retain access to rehabilitative programming, mental health care and other interventions, something that was not happening before.
The bill deals with serious and challenging issues, and it is to be expected that Canadians and members of Parliament will have differences of opinion about them. So far, however, the Conservative contributions to this debate have been incredibly disappointing. At times, the Conservatives have blatantly contradicted themselves. For instance, in his speech, the member for Yellowhead complained that the changes made by the bill to administrative segregation are insignificant and superficial. However, in the very same speech, the very same member said that those very same changes would endanger inmates and staff. Which is it? Do the Conservatives think the bill is insignificant, or do they think it is catastrophic? It cannot be both.
At other times, the Conservatives have simply chosen to ignore the facts. They have been complaining over and over again that the government has not allocated resources to implement the bill, when they know that is not the case. On page 103 of the fall economic statement, issued by the finance minister last November, there is $448 million allocated to support amendments to transform federal corrections, including the introduction of a new correctional interventions model to eliminate segregation.
Also in November, the government sent the public safety committee a written response that went into more detail about the funding.
That response says that if Bill C-83 is adopted, the government will invest $297 million over six years and $71 million ongoing to implement the structured intervention units. The funding will be dedicated to providing focused interventions, programs and social supports and will include access to resources such as program officers, aboriginal liaison officers, elders, chaplains and others. That is in a document that all members of the public safety committee have had for over three months.
The document goes on to say that the remaining amount from the fall economic statement, $150.3 million over six years and $74.3 million ongoing, is for mental health care. That includes assessment and early diagnosis of inmates at intake and throughout incarceration, enhancements to primary and acute mental health care, and support for patient advocacy and 24/7 health care at designated institutions.
Again, this is all from a document that the Conservatives also have had since the fall, so when they complain about a lack of resources, they are either being disingenuous or they just have not had time to read the report.
The Conservatives' contributions to this debate have also been characterized by an unfortunate amount of self-righteousness. They position themselves as champions of victims, but it was legislation passed by the Harper government in 2015 that prohibited victims who attend a parole hearing from accessing an audio recording of that same hearing. Their bill said that victims who want recordings have to stay away from the hearing itself.
Parole hearings are often difficult experiences for many victims of crime, full of emotion, and the law should not expect them to retain every word of the proceedings at a time when they are immensely frightened and nervous and in an unfamiliar environment. The legislation before us today would finally let all victims access those recordings, whether they attend in person or not.
The Conservatives also position themselves as champions of correctional employees. Let me remind the House what the national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said in 2014. Kevin Grabowsky was head of the union at that time, and he said, “We have to actively work to rid the Conservatives from power.” He said the Harper government was endangering correctional officers with changes to the labour code, cuts to rehabilitative programming and policies that resulted in overcrowding in federal prisons.
The main question raised at committee by both correctional officers and the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, which represents other CSC staff such as parole officers, was whether Bill C-83 would be accompanied by sufficient resources to implement it safely and effectively. As I have already made clear, the answer to that is a resounding yes.
Finally, the Conservatives' interventions in this debate have been reminiscent of the very worst of the Harper approach to the legislative process. They have been actually attacking the government for listening to stakeholder feedback and accepting some of those amendments. Under the Harper government, that kind of openness was unheard of, but I am proud to support a government that lets legislators legislate.
I thank all members who have engaged in a serious study of the bill and proposed thoughtful amendments, which is exactly what Canadians sent all of us here to do.
We have before us legislation that would make correctional institutions more effective and humane, accompanied by the resources needed to implement it safely. It is important that we move forward and pass the bill at this time.
View Yvonne Jones Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Yvonne Jones Profile
2018-05-31 12:52 [p.19970]
Mr. Speaker, for many reasons, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the budget implementation bill. The first is that I really believe this budget is responding to Canadians across the country. We came in as a government with a commitment to consult with Canadians. That is what we have been doing and what we will continue to do. Throughout the consultations, all of us travelled through many communities, towns, provinces, and territories right across the country. We sat at tables in many community centres and listened to what people had to say, because we want to get this right. We want to make sure we are doing the right thing for Canadians.
When we came into office, we made a commitment to the middle class that we would do what is right and bring a better balance to middle-class Canadians, those who work hard and try to support their families, but who always feel they are at an unfair disadvantage. We have been very focused on that in every single decision and measure we have taken as a government.
We also made a commitment to indigenous people that we would right the wrongs of history by entering into a new relationship with them, a relationship based on reconciliation, respect, and that responds to needs and solutions, as we prepare them together. I know a lot of people have been impatient in and outside the chamber as the Government of Canada has taken on the unique and necessary mandate of moving forward in this country, but it is a commitment that we are acting on, and it is making a difference.
We also made a commitment to children in this country that we would do what we have to in order to raise them up out of poverty. That is why we implemented programs like the new child tax benefit, which will help thousands of children in this country get out of poverty.
We also made a commitment to workers in this country that we would continue to grow the economy. When we came into office, Alberta's economy was stagnant and declining. No pipelines were being built and no deals were even being made. We were not seeing economic growth in regions of Canada. In fact, if we go back just a few years, many of my colleagues will remember that we were in a very tough situation in this country in terms of employment, but the Government of Canada did not falter. It stepped up and worked with industry to create jobs and a sustainable future for Canadians.
We diversified not only our populations but our industries. We welcomed many new companies to Canada to establish their bases of operation, companies like Amazon, who today employs hundreds of people across Canada, with the intention of employing hundreds more. We have signed trade deals and we are in the process of renegotiating the NAFTA deal, but in all of the deals, there were benefits for Canadians, for farmers, fishers, those in the auto sector, those creating jobs and trying to get goods to market.
I would never stand here and say that everything is perfect and that all of the problems have been fixed, as very well know that is not true, but I would say this. It is easy to be critical and hard to be positive, but once people make a good case on issues, it is much more effective than dwelling on all of the things they feel are not right. I will provide an example.
I represent a riding in eastern Canada, the riding of Labrador. It is nearly 300,000 square kilometres and much of it is isolated. I fly in and out of a lot of communities in my riding to visit my constituents. When I ran for election some years ago on the southern coast of Labrador, there was no highway connection. Every community was isolated. Today, it not only has highways, but they are being paved. In the last two years, we have invested more than $60 million just to bring those highways to standard, to allow people access to that rural region of Canada, something that nobody ever did before. No governments before were interested in investing in that type of infrastructure.
Today in this country, we have the largest infrastructure program we have ever seen, and what is that program doing? It is helping all Canadians. It is not just investing in larger towns and cities, but all over the country, in indigenous, rural, northern, and urban communities. That is the way it should be, not the minority always being left behind, which is how I have felt for a very long time in the region I serve today.
Today, I look at the budget we are implementing in this country, and I look at how far my riding has progressed in just a few short years. It is absolutely astonishing. In my riding, we are doing more in the fishery today, in terms of job creation and new technology and advancement, than we have ever done before.
I hear people talk about the sharing of quotas and being upset because indigenous people are now being included in fishery allocations. I will be the first one to stand in the House of Commons and say that there need to be more indigenous Canadians involved in fishery allocations, because in many cases those fisheries are on the doorsteps of indigenous people. However, in many cases, a lot of these quotas went to other companies for 30 or 40 years, putting revenues in the pockets of single-based owners and not necessarily seeing benefits come to regions, communities, or populations of people. Is it a bad thing that people want to redistribute wealth in this country? I do not think so, as long as it is fair, balanced, and done in a reasonable way.
I want to speak a bit today about people in the employment sectors. I represent the region that is the largest exporter of iron ore in Canada: Labrador City and Wabush. We went through some really tough times in these communities. We saw a mine close down and hundreds of people who had given their life's work to this company lose up to 25% of their pension benefits, and there was no mechanism under law in this country to protect those benefits for workers.
The Minister of Finance stood in the House and said that, with this budget, we are going to make amendments to the Pension Act and ensure that there is protection of benefits for workers. That is what needs to be done. That is the right thing to do. Who would want to vote against that? After what we have seen happen in this country with Sears workers, steel workers, and other workers, why would one not want to step up and look at ways to protect the pension benefits of workers? That is what is in this budget implementation plan.
In addition to addressing the issues for children, indigenous people, and working people, the budget also makes significant investments in health care, housing, and social programs. We cannot overlook that fact. In Newfoundland and Labrador, we increased the transfers for health care this year. We added $112 million in extra investments for mental health services. I was really proud to be with the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the area mental health and addiction services are run out of, and hear that we are going to see mental health beds opening in the hospital and new psychiatrists added in Labrador.
These are things that are valuable to citizens in our country. These are things people in my riding and across Canada have asked for, and we are delivering on them. As long as I am a member here, I will keep listening to what my constituents are saying and keep pushing in the right direction to ensure that, as citizens of this country, they get what is fair and balanced, and are not left behind because they happen to be removed from Ottawa or an urban centre. Just because someone is northern, rural, or indigenous, that does not mean he or she should not get the same benefits in this country.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-15. As we know, the government introduces a budget, usually in the spring, then there are two budget implementation acts that turn it into legislation. Therefore, it is appropriate that I make some general comments about the budget, its fiscal implications, and my concerns about the direction in which the government is going. I will also pick out some of the very concerning elements in Bill C-15, the budget implementation act.
It is important to note that the Prime Minister just returned from the G7. That should give him some cause to reflect on the direction he has decided to follow. He went there believing other G7 countries should agree that we should embark on a stimulus spending plan. It was very clear that he was met with a very cool reception to this idea by many countries.
As Brian Crowley from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute indicated, “a 'growth-friendly' agenda can't be written in red ink”, and they know that “today's deficit is tomorrow's tax hike”.
What came out of that G7 was a discussion that every country needed to reflect on its own current situation. He had a goal that was clearly not met in his conversations at the G7.
The Liberals often talk about the spending we did, but I find it quite stunning that they fail to realize that during 2008-09, we had a global recession. It was the biggest crisis in the world since the Great Depression. They seem to not reflect on that point very well. What we have now is slow growth. We have a little stagnation, absolutely, but we do not have a recession and we certainly do not have a global recession. Therefore, to go to other countries and feel they need the same response, the Liberals are not really looking at the current situation and adapting appropriately.
It is important to contrast this response during the Prime Minister's recent visit to what happened when we were in government, when Minister Flaherty, our colleague, played a key role in the response to the crisis. He was named the best finance minister in the world. When they talked about his record, they said was, “Our winner has earned a reputation for maintaining a sound fiscal policy. His country...has performed remarkably well”, and that he had played “a key role in the G8’s discussions”. This is a huge difference in the response to the global recession and the leadership role we played as opposed to what is happening right now.
We need to first look at the Liberal government's first budget. I remember attending a number of all candidates forums, and a number of key promises were made. The first major broken promise was that the Liberals would run a small deficit of $10 billion. We now know that we are looking at a $30 billion deficit, and this does not include the $3 billion they have committed to home care. We see another announcement that was never in the fiscal plan, a very important initiative, global health, but it was not planned for. The Liberals seem to have a way of spending money that I have never seen before, money that has not been planned.
It is also important to note that as we go forward most economists recognize that unilateral stimulus is bound to have a marginal impact on an open economy. Canada is an open economy, so the money the Liberals are spending, which is adding to the debt of the next generation, is going to be very marginal in terms of its impact.
Another important fact to know, even as we engaged in our stimulus spending, is that we had a plan to get back to balanced budget, and we did that. During the worst of times, the net GDP to debt went from 34% to 31%. Right now the Liberals are on track to increase it. They left one marker, being the $10 billion. Then they said they would decrease the net debt to GDP. It now looks like they will blow that one out of the water. It is a really big concern.
It is interesting to contrast what is happening in Britain right now, which is seeing some reasonable growth. The following comes from its budget speech:
Britain can choose, as others are, short term fixes and more stimulus. Or we can lead the world with long term solutions to long term problems...we choose the long term. We choose to put the next generation first.
Unfortunately, that is not what our government has done. The Liberals have chosen short term to take care of themselves, and to make popular decisions rather than worry about their grandchildren.
When our finance critic gave her speech on the budget implementation act, she was able to look at the statements of the Minister of Finance during the pre-budget and when he was in the private sector. She pointed out that he had a really different perspective on the issues around debt and retirement. It put some real holes into his approach in the budget. I do not know how he can align himself or sleep well at night when it looks like the budget goes so contrary to what his fundamental beliefs are.
I will give members a couple of examples.
What does the U.K., Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, and the U.S. have in common? They have an old age security system that kicks in at the age of 67 or older. Australia is going into a system where the old age system kicks in at 67 or older. What have we done in the budget implementation act? We have moved in the opposite direction.
Sometimes the decisions a government has to make are not popular and they are not made lightly. We knew that it was a very difficult decision to make, but we also looked at the demographics of our country. We looked at the fact that people were healthier and living longer. I think there are many people we know who have lived their retirement perhaps longer than their working years. Therefore, it was a difficult decision, but it was not an unusual decision.
What is the cost of the change the Liberals are making? It is estimated to cost an additional $10 billion. It is also important to note for those who are not aware that old age security comes out of current revenue. It is not something like the Canada pension plan where we put money away for our future. Therefore, the Liberals have given my children and grandchildren an additional $10 billion of debt, and that is unacceptable. They have to be in a position to look at the long-term health of our country.
The small business tax rate is another example. The government sat at forums. I sat beside my Liberal counterpart at forums when the Liberals promised a 10.5% to 9% decrease. However, the budget implementation act would turn that around. It was a legislated change. It was a change the Liberals said they accepted, but they reversed it. The budget implementation act would move it from 9% back to 10.5%. It is absolutely unacceptable.
In looking at some of broken promises, whether it is the deficit or small business, my biggest concern is that the Liberals are not taking care of the next generation. They are looking at saddling it with a horrific debt.
The Liberals are also showing they are having a bit of a problem in delivering on their promises. Even when they commit money, they do not estimate it properly, and then they have trouble delivering. We can look at the cost of bringing in the refugees. They said that it would be $250 million, but it is now over $850 million.
The Liberals provided $8.4 billion for first nations, and we support that, but there is no plan for accountability. There is no plan on how it would be delivered. Even when there is money that we believe is well spent, the Liberals' plan for delivery and execution is lacking.
I have a big concern about the overall direction of the Liberals. I have a concern about many of the specific measures. I have a concern about the government's endless lust to spend taxpayer money, as exhibited by its recent March spending spree, where they took a surplus and in one month spent about $11 billion.
We are creating a structural deficit and someday we will have to pay the piper for the foolish choices of today.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2016-05-20 10:27 [p.3636]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his passionate defence of palliative care.
I want to ensure that the hon. member is aware that at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, we added two amendments to the bill related to palliative care. We added an amendment to the bill and to the preamble, not only authorizing but mandating the Minister of Health to work with her provincial and territorial counterparts to ensure that we improve palliative care within Canada, improve care for dementia patients, and establish proper end-of-life care for aboriginal peoples that is culturally sensitive.
Also, with respect to the report that has to come back within five years that analyzes the law, we agreed, bipartisanly, to ask that there also be a report on palliative care. I completely understand and agree that the last thing anyone wants is someone to decide that they need medical assistance in dying because he or she is in too much pain. Does the member not agree that with the dangers of not having a bill or any safeguards in place as of June 6, it should at least make him consider voting in favour of the bill, flawed as he may believe it to be?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-05-17 15:41 [p.3486]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your thoughtful ruling and your recognition that this is indeed a historic event and, as you said, a generational issue. In Motion No. 1, I have suggested that we delete clause 3 of the bill, which is one of the central features of it.
The Supreme Court's ruling in the Carter case was a watershed moment for many Canadians, especially those who had fought so long to have their suffering recognized and their autonomy respected. I was proud to support the principle of Bill C-14 during second reading. I did so thinking of Sue Rodriguez of Victoria, Gloria Taylor, and Kay Carter, and of all of the others who paved the way for the rights of other suffering Canadians to be recognized by the Supreme Court and by Parliament.
While I was proud to support the bill in principle, at the time I raised serious concerns about particular provisions in it. Still, I was optimistic that these concerns would be resolved and the bill improved by hearing from experts and making the necessary amendments in committee. Sadly, that was not to be done.
The first day of consideration in the justice committee ended without a single opposition amendment accepted by the Liberal majority. By the end of the week, after more than 100 amendments were proposed, just 16 were accepted. Of course, I am pleased that my amendment was accepted to strengthen the government's commitment to providing more Canadians with palliative care, mental health supports, better services for patients with Alzheimer's and dementia, and culturally appropriate services for indigenous patients. I thank my colleagues from all parties for supporting my amendments to that end. However, many of the handful of changes at committee were simply minor technical changes.
Along with members from several parties, I offered a solution to the glaring flaw in the bill, the elephant in the room, namely the fact that it simply did not square with the Supreme Court's ruling. I proposed using the exact words of the Supreme Court to determine eligibility. That was of course one of the main recommendations of the special House Senate joint committee that addressed this bill. Sadly, all of these proposals were rejected. It became clear that the government had no interest in changing the central feature of this bill. Therefore, does the Liberals' bill square with the Supreme Court decision in Carter? The answer is clearly no.
The Supreme Court declared the two laws that prevented medical assistance in dying:
...void insofar as they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.
That language defined the circumference set out by our highest court as to who had the right to physician-assisted dying. Outside of that circle, there remains a total ban on assistance in dying. Mature minors, those who have lost or never had the capacity to give legal informed consent, those with solely psychiatric conditions, and those with merely minor medical conditions were never eligible in the Supreme Court decision. However, within the circle are all consenting competent adults with a grievous and irremediable illness, disease, or disability that causes enduring and intolerable suffering.
This bill would erase the circle set by the Supreme Court and draws a much smaller circle within it, covering only those nearing the end of life and facing what is called reasonably foreseeable natural death, a phrase which just recently the Collège des médecins du Québec called incomprehensible from a medical perspective.
A lawyer representing the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association at the court hearings said this to the justice committee, “Bill C-14 cuts the heart out of our victory in the Carter case”. By adding an end-of-life requirement onto the court's ruling, Bill C-14 would revoke the right to choose from an entire class of competent adult Canadians. That group is everyone suffering intolerably from an irremediable but non-fatal condition.
I have constituents in my riding who fall into that outer ring beyond the circle of rights recognized by the government, people who are suffering, who saw their suffering recognized by the Supreme Court and who cannot, for the life of them, understand why the government now insists on removing their right to choose this option.
What justification has the government offered for this disturbing decision? At the House and Senate committee, and again at the justice committee, some argued we could not afford to expand the circle of compassion, that the Supreme Court ruling could not be obeyed in full, that not all those who were granted rights in Carter could see those rights upheld because to do so would pose an unacceptable risk to vulnerable persons.
These are important arguments, but they are not new. In fact, they were advanced ably and in great detail before the Supreme Court of Canada. Here is what the court wrote.
At trial [the Crown] went into some detail about the risks associated with the legalization of physician-assisted dying. In its view, there are many possible sources of error... Essentially...there is no reliable way to identify those who are vulnerable and those who are not. As a result, it says, a blanket prohibition is necessary.
I emphasize this:
The evidence accepted by the trial judge does not support Canada’s argument...The trial judge found that it was feasible for properly qualified and experienced physicians to reliably assess patient competence and voluntariness, and that coercion, undue influence, and ambivalence could all be reliably assessed as part of that process....As to the risk to vulnerable populations (such as the elderly and disabled), the trial judge found that there was no evidence from permissive jurisdictions that people with disabilities are at heightened risk of accessing physician-assisted dying....no evidence of inordinate impact on socially vulnerable populations in the permissive jurisdictions...no compelling evidence that a permissive regime in Canada would result in a “practical slippery slope”. accepted by the trial judge does not support [this] argument.
That was the conclusion of the Supreme Court after considering the evidence and arguments raised in Carter, the very same evidence and arguments that were advanced at the joint House and Senate committee, which I was honoured to serve on, and at the justice committee just last week. After considering that evidence and those arguments, the court issued its ruling in Carter, establishing the right to choose medical assistance in dying for everyone inside a carefully measured circle of eligibility.
Quite simply, there was a large circle of eligibility. The government has chosen within that circle to define a smaller class. It simply cannot do that if we believe in the rule of law, if we believe in the fact that the Supreme Court should be listened to in this case.
In conclusion, I simply cannot support moving any further with a bill that would revoke from an entire class of competent adult Canadians rights granted to it by the Supreme Court of Canada.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2016-05-17 17:32 [p.3501]
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise to speak at report stage of Bill C-14.
As I stated earlier in this House, it is unfortunate that the Supreme Court of Canada has taken it upon itself to force legislation to be written, which overturns thousands of years of our understanding of the intrinsic value and dignity of every human life.
The Supreme Court has done this, completely rejecting the fact that elected members of this House have rejected initiatives to legalize physician-assisted suicide on at least 15 occasions since 1991. Most recently, a bill to allow physician-assisted suicide was rejected in 2010 by a vote of 59 to 226.
It is not only that nine unelected judges have inserted themselves into a national conversation that should be initiated in this House of Commons, they have even lamented the fact that an extension was sought to give parliamentarians more time to properly study, discuss, and debate this issue of exceptional importance.
In their judgment of January 15, 2016, in granting an extension, the Supreme Court stated, “That the legislative process needs more time is regrettable, but it does not undermine the point that it is the best way to address this issue.”
Really? It is regrettable? It is regrettable to take more time to think soberly through this complex issue, to implement such momentous change, to destroy the very foundations of medicine, to turn upside down the time-honoured belief that it is fundamentally wrong to kill another human being, and all in the name of compassion?
In regard to the impatience on the part of the Supreme Court, Warren Perley wrote, in Beststory:
Common sense dictates that such momentous changes to the law governing assisted suicide should be based on the compass rather than the clock. Until this point, Canadians have never had access to legally assisted suicide. Instead they have relied on doctors and nurses to administer palliative care, which must include adequate pain management and, in rare cases, palliative sedation. Pro-euthanasia advocates argue this is euthanasia, but they are in error.
Changing laws in matters of such substantive and exceptional significance as assisted suicide should be made by the compass. I could not agree more. Unfortunately, we have thrown away our compass. We no longer need a compass. We now just pool our collective ignorance and decide on the basis of popular opinion to sail off in any direction that suits the winds of the day, rudderless.
One of Canada's indigenous leaders, Mr. Francois Paulette, a Dene leader and chair of Yellowknife's Stanton Territorial Health Authority states that indigenous people are bound by spiritual law, not man-made law. He goes on to state, “We don't play God.... God is responsible for bringing us into this world, and taking our life. It is pretty straightforward.”
Whether as a member of the indigenous community or not, for all Canadians, the crux of the issue before us today, and the source of the conflict and confusion, is the fact that the preamble of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms on one hand, and Bill C-14 on the other, are built on two opposite pillars: one made of gold, and the other of styrofoam.
The preamble of the charter states, “recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law”. Yes, there is a compass. Yes, there is a North Star. Even our Canadian charter states that in Canada we do recognize this North Star, the supremacy of God.
Yet if we look at the very first paragraph of Bill C-14, we see a totally opposite starting point. Rather than the “supremacy of God”, we see “autonomy of persons”.
My contention is that these two opposite philosophies cannot coexist at the same time, if we are to continue to have true freedom and trust in our society. We may deny God, and man as his image bearer. We can try to kill both God, and man as man. We may press forward in a suicidal course, but it always ends in pure vanity, for we are surrounded inside and out by the reality of God and his order in every sphere of life.
We all know that there are necessary limits placed on the autonomy of humans. Yet on an issue as monumental as the issue of life and death, we are considering extending autonomy without stopping to think what such autonomy might do to our understanding of the value of human life.
Does this autonomy serve well those among us who, for dozens of reasons, find themselves vulnerable, voiceless, and open to abuse in the most extreme and final way possible, an unwanted hastened death?
The very fact that I can drive from my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga to Ottawa each Sunday evening is because the autonomy of all drivers is limited. Drivers heading to Kitchener occupy the north side of the 401 highway as they travel west, so I am free to travel unimpeded on my easterly journey in the southern lanes.
To allow autonomy in many situations in life is foolhardy, to say the least. Our freedom and trust is enhanced by strict limits on personal autonomy for the greater good of community. We could list many such restrictions on personal autonomy: quarantines for highly infectious diseases, such as ebola; prohibition of using highly toxic chemicals and pesticides on private property; the limitation on raising farm animals in the residential area of a city. In these cases and dozens of others, we recognize that the greater community good supersedes individual autonomy.
To retain limits on personal autonomy in the case of physician-assisted suicide is for the greater good of society. To remove the restriction on personal autonomy could very well lead to the crumbling boundaries that our Liberal colleague, the member for Winnipeg Centre, referenced a few weeks ago in the Chamber when he said, “We are in a sorry state. We have truly entered a new age, one of the throwaway culture where all boundaries are starting to crumble”.
I fear for the kind of Canada I will leave for my children and grandchildren if we rush blindly ahead with an endorsement of physician-assisted suicide. The risk to society is too great. The dangers are far too real.
There is no doubt that in spite of our best efforts to place so-called safeguards to protect the vulnerable among us, there will be situations where innocent Canadians will be killed without their expressed consent. There is no doubt in my mind that in spite of our best efforts to spin the difference between suicide and what we are now calling medical assistance in dying, there would be a correlating increase in suicide rates in Canada.
Aaron Kheriaty, associate professor of psychiatry, and director of the medical ethics program at the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine states:
The debate over doctor-assisted suicide is often framed as a personal issue of autonomy and privacy. Proponents argue that assisted suicide should be legalized because it affects only those individuals who--assuming they are of sound mind--are making a rational and deliberate choice to end their lives. But presenting the issue in this way ignores the wider social consequences.
What if it turns out that individuals who make this choice in fact are influencing the actions of those who follow?
He goes on to report that in states where physician-assisted suicide has been legalized, there has been an increase in suicide of 6.3% overall, but among those over 65, an increase of 14.5%.
He continues:
The results should not surprise anyone familiar with the literature on the social contagion effects of suicidal behavior. You don't discourage suicide by assisting suicide.
Aside from publicized cases, there is evidence that suicidal behavior tends to spread person to person through social networks, up to three “degrees of separation” away. So my decision to take my own life would affect not just my friends' risk of doing the same, but even my friends' friends' friends. No person is an island.
Finally, it is widely acknowledged that the law is a teacher. Laws shape the ethos of a culture by affecting cultural attitudes toward certain behaviors and influencing moral norms. Laws permitting physician-assisted suicide send a message that, under especially difficult circumstances, some lives are not worth living – and that suicide is a reasonable or appropriate way out. This is a message that will be heard not just by those with a terminal illness but also by anyone tempted to think he or she cannot go on any longer.
Debates about physician-assisted suicide raise broad questions about societal attitudes toward suicide. Recent research findings on suicide rates press the question: What sort of society do we want to become? Suicide is already a public health crisis. Do we want to legalize a practice that will worsen this crisis?
I believe that life is always to be chosen over what some would call death with dignity. There is nothing dignified about deciding to end someone's life that is not worth living. If the patient has a need, let us address the need. Our goal should be to eliminate the problem, not the patient.
We need to be doing far more to address the needs of vulnerable Canadians. To that end, I have five proposed changes that need to be included in Bill C-14. Four of these have been accepted as amendments by others in the House.
First, the preamble should contain a statement indicating that suicide prevention is an important public policy goal, recognizing the sanctity of life as a societal principle.
Mr. Speaker, I see that I am out of time, so I will try to get my other points in when responding to questions.
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