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View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-91, an act respecting Indigenous languages.
As all members in the House know, indigenous issues are among the biggest challenges and the biggest opportunities facing our country. As we create together the space for indigenous peoples to be fully self-determining, with an improved quality of life, we must all work together, across party lines, in a non-partisan fashion.
It is in that spirit that I would like to thank the member of Parliament for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo for offering me this opportunity to speak as an independent member of Parliament on this important legislation.
The preamble, though not the body of Bill C-91, notes that:
the Government of Canada is committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which affirms rights related to Indigenous languages.
Specifically, I would like to remind colleagues that article 13 speaks to the fact that:
Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.
Article 14 goes on to talk about the fact that:
Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning....
States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.
Bill C-91 takes the very important step to establish an office for the commissioner of indigenous languages.
I want to use the time given to me today to highlight some amazing initiatives across the country by indigenous peoples for indigenous peoples to promote indigenous languages.
I had the privilege of visiting many communities when I was minister of indigenous services, as well as when I was minister of health, and I want to share some of the wonderful initiatives I have witnessed.
Let us start in British Columbia.
In British Columbia, it is estimated that there are approximately 30 different first nations languages, and close to 60 dialects are spoken. We cannot speak about first nations languages without remembering Kukpi7 Ron Ignace. Kukpi7 is the name for chief in the Secwepemc language of British Columbia. Kukpi7 Ron Ignace is certainly one of the champions of indigenous languages in his first nation in British Columbia.
Together with his wife, Marianne Ignace, who is a professor at Simon Fraser University, they have written an extraordinary book. This is a book that has been worked on for a lifetime. It is called Secwépemc People, Land, and Laws.
I had the opportunity to visit the community of Skeetchestn, where Kukpi7 Ignace is the chief. I heard the children signing and sharing together in their language, and it was inspiring.
Let me tell the story of Huu-ay-aht First Nations in British Columbia. It is among the Nuu-chah-nulth-speaking first nations. The Huu-ay-aht people have taken an incredible initiative as they continue to pursue and inspire others by their efforts to be fully self-determining. They have established a social services project that takes on a number of initiatives, particularly for children. They have decided to exercise their right to take on child and family services within the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, and they are specifically ensuring they do so in order to bring their children back to their community so they are raised in their language and culture.
Let us move a little east to the province Alberta.
I want to tell my colleagues about the incredible work that is being done in Maskwacis, a region just outside of Edmonton. I had the privilege of being in this community when it announced the beginning of the Maskwacis Education Schools Commission.
I was there with Grand Chief Willie Littlechild, who used to sit in this very House. He spoke about the incredible initiative that the Maskwacîs peoples had been able to undertake in order to start a school system of their own.
Grand Chief Willie Littlechild had been raised in residential schools. He talked about how his language and his culture had been taken from him as he was taken away to one of the largest residential schools in our country. However, now the Maskwacis, which is a gathering of four Indian Act bands, have come together to start a schools commission in order to exercise self-determination. Their education system there is Cree based, based upon the language of their people and their way of teaching. The contents of their teaching are based in their Cree culture and in their language.
We will then go a little further east again to the lovely province of Saskatchewan. Many examples can be seen across Saskatchewan, but perhaps one of the highlights in my mind is when I had the privilege of visiting the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, an extraordinary community just outside the city of Saskatoon.
While I was there, the chief showed me many things, but one of the most impressive was when we went to visit the Charles Red Hawk Elementary School. I met the woman who was the language teacher in that school. She gives Dakota language lessons to the children there. Their proudest moment was when a small group of children stood up spontaneously and asked me if they could sing O Canada to me in the Dakota language. It was a moment that is indelibly impressed on my mind. I saw the pride, not only of the children but of the elder who had taught them their language.
I want to then move to the wonderful province of Manitoba. I have spoken in the House before about the things that I have learned from the first nations of Manitoba as well as the Métis nation of Manitoba.
However, today I want to share a conversation about the work of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. The chiefs have been real leaders in one of the critical issues in our country, and that is the overrepresentation of indigenous children in care. They have highlighted the link between children being taken from their community into the foster care system and the loss of language that accompanies that. In fact, they have gone so far as to propose an act. It is called, the “bringing our children home act”.
In that act, the Manitoba chiefs speak to the fact that “We are reclaiming, practising and promoting our responsibility to pass down our knowledge, language, culture, identity, values, traditions, and customs to our children.”
This morning I had the opportunity to be in the indigenous affairs committee. A gentleman there had been in Manitoba and had experienced the foster care system. His name is Jeffry Nilles. I encourage people to look at the tape of his testimony in today's committee. He talked about what it meant to have been taken from his community, away from his family, about how he was shamed if he spoke in his language. It brought tears to our eyes as we heard about the moments he was treated cruelly because he naturally went to his native language and was punished for doing so. Now he is a man who is proud of the language of his peoples, but it has taken him some time to get there.
I will move further east again to the northern part of the province of Ontario. I would like to highlight in particular the extraordinary community of Fort Albany First Nation. I want to highlight a gentleman there who has been a real inspiration to me. His name is Edmund Metatawabin. Perhaps many members have had the opportunity to meet Edmund.
Edmund wrote a wonderful book, Up Ghost River, which had a big impact on my life. He talks about the role of residential schools. In fact, his book is an account of his residential school experience. He talks about the trauma of being separated from his language and his lineage, when he was forbidden to speak his language. He talks about the disastrous results that have ensued because languages and customs were suppressed by residential schools.
There is a good hint about the importance of indigenous languages in his book. Perhaps the most profound sentences in that book are when Edmund Metatawabin says, “There is no concept of justice in Cree culture. The nearest word is kintohpatatin.” He says that this “loosely translates to 'you've been listened to.'” Metatawabin writes, “Kintohpatatin is richer than justice—really it means you've been listened to by someone compassionate and fair, and your needs will be taken seriously.”
That is a word I will never forget. It reminds me of the richness of a word and how much a particular culture can teach us just by showing us the words of its language, as well as how much that can mean to all of us.
Let me continue to travel across Ontario. This time we will come right down to the border of Ontario and Quebec, and in fact this community crosses into the United States as well. It is the community of Akwesasne. The community has an amazing leader in Grand Chief Abram Benedict. Here again I saw how language is so much a part of the pride of this community.
I had the opportunity to visit for the first time the Mohawk immersion school there. This is a school in which elders have come together to teach the young people, who are the teachers. In turn, those teachers teach the children. People in that middle age group did not know their Mohawk language and had to learn it from the elders. Now they, as teachers, are passing it on to children.
One of the things that impressed me at that school was that they had created their own teaching materials. They had taken children's books and adapted them so that the words were Mohawk. It was not just the words; the concepts, pictures, traditions and stories were appropriate for the Mohawk community. It is an extraordinary example, and one that needs to be recognized.
And now we travel to la belle province. Quebec is home to many first nations, but I am going to talk about just one of them, the Huron-Wendat Nation. Their leader, Grand Chief Konrad H. Sioui, is an extraordinary man.
Konrad Sioui left quite an impression on me. He has many stories to share and knows much about his people's history and their places. He told me how those peoples named places, rivers and mountains. Where he lives, every place has a name in his language.
Across the country, many places have names that come from indigenous languages. Grand Chief Sioui talked about the importance of preserving those names in indigenous languages.
We know, for example, that the word Toronto comes from an indigenous language. It is believed that it comes primarily from a Mohawk name, tkaranto, which means “trees standing in the water”. Right here in the city of Ottawa, we know that the word Ottawa comes from the word adaawe from the Anishinabe language, which means “to buy”. Maybe we could sometimes think about the fact that our city has something to do with buying, but I will not spend too much time on that point.
Let us move along to some places in Quebec, since I was just discussing Quebec. Shawinigan is an Algonquin word that means “portage at the crest”. We then look at the northern part of Quebec, because we must not forget the north, where we find the amazing town of Kuujjuaq, which means “the great river” in Inuktitut.
We had better spend a bit of time in the Atlantic, although I know my time is running out. I want to talk about the incredible work of the Mi'kmaq in the Atlantic, and in particular their incredible education authority. The education authority is entirely led by the Mi'kmaq people and is called Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey. I think the Mi'kmaq will forgive me for not getting that exactly right. I tried. We have often affectionately called this group “MK” because it is a little easier to say.
This is an education authority designed by Mi'kmaq for Mi'kmaq children. It has been incredibly successful, and this is in no small part related to its commitment to the Mi'kmaq language. It has, in fact, created an online talking dictionary, so that people can now find Mi’kmaq words online. There are now 6,000 or more Mi'kmaq words in this online talking dictionary. It offers language classes using the Internet, and video conference facilities have been set up so day cares throughout the region can teach Mi'kmaq to their children.
I was happy to hear that St. Francis Xavier University has now delivered its first program in the Mi'kmaq language.
While we are in the Atlantic, let us move north to Labrador and talk about Nunatsiavut, which is one of the four land claim regions of the Inuit Nunangat. The commitment of Inuit leaders in this country to the revitalization, maintenance and promotion of Inuktitut is something extraordinary. Inuit speak regularly about how Inuktitut is at the core of Inuit identity, spiritual beliefs and relationships to the land, as well as their world view and culture. It is fundamental to Inuit self-determination. I witnessed this myself when I went to meetings of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee, which are all translated into Inuktitut.
However, I should note that the Inuit do not support Bill C-91, and it is important for us to recognize that. The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami organization, the ITK, hopes to see the bill amended to include both an annex that addresses Inuktitut as a distinct language and provisions allowing Inuktitut speakers to access federal public services in their language.
There is an impact when those services are not available. I saw it myself in relation to health. People said that tuberculosis, for instance, was not recognized quickly enough because there was no health care provider who spoke Inuktitut and could take a proper patient history. This is an important reality.
Time does not permit me to tell members about the things I observed in wonderful places like the Northwest Territories and Yukon. There are many examples of people working to revive indigenous languages.
It is my intention to support the bill, but more work needs to be done on this issue. This work should be continued in the next Parliament by those who have the privilege of returning to this place.
I had the privilege of learning an indigenous language when I lived in the country of Niger, in west Africa. I became moderately fluent in the Hausa language. The Hausa people have a saying:
[Member spoke in Hausa]
This means “silence, too, is speech”. Let us not, any of us, be silent on this matter, on the need to revitalize, maintain and promote indigenous languages. Let us recall that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples lays out minimum standards for the survival, well-being and dignity of indigenous peoples.
The right to use, develop and transmit indigenous languages to future generations is nothing less than a matter of survival. The duty to recognize and affirm this right rests on us all.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for his concern for this issue. The simplest answer to his question would be to say that it is not up to me. The answer is, in fact, up to indigenous peoples, be they first nations, be they from the Métis nation, be they Inuit, to determine for themselves. That is, of course, the definition of self-determination, one of the most fundamental rights of indigenous peoples.
It may, in fact, be that different indigenous peoples may answer the question differently in terms of whether it is a geographic decision or whether there is a cultural or historic basis for the decision. It is very important that we in this place unleash the decision-making process and allow it to be free to be where it belongs, which is in the hands of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
That is why I take so very seriously the concerns raised by people like Natan Obed, the president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, for whom I have the deepest respect. They say that we need to listen.
I have acknowledged that I will be supporting this bill, but I think there are pieces missing, and I think we have to listen to the requests. As much as possible, we have to work side by side, indeed be led by indigenous peoples, to know how we as settlers and as partners working together can support this critical right.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for her passion on this incredibly important issue.
The simple answer to her question is absolutely. Absolutely, there is more that we can and must do to continue to walk the talk, as it were, in terms of the promotion of indigenous languages.
I would acknowledge that we have come some distance. I was thrilled to hear during debate this morning that not only was the indigenous language of Cree spoken, but in fact, for the very first time, a question by one of my colleagues and the answer to that question were given in the Cree language. That is something to be celebrated, and we need to see more of that.
My colleague, the member for Vancouver Granville, speaks the language of Kwak'wala. I am not sure if I am saying that exactly right either. However, she talked about the fact that she might be able, in this House, to speak in her language, but we would need to provide interpretation.
I really like the member's idea about putting this bill in an indigenous language. It is not too late to do that. I would join others in this place in calling upon the Department of Indigenous Services to take the time to make sure they get it right, to work with first nations, Inuit and Métis to make sure this is ultimately, sooner rather than later, translated into at least a few of the languages it is seeking to preserve.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, his question raises a fundamental and important issue that members of the House need to consider.
In the development of legislation, particularly legislation that is entirely devoted to an issue that affects indigenous peoples, we need to find a way as legislators to ensure it meets the expectations of indigenous peoples, that it recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples and that it is inspired and led as much as possible by indigenous peoples.
There has been progress over the last number of years. I have heard some people talk about the fact that there was not adequate co-development on this bill and that some bills had done better than others. We can do much better yet. It is not possible to consult all 1.7 million indigenous peoples in the country on all legislation that comes forward, but we can find better mechanisms to reach communities so we do not hear in committee in years to come that people felt they did not have an opportunity to provide input on it.
I challenge all members, especially as we look to the fact that there will be a new Parliament after October or November, and those who may have the privilege to sit in this place in years to come to work together in a co-operative, non-partisan way to really study what co-development legislation looks like. How can we address the importance of ensuring people have the opportunity to contribute so they will come to committee and tell us they have a way to contribute. That is our responsibility.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
moved that Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.
She said: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise on the third reading of Bill C-37. I am particularly gratified at the speed with which the bill has moved through the House of Commons. I want to thank all members, including all parties, who have been very helpful in agreeing to time allocation, agreeing to expediting the committee process, and the fantastic work at the committee level to move the bill along. This demonstrates the serious nature of the bill, and recognizes the ongoing opioid crisis and the need for urgent action.
Bill C-37 is one of a range of comprehensive responses to this very challenging issue. We are eager to advance the bill through Parliament to help protect the health and safety of Canadians and their communities.
It has been said before in the House that problematic substance use is an issue that affects Canadians of all ages. It affects people from all socio-economic groups. We should also point out that there are, however, particular groups that are excessively vulnerable to the risks associated with problematic substance use, people living in poverty, people who have experienced trauma in their lives, and indigenous peoples of Canada.
We are facing nothing short of the greatest drug crisis our country has faced. It is a national public health crisis related to opioids. For example, one may draw attention to the fact that in British Columbia last year more than 900 people died from overdoses. That was an 80% increase over 2015. The majority of those deaths were related to the rapid spread of the drug fentanyl.
Elsewhere in Canada, we are hearing from law enforce officials that there are increasing numbers of seizures of fentanyl and carfentanil.
Last week, we heard about the distressing number of deaths linked to opioids in Alberta. For example, in 2016, 343 people died in Alberta from fentanyl overdoses. That was an increase over 257 the previous year.
It is necessary that the Government of Canada use every single tool at our disposal to help turn the tide on this crisis. We need a policy approach that is comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based.
Bill C-37 would further strengthen our government's response to the opioid crisis.
Lest there be any doubt that we are pulling out all the stops to respond to this crisis, let me review what we have done over the past year. It includes things like ensuring naloxone, which is the antidote to overdose, is available on a non-prescription basis across the country. That involved me ensuring that we had naloxone nasal spray available on an emergency order so it would be available to Canadians, and expediting the approval of naloxone nasal spray.
We also launched Health Canada's opioid action plan. This is a plan to improve access to education for both the public, as well as prescribers, to ensure that we support better treatment options, that we reduce access to unnecessary opioids, and that we expand the evidence base.
In the matter of expanding the evidence base and getting better data, we supported McMaster University to produce guidelines for prescribing opioids in situations of chronic pain. Those new guidelines are now available for consultation.
We overturned a ban on prescription heroin so doctors might use it through Health Canada's special access programs to treat the most severe cases of addiction.
We have supported the good Samaritan drug overdose act, which offers immunity against charges for simple possession for individuals so they will call 911 if they witness an overdose and they will stay at the scene to help.
We have also put in place a number of regulations to schedule fentanyl precursors for controlled substances, making it harder for illicit substances to be manufactured in Canada.
I co-hosted, along with the minister of health for Ontario, the opioid conference and summit. At that summit, we had nine provincial and territorial health ministers. We also had 30 other organizations. We produced a joint statement of action that had 128 commitments.
In addition, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, we have put together a special advisory committee that includes the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health. This committee is very active at ensuring we have better access to data that is up to date about the state of the circumstances.
We also have a task force within the federal health portfolio to work with all federal departments in a comprehensive response to the crisis.
We funded the Canadian research initiative on substance misuse. It is providing now evidence-based guidelines for medication-assisted treatment.
In December, I joined the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in introducing Canada's new drugs and substances strategy. We reintroduced at that time harm reduction as a key pillar in drug policy.
I would like to talk now a bit about what we have done to support the establishment of supervised consumption sites. Early on, we granted an exemption to the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver to operate a facility, and we provided an unprecedented four year exemption to Insite to continue the good work it was doing.
For communities that have demonstrated a need and desire to have such a site in their community, we want to create an environment that will encourage applicants to come forward. That is why, pending passage of the bill, we have adjusted operational procedures in the interests of removing unnecessary barriers to the review and approval of supervised consumption sites.
Just last week, I was very pleased that we were able to issue exemptions for three new supervised consumption sites at fixed locations in Montreal. The time frame to approve these sites was unacceptable. It took a year and a half, and that was due to the onerous 26 criteria that existed under the previous legislation. However, finally we were able to get an exemption for them. These new sites, located in Hochelaga, Maisonneuve and Ville-Marie districts and operated by the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux du Centre-Sud-de-l'Ile-de-Montréal, will be able to provide care for people in those areas.
Health Canada has expedited a review of 10 pending requests for approval in other communities. There is an additional site in Montreal, three sites in Toronto, two in Vancouver, two in Surrey, one in Ottawa and one in Victoria.
Even while doing this, we have maintained the key essential criteria to ensure we protect the health and safety of staff, people who use drugs, and the neighbours who are in the areas of the proposed sites. We are working with all applicants to ensure that those applications are complete and that the department has received the necessary information.
Passing Bill C-37 will be so helpful to streamline the application process and it will be a big step forward for these communities.
Some have wondered why we have not declared a public health emergency. What I have said for months is that clearly we are in the midst of a national public health crisis of unprecedented proportions related to a growing number of opioid overdose deaths. However, the Federal Emergencies Act, which was formerly called the War Measures Act, is a tool of last resort. It is there to ensure public safety and security when a national emergency cannot be addressed by any other law. This act was not used in the case of SARS, H1N1 or Ebola. It is not the right instrument, but as I have already noted, we will make use of every tool at our disposal. We have already taken extraordinary steps at the federal level, and Bill C-37 is another essential step.
Bill C-37 needs to be passed without delay. This is not a political matter or an ideological matter; it is a matter of saving lives.
With the current growing rates of opioid overdoses and deaths, we have recognized there are gaps and weaknesses in the current federal legislative framework as it relates to controlled substances. To address those under Bill C-37, we will provide the government with the ability to more easily support the establishment of supervised consumption sites, a key measure in harm reduction.
We will also address the illegal supply, production and distribution of drugs. We will reduce the risk of diversion of controlled substances that are used for legitimate purposes to the illegal market by providing improved compliance and enforcement tools.
Bill C-37 would simplify and streamline the application process for communities that want and need supervised consumption sites. It would replace the 26 application criteria with the five factors that were identified by the Supreme Court in its 2011 decision regarding Insite.
It is important for all members to understand that Bill C-37 retains the need for community consultation, and it also adds increased transparency, making it a requirement for the Minister of Health to make public decisions on applications, including any reasons for denial.
To support these proposed changes, Health Canada will post information online about what is required in applications, how the process works, and the status of applications.
Supervised consumption sites are an essential part of a harm reduction measure. There is a vast abundance of international and Canadian evidence that shows that when they are properly established and maintained, they save lives and improve health without increasing drug use or crime in surrounding areas, they prevent infection, and, best of all, they provide a safe, non-stigmatizing, non-judgmental way for people to be introduced to the health care system.
Harm reduction measures in Bill C-37 complement a number of other actions that the government is taking to protect community safety. For example, the RCMP is working with the Chinese ministry of public safety to combat the flow of illicit fentanyl and other opioids into Canada.
Bill C-37 is proposing to prohibit the unregistered importation of pill presses and encapsulators, which would make it more difficult to produce illicit drugs and, in turn, keep these illicitly produced opioids and other substances off our streets. Bill C-37 would also give border services officers greater flexibility to inspect suspicious incoming international mail. As has been said before, just a standard-sized envelope can contain enough fentanyl to cause thousands of overdoses.
Before I conclude, I want to say a few words about treatment. It is absolutely essential to understand that we will not turn this crisis around by harm reduction alone. People need to have access to the broadest range of treatment options. Delivery of health services, including the treatment of addictions, falls largely under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. That is why I am very pleased to say that this fiscal year the federal government is transferring $36 billion to the provinces and territories to support the delivery of care. With the support of the Prime Minister, we identified new funding for the provinces and territories, in the order of $5 billion for mental health over the next decade, which will help people facing mental illness, including addiction.
We need to address the social drivers of the opioid overdose crisis. That includes things like poverty, social isolation, unresolved trauma, sexual abuse, and mental illness. It is widely understood that untreated mental illness is a common cause of addiction and early intervention is absolutely essential if we are going to counter such addiction.
I want to emphasize in the House that we need to include all four pillars in our Canadian drugs policy: prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and law enforcement. Prevention is so essential, as we understand that issues like social equity are absolutely important, cultural continuity, people having the opportunity to have healthy and safe childhoods, and making sure people heal from any unresolved trauma and grief in their lives, which might drive them to problematic substance use.
There is no single action that, on its own, is going to end this opioid crisis immediately, but Bill C-37 is an absolutely essential step in the process of moving to that end. We need a balanced approach. We need to work collaboratively with all other levels of government and civil society organizations. All Canadians need to work together. We need to have partnerships across the country, including, as I said, with provinces, territories, and municipalities that are very much engaged on this matter and, of course, indigenous leaders. We need to protect Canadians, to save lives, to address the root causes of this crisis, to give people hope, and to make sure that all matters are addressed in order to turn the tide of the opioid overdose crisis.
I encourage all hon. members to recognize the importance of this bill and to support its speedy passage through the House. I look forward to working with all members to that end.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I wonder if the hon. member can understand the kind of pressure we receive when members of the communities are telling us every day that they are going out and literally seeing people dying in the streets. I recognize that the hon. member may struggle with the challenges associated with this, and there is always some anxiety related to how we best respond, but the evidence is clear. The hon. member should meet with the chief of police in Vancouver, and meet with the chief of police in Calgary, and talk to them. Although some leaders at first doubted whether supervised consumption sites would be helpful, they have become absolutely convinced that it is essential to save lives. It is reprehensible for us to not move forward on this. The lives of people are at stake.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her work, and the members of the NDP for their support in passing this bill in a rapid way.
With respect to the recommendations of the health committee, it has made an excellent series of recommendations, and has done fantastic work. I would encourage the member to read the Emergencies Act to make sure that it is well understood, and to realize that this particular circumstance does not require the invoking of the Emergencies Act. If the member can tell me a single thing that we could do by invoking that act that we cannot already do, I would be happy to hear it. I have told this House repeatedly that I will pull out every stop and will take every action that is necessary. However, there is nothing that act would allow that we cannot already do. We have the authority to do what needs to be done. I want to encourage provinces, territories, municipal leaders, and health care providers to also do their part. We cannot solve this alone. We will do everything within our power to make sure that it is turned around.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his excellent leadership role on the committee, which has done such outstanding work on this crisis. He draws attention to something that is very important, which is that we need to recognize the incredible work of first responders, in particular, paramedics. The pressure on these paramedics is remarkable, and I have heard similar stories.
Bill C-37 would allow the increasing availability of supervised consumption sites so that these paramedics would have somewhere to take people where they would be welcomed, where people would know that they can be introduced safely into the health care system, and where we can prevent death from overdose. They might have an opportunity as well to be introduced to treatment when they are ready for that. Therefore, we encourage the availability of these sites, and encourage all players to make sure that we increase access to treatment so that lives will be saved, so that people will find that there is a way to find hope for their future, and so that we can also make sure that first responders are respected and do not have to go through this terrible ongoing crisis.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased that the Conservatives were able to vote in favour of the expedited process in the committee that agreed to move on this. It speaks to the fact that some of their members recognized that this is an urgent matter. When we look at the data from British Columbia, we see there are four, five, six people dying every single day. This is absolutely unacceptable, that we would stand by and continue to debate a matter when we have a bill that could help communities like not only Vancouver but Edmonton, Calgary, and Toronto to be able to have the facilities available. I would be happy to speak with members about any additional ideas they have, but we have to get this bill through.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I would encourage the member to speak to Dr. Juurlink, who now understands the reasons why it is not appropriate to declare a national health emergency, but there are many features that the member asked for that we are already doing. If she wants more funding, I encourage provinces across this country to accept the $5 billion that we have offered through the health accord, and to put that money to work to provide better access to mental health care and treatment.
We have offered mobile units. The Public Health Agency of Canada has said to many communities, including those in British Columbia, “Let us know when you need our emergency mobile units. We will get in there and set them up.”
Let those communities know we are prepared to do everything that it takes.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I am going to be splitting my time with the member for Surrey Centre.
The topic we are addressing today is a solemn one. As a result, the past few weeks have been emotional for all parliamentarians, myself included, as we have wrestled with the matter of assisted dying.
The government had the responsibility to respond to the Supreme Court decision that was made in February 2015. I joined my colleagues in addressing that responsibility after we formed government in November 2015. Thus, in the very short time since forming government, there has been an incredible amount of work by officials and parliamentarians, with input from Canadians with a diverse range of views.
Before us today is a legislative framework that we believe is the right approach for Canada. It is transformative. It would forever change the range of options that Canadians would have as they approach the end of their life. I would like to reflect on the principles that make up the foundation of our government's legislative approach in developing the legislation that is before the House today.
First, it is about the principle of personal autonomy, in helping people to write their own story, in a sense, in providing Canadians with access to medical assistance in dying, for the Supreme Court made it clear to us that Canadians must have that access.
We have the responsibility to abide by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and we have the responsibility to put forth legislation that respects the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada. This legislation before the House today, if passed, would do just that.
The legislation also respects the principle of the inherent value of life. It is written, therefore, with appropriate safeguards that would protect vulnerable individuals. It would also firmly uphold the conscience rights of health care providers.
Over the past several weeks and months, I have had conversations with members in this chamber from all sides of the House. The Minister of Justice and I have appeared at committees in the House and the Senate. I have personally had numerous meetings and phone calls with many interested advocates, in addition to the witnesses whom committees have heard on this particular legislation.
It is worth noting today that the professional bodies that represent health care providers are supportive of this legislative approach. These include the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Nurses Association, Canadian Pharmacists Association, and HealthCareCan, which represents our nation's hospitals and academic health sciences centres.
Just today, parliamentarians received an open letter from 36 organizations representing the vulnerable, including the Canadian Association for Community Living, which has come out in support of this bill. Each organization may have continued areas of interest in which they wish to seek clarifications or undertake work with my department or with provinces and territories so that they can properly work with their members on implementing assistance in dying.
As I have said in the past, this is an iterative process. It is why not only would we study further potential areas of assisted dying within a short period of time, if the legislation passes, but there would also be a parliamentary review of this important legislation.
Let us discuss the matter of timing. The Supreme Court of Canada gave our government an extension to put a legislative framework in place by June 6. Before going further, allow me to say that I respect the roles and responsibilities everyone has here as parliamentarians, as well as the responsibilities that senators hold in the upper chamber.
There is a good reason for all of us to want to reflect upon and investigate this legislation in a thoughtful manner on behalf of Canadians. The reality is that we are facing a finite amount of time before there is a legal void, an absence of legislation to address the matter.
Despite what some may say, there are real and very serious challenges if there is no legislative framework in place. As I said yesterday, there is a real risk that there could be no law in place by June 6. It is important to underscore what is at stake.
First, organizations like the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Protective Association have made it clear that they believe there is a vast majority of doctors who would not participate in assistance in dying without a legislative framework, despite the protections that some say the Carter decision provides.
Doctors are being advised by the appropriate associations to seek legal counsel before proceeding with any form of assisted dying, including consulting patients, and this would pose significant access issues and result in a situation where the Supreme Court's decision is not being realized.
Second, it would be illegal for any other health care providers to offer assistance in dying. That means that nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and other providers recognized by amendments passed at committee would face no legal protection. In particular, pharmacists who are needed to dispense medications required for medical assistance in dying require clarification.
Finally, there is the possibility that some could receive assistance in dying without a legislative framework in place, who would not otherwise have been eligible under the government's approach. This means, for example, the risk that someone facing severe depression could seek assistance in dying and that the safeguards to protect that individual would be inadequate or nonexistent.
I also want to remind members that medical assistance in dying is unlikely to be the choice for the vast majority of individuals at the end of life, and at its core our health care system is there to keep Canadians healthy. Canadians should have access to high-quality palliative care. This is something to which I have been, and will continue to be, committed to addressing with our provincial and territorial colleagues, along with the delivery of our government's platform commitment of $3 billion for home care.
Our government put forth this legislation that would transform end-of-life care options for Canadians. It is an approach that respects their rights under the charter, protects our most vulnerable, and considers the needs of health care providers.
I want to thank my fellow parliamentarians for their attention to the bill. Many of us are new to this role, and this is no small matter that we have been asked to address on behalf of the 36 million Canadians whom we represent. I thank them for engaging in the conversation with respect and dignity. I thank them for doing their utmost to consider the perspective of others, even if it differs greatly from their own. I thank them for the serious discourse we have undertaken in a situation where it is likely impossible to write legislation that would entirely satisfy every diverse view.
Recognizing our responsibility to implement legislation, I urge members to support Bill C-14 for today's final vote. I look forward to working with the Senate, if the House wishes to proceed to the next stage of our legislative process.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Madam Speaker, one of the themes we have heard many times in the House is the importance of Canadians having access to high-quality palliative care.
As my colleague knows, health care delivery lies largely in the domain of provinces and territories. I have been impressed with the work of my colleagues, the ministers of health in those jurisdictions, and I will continue to work with them. We look forward to establishing a health accord that will provide further investments to enhance the work they are already doing in the area of palliative care.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Madam Speaker, the member's question is one we have heard before, and I am pleased to answer it today.
As the member knows, we were asked to establish legislation on the matter of medical assistance in dying. The Carter decision included language around grievous and irremediable conditions. In drafting the legislation, it was felt that there had to be further clarification, which has been supported by health care workers who, in one sense, did not want to be limited by a particular deadline to say it is expected that a person is within six months of dying.
This is a piece of language that has been supported to respect the professional opinion of health care providers who know when a grievous and irremediable condition has reached the point that death is reasonably foreseeable.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I urge members of this House to understand the seriousness of the matter of a legal void, which might exist. I recognize that some have argued that this is not an important point, but I want members to understand that, if what is important to them is that Canadians have access to medical assistance in dying, the best way to do that is to support this legislation. Without it, health care providers require further clarification. They are being advised to seek legal counsel. There will be serious problems with accessing medical assistance in dying.
I am also concerned about the other end of the spectrum, where patients might access assistance in dying without adequate safeguards in place.
My colleague also raises the matter that the legislation makes it clear that this assistance in dying is available for Canadians who are otherwise supported by our universally funded public health insurance plan. There would be serious concerns about whether or not there would be access to assistance in dying for people who do not fall into those eligibility categories.
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