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View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, I have a number of petitions on two subjects.
The first consists of eight petitions, including an electronic petition, with almost 4,000 signatures. The petitioners call on the government to ensure that conscience rights of medical personnel are protected by passing Bill C-418.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I have 17 petitions to present from seven provinces, including my own province of Saskatchewan.
The petitions address the issue of Bill C-14, which prohibits compelling health care providers or institutions to provide medical assistance in dying but lacks clarity for effective enforcement.
Bill C-418 would provide that protection and make it an offence to intimidate a health care professional for the purpose of compelling him or her to take part in the provision of assisted suicide or to affect his or her employment.
The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to ensure that the conscience rights of medical personnel are protected by passing Bill C-418.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I have four petitions on three subjects. The first two petitions deal with Bill C-418.
The petitioners ask Parliament to support the bill. It would amend the Criminal Code to make it an offence to intimidate a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for the purpose of compelling them to take part in the provision of medical assistance in dying. It would also makes it an offence to dismiss from employment or to refuse to employ such practitioners for the reason only that they refuse to take part in that activity.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
moved that Bill C-418, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Madam Speaker, the first thing I would like to do is to thank the many people across Canada who have shown up to work on this bill. It has caught on across the country. It has restored my faith in the good judgment of Canadians and, hopefully, we will see that same good sense shown in the House and we can have some restored faith here as well.
I am here today to speak to Bill C-418, which is the protection of freedom of conscience act. I need to point out again that I am surprised at the way this has caught on and caught the attention of the Canadian public. We should thank many Canadians and groups for whom this is an important issue for their work on publicizing and advancing conscience rights in Canada.
To begin to understand Bill C-418, we need to back up a bit. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has a number of sections in it. Section 1, of course, guarantees our rights and freedoms. However, immediately following that is section 2, which declares the most fundamental rights, and that begins with freedom of conscience and religion. In 2015, the Carter decision in the Supreme Court said that although section 7 of the charter provides for the right to die, it also explicitly said that no one is required to participate in or be part of it.
We then came to Bill C-14, the government's assisted suicide bill. It is a bill that attracted much attention and controversy and laid out the groundwork for the first round of assisted suicide legislation in Canada. Whether they call it euthanasia, medically assisted dying or assisted suicide, they are all different names for the same thing. Medical practitioners were divided on the issue of participating in ending the lives of Canadians. Whether we supported Bill C-14 or not, it was clear that many within the medical community were very concerned. They did not and still do not want to participate in this activity.
When Bill C-14 was passed, it included subsection 241.2(9) which did say, “For greater certainty, nothing in this section compels an individual to provide or assist in providing medical assistance in dying.” That was not adequate because it did not lay out an offence, there was no framework for it and there was no penalty in Bill C-14 if someone violated that. It ended up being nothing more than a statement in Bill C-14.
While the Liberal talking points have repeated this, and the Liberals also claim that everyone has freedom of conscience and religion under section 2 of the charter, this is not the reality that medical personnel are facing across Canada. In spite of the fact that on the surface the charter, Carter and Bill C-14 supposedly agree, the reality is that physicians and medical personnel in this country are being pressured to participate in something with which they fundamentally disagree and there is no protection provided to them.
Conscience forms the basis of medical professionals' motivation to pursue their particular field. Doctors practise every day with the knowledge that it is their conscience that motivates them to test the limits of their knowledge and skill. Medical professionals know that patient care will suffer if they are deprived of the ability to live with integrity and to follow their consciences. They know the importance of these beliefs to them and their patients better than anyone else.
For a great many Canadian doctors, the core of their conscience prohibits their participation in taking a life. Indeed, many doctors remain devoted to the black and white of the ancient Hippocratic oath, a pledge that prohibits the administration of a poison to anyone. Through the availability of assisted suicide on demand across Canada, threats to conscience are no longer confined to the theoretical or to the rhetoric of the courtrooms. They are increasingly present in the examination room as well.
That is why I believe it is time to take action in defence of conscience rights that have stood the test of time for generations. Therefore, Bill C-418 seeks to amend the Criminal Code to do two things.
The first is to make it an offence to intimidate a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for the purpose of compelling them to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of physician-assisted suicide.
The second provision makes it an offence to dismiss from employment or to refuse to employ a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for the reason only that they refuse to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of physician-assisted suicide.
My bill would provide the teeth that Bill C-14 acutely lacks. The Liberals' attempt to provide protection for doctors consisted solely of a rudimentary clause, which stated, as I said earlier, that nothing compels someone to provide or assist. However, the provision lacked the teeth needed for its effective enforcement, as evidenced by the ongoing pressure that is being exerted on physicians, particularly by their regulating bodies.
I guess the question is whether these protections are really necessary, and I would say that they are. Throughout the legislative process, I have spoken to doctors who feel overt pressure to leave family medicine because of their conscientious beliefs. I have heard of palliative care doctors in Ontario who have stopped practising altogether. Nurses who feel increasingly bullied are choosing to shift their focus or retire early. I have had personal conversations with people who work in old folks' homes who explain they do not want to participate in this but are increasingly feeling pressured to do so. The pressure on these professionals exists and they are looking for relief.
What is more, regional associations such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario have introduced regulations compelling conscientiously objecting physicians to participate by providing what they call “effective referrals” for physician-assisted suicide. A recent court decision has upheld this directive, contravening the assurances provided in Carter v. Canada and creating an even more urgent need among physicians for protection. This is in spite of the fact that in this situation in Ontario I am told that the majority of physicians support an allowance for conscientious objections, but the college has not taken that position.
As strange as it sounds, the recent court decision refers to the college's suggestion that if physicians do not like to participate then they can find other areas of medicine to take up. This is unusual, particularly in a situation where we have such a shortage of physicians and medical services. The college suggests that if they do not like participating they can take up things like sleep medicine, hair restoration, sport and exercise medicine, skin disorders, obesity medicine, aviation examinations, travel medicine or perhaps become a medical health officer.
For many of us across this country, particularly those of us in rural areas, we know there is an increasing lack of physicians in an increasingly challenged medical system. I find it passing strange that the college would be the one suggesting such a thing for its physicians. The answer does not have to be to do it, find someone else to do it or get out of medicine. Medical personnel and resources are scarce. Why would one try to force people into doing what they believe to be wrong? The example of the province of Manitoba and its conscientious objection legislation shows there does not need to be compulsion in the medical system when it comes to this issue.
My bill does not address the social acceptability of euthanasia and assisted suicide; that is not the point of it. Protecting physicians' conscience rights is not at all a physicians versus patients scenario. By protecting physicians' conscience rights, patients' rights are enhanced. Bill C-418 is about protecting the fundamental freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed to all Canadians in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Parliamentarians from all parties cannot ignore the groundswell of support this bill has received from average Canadians who believe it is time to stand up for doctors and health care providers who are not willing to leave their core ethics behind when they are at a patient's bedside. This is not theoretical. I have had photos sent to me of the revolving TV screens that we see in hospital wards, with pictures of what seems to be a physician's hand gently resting on the arm of a senior citizen, touting assisted suicide as a medical service whereby physicians or nurse practitioners help patients fulfill their wish to end their suffering and a phone number is provided. Interestingly, it makes no mention of palliative care or other ways to reduce pain and suffering. It makes no mention of access to counselling.
With government, the courts and health care facilities promoting access as a right, should not those who object be allowed to have that fundamental freedom of conscience that is so important?
I want to close with a quote from “The Imperative of Conscience Rights” by the CRFI. They write:
The outcomes of the current controversies that engage freedom of conscience will not only signal the extent to which Canadians can conscientiously participate in public life—in other words, whether they can live in alignment with who they are and what they stand for in matters of morality. These outcomes will also speak volumes about who we are and what we stand for—as a society. Suppressing beliefs with which we disagree or that we find offensive in the name of tolerance and liberalism is a contradiction in terms. The fact that the state has deemed something legal does not remove a person’s freedom to express her moral opposition to it. This freedom is not absolute, but its roots—integrity, identity, and dignity—are necessary for human flourishing. These roots must therefore be top of mind whenever limitations on freedom of conscience are proposed. We believe that governments should only limit this human right if there is a compelling justification.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, I can tell my colleague opposite that the OMA, as far as I know, has come out in favour of protecting the conscience rights for the doctors who are part of its association, so the college and the OMA are not on the same page on this one.
The college in Ontario has brought in a much stricter set of guidelines, if we want to call it that, than virtually anywhere else across Canada. Manitoba has brought in a conscientious objection law, which would allow physicians to opt out of this and make it much simpler for them to do that. In Ontario, the requirement is that they “must effectively refer”, which are the words that are used. Many people feel that they just do not want to participate at that level and in this day and age of electronics, there are many other ways that people can access the information. There are a number of other suggestions out there about how that might be done.
The point of this bill is, first of all, to give the conscience protection that people need if they want to be able to continue to do their work.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, I actually believe that we can. It has been done in other places across the country, but there are numerous ways that people can come to information about assisted suicide or medical assistance in dying. There are certainly a number of options open as to how they might access that information. The question is whether physicians are obligated to refer that, to provide that, or if they can opt out and give them another way to find that information. We believe that is very possible.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, the interest in this bill has been surprising to me. There are some bills that really catch people's imaginations across the country. There are other ones that we really have to work hard to try to get people to pay attention to. It has been surprising to me how people have taken this on. There is an onslaught of petitions coming into my office every day and I am passing them on to my colleagues as well so that they can understand the interest that people in their ridings have in this issue.
People generally want to be fair to other people and allow them to have the capacity to operate off of the things they believe in. Every single one of us has a set of beliefs. We have a right to operate under our set of beliefs as long as we are not destroying somebody else's life or are in other people's faces. In this situation, we should be giving medical professionals, who operate every day from a sense of conscience in what they do, the opportunity to do that.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, there are a number of options for people to find the information they need. There are many doctors and facilities that will provide this service if they want it, but there are other doctors and medical personnel who do not feel that assisting in someone's premature death is a part of the mandate of what they have been called to as physicians or medical personnel.
There are enough choices out there that people can have and we can allow those who disagree with this procedure to have their freedom of conscience and be able to live their professional lives in that fashion.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-418, an act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying).
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour today to table the protection of freedom of conscience act. The purpose of this is to protect the rights of health care professionals who conscientiously object to participation in medical assistance in dying, making it an offence to intimidate or try to force a health care professional to be involved in this activity. It also makes it an offence to fire or refuse to employ a health care professional for refusing to take part, either directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying.
I believe it is time to stand up for the doctors and health care providers who are not willing to leave their core ethics behind when they are at a patient's bedside. Access to medical assistance in dying and the right to conscientious objection are not mutually exclusive.
View Sheri Benson Profile
NDP (SK)
View Sheri Benson Profile
2018-10-25 17:03 [p.22851]
Madam Speaker, with pleasure I rise today in full support of the motion to designate June as Filipino heritage month in Canada. As the member for Saskatoon West, I am proud to represent many constituents of Filipino descent. The Filipino community in Saskatoon, indeed in Saskatchewan and all throughout Canada, has enriched our cultural diversity. Its members have worked and volunteered beside us, contributed to our joint community-building projects, generously offered their leadership in times of need, and have become our friends and neighbours.
In fact, the 2016 Canadian census tells us that Saskatchewan has over 20,000 Tagalog speakers, one of the official languages of the Philippines, an increase of over 123% since 2011. Specifically, in Saskatoon, of the residents who identified themselves as immigrants in that census, nearly one quarter hailed from the Philippines. That is 10,000 strong and growing.
The 2016 census shows the Tagalog language as the immigrant language most commonly spoken on the Prairies: 20,000-plus people list it as their mother tongue, 2% of the population, and over 11,000 people say it is the language they most commonly speak at home. In Saskatoon, Tagalog now ranks behind English as the second most common mother tongue.
According to the most recent annual report of the IRCC, the Philippines is Canada's top source country for new permanent residents with over 42,000, almost 14% of new permanent residents. This has been the case every year since 2013. I am extremely proud of the Filipino Canadian community in my riding. Its members have contributed so much to our shared economic prosperity in Saskatchewan while at the same time building a better life for themselves and their families.
I am proud to represent the residents of the Saskatoon Confederation Park neighbourhood, and it is with extra pride that I say this neighbourhood includes the largest population of Filipinos in my city. Of course, at one time, the community was much smaller, but that did not deter Rose Lacsamana and her family who, 10 years ago, opened a Filipino store targeted at the small but growing Filipino community. It is this type of leadership and forward thinking and risk taking, by Rose and many others, who built up a business and while doing so, built up our community. It is through these efforts of local Filipino Canadian business owners that Saskatoon was able to welcome newcomers from the Philippines with open arms. I thank Rose and her husband JR for their venture, the Global Pinoy Food Store, and for believing in our community to grow and prosper. I congratulate them for 10 years of service to our community.
One of my favourite things to do as an MP is to attend citizenship ceremonies in my riding. During my constituency week in October, I attended not one but two ceremonies. Both were, of course, very special, but one was extra special for a couple of reasons. First, it was Citizenship Week in Canada. Second, we were gathered at the wonderful Saskatoon Farmers Market and I want to thank Erika Quiring, operations manager at the Saskatoon Farmers Market, for hosting us. Third, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship organized an opportunity for me and other community leaders to host table conversations with our brand new citizens.
I met lvan and his family from Iran and Rachel who was there with her sister. Rachel was nervous and shy, but very happy to be getting her citizenship and happy to be together again with her sister and other extended family. Rachel came to Canada from the Philippines as a live-in caregiver. She had waited many years to get her citizenship. It was wonderful to share that day with her. It reminded me of the many women who come to my constituency office for help, who are raising other people's children, having come to Canada, many from the Philippines, as live-in caregivers, the women whose children are growing up without their mother, the women who are working hard to earn money so that one day they can be reunited with their own children, the women who, like Rachel, dream of one day attending their own citizenship ceremony.
The members of the NDP have long been champions for the Filipino community and my colleague from Vancouver East has continued those efforts. One of the most important yet invisible contributions of Filipino Canadians is the many ways in which Filipino caregivers help raise our children and run our households.
Since 1992, some 75,000 Filipinos have become permanent residents of Canada through the federal government's caregiver program. The sales pitch was hard to resist. They would help raise our children for two years, and we would reunite them with theirs and give everyone a shot at permanent residency. Last year alone, some 23,000 Filipinos came to Canada under the program, but it has become a victim of its own success.
In 2015, the backlog of applications for permanent residency was 17,600 names long. Citizenship and Immigration Canada promised swift action and announced plans to expedite the approval process, but for many, the wait, which now averages over 50 months, and that is after two years of employment, is torture. At home, their kids are growing up without them, and with rock-bottom wages in the Philippines, going back is not a viable option. With the recent announcement by the federal government that the program will end in 2019, these women are understandably very concerned.
It is not a secret that women who are employed through the caregiver program are vulnerable and sometimes face harsh working conditions for very little pay. At the same time, they are isolated and far away from their homes and families. Most of them do not get to see their children for many years. They come and work under conditions that most of us would find trying, all for a chance at a better life. The least we can do is offer them better workplace protections and a pathway to permanent residency in a process that is clear, stable and not fraught with delays or uncertainty.
Currently, the average application processing time for live-in caregivers is four and a half years. The NDP is calling on the government to take immediate action to end the backlog and processing delays that are keeping an estimated 40,000 live-in caregivers from reuniting with their families.
We have always believed that if one is good enough to work here, one is good enough to stay. I hope that in addition to celebrating Filipino heritage month next year, the federal government will also be modernizing our immigration policies and processes and giving priority to reuniting families.
All around my community I see the good work brought about by members of the Filipino community, and their efforts are supported by residents of all different backgrounds.
I was proud to participate in the Flores de Mayo Fiesta celebration, which last year raised funds for the Filipino Heritage School in Saskatoon, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017. Founded in 1996, the Filipino Heritage School is dedicated to preserving the Filipino language and culture, strengthening unity within the community and promoting intercultural understanding. The school's success is the collaborative effort of parents, families and teachers collectively working together to teach the Filipino language and culture.
The Filipino-Canadian Association of Saskatoon, or FILCAS, is a vibrant community organization serving as sort of the mother of all Filipino organizations in the city. It is the leading organizer of major Filipino Canadian activities, such as Philippine Independence Day on June 12, the sports tournament and the Filipino Canadian annual Christmas party.
Since the inception of the Saskatoon Folkfest over 36 years ago, FILCAS has hosted the Filipino pavilion, showcasing Filipino arts and culture and promoting Filipino heritage for all of us to enjoy.
I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge this year's Filipino Folkfest pavilion ambassadors, Hilbert and Grace Macadaeg, and youth pavilion ambassadors, Julenne Florida and Jayda Ho, for their warm welcome on my visit to the pavilion this year.
It has been an honour for me, as the member of Parliament for Saskatoon West, to attend the ANCOP, or Answering the Cry of the Poor, fundraising walk for the past two years. This year it celebrated its fifth walk in Saskatoon and its 15th in Canada. The money raised in Saskatoon walks has supported 35 sponsored children in going to school and has built 30 houses in the Saskatchewan Village in the Philippines.
My community and I are proud to honour the many contributions of Filipino Canadians in Saskatoon.
In closing, I must continue the accolades for the Filipino community in Saskatoon. I only wish I had more time, as the list is longer than my time allows.
I want to congratulate the University of Saskatchewan Filipino Student Association, which was honoured this year with the prestigious University of Saskatchewan Vera Pezer Award for Student Enhancement as the campus group of the year.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to send a special shout-out to the many Filipino Canadians working, and caring, as health care workers in my community, many of whom are proud members of the Service Employees International Union, SEIU-West. President Barb Cape and the members of SEIU-West are not only members of a great union but are also outstanding community partners, supporting many local Filipino events and cultural celebrations.
I look forward--
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2018-09-20 10:30 [p.21573]
Madam Speaker, the practice was changed by the previous Conservative government in 2012. Actually the law was changed so that this became a voluntary provision. The law now says the vendor simply has to have “no reason to believe that the transferee is not authorized to acquire and possess that kind of firearm.” In other words, they do not have to ask. They can ask, but they do not have to ask.
Of course, vendors have that option, and all the reputable ones that I know actually ask the question to determine that the licence is still valid. Most businesses probably behave in that way. It is just common sense. However, if someone without a PAL is looking to get a shotgun, for example, that person is more likely to try to buy it from a vendor known not to run the licence check.
Bill C-71 would make it an offence not to verify the licence. This is not only important to stop those who have never had a licence from acquiring a non-restricted firearm. If a gun shop is dealing with a regular customer, the sales clerk might be tempted not to check the licence that he or she has probably seen many times before on previous transactions. However, if that customer had recently lost their PAL due to a court order, the sales clerk would have no way to know that unless he or she actually checked its validity with the registrar. Customer service will be important so that verification can be done in a quick and efficient manner.
On firearms record-keeping, Bill C-71 proposes to make record-keeping of non-restricted firearms a requirement for all businesses. With proper authorization, police will then be able to better trace the origins of firearms found at crime scenes. This was a requirement for businesses from 1979 until 2005. It is also a standard requirement across virtually all of the United States. It is simply a good business practice commonly applied already by major retailers like Cabela's, Canadian Tire and many others.
Some people have suggested that this will amount to a new long-gun registry. Of course, for such an argument to be logical, it would also mean that Canada first had a long-gun registry back in 1979. Obviously, that would be nonsense. To make this point crystal clear, the Conservatives moved an amendment in the committee, which reads as follows: “For greater certainty, nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to permit or require the registration of non-restricted firearms.” That amendment was supported unanimously by all members of the public safety committee, who were in total agreement that nothing in Bill C-71 remotely resembles a long-gun registry. That point is now beyond all doubt.
In addition to meeting our platform commitments, we are currently reviewing other options to ensure that firearms do not fall into the wrong hands. For example, we are examining the regulations relating to the safe storage of firearms, especially after hours on commercial premises. Firearms theft from such premises have been steadily rising, and we should try to prevent that trend from getting worse.
We are examining firearms advertising regulations to see if they are appropriate to prohibit the glorification of violence and anti-personnel kinds of paramilitary conduct. We are examining the issue of whether there should be some flagging system with respect to large transactions or bolt sales that may trigger questions on the part of police forces. We are also examining the possibility of enabling medical professionals to flag when they feel a patient may pose a significant risk to the safety of themselves or others.
I would point out that in 2012, Quebec passed what is known as Anastasia's law, which banned firearms in places like schools and relieved physicians of their usual obligations with respect to doctor-patient confidentiality when they felt that someone under their care who owned a firearm might be a danger to themselves or to others. It is a concept that other provinces may wish to examine, and it will be discussed at federal, provincial and territorial meetings this fall.
I will be working with the new Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction on these supplementary measures as well. As members know, the new minister has also been mandated to lead an examination of a ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians. That consultation will be going forward this fall.
When taken together, this strategy represents a responsible firearms package that will help make our communities safer. It will help police forces investigate the illegal use of firearms. At the same time, these measures taken together will not overburden legitimate firearms owners in exercising their legitimate rights.
View Robert Kitchen Profile
CPC (SK)
View Robert Kitchen Profile
2017-11-20 11:34 [p.15263]
Madam Speaker, I am grateful to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-348, an act to amend the Department of Employment and Social Development Act, persons with disabilities. The bill, put forward by my NDP colleague, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, would help to simplify the challenges persons with disabilities face when looking to apply for programs administered through the federal government. It is a good idea based on my personal experiences and from what I have heard from Canadians during my time as a member of Parliament.
Persons with disabilities have to overcome many obstacles in order to build a dignified life. It seems logical to me that the federal government should be doing everything in its power to assist with this. However, instead of getting that help, disabled persons are instead facing large amounts of red tape and bureaucracy. They must scour through computer and paper descriptions and directions in department after department, asking “Where do we start?”
Bill C-348 seeks to address this issue by requiring the minister for Employment and Social Development Canada to provide information and guidance on all applications for grants, benefits, compensation, and any other programs and services for which persons with a disability may be eligible, under one roof and within one document.
The bill would also have two other requirements: first, the department maintain a single comprehensive application that accesses all programs for persons with a disability across the federal government; and second, to report back to Parliament in 18 months on the effectiveness of the application process. This would provide an assessment of the value of the changes and allow for it to be a living document that would continue to evolve.
All the points I just mentioned seem like common sense measures to me. Why would we ask those who already face so many challenges to spend countless hours scouring various government websites to find all the programs and services for which they are eligible, and then having to fill out an application form for each individual program to which they would like to apply? Having to fill out each program application individually does not help anyone. It is frustrating for all Canadians to have to do this, let alone those with disabilities who are already facing huge issues such as chronic underemployment, difficulty accessing public spaces, a lack of accessible housing, and much more.
Computer literacy is a challenge to many of us. Navigating these forms, whether old or young, is even more difficult with a disability. The federal government's role is to help Canadians, and the bill would be a great start to do that. However, as it stands, and if left unchecked, it is just more red tape resulting in more frustration.
I would like to take a moment to speak about my experience as a former member of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, and to give everyone an idea of how all this bureaucracy affects our disabled veterans. I know that part of the bill includes veterans disability pensions, which I am pleased to see. During my time on the committee, I heard first-hand testimony about how difficult it was to apply for the benefits to which our veterans were entitled. To search and navigate the multiple sites was a frustrating challenge.
Many of these men and women suffer from mental health issues as well as physical disabilities. This means they are not always able to devote hours and hours to find available programs, fill out applications, and then have to do the same over again for each program for which they are eligible. In some cases, we heard from veterans who simply decided to throw in the towel and forgo the services they were entitled to because the process of applying for these services was far too strenuous and compounding for those struggling with a disability, whether it be mental or physical.
These veterans are the people who gave up the life they knew in order to protect Canada and all Canadians. It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear some of the testimony at the veterans affairs committee, as these individuals deserve so much more than a cacophony of programs, spread across the federal government's websites, requiring hours of digging to find and more hours of filling out multiple applications in order to apply. It is unnecessary and it does a disservice not just to our veterans, but to everyone living with a disability, as well as their caretakers and family members.
That in itself is another point I would like to raise. It is not just disabled persons who deal with this issue, but often their families as well. Many times caretakers come from the family of a disabled person, and many times they are not talked about or given recognition.
Being a caretaker is not an easy job, and I commend all those who undertake the role. The bill would make it easier for caregivers and families to ensure they would be taking advantage of all programs available to them without having to comb through various websites to find that information. It would avoid hours of searching, determining if a service or program would be applicable, disseminating this to their family member, and then completing the multitude of applications.
Furthermore, Bill C-348 would provide for a single, comprehensive application that would access all programs across the federal government for persons with disabilities. This seems so logical that I am surprised it has not yet been done.
While I understand these programs involve a number of government departments, centralizing the application process through the Department of Employment and Social Development would be a huge benefit to persons with disabilities and their families. It would save much time, effort, and frustration. It is also a real and achievable goal. I call on the government to recognize the need for this measure. With the technology available today, we know this is possible to do, and further technological advances would ensure this would be generationally enduring.
Under the previous Conservative government, we initiated the centralization of information across government based on the user group. The bill would continue that work, specifically for persons with disabilities, who are the demographic that would most benefit from this initiative.
Other examples of a few programs that have to be navigated through include helping persons with disabilities prepare for and obtain employment through the annual $30 million opportunities fund, and funds like the $218 million per year labour market agreement for persons with disabilities to assist provinces and territories to improve the employment situation. Again, these are just two programs of many.
I see no reason not to support the legislation, especially given that the Liberal government is making life more difficult for Canadians living with disabilities by increasing their cost of living through tax changes and removing benefits. Persons with type 1 diabetes and persons with autism spectrum disorders come quickly to mind. As I stated previously, it is the federal government's job to improve life for all Canadians, including for disabled persons. The way to do this is not by taking away benefits or adding more layers of red tape to the process of obtaining said benefits. It is by simplifying and centralizing, which is exactly what the bill seeks to do.
I commend the member for Windsor—Tecumseh for her efforts on the bill.
As the deputy shadow minister for youth, sport and persons with disabilities, I call on the government to support the bill and the measures contained in it, as we on this side of the House plan to do. It is good sense and it would make life significantly easier for those facing the challenge of living with disabilities, something I know we can all get behind.
View Robert Kitchen Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to the motion put forward by the member for Humber River—Black Creek regarding amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.
Motion No. 105 proposes two things. It calls on the government to reiterate its commitment to combat ALS through research and awareness. It also calls on the government to increase funding for research and create a strategy to assist in the eradication of ALS as soon as possible. Both parts of this motion are necessary steps that need to be taken and will serve to help those currently suffering with ALS as well as those who will be diagnosed in the future.
As all of us know in the House too well, ALS is an aggressive disease. We saw first-hand how it quickly and drastically affected our colleague, the Hon. Mauril Bélanger, just last year. Today, approximately 3,000 Canadians live with ALS, and each year roughly 1,000 more are diagnosed. There is no cure for this, and about 1,000 Canadians die from ALS each year. This equals to two to three people every day who are dying from this incurable disease.
The average onset occurs between the ages of 40 and 60, and is more common among men than women. Currently, there is no known cause for ALS, which is exactly why this motion, and in turn more research, needs to be done. Of all those diagnosed with ALS, only 5% to 10% will have a familial or hereditary type of the disease.
There is also no established, concrete way to detect the disease early. Even once symptoms begin to appear, it can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms tend to mimic typical signs of aging, such as lack of coordination, muscle weakness, and cramping. Once diagnosed, 80% of people with ALS have a life expectancy of two to five years. As I stated previously, this is a very aggressive disease, and more research needs to be done so it can be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible once symptoms begin to occur.
In my previous life as a chiropractor, I was fortunate not to come across any patients who ended up being diagnosed with ALS. However, while I was doing my fellowship, working and studying at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, I experienced a patient with ALS. As a diagnostician, this is not a condition one readily forgets.
Given that ALS is relatively uncommon and that the symptoms can easily mimic those of other less serious medical conditions, I encourage all primary health care practitioners to ensure they get the full picture with respect to a patient's history, complete orthopedic and neurologic exams, and to use all the diagnostic tools and information available to them. If there is any doubt or concern, I would encourage health care practitioners to refer their patient to the appropriate specialist, and where deemed necessary, to an ALS specialist. While there may not be a cure, it is worthwhile to do everything possible to try to extend the lifespan of that patient should he or she eventually be diagnosed with this disease.
One aspect of living with and fighting ALS that many do not tend to think about is the financial cost. It is common that those with ALS and their families will end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to manage this disease. These expenses come in many forms.
Most people with ALS prefer to live at home with their loved ones, while they battle their disease. This means that homes need to be retrofitted to allow for greater accessibility, as those afflicted with the disease often end up wheelchair-bound due to the muscle degeneration. Ramps may need to be installed, doorways may need to be widened, and these things come at a cost.
There is also an expense of medical equipment that is often needed when people with ALS choose to live at home. If they have issues with swallowing, they might need to purchase a suction unit to ensure the saliva does not built up and flow into their lungs. As the disease progresses, it might be necessary to purchase or rent a special bed to ensure that people ALS is as comfortable as possible. Other costs associated with ALS include medication, which can sometimes be extremely expensive.
There is also the aspect of travel costs. I live in a rural riding and in order for one of my constituents to see an ALS specialist, he or she would have to drive for hours to get there. This means paying for fuel, food, and potentially accommodation in places like Regina or Saskatoon, which are two to five hours away.
All this is to say that ALS a challenging disease to manage just on the financial side of things, and anything that can done to find a cure should be done.
There is also an emotional cost to ALS, which is impossible to quantify. The people who are diagnosed have to cope with the knowledge that their condition is incurable and that they will soon lose the level of physical independence they are accustomed to. They also feel pressure to get their affairs in order, as ALS can progress rapidly once it is diagnosed. These are just a couple of the issues that people with ALS need to confront while dealing with the disease.
Families and friends are also affected when a loved one is diagnosed with ALS. As many people with ALS wish to stay at home, family members will often take on the role of caregivers. Being a caregiver is not easy. It is physically and emotionally exhausting, and it only becomes more difficult as the disease progresses and the person with ALS begins to rely on more help more often. Caregivers sacrifice a lot when they assume that role, and I commend them for all they do in that regard.
Respite care beds cost $32.94 per day, based on income, in Saskatchewan. This service is provided to give relief to the family and other primary caregivers of a dependant person living at home. Caregivers may also need to quit their jobs or take a leave of absence to assist a loved one who has ALS. This adds to the financial burden that many families face after receiving a diagnosis, and it can be emotionally taxing as well, given that both the caregiver and the person with ALS will now need to adjust to the new reality.
There are support systems out there, however, and I encourage anyone dealing with this disease to seek those out, even if it is just talking to someone who has had, or is going through, a similar experience.
The first part of the motion calls for increased research and awareness, and this is integral to finding a cure for ALS. I am sure that all of us here recall the ice bucket challenge that went viral in 2014 and is still going today. This challenge ended up raising more than $19 million dollars for ALS research and brought more attention to the disease than had ever been paid before. Suddenly people all over the world were talking about ALS. In fact, due in part to campaigns such as this one, more has been done in the field of ALS research in the last five years than in the entire century before it. That is remarkable, and I truly hope that this momentum can continue in the quest to find a cure for the disease.
There are also many walks for ALS that happen across the country, with the goal of raising awareness and funds to be put toward research. In my home province of Saskatchewan, there is Kim's Walk, scheduled for June 3, the Saskatoon Walk on June 25, and the Regina Walk on September 23. These are a great way to not only increase awareness and raise money but also to encourage people to get outside and be active while also building relationships in the community. I sincerely hope that everyone listening today will participate in one of these walks this summer and in any other fundraising effort for ALS research and awareness. There is a list of scheduled walks on the ALS Society of Canada's website. I encourage everyone to check that out.
We need to find a cure for this disease, and we need to do it at the earliest possible opportunity. In 2011, Brain Canada was created. It is the only national non-profit organization devoted to supporting all neuroscience research. The previous Conservative government invested $100 million dollars over seven years in Brain Canada, funding that expires in 2017. The ALS Society of Canada received $10 million dollars through Brain Canada to stimulate research relevant to ALS, and I call on the Liberals to do everything in their power to maintain or increase that level of funding. Clearly, it is needed, and I trust that the government recognizes that, just as the previous government did.
ALS is currently incurable, but there is always hope. Technology has advanced quickly in the last few decades, and there have been many advances in the field of medicine because of this. I believe that with the use of technology and the continued support for ALS research and awareness, a cure will be found.
I would like to thank the member for Humber River—Black Creek for her work on this issue. I encourage all members of the House to support the motion, as I will be doing.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2016-06-16 11:05 [p.4605]
Mr. Speaker, I suppose I caught your eye first. That is the way it normally works.
Before I begin my remarks, under the parameters of the debate, I have an unlimited time slot. I wonder if I could get the unanimous consent of the House to be deemed to have a normal 20-minute speaking slot and I would share that time with another colleague.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2016-06-16 11:06 [p.4606]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
I will be brief. I want to speak to a few of the amendments the government has chosen to accept and also express a few words of caution.
I want to thank the minister for keeping the language as tight as possible. “Reasonably foreseeable” is a much better situation than “grievous and irremediable”. As this is such a fundamental change to our society, we do not want to open the door to assisted suicide in such a manner that a large number of people who may be suffering from physical or mental ailments would have access it.
I understand the slight wording change on the palliative care amendment. It is important that any patient make an informed decision, whether it is about something as simple as a normal medical procedure, but certainly in a situation like this of such a grave and serious matter. In essence, as this may be the last decision some people make, making an informed decision is critically important. Knowing what other options there might to alleviate of pain as well as palliative care are also so important.
I hope the government will work with the provinces in the coming months and years to establish a robust palliative care regime so this type of decision is not made without having real and practical options to extend life in as comfortable a manner as possible, while understanding the significant challenges that are often placed on family members.
I wish the government had included the amendment that dealt with beneficiaries of estates or insurance policies not being able to participate directly in the act of assisted suicide. That is an important amendment to keep. This is going to be a new thing in Canada and we do not know how it will unfold, so having some kind of safeguard in place to avoid pressure being put on people to make this decision is important.
Many members may be familiar with the Terri Schiavo case in Florida. It was a bitter dispute with a lot of allegations all around. One of the facts that came out was that one of the family members pushing for end of life care to be withdrawn from Terri Schiavo was a beneficiary of an insurance policy. That conjures up gloomy images of what might happen to people who do not wish to end their life and are not able to either grant consent or put up opposition to it and have those decisions made for them.
I want to touch on a few comments that are troubling to me. I have heard comments made by government members and the minister about how this is a first step and that this could be expanded in the future. Those types of things very much concern me. The House is taking this decision because of a court decision. The Supreme Court of Canada reversed its original decision that upheld the laws against assisted suicide and has thrown this on to Parliament.
I understand the need that the government had to fill in this legal vacuum, and I commend it for using the language “reasonably foreseeable” and not “grievous and irremediable”. However, I am wary about what might be coming down the pike. It really worries me when people talk about this being a first step. I shudder to think where this might go. If this type of regime is opened up more, people who may be going through difficult times in their life, maybe temporary difficulties, both physical and mental, will access it.
I hope we have created a tight box that will not be expanded. I will be watching in the future and will do everything I can to ensure that this is not expanded, and I hope many of my colleagues will do the same. I do not want to go down the road of what has transpired in some European countries where this is used in a much more aggressive and expanded way. Many times it involves vulnerable people or people with severe disabilities who are not able to communicate their desires and other family members or other caregivers make that decision for them.
Canada could be going to a very dark place if this is a first step. If it is filling in that legal void and we have created a strict enough and a tight enough box around it, then I hope this is as far as it goes. I will be doing everything I can to ensure that is the case.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2016-06-16 11:12 [p.4606]
Mr. Speaker, I have voted on this subject a couple of times in the House. It came up through private members' bills. I think a member of the Bloc Québécois, in the 39th Parliament, proposed a bill to remove the restrictions around assisted suicide. It was not as comprehensive as the bill before us. I think it just deleted a clause. This obviously is a more robust response to the issue.
I do take the hon. member's points. Once the House came back after the election, there was a great number of opportunities for members to weigh in on what direction it should take. There was the special committee before the legislation was drafted, obviously debated in the House, the standing committee, and now over to the Senate.
However, none of that matters when we are dealing with the original principle that the Supreme Court hoisted back on to us. Several times in the last decade or so the elected representatives have voted against legalizing assisted suicide. The Supreme Court, in my lifetime, has upheld the rules and laws against assisted suicide and now has reversed itself. This is my beef with the whole question.
It was quite clear, through the will of the elected by Canadians, that Canadians were comfortable with assisted suicide being illegal, that the sanctity of life being upheld all the way through to natural death was an important principle, and that Canadians were afraid of where this might lead to. However, the court, having reversed its decision, has now placed it back on the lap of Parliament, so there are limited options for parliamentarians to take.
The bill is not perfect. I voted against it at second and third reading. I would have liked to have seen more protections for conscience rights for medical practitioners. I wish we had talked more about that. It is not in the amendments that we are dealing with today, so I cannot speak to that. However, it would have been easier for me to support the bill if those types of protections for medical practitioners to reflect their conscience were in it.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2016-06-16 11:15 [p.4607]
Mr. Speaker, I am not familiar with the steps the Government of Alberta took to survey people in Alberta. If it was not a referendum, then I do not know how accurate a reflection of the people it could be. I would not look to the current Government of Alberta to inform basically any of my decisions, especially about something as serious as this.
Let us be honest. We are talking about very complex legal principles. We are talking about medical terminology that touches on many different aspects of different kinds of care.
The will of Canadians was reflected through the House, which is a pretty fundamental principle. Political parties and MPs come here to represent their constituents. We did vote on this several times in my life here as a parliamentarian, and every time we rejected the call to legalize assisted suicide, and rightly so.
I have had people in my family reach the end of their lives and go through very tough medical conditions. However, upholding the principle of the sanctity of life is our job, and it is the medical industry's job to protect life, to extend life. That is a fundamental principle, and if we lose that anchor, I worry a lot of unintended consequences will come down the pike in the foreseeable future.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present petitions circulated by the Canada Family Action Coalition that feature the signatures of several hundred Saskatchewan residents who are calling upon the government to allow for sufficient time to broadly consult, more aggressively than it has been doing, on the issues of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
They also ask that the House of Commons and the members therein be stringent and serve to minimize the occurrence of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in Canada, enact laws that would protect the vulnerable members of our society, and that they do so today.
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in my place today and add the voices of my constituents to the debate on Bill C-14, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other acts, regarding medical assistance in dying.
I want to begin by telling this House that, in the almost nine years that I have been a member of this place, I have not been asked about or received as much correspondence as I have on the matter of physician-assisted suicide. It is clear that Canadians and members of this House have varied and deeply held beliefs and convictions on this issue, which have been informed by our life experiences. We members also have a responsibility to balance our personal beliefs with those of our constituents and the incredible wealth of knowledge they share with us. The widespread reaction to this short debate in Parliament confirms my belief and, I believe, the belief of my colleagues that physician-assisted suicide represents the defining issue of this Parliament.
Bill C-14 would have the most lasting impact on Canadians and the social fabric of our society because each one of us could at some point see someone we know struggle with such a decision. My constituents' opinions on this issue have been genuine, considered, and informative, with a clear majority opposing physician-assisted suicide. I am pleased to inform them that I share their views. I believe in the inviolable dignity of all human life, and that it is to be protected by law from conception to natural death. Therefore, I have opposed and will continue to oppose any attempt to legalize euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.
I have grave concerns with the process surrounding the introduction and passage of this bill. I am cognizant that Bill C-14 is now at third reading and that many members are still grappling with how they will vote later today. I hope all members will be able to vote freely, as Conservative members will be able to do.
This legislation was first introduced in this place on April 14, less than two months ago. Passing a bill in a month and a half is a challenge under any circumstances, but passing a bill of this magnitude and in this amount of time is reckless and demonstrates a complete disregard for the significance of this issue to all Canadians. As my colleague from Lethbridge noted in her earlier remarks, the Supreme Court of Canada has sent Parliament into an unending abyss of grey, and each day parliamentarians are being tested on the future limits of this legislation as one what-if leads to another. I do not believe that all the impacts of this bill can be assessed in such a tight timeline, as this truly is a new moral space for Canadians to contemplate.
Like many of us here, I am concerned that minors may eventually be able to obtain medical assistance in dying. I am concerned for the well-being of those struggling through mental illness because, quite frankly, we as a country are only now beginning to recognize and understand its reach and impacts on so many. As well, I am concerned with the notion that doctors who for legitimate reasons of faith or conscience oppose medical assistance in dying would be forced to participate in this process contrary to their personal ethics.
While the government has presented us with a bill that is much narrower in scope than the recommendations made by the special committee, stakeholders on both sides of this issue have raised many what-is-next questions. These have not been answered, and I am therefore disappointed that consultations and debate on Bill C-14 are ending prematurely.
Many of my constituents have suggested that the government should consider using section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the notwithstanding clause, to prevent physician-assisted suicide rather than rushing a bill through Parliament that appears to fully satisfy no one. I want the government and my constituents to know that I would support using the notwithstanding clause to prevent the Supreme Court's decision in Carter v. Canada from having any effect. While I am not a constitutional expert, I assume that section 33 was included in the charter because the prime minister and the premiers of the day wanted to affirm that a democratically elected federal Parliament and provincial legislatures, and not the judicial branch, would have the responsibility to pass laws on matters of public policy.
By refusing to invoke the notwithstanding clause, the government is prematurely ending our deliberations on this bill, and consequently removing many voices from the discussion.
Parliament should be passing laws that the courts then interpret within the charter. Courts should not be telling Parliament what laws it needs to pass and by when they must be passed.
I do not believe that former premier of Saskatchewan Allan Blakeney would have signed the charter without the presence of the notwithstanding clause, as it protected the rights of Saskatchewan's legislature to override a court decision with which it might not agree.
Then prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau agreed when he said:
...it is a way that the legislatures, federal and provincial, have of ensuring that the last word is held by the elected representatives of the people rather than by the courts.
Former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who was at the time Canada's justice minister, made a similar comment:
The purpose of an override clause is to provide the flexibility that is required to ensure that legislatures rather than judges have the final say on important matters of public policy.
If physician-assisted suicide is not an issue for the Parliament of Canada to invoke section 33, what is?
Liberal members have continuously used the June 6 deadline as justification to pass the bill quickly, yet I would posit that the notwithstanding clause exists precisely so that Parliament, and not the courts, can set the timeline on important matters of public policy. At the very least, the government could have used this clause to give itself more time to consult Canadians and draft legislation that conforms to the court's decision and protects life.
Quebec's National Assembly took six years to develop its legislation on physician-assisted suicide, yet the Supreme Court only gave the federal government a total of 16 months to put in place new legislation. Unfortunately, it is clear that using the notwithstanding clause is not an approach that the current government would even consider.
I will use my remaining time to address the issue of conscience rights for medical professionals.
I believe that opening the door to physician-assisted suicide is a slippery slope for our society. However, I believe that it is even more reckless if we fail to protect conscience rights in this legislation.
Without adequate protection for the conscience rights of medical professionals, Parliament, and more specifically the current governing party, is inserting the thinnest edge of the wedge when it comes to legislative disregard for conscience rights. If the current Parliament fails to respect these rights, we are setting a most dangerous precedent.
Precedents matter. Members might not be in the House or even alive to see the effects that the precedents set by passing Bill C-14 may have, which is why the protection of conscience rights today is so important.
I would have expected that most in this place would support conscience rights for medical professionals. I took at face value that the government included a mention of conscience rights in the preamble of the bill as an indication of its support for the principle, but the results of last night's vote demonstrated that this was not the case.
No one is a permanent or an eternal member of this place. Just like legislators in past parliaments, the only lasting effect we can have on the future is to be clear in our intentions through the laws we pass today. Therefore, it behooves us as members of the 42nd Parliament to be very specific in what is allowed and what is being protected with this piece of legislation.
In conclusion, our only legacy as a Parliament is what we pass into law. We have a responsibility to get this legislation right and ensure that all the issues that have been raised are addressed.
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, the federal Parliament, a provincial legislature, or a territorial legislature may declare that one of its laws or part of a law applies temporarily, notwithstanding countermanding sections of the charter, thereby nullifying any judicial review by overriding the charter protections for a limited period of time.
The clause was a compromise that was reached during the debate over the new Constitution in the early 1980s. Among the provinces' major complaints with the charter was its effect of shifting power from elected officials to the judiciary, giving the courts the final word. As I said in my comments, premiers across this country, especially those in Alberta and Saskatchewan, believed it needed to be part of the charter to strongly object to a court overriding the laws they had put in place.
View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2016-05-31 15:52 [p.3846]
Mr. Speaker, regarding protection for institutions, you represented the Saskatoon West riding for many years, and in that riding we have a Catholic-based hospital called St. Paul's Hospital. Could the member tell me how the hospital is going to deal with this, in a Catholic-based hospital, when we have no protection for institutions like this in the country?
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, we have what we understand to be a faith-based facility providing health care in the city of Saskatoon. It is the St. Paul's Hospital. It has provided care to Saskatchewanians for many decades. Originally it was the Grey Nuns who provided the care, and now that facility is an affiliate of the health region in Saskatoon.
I would suggest that a faith-based facility would employ a number of medical professionals who would want to have their conscience rights protected, and the faith they express through the care they provide should also be protected. There would be deep concern if conscience rights for individuals as well as faith-based facilities would not be protected in this legislation.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2016-05-20 12:09 [p.3654]
Madam Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I understand you will not want this to become a debate about what has happened in the past, but perhaps members opposite do not understand what the reasonable proposal from my NDP counterpart contains.
The June 6 deadline would not be affected in any way. Right now, at the conclusion of today's debate, the vote will be held on Monday evening, which means that third reading cannot start until Tuesday. What my colleague has proposed would not affect that in any way, except that it would allow members of the House to also debate it on Monday. The vote would be held at the exact same time. Third reading debate would happen on the day that it would have happened, even under this situation. It would not affect the June 6 deadline at all. All it would do would be to allow members to participate in the debate, something that the government House leader just yesterday indicated that he wanted to help facilitate.
We are not allowed to move the same motion without some kind of intermission or some kind of interceding between, but I wonder if the House would indulge and we could try that again now that members may understand exactly what my colleague was proposing.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2016-05-16 15:06 [p.3376]
Mr. Speaker, in his answer, the government House leader tried to reference the thinly veiled attempt to bring in closure last week through Standing Order 56.1. Therefore, I have a motion that I was wondering if I could get unanimous consent on. It is that, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practice of the House, on Tuesday, May 17, 2016, and on Wednesday, May 18, 2016, the House continue to sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment until midnight for the purposes of considering Bill C-14, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other acts, and at midnight or when no member rises to speak, the House shall adjourn until the next sitting day.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by approximately 50 Saskatchewan residents calling upon the government to rescind the proposed legislation on physician-assisted suicide.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2016-05-13 10:22 [p.3308]
Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today to compel the House to ensure the protection of the freedom of conscience of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist, or any other health care professional who objects to taking part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying.
I would like to introduce everyone to Os Guinness, an author, a social critic, and a member of RZIM speaking team. The great-great-great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, the Dublin brewer, he was born in China in World War II, where his parents were medical missionaries. A witness to the climax of the Chinese revolution in 1949, he was expelled with many other foreigners in 1951 and returned to Europe, where he was educated in England. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of London and his doctorate in philosophy in the social sciences at Oriel College in Oxford. I say that to give him the credibility he deserves.
He has said, “Freedom of conscience has always been understood as the first right”. In a world ravaged by conflict, there is real threat to human dignity. Dr. Guinness proposes that the way forward is through engaging in the civil public square, where freedom of conscience and religion are promoted for all people, where we can disagree respectfully, where the right to free expression by all human beings is recognized.
In Canada, everyone has freedom of conscience and religion under section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. No one has the right to demand all services from all providers in all circumstances.
The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience represents more than 100 health care facilities, with almost 18,000 care beds and 60,000 staff, and more than 5,000 physicians across our country. They represent several like-minded organizations committed to protecting conscience rights for health practitioners and institutions.
Members of this coalition include the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians' Societies, the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, Canadian Physicians for Life, and the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada. I echo their concern that Bill C-14 does not protect the conscience rights of health care workers or facilities that morally object to performing or referring for what is being referred to as medically assisted death.
No other foreign jurisdiction in the world that has legalized euthanasia or assisted suicide forces health care workers, hospitals, nursing homes, or hospices to act against their conscience or mission or values. Coalition member and executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada Larry Worthen says, “These conscience rights must be preserved”, and I agree.
A recent Nanos Research poll found that 75% of Canadians agree that doctors should be able to opt out of offering assisted dying, compared to 21% who disagree. The Canadian Medical Association indicates that approximately 70% of Canadian physicians do not want to participate in any way in assisted death and euthanasia, and 30%, approximately 24,000 Canadian physicians, would participate.
In no way should a physician, nurse, pharmacist, or any other health care professional be intimidated or coerced into taking part directly or indirectly in assisted suicide or euthanasia. In the same way, neither should they face dismissal or discrimination in hiring for exercising their freedom of conscience and religion under section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Like the Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience, I support the right people have to accept, refuse, and/or discontinue the use of life-sustaining treatment and allow death to occur. I, too, also hold strong moral convictions that it is never justified for a physician to help to take a patient's life under any circumstances. Our health care workers journey with those who are sick and suffering every day and they will continue to do so in a caring and compassionate way. They help patients at the end of life. What they object to is ending their lives.
As I indicated in my first speech in the House of Commons on Bill C-14, we need to and can significantly reduce the number of people who see death as the only possible option to end their suffering by improving medical, palliative care, and social services. As a small but mighty example, I learned at the World Red Cross Day celebration here on the Hill that my local Red Cross received ongoing funding to continue a seniors visitation program for the lonely and elderly through the new horizons for seniors program. When they are not called out to deal with a disaster, these amazing volunteers invest in the quality of life of our elderly.
“Our worth as a society is measured by the support we give to the vulnerable,” says Worthen. “We need increased access to palliative care, chronic disease and mental health services to help individuals who are suffering across the country.”
I truly believe that we have made a very grave error in putting Bill C-14 ahead of a significant palliative care initiative.
I am proud to stand here today, on behalf of my own physician in my hometown of Esterhazy. She is an amazing doctor who takes deep personal interest in her patients. She has invested in continued and specialized training to care for the elderly. I am so grateful that she is my father's physician, who has Alzheimer's. Under no circumstances should she, or any other doctor, be required to assist an individual in taking their own life.
I am standing here today, as a member of Parliament in the Government of Canada, to advocate on behalf of the rights of health care providers. As legislators, our first responsibility is to advocate for the vulnerable and for conscience protection. This is foundational in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Without this protection, we lose our freedoms and our democracy. We have a responsibility to respect the conscience rights of our physicians and health care professionals who choose not to participate in assisted suicide and euthanasia.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2016-05-13 10:30 [p.3309]
Mr. Speaker, I understand that the Supreme Court has made a decision and that it feels it has made the decision that it should. I also understand that it has said to us that we have a responsibility to respond to its decision and bring in legislation.
I said in my first speech on this topic that I believe, in spite of the fact that all of the judges agreed, they have made the wrong decision, and that we, as legislators, have the ultimate responsibility in Canada, for the people of Canada, for the laws that are made here and those laws have to reflect, more than anything, the rights of the vulnerable and the protection of people's consciences.
That is why I am standing here today to say this is something that I do not believe is covered effectively, even with what has been put forward and agreed to in the committee. Doctors across our country are concerned and we need to be far more specific. We have a responsibility across our nation to give this directive to our provinces. Ths party across the floor, which is now in government, has stressed over and over again that it wants to work with the provinces to give them frameworks and to encourage them in all other areas of responsibility in our country. This is one in which we should not let Canadians down.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2016-05-13 10:32 [p.3309]
Mr. Speaker, the truth of matter is that the Conservative individuals who are on that committee put forward a number of other amendments, which, clearly, did not see the light of day at the committee.
I feel that we are in a situation where there is this forced timeline that I do not believe needs to be as forced as it is, and apparently, there are others on the member's side of the floor who are now prepared to say they are willing to vote against what has been presented for other reasons. That, too, in itself, shows just how divided the House is and how divided Canadians are on this issue. That is why we continue to press for concerns with respect to protection of conscience.
In Ontario, already, it has been made clear that doctors there will be required to provide this service, all doctors, to all people.
That is not right in my country. Freedom of conscience should be a first priority of our charter, and it is our responsibility in the House to uphold that.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2016-05-13 10:34 [p.3309]
Mr. Speaker, it gravely disturbs me to even think in that direction, having done a great deal of work in palliative care and in hospitals myself, and having my dad in the circumstances that he is in. I truly believe that we can take the time to bring in a palliative care program across this country that mirrors a number of them that are very effective in ensuring that our elderly are taken care of in their last days.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, I am splitting my time with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
I am a little confused as are some people here with the back and forth. Conservatives take Bill C-14 very seriously and we want to debate it. I was surprised a little earlier when it seemed the Liberals wanted us to go all night, through the night. I assume that means they would like to speak during the day and then leave the opposition to speak at night when supposedly no one is listening. I think a reasonable compromise was suggested a couple of minutes ago, which is that we extend the hours to midnight, during which time we would have serious debate on this issue.
That is why we are here today. It is interesting that the notion of freedom of conscience seems to be coming up more and more in our society. In the last couple of weeks, I have crossed paths with it in discussions separate from discussions around Bill C-14.
Yesterday, at the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, someone spoke about working with persecuted minorities and the question came up about what role freedom of conscience plays.
Last week, there was a forum in town about making the world safer for diversity. Dr. Os Guinness talked about how freedom of conscience has always been properly understood as the very first right. We can talk about life, liberty, and happiness, but without freedom of conscience, none of those other things actually exist in reality.
Everybody has beliefs that are important to them. I guess it is a common misconception we have that others have beliefs and I am the one who is unbiased. Each of us brings valid perceptions to these discussions and in our culture, until recently, it seemed that we were generally of the opinion that no one has the right to force anyone to work against their own beliefs.
It seems as we focus more and more on rights and less and less on responsibilities, we find ourselves pressured and I think we have to admit that we often find ourselves pressuring others on their values of conscience and the core values that people hold. It is beginning to affect every area of our culture. With the Carter decision, this has come to the forefront, because it is no longer just perceived discrimination that it is impacting, but it comes right down to the court's decision that having the right to kill oneself is a charter right.
I will take a bit of time to look at the Carter decision. It was a reversal of a previous decision, the Rodriguez decision. The court ruled that we now have, as Canadian citizens, a charter right to kill ourselves and we have the right to have others help us. There are very few guidelines that the court put on that decision. It talked about how the condition had to be irremediable and a grievous condition, basically beyond the person's decision to suffer through it. I could go into the criteria for that, which perhaps I will do a little later.
While the court decided one decision, it created a whole host of other complications. One of them, of course, is the call to reconcile physicians' and patients' rights. The question we are dealing with today is what role others have to play or do they play in that decision to prematurely end life.
Bill C-14 does not solve that. I was glad to hear the minister acknowledge that earlier. Conscience issues are becoming the biggest issues around Bill C-14. In this case, I would argue that the government has failed Canadians.
There is a legitimate question to be asked and I am surprised that it has not even been discussed—it is not discussed in other countries either—as to why medical personnel are expected to be involved at all. However, they are, and even though they are, most of them do not want to participate. The medical personnel whom I have talked to are not accepting of or enthusiastic about this. I have spoken with a number of doctors who say that if they are forced to participate in this, they are willing to leave the country, that they are not going to participate. For those of us who live in rural areas and have a very small supply of medical care, it is a frightening thing to hear one's doctor say he or she is prepared to leave if this is forced on him or her.
I want to talk about the protection of conscience in Bill C-14. The preamble states:
Whereas everyone has freedom of conscience and religion under section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
Whereas nothing in this Act affects the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion;...
That is the preamble, which has no legal impact. There is no content within Bill C-14 that provides this balance.
The Senate committee heard some great testimony. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said:
...the Court discussed and reiterated the conscience and religious rights of medical practitioners, stating that, “nothing in the declaration of invalidity which we propose to issue would compel physicians to provide assistance in dying.”
However, then it went on to say, “the Charter rights of patients and physicians will need to be reconciled. Thus, it is apparent that the Court intended Parliament’s legislative response to address the issue of medical practitioners’ conscience rights. Bill C-14 fails to do so.”
It is interesting to me that Bill C-14 actually provides protection for participants, but it does not provide protection for those who do not want to participate. There is an exemption for medical assistance in dying where it says that no medical practitioner commits homicide if they provide a person with medical assistance. It says that no person is a party to homicide if they do anything for the purpose of aiding in that. Then it says that for greater certainty, if the person has any reasonable, even mistaken, belief about any fact that is an element of the exemption, they have no legal responsibility for that.
I just point out that protection for participants has been included for those people who choose to participate, even if they are mistaken in what they have done. I can find no similar parallel protection for those who conscientiously object.
Some have said to pass it on to the provinces. We just heard that a minute ago from my colleague from the NDP. I would argue this is not a provincial issue. If it is, there will be a dozen different scenarios in this country and then the courts will get even more involved than they have been. It is a Criminal Code issue. Why would we give legislative protection in a bill to those who want to participate and then argue that Parliament has no right to legislate protection for those who do not want to take part?
The executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society said at the Senate committee:
...what our members cannot do is perform or participate in what is referred to as medical assistance in dying. To be clear, by participation, I also mean playing a role in causing death by arranging for the procedure to be carried out by someone else through referral.
He went on to say that the current preamble respects the personal conviction of health care providers, but it does not have any legal weight, and that no foreign jurisdiction in the world has legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia and then forced their health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices to act against their conscience, their mission, or their values. He said that to force providers to act in this way in Canada would actually be to violate section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It is necessary that the federal government legislate protection of conscience rights for health care professionals in order to respect the charter and to protect our existing health care system. Federal legislation would send a clear signal to provinces, organizations, and the courts that the right of conscience must be protected.
I argue that because medical personnel and supervisory groups cannot and will not agree, Parliament should set those guidelines, and they should be set in the Criminal Code.
A minister said a little earlier today that the protection is in the charter, not in the Criminal Code, but I think that is exactly the concern that Canadians have. The charter interpretation has gone 180° on the issue of assisted suicide, and there is nothing keeping that from happening as well on section 2 of the charter.
We need conscience rights. What are they? They are the right not to participate, the right not to be forced to refer. They are a fundamental freedom guaranteed by section 2 of the charter.
We need to protect the health care system. As I mentioned earlier, I have been told by physicians that they are prepared to leave if they are going to be forced into this, and they are not prepared to go against their own conscience. The Ontario college is making a big mistake in thinking that it can force doctors to do this against their conscience. I am not sure why it thinks it needs to control others who are just trying to do the right thing.
There were other suggestions that we heard a little earlier. For example, what is wrong with allowing patients to transfer their medical care to a doctor of choice? How about a directory of doctors so people can identify doctors who provide such services? We live in an electronic age, that should not be difficult. It would give Canadians confidence they could find medical personnel who would not be acting contrary to their care.
We need to protect the charter right of health care professionals. We need to make it a criminal offence to intimidate or coerce the health care professional to take part directly or indirectly in assisted suicide or euthanasia and to make it a criminal offence to dismiss anyone from employment for taking that position.
As I wrap up, I just want to come back to the point that no person should be put in a position where his or her private rights, which are guaranteed by the charter, are removed by force. Nothing is more fundamental than being able to live out that which we believe, especially if that belief is aimed at supporting and preserving life.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, I do not think that is difficult to reconcile. When the member is saying the majority agree, I do not know that I would agree with that. However, that does not negate the obligation and the requirement to have conscience rights for those who do not. For the majority who are agreeing, obviously that is not an issue for them, but that is not what we are talking about today.
We are talking about that group of people, whether it is a minority or a majority, who have said, “I am involved in the medical profession. I do not want to participate in this. I am not prepared to do that”. I do not know that it is so difficult in this day and age to be able to provide that opportunity for people to say, “I'm backing out of this. There are other people who have made a choice that they will participate and take part in this”, and allow them to do that as well. I do not think it is a difficult decision to make.
We actually have Bill C-268 by one of our members that talks specifically about the provisions that would be acceptable and very useful in that situation.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, we have a motion before us today with a few basic points, and it seems to me that conscience rights for health care professionals are a fundamental freedom, and I argue that they are guarded and protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the failure to protect those conscience rights within our health care system cannot do anything but damage our health care system.
We have a private member's bill, Bill C-268, that addresses these issues and specifically talks about giving people the opportunity to be able to exercise their freedom. I appreciate the minister's attention to this bill. Earlier today, though, she said that this does not create a duty that was not there before. I would argue that actually it does, because this is new ground. This is completely new ground that we are going into. There has never been an expectation in the medical community before that health care providers need to participate in causing death. There are new duties being created here that are not being addressed by Bill C-14 that need to be. We need to stop, take a look at it, and then try to reapply some of those things that are important in terms of conscience rights.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2016-05-04 15:24 [p.2867]
Mr. Speaker, I want to pre-emptively address what I anticipate might be coming from the government side about the use of this procedural tactic, and I hope we can get down to the actual substance of the bill, debate on which is now being shut down.
Whatever merit there may be for a government at some point or another to try to allocate time, this bill is of such an important nature. It is such a monumental shift for Canadian society. Many members wanted to speak to the bill. We had tried to find ways that we could accommodate that, while at the same time not unduly delaying a response to a court decision.
I know there are many different views on all sides of the House on this. I would like to ask the minister why she felt it was necessary, after only two complete days of debate, that we would now find ourselves shutting down debate, preventing members of Parliament to express the views of their constituents or their own conscience on this very important bill.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2016-05-03 10:27 [p.2740]
Madam Speaker, I am thankful to be able to add my voice to the discussion on Bill C-14, medical assistance in dying.
The Supreme Court of Canada has put what I perceive as an inappropriate timeline on this House in regard to this legislation, because it has come to the conclusion that the Criminal Code of Canada is unconstitutional in making it illegal for anyone to cause the death of another person who consents to die or to assist a person to end their own life.
In speaking with a very concerned constituent last week who was in law school when the charter was enacted, the comment was made that the university law professors of the day assured a troubled graduating class that what is actually happening today would never happen.
We are now in a place where, in attempting to guarantee every person their charter rights and freedoms, we are endangering the rights and freedoms of others. A synergy of wisdom and selflessness is needed in balancing what is perceived as best for me in relation to what is best for others. Just because we can, does not mean we should.
As well, in determining if we should, it seems to me the wise approach would be to look at those who already did, and regret. This would require learning from recent history rather than pretending that what we are doing is somehow progressive, when it has already been proven to be a regressive decision elsewhere.
The Supreme Court has chosen to ignore its own previous decision on the issue, along with six different parliaments that have previously rejected assisted suicide. It appears that the plumb line is not what is best for society and humanity as a whole, but rather what is the latest progressive trend that is putting the strongest pressure on how we live and relate as a society.
I have been a pastor's wife, and a caregiver in hospitals and level 4 care homes. I have worked in a mental illness hospital. I have been an education aid for special needs children in kindergarten and high school students.
I am the daughter of a father with Alzheimer's, the grandmother of a high-achieving grandson with autism, and I have a loved one who is suffering with mental illness. I, too, am well aware of life's challenges. My personal belief is that life is sacred from conception to natural death, and the protection of the most vulnerable in our society must always be the determining factor in how we choose to govern and make laws in Canada.
This is the expression as well that has been sent to me over and over again from constituents in my riding and across Canada, and today we need to have a debate in this House that is very balanced and presenting all views from all people in Canada.
Life is challenging, and dying, far more often than not, is difficult for the one passing away and in some ways even more so for those experiencing end of life alongside the individual who is dying. I believe there is value in that as well.
The misfortunate reality of Bill C-14 is that it will cause far greater grief than it will appease. Making something legal does not make it morally right. People who request a physician-assisted death can be motivated by a range of factors unrelated to their medical condition. These factors can make some people vulnerable to request assisted death when what they want and deserve is better treatment and palliative care.
It needs to be pointed out that the Belgian euthanasia law does not apply to non-competent patients and it does not allow the deliberate shortening of their lives. The Belgium euthanasia law system, which Bill C-14 mirrors, has been proven to be abused and insufficient to monitor the decision-making process.
For example, the Journal of Medical Ethics published a research article written by Raphael Cohen-Almagor, a human rights activist and chair of the politics department at the University of Hull. His article “First do no harm: intentionally shortening lives of patients without their explicit request in Belgium” focuses mainly on published data concerning the practice of causing death without patient request in Belgium.
The research indicates that the practice remains common, resulting in over 1,000 hastened deaths without request each year, or 32% of the cases of euthanasia. Moreover, in almost half of those cases the doctors refused to report the matter to the overseeing body, despite a legal requirement to do so.
This example clearly shows the legislation is lacking an oversight by an independent third party before the patient is put to death. Sadly, but realistically, the safeguards in Bill C-14 are likely to be insufficient and ineffective in real life conditions.
Furthermore, Bill C-14 applies to those with physical or psychological illnesses who are experiencing enduring and intolerable suffering as a result of their medical condition. Our focus must first be on raising the quality and availability of high-quality palliative care as the humane way to relieve pain, loneliness, and fear for the end-of-life patient and to provide encouragement, direction, and support for loved ones through the natural process of end of life. Bill C-14 does not require a palliative care route be entered upon first, neither does it require the patient to have tried other treatments before requesting medical assistance to die.
As well, I am still deeply concerned for our medical professionals who have contacted me in great numbers who could face severe consequences if they do not assist an individual to take their own life, for whatever reason. No one in our country should be forced to affirm or provide a service that goes against their conscience. The federal government's law leaves this crucial issue for the provinces to deal with, allowing even more interpretations of the general wording.
There should be a structured national system to address the cases when a publicly funded health care organization or separate doctors are unwilling for any reason to provide aid in dying when the patient has requested it.
Furthermore, the bill extends the amendments to the Criminal Code for medical practitioners, nurses, and registered practical nurses. Such an approach is broader than any other jurisdiction in the world and makes it impossible to create a transparent national system.
It is necessary to take into consideration the psychological factors that Bill C-14 would actually influence and encourage. The secularism of our courts affirms a premise that everything is socially constructed, and as a result laws greatly shape the ethos of culture, affecting cultural attitudes toward certain behaviours and influencing moral norms. Medical assisted dying laws send a message that in certain conditions suicide is a reasonable and appropriate way out. The problem is that this message will be received not only by those who have painful, terminal illnesses, but also by those who are tempted to think they can no longer go on.
A study by David Jones and David Paton proved that legalizing assisted dying in other states has led to a rise in overall suicide rates, both assisted and unassisted. This greatly undermines the work of suicide prevention organizations and programs.
As the Conservative deputy critic for veterans affairs and a member of the veterans affairs committee, I believe legalizing assisted suicide would only increase the challenges of providing mental health care and suicide prevention initiatives for those suffering from post-traumatic stress injuries.
I agree with my Liberal colleague from Winnipeg Centre who spoke last evening that the government should at the very least postpone legalizing assisted death for at least five to 10 years, until it is absolutely clear what sort of impact it would have in all corners of Canada. His concern is well founded in regard to fighting the suicide spirit that needs to be healed on our reserves in Canada.
Another report in Current Oncology from 2011 summarized that euthanasia in the Netherlands has changed significantly in the 30 years since it was first adopted. It has shifted from medically assisted dying for people who are terminally ill to those who are chronically ill, from physical illness to those who suffer from mental illness, and then to those who suffer the psychological distress of mental suffering, and now to euthanasia of those over 70 who are simply tired of living.
The culture now is that euthanasia becomes expected while palliative care and functional hospice is gradually portrayed and felt to be “selfish”. That is a quote from the UK Daily Mail on September 24, 2013.
This implicates that the bill would not only affect those making a rational and deliberate choice to end their lives, but would also have a significantly wider impact on those who are required to provide such a service or their privilege and right to work in the medical field could be challenged, and also on wider social groups as a whole.
When facing a choice, which we are with the bill, where should the priority for us as legislators be? The imposition by the Supreme Court of Canada to invoke such controversial legislation, which is proven to be failing in other countries; the approach of the committee to manage witnesses and to make recommendations that go far beyond the Carter decision; and the need to first of all institute high-quality palliative care as an intrinsic value and an actual clear priority of the government are all valid reasons that I feel I cannot support Bill C-14.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2016-05-03 10:39 [p.2742]
Madam Speaker, I do appreciate the question, and I expected it.
I have the greatest respect for our Supreme Court. I have had the privilege of being part of an orientation, going there, and listening. It is not that I do not respect the Supreme Court and its role. However, as a parliamentarian my first responsibility is to Canadians.
I feel that the initial one-year decision by the Supreme Court was wrong. It is not enough time. Then, for the government to request six months and only be given another four months, I believe that is wrong.
We are in a situation here in Canada where we cannot get this wrong. Changing things as we go is very difficult, as my friend on this side of the House said last night. We need to do it right.
My first responsibility is to Canadians. Our first responsibility is to do what is right, regardless of the situation we are facing under pressure. I am not a lawyer. I understand the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has a notwithstanding clause that should never be abused, but perhaps in this situation that is what we should be looking at.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2016-05-03 10:41 [p.2743]
Madam Speaker, I am not a lawyer. We all know that. I am speaking from my heart, and I am speaking for Canadians across this country who are very concerned about the responsibilities that we have in coming to a decision on this. Ultimately, I feel our responsibility, first of all, is to Canadians. I understand that it is a difficult situation that I am putting forward.
I guess I am a politician, because I went through the process and I am standing here today. However, I have to say that at this point in my life it is not about a career, and it has nothing to do with being seen to do what certain people in the House feel we should do. It is to respond to what I believe is right in this circumstance in Canada.
We have seen where this is severely abused in other countries. We have already heard from our own committee and from people across the House that they want more. The Carter family is not happy. The situation is extremely complex, and I do not believe we should be rushed into a decision.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, it is good to be here today to speak to Bill C-14. One of the principles we have in the House is that legislation is best built on a very solid foundation, and this bill does not have that.
What the Supreme Court ruled years ago on the Rodriguez case was very clear. However, just over a year ago, as with so many other decisions and so many other directions, the Supreme Court reversed itself. If it had really good underlying reasons for doing that, it would have been fine, but the justification for it was very interesting. It was a mistake in perception as set forward by the Supreme Court. The justices called it a changing matrix of social and legal facts which brought them to their conclusion. I and others are concerned that this makes our laws, including the interpretation of charter rights, dependent upon the opinions of a very small group of people. I will talk a bit more about the matrix of social and legal facts in a few minutes.
From my perspective, this is not an improvement. Many of my colleagues on both sides of the House have shared their concerns about Bill C-14, with some supporting it and others opposing it. However, a number of things are missing in the bill, and we need to have further discussion about. I heard a few comments earlier about the timeline, how pressured it was, how we needed to get this done and that this basically was prohibiting us from taking the time needed to discuss these things a bit further and with a bit more depth.
There is no clear definition of what irremediable means. The bill talks about that being the requirement for someone to qualify for physician-assisted dying.
I am concerned about the expansion of this process to nurse practitioners, so it would not just include physicians. People have asked why medical personnel are even involved with this. They have asked whether there is not some other place this can be done so people do not have to be concerned that when they go into the hospital for medical care, rather than receiving a positive side of medical care, they receive a very negative side of it.
There is a criminal exemption for those who perform euthanasia, but there is no protection for those who do not want to participate. A number of people are very concerned about what is called conscience rights and the lack of protection for that in the legislation.
There is a lack of clarity around psychological conditions and how that may come into play with this issue. One of the things that really concerns a lot of people is the lack of a vulnerability assessment, taking the time to find out if people are being pressured or whether there is some vulnerability that is bringing them to the point where they have made a decision that may be wrong for them.
Some people have called for a prior judicial review. There is no mention of that in the legislation.
Also, there is a lack of clarity on data collection. This has been an issue in a number of areas. Will we see good data collection? Will someone keep a good set of records on what goes on with this process?
We often have heard the concern that there is no clear commitment to palliative care. We just heard a member from the government talk about this. The Liberals made this commitment during the election campaign. They felt it was within their jurisdiction to promise $3 billion toward palliative care, but now, in the House, we hear them talk about how other jurisdictions are responsible for this. It sounds as if the Liberals are trying to avoid their responsibilities for this.
I would like to go back to the Supreme Court decision. It turned back the former position. It reversed it and it left us with an open field when it came to the issue of assisted suicide or assisted dying. The only thing the Supreme Court said in its ruling on Carter was that the person needed to consent and that the person needed to have a grievous and irremediable medical condition causing enduring and intolerable suffering. If we look at that, we see it leaves that whole area very open.
As I said earlier, good legislation should have a good foundation. I do not believe this does because of the Supreme Court decision. The foundation is the Carter decision and it hardly qualifies as a stable base on which to create good legislation.
I do not suppose we will get this done today, but we will come back at another stage on this bill. However. I would like to take a few minutes to talk a bit about the Supreme Court's recent decision in Carter v. Canada. It obviously is a very controversial decision and touches on a sensitive issue for many Canadians because there are very deeply held beliefs on both sides of this issue.
The Supreme Court acknowledged that the prohibition on assisted suicide was in general a valid exercise of federal criminal law. It also decided that the law went too far and it did not apply in cases where a competent adult with a grievous medical condition could consent to the termination of his or her life. I believe this decision is disturbing for a number of reasons.
The first is that the court ignored parliamentary consensus. In its decision, it claimed that the reversal from its earlier position in Rodriguez v. B.C. was necessary because of a different matrix of legislative and social facts. Yet, the purported differing matrix ignores the clear and unchanged parliamentary consensus opposing assisted suicide.
Between 1991 and 2012, nine private members' bills were introduced in the House of Commons, all seeking to amend the Criminal Code to decriminalize assisted suicide or euthanasia. Six were voted on and all of them failed to pass. When considering the matrix of legislative facts, the court gave weight to legislative developments in Belgium, Switzerland, Oregon, Washington, and the Netherlands, but it completely ignored the legislative record of Canada's Parliament.
Second, the court found no societal consensus in Canada on this issue. In her decision at the trial level of Carter v. Canada in the Supreme Court of B.C., Justice Smith wrote, “As to physician-assisted death, weighing all of the evidence, I do not find that there is a clear societal consensus either way”. Clearly whatever the change in that matrix of legal and social facts entails, it did not include a clear consensus from the people of Canada”.
This lack of consensus remains unchanged in the 22 years since the Rodriguez case in which the court stated, “No consensus can be found in favour of the decriminalization of assisted suicide. To the extent that there is a consensus, it is that human life must be respected”.
Clearly, the court found no consensus among western countries. While insisting again this matrix of legislative and social facts had changed since the last Supreme Court ruling on the issue, it acknowledged that physician-assisted dying remained a criminal offence in most western countries. Regardless, it chose to align itself with the minority of jurisdictions that allowed it.
I believe the court misinterpreted Parliament's objective in prohibiting assisted suicide. In its ruling, it put significant weight on the parliamentary objective of two sections, section 241(b) and 14 of the Criminal Code, which prohibit assisted suicide. The court asserted that these sections were put in place only to fulfill the state interest in protecting the vulnerable. However, in the earlier court case with Rodriguez, the court had said the objective of this section was not simply “protecting the vulnerable”, but also “preserving life”.
It had written, “In this case, it is not disputed that in general s.241(b) is valid and desirable legislation which fulfils the government's objectives of preserving life and protecting the vulnerable”. This position was reaffirmed several times.
By insisting that in Carter the purpose of section 241 was only to protect the vulnerable, the Supreme Court was able to conclude that this prohibition put people outside this class and that there were people who did not need to be protected by it. The court's conclusion was that the current law was over broad and grossly disproportionate to its objectives. That allowed it to say that Parliament needed to establish safeguards to ensure that those who truly wanted to be euthanized would be able to do that.
That interpretation tramples on the intention of Parliament to preserve life. Had it considered the full purpose of these sections of the Criminal Code rather than just that one objective of protecting the vulnerable, I think the outcome would have been very different.
I would make one final point before my time runs out. The court really leaves the definition of irremediable open to patient interpretation. The court decided that irremediable did not require the patient to undertake treatments that were not acceptable to them. In other words, although treatment may be available, the condition still qualifies as irremediable if the treatment is not acceptable to the patient.
I wanted to express my concerns. However, I think we will come back to some of the things the Supreme Court touched on as well in terms of the right to die being conflated with the right to life and some of the other issues.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, my point was exactly that. It is the court that has brought us to this point, and the timeline is the court's timeline.
As one of my colleagues pointed out a little earlier, that deadline prohibits us from dealing with these issues as fully as we probably should. We have not had any discussion about the implications of the Supreme Court decision. We have never sat down and had those discussions.
The government has come forward, under pressure, with legislation that many people feel is inadequate. One of the areas I find very troubling is the lack of conscience protection, and I mentioned that a little earlier.
Many people in the disabled community are very concerned about the fact that there is no vulnerability protection. They do not want to see a development of peer pressure in society where people feel somehow obligated to participate in this activity.
There is a number of issues around this. The timeline we are on is not helping us to discuss and resolve those issues among Canadians.
View David Anderson Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, one of the things is that we are here. We are having the debate and discussion, and we are having it within the established timeline. We are trying to do a good job of setting up the guidelines and the safeguards on this issue.
The reality is that the acceptance of assisted suicide and euthanasia is not universal across the country. It was not something that was decided by the elected members of the House, those who are here to represent the people. It was decided by the Supreme Court of Canada. It made the decision that we had a charter right to this in Canada, so we needed to move forward with this legislation.
However, the Parliament of Canada needs to take some time to do this carefully to ensure we do it correctly for people.
There is a number of other things I had to say. One of them would have been about the slippery slope that countries find themselves on when they move into this area. We need to have a discussion about that as well. I do not hear members talking about this.
View Sheri Benson Profile
NDP (SK)
View Sheri Benson Profile
2016-05-03 16:13 [p.2790]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for her comments and her openness to look at and share the fact that we do need to move forward on the how, and that the government needs to be open to amendments and ensure that what we find at the end is compliant with the case so that people can move forward in a good and positive way.
The member also commented on people sharing their beliefs and views. Of course, I have had those in my office as well.
One thing that is important to me, and I would welcome her comments on, is including provisions to protect health care providers. For many people it is a faith-based decision. We need to protect their rights and ensure that this is included in the bill so that those folks, and the people who are supporting them, feel comforted that it is there and their rights are protected.
View Robert Kitchen Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Speaker, throughout this discussion and debate, I have heard many heartfelt positions. I have also heard many calls for the bill to go to committee, where amendments can be made to it. I truly feel that most Canadians believe, as the member has indicated, that this bill is about someone's mom, dad, sister, or brother who is on life support with a terminal illness.
I wonder if the member might be able to give some idea, if the bill were to go to committee, if there are any amendments that could be made that he would find appropriate.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2016-05-03 17:31 [p.2801]
Mr. Speaker, I think I have a more reasonable approach to managing some of the debate left for Bill C-14. Therefore, I would seek the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion:
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, the House shall continue to sit beyond the hour of daily adjournment for the purpose of considering Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying), at second reading, and when no member rises to speak, or at 12:00 a.m., whichever is earlier, that debate be deemed adjourned, and the House deemed adjourned until the next sitting day.
View Brad Trost Profile
CPC (SK)
View Brad Trost Profile
2016-05-03 22:31 [p.2839]
Mr. Speaker, let me start tonight by thanking my constituents who have written to me on this issue. It is approaching 12 years that I have been a member of Parliament in this place and, unlike some other members, there are issues on which I have received more correspondence. However, I have received a fair bit of input from my constituents and, not surprisingly, it varies. I want to express my appreciation because the democratic process only works when everyone is engaged, when citizens speak what they feel are the fundamental principles involved.
I also want to give a special shout to one of the high school classes at Bishop James Mahoney High School, which I was at last week. We discussed these very profound issues. The young people in a grade 11 class had thought about it deeply. They had read the legislation. They had gone through it, unfortunately I might say, more thoroughly than some of the parliamentarians who may be voting on this in the future. The students had come to some very clear conclusions and understandings about what this is, because however a member will vote on what we are speaking on tonight, this is a moral issue for however we deal it. Not that most, if not all, issues do not have a moral component, but this one in particular is fairly clear.
As has been said by other members, this is also a fairly personal thing. Each and every one of us will have to deal with death at one time in our lives.
I was on the phone earlier today with my mother, and she reminded me that it was exactly a year ago today when she called me and said to go down to the nursing home because my grandma was passing away. She did not pass away that day, but she knew she was dying. I held her. It was one of those times when we begin to think about the consequences.
There had been the previous court ruling. One has responsibilities to family, to country, to everything. As a member of Parliament, I feel that all members of Parliament, even those who cannot speak to this debate, have a duty to tell their constituents how they stand.
The first point I wish to make tonight is one that people need to understand. The law is a blunt instrument. The law is not something that can easily distinguish fine and distinguishable cases. The law is something that is very difficult to implement in very specific situations. In a situation like this where we are dealing with a law that involves the protection of life, we must give the absolute greatest caution and protections to life.
Pollsters ask questions. They ask people how they would vote in this situation or that situation. However, to be perfectly blunt, no pollster can encapsulate the complexity of even one unique situation. Yet we as legislators are asked to make a decision, to come to some sort of conclusion. That is part of our job.
Because the law is such a blunt instrument, because the law cannot distinguish in the most subtle cases, and because human beings are valuable, we must give whatever protections we can to life. It is for that reason that, whatever the restrictions that have been suggested by other members tonight, I will be supporting that. I suspect that I will be in the minority in this House in that I will not be supporting the legislation, because I do not support the underlying principle of the legislation. I suspect that I will be in an even smaller minority in that I would be prepared to support the notwithstanding clause to override the Supreme Court's decision.
However, it comes down to that basic and fundamental understanding that the purpose of civil society and the purpose of government is to protect life—life, liberty, and the protection of property. Those are the things that we are to do.
Yesterday, I was at an event where we had a speaker talking about freedom and about the issues involved. He noted that throughout history there have been different forms of government, but mostly they have come down to three basic styles: familial, clan-style government like those in many African tribal societies and like the clan system of northern Scotland; a hierarchical system, such as dictatorships and the system in the Middle Ages when they had the emperor, the king, the serfs, etc.; or a covenantal system, where all members of society agree, sometimes to some degree compelled by law but often through their own decision, to their own actions and their commitment to morality, to be covenanted to be part of and supportive of their neighbour.
That is one thing we need to understand. The basis of constitutional government is a system where we covenant to each other, to support each other, and not because we are forced to through a hierarchical power structure. Yes, there are police, laws, and ways of dealing with wrongdoers. However, each and every one of us has a particular commitment to our fellow citizens throughout our lives, even until the end of our lives. That needs to be thought about in each and every situation as we debate this legislation. That commitment to each other, at the bare minimum, is a commitment to defend the lives of our fellow citizens and fellow human beings.
Earlier last month, in the popular press, there were stories about some doctors in Quebec. I hope this is a mistaken story as these things are often exaggerated, but the story was told that some doctors had refused to treat people who had attempted suicide, even though they were very treatable. The college of physicians and surgeons in Quebec had to set a guideline to say that if people go into the hospital, doctors must treat them and not just assume that because they have attempted suicide, they have given an indication that they want to die. If the people are not covered under either the Quebec law or the Supreme Court ruling, they must be treated. Doctors have a responsibility, a covenant, to protect the life of a human being and that is the job of a doctor in an emergency ward.
When I read that article, I thought to myself that we need to understand that this is one of the consequences of passing this legislation. There are people, regardless of how many protections there are, whose lives will be taken because of this legislation. Again, I hope the story in Quebec was incorrect, but if it was true, there were people who attempted suicide, cried out for help, and unfortunately, were successful, but whose lives could have been saved.
Because of this debate politically, because of the ruling of the Supreme Court, and because of previous legislation by one of the provinces, there is a very real possibility some doctors did not interfere. When we hear about and discuss the suffering that people are concerned about—and in many cases, it is the fear as much as the suffering that people want to end as they come to the end of their lives—we need to understand that each and every one of us, even as we approach the end of our lives, still has that covenant with our fellow man. The question of how much suffering for one human life is one that we are very practically applying today in this legislation.
We need to understand that and ask ourselves how much suffering and fear we want to deal with and how much we want people to take in exchange for a human life. We make those decisions. We have to in society. It is not a morbid question; it is a realistic question. We set speed limits. We do these things. We know there are consequences to actions. We cannot live in a perpetual bubble.
The point I am making is this. Even at the end of life, if one has fear or pain—and I do not doubt the sincerity, the depth, and the agony of people who go through this—the decisions people make as they approach the end of their lives will impact others. There will be others who, because of the changes in this law and the reasons that are given for the law, will be pressured and will lose their protections such as in the cases I referred to in the province of Quebec. That is something we cannot forget. The ultimate duty of civil society and of government is to protect life. We must do it at all costs.
I again want to thank my constituents and my fellow members of Parliament, but to have a clear conscience, I must vote against this legislation. I can do no other.
View Brad Trost Profile
CPC (SK)
View Brad Trost Profile
2016-05-03 22:42 [p.2841]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's comments. I understand very much where he is coming from, and I suspect that is one of the reasons why he will carry the majority opinion of the House.
As I stated earlier, and again I have no doubt that I am in the minority, my underlying preference would have been an absolute rejection and use of the notwithstanding clause, either as a temporary measure to give this House two or three years, whatever time the House deemed appropriate, to deal with this issue, or as a permanent matter.
I would say to the hon. member, there are applications for extension. I realize the Supreme Court would not look all that favourably on it, but it would be necessary. A temporary piece of legislation to say for one or two years the notwithstanding clause would be put in and then other legislation put through later in this Parliament would be another option. Those are various options that I think the House could look at.
Again, I am realistic enough to understand and suspect my opinion is in the minority.
View Brad Trost Profile
CPC (SK)
View Brad Trost Profile
2016-05-03 22:44 [p.2841]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments, and since it was really more of a comment than a question, I will say I very much understand where he comes from and we have very similar views on this issue. Since this is my last time to raise a comment, I just want to make one last comment before debate resumes.
I did not mention my support for conscience rights, and I want to add one small thing to that. We often speak about conscience rights as if they are conscience rights based upon religion. Conscience rights should be for everyone. It does not matter what our background or what our basis is, atheist, religious, irreligious, whatever it is and for whatever reason.
For the trauma that a person could feel if he or she helped to assist someone else to die, for just that personal reason, even if one supports the principle of the legislation, there should be no restriction on this conscience legislation, whatever we put with the bill.
View Georgina Jolibois Profile
NDP (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I have a question about access to adequate medical services and access to nurse practitioners or doctors. Where I come from, in my riding, most reserves and communities do not have that privilege when we talk about the national palliative care strategy. I am very concerned because where I come from we do not even have access to a nurse. How can the government ensure that we can have this meaningful discussion in a broader context to help people die with dignity?
View Robert Kitchen Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I heard the member talk about the details for the physicians and nurse practitioners making decisions.
I am wondering if the member would agree that the legislation puts the onus on the provinces, and in particular, the regulatory bodies. By doing so, it opens the doors for different regulatory decisions across Canada and these will not be uniform and consistent across the country.
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