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Results: 1 - 15 of 27
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Mr. Speaker, this will be the last time I ever present a petition in the House. I want to thank you for your services as Chair.
I rise today to present a number of petitions on behalf of my colleague, my seatmate and my friend, the member for Langley—Aldergrove.
In the first, the petitioners call upon Parliament to enshrine in the Criminal Code the protection of conscience for physicians and health care institutions from coercion or intimidation to provide or refer for assisted suicide or euthanasia.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am wondering, after listening to the member's speech, if she has heard from people within her constituency who are very concerned about having access to a family physician. I have met with a number of physicians, who simply said that attracting doctors to rural areas is going to be very difficult. She mentioned that there is a rural component to her riding. It is a challenge. I served on a small community's economic development board before I was elected, and the most horrifying thing is finding out a community is losing a doctor. How do we attract them?
Some of the doctors I met with had come from Africa, South Africa, Great Britain, and I believe one was from Ireland. They said that if these measures had been in place when they were looking to locate their practices, they probably would not have chosen Canada. In my rural riding, access to a doctor is of great concern to a lot of seniors, the aging community, and families. I would ask the member to tell me her experience in listening to her constituents.
View Linda Duncan Profile
View Linda Duncan Profile
2017-10-03 15:35 [p.13878]
Madam Speaker, I am sure that many in this place have been receiving the same kinds of concerns from constituents. I have met with and heard from a great number of women physicians, many who have set up their own small medical practices and either had children or are wanting to expand their families but are concerned that they will not be able to afford to continue to pay to run their practice while they take maternity leave.
Could the member tell this place how they will address the concerns being raised by female physicians if they put through these changes?
View Jim Eglinski Profile
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2017-02-07 16:32 [p.8595]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his interest in Ukraine, and I will give him credit for being in a very strong Ukrainian segment of Alberta, because that is where I grew up.
In the situation in Ukraine, with the constant battling going on and the war between Russia and Ukraine, there have been many injuries to Ukrainian soldiers and Ukrainian civilians. A large number of doctors from across Canada, from coast to coast, have travelled, at their own expense, to Ukraine to assist in crucial surgery, facial reconstruction, etc.
Do you see that the federal government could play a role in assisting doctors from Canada in assisting in Ukraine? Right now it is being done at their own expense.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2017-02-07 16:32 [p.8596]
Through you, Mr. Speaker.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): Yes, through me, that is good. I am glad that we got that clarified.
The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's commitment to this topic and his interesting proposal that the government might support perhaps paying physicians and other health care professionals who want to go to other parts of the world to be involved, in this case in Ukraine. It would be a proposal worthy of consideration, but I have no doubt, on the other hand, that there are many people in Canada who are willing to make those investments personally. I certainly applaud those who are doing that. I know there are many people from my community who travel around the world to involve themselves in humanitarian types of activities like this. We are all so proud of having the kinds of communities where people are willing to step forward and invest their own time and resources in making the world around us a better place.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2017-02-07 17:32 [p.8604]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Etobicoke Centre for the work he does through the Canada-Ukraine Friendship Group and with Ukrainians across this country and for the Ukrainian people themselves.
Earlier, I asked a question of one my colleagues about the work that many of our doctors from coast to coast to coast in Canada have done in Ukraine on a volunteer basis. They go over there and work doing reconstructive surgery and fixing the troops hurt in Ukraine while fighting against the Russian aggression.
I wonder if the hon. member would speak about that. Does he think there is a role our government could play to assist the doctors who are going over to Ukraine to assist our Ukrainian brothers and sisters?
View Ron Liepert Profile
View Ron Liepert Profile
2016-12-02 11:50 [p.7580]
Mr. Speaker, as a former provincial health minister, I know full well the challenges that are facing health care today and to meet those challenges our highly trained professionals have formed partnerships so they can work in teams and Canadians can get the service they need. These partnerships are taxed as small businesses, but we all know what the Prime Minister thinks about small businesses. He thinks they are just a tax dodge. Now the finance minister is changing the tax rules, forcing these health care specialists to likely move to the United States.
Will the health minister today stand in the House and confirm that she will tell the Minister of Finance to reverse this policy before it negatively impacts Canadian families?
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2016-12-01 10:37 [p.7480]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Thornhill for his contributions and his introduction to this debate. He has made a lot of great points. This is an important motion we have before us today. It shows how poor the Prime Minister's judgment has been with the statement he issued upon Fidel Castro's death.
Furthermore, when I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs earlier this week why the Prime Minister was an apologist for dictators and why he was not saying more about empowering the Cuban people, he told me I should learn Spanish. That was his answer.
When the Prime Minister went sunbathing recently in Cuba, he had an opportunity to speak up about democracy. He ever so briefly mentioned human rights. I actually took the time to listen to the entire transcript, and “democracy” never left his lips when speaking to students at a Havana university.
Let us compare that to what the U.S. president, Barack Obama, said when he was there visiting in March 2016. That transcript is fully available on the state department's website. According to that transcript he said “We continue, as President Castro indicated, to have some very serious differences, including on democracy and human rights”.
He went on to say further to describe these. He said:
...the United States will continue to speak up on behalf of democracy, including the right of the Cuban people to decide their own future. We’ll speak out on behalf of universal human rights, including freedom of speech and assembly and religion. Indeed, I look forward to meeting with and hearing from Cuban civil society leaders tomorrow.
The Prime Minister did none of this when he was there. “Democracy” did not even leave his lips. Perhaps he did not want to insult the Castro family, with whom he shares such a close relationship.
President Barack Obama continued by saying, “I’m very pleased that we’ve agreed to hold our next U.S.-Cuba human rights dialogue here in Havana this year”, none of which the Prime Minister said.
I wonder why the government continues to romanticize Cuba when even Tony Keller in The Globe and Mail called Cuba “the East Berlin of the Caribbean”, a fitting description, I believe, of what Cuba has become under Fidel.
Mr. Castro and his best buddy Che Guevara were murderers, oppressors as bad as Batista, and let us not forget both of them brought the world closer to nuclear war than it has ever been since. Just as one cannot kill one's way to a better society, one cannot praise murderous dictators when they die, especially when they die in the comfort of their own bed, surrounded by their family, unlike their many victims.
I remember the sanctimonious advice I got from the Minister of Foreign Affairs about being stuck in the past, so let us only talk about the very recent two years.
According to a U.S. Department of State report on Cuba's human rights record, the Communist Party is “the only legal party”, and all candidates for political office must be pre-approved. It pointed out that when the United States re-established relations with Cuba, the regime at first released 53 political prisoners, six of whom would later be rearrested and given even longer prison sentences for their human rights activism. When Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother, 50 other political prisoners who had been held since 2003, for being accused of being mercenaries in the employ of the United States government, were then released on the sole condition that they be exiled to Spain. These included human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists, and many other critics of the Castro regime.
That same U.S. state department report goes on to enumerate the many human rights violations of the Castro regime. It talked about the use of government threats, physical assault, intimidation, violence organized by the government, counter-protests against peaceful dissent, harassment and detentions to prevent free expression, and peaceful assembly. It goes on to describe harsh prison conditions, arbitrary short-term politically motivated detentions and arrests, selective prosecution, denial of fair trial, and travel restrictions.
On trials, it says they bring people in and try them on the same day, with spurious evidence, basically no evidence, and throw people into prison, still today, under the new Castro regime. It is the basic continuation of what they had started 30 or 40 years ago.
The report goes on to state:
The government did not respect freedom of speech and press, restricted internet access, maintained a monopoly on media outlets, circumscribed academic freedom, and maintained some restrictions on the ability of religious groups to meet and worship. The government refused to recognize independent human rights groups or permit them to function legally. In addition the government continued to prevent workers from forming independent unions and otherwise exercising their...rights.
Fidel Castro also did not deliver a better Cuba. It is a myth, one perpetuated by uneducated media and apologists for the Castro regime, like our Prime Minister.
Consider education for a moment. A study by Jorge Salazar-Carrillo and Andro Nodarse-Leon entitled “Cuba: From Economic Take-Off to Collapse Under Castro” pointed out that in 1954 Cuba spent 4.1% of its GDP on education, higher than the United States at the time. It had a higher literacy rate and a higher women participation rate compared to other Latin American countries. Cuba does not participate in any international metrics on education, including the international mathematics and science survey. It does not participate in the program of international student assessment, also called PISA. On health care, Cuba in 1957 had more doctors per 1,000 people than Norway, Sweden, and Great Britain. In the 1950s, Cuba had a longer life expectancy rate and the lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America.
These authors were comparing Cuba to other similar Latin American countries.
They also said pre-revolutionary Cuba had a GDP per capita of $2,363. That was middle of the pack at the time, compared to other Latin American countries. Post-revolutionary Cuba by 2008 when Fidel stepped down had a GDP per capita of barely $3,764, barely an improvement over every single other country in the region. Now Cuba is in the bottom one-third compared to other Latin American countries when it is compared to similar types of countries.
Cuban physicians still today are routinely sent overseas. Cuba gets hard currency in return for these Cuban physicians serving overseas. Cuba gets a cut of the doctors' salaries and then the doctors get paid in Cuban pesos, which are almost worthless.
We could blame the American embargo for the lack of improvements on social programs, but was communism not supposed to provide for self-sufficiency? I was born in a communist country. I do not remember fleeing the free education and free health care that was afforded there. I distinctly remember my parents leaving because of the political and religious oppression.
If communism works so splendidly, should Cuba not have developed vast resources with the help of the Soviet Union, which considered Cuba an ally in its overview, and its overlords, the Castros?
The Salazar-Carrillo and Nodarse-Leon report on Cuba dispelled that contrived myth that the Castros did anything other than impoverish Cubans while enriching themselves. There are now two million Cuban Americans, Cubans who fled mostly to Florida.
South Florida has become a vibrant community directly because of the terror that the Castros spread, that they levied against the Cubans. Tens of thousands who braved choppy seas, rickety rafts, and uncertain treatment by the U.S. coast guard were not fleeing free education or free health care. They were fleeing the terror being spread by the communist Castro regime of Cuba.
In a Human Rights Watch report in January 2016 it says, “The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public criticism. It now relies less on long-term prison sentences to punish its critics,” that is a bonus, “but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment.... Prisoners are forced to work 12-hour work days and punished if they do not meet production quotas, according to former political prisoners” who fled to western countries.
What I find most grating about the statement that the Prime Minister issued is when I compare Cuba to other countries. The only one I will be able to use is comparative statements by dictator Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who said that Cuba has “thus become a beacon for the liberation of the peoples of the South American countries and others around the world.” He said, “The name Fidel Castro will live forever in the minds of generations and remain an inspiration for all the peoples who aspire to achieve real independence and liberation from the yoke of colonialism and hegemony”.
When I have a hard time saying whether this statement was by Bashar al-Assad of Syria or the Canadian government, there is something deeply wrong. The member for Thornhill had a perfect example of what should have been done. A statement that emphasizes empowering the Cuban people, defending democracy, and promoting human rights and the rule of law is the right way to go. We must vote for this motion and retract that statement by the Prime Minister.
View Len Webber Profile
View Len Webber Profile
2016-11-25 12:29 [p.7262]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to rise today to contribute to this debate on Bill C-25.
This fall, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development introduced Bill C-25, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Cooperatives Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Competition Act.
I may be new to the House, but this legislation and the ideas contained within it are not. These ideas were brought forward years ago by the Conservatives. This is an opportunity for me to rise to speak to their efforts.
This bill's history goes back to a House of Commons committee-led statutory review in 2010 back when the Conservatives were in government.
After that, further consultation by our Conservative government took place in 2014 to further advance diversity and equality. Many consultations took place and stakeholders raised many constructive and complex suggestions on a number of corporate governance issues during these consultations. The previous government listened to Canadians on this issue and was making clear progress.
After the previous Conservative government finished its stakeholder consultations, in 2014 a proposal was made, and ultimately announced in the 2015 budget as a move to modernize Canada's corporate governance frameworks.
Not having been a member at that time, I found the following passage from page 140 of the previous Conservative government's 2015 economic action plan. It quite clearly shows that the Conservatives were addressing this issue long before the Liberals copied the work:
...the Government will propose amendments to the CBCA to promote gender diversity among public companies, using the widely recognized “comply or explain” model.... Amendments will also be proposed to modernize director election processes and communications...strengthen corporate transparency through an explicit ban on bearer instruments.... Amendments to related statutes governing cooperatives and not-for-profit corporations will also be introduced...
I will quickly point out that this was the last balanced budget Canada will likely see for some time, as we continue to watch the Liberals spend like drunken sailors, but I digress.
As I mentioned, Bill C-25 comes from the last Conservative budget in 2015.
It is quite clear to me that the current government, without its own ideas, is happy to recycle another Conservative policy. Be it health spending, environmental targets, or gender equality issues, we see the present government time and again recycling sensible positions taken by the previous Conservative government. In fact, the minister is making this a bit of a habit. Bill C-25 is the second piece of legislation tabled by the minister that comes straight from the previous Conservative government's 2015 budget. I only wish he had also emulated the fiscal responsibility of the previous government.
I know that many of my colleagues were part of the previous government before I was elected and I imagine that watching the Liberal government photocopy their work and pass it off as its own must elicit mixed emotions of pride and frustration. I know my Conservative colleagues worked hard to serve Canadians and provide the best policies possible.
Each time the Liberal government continues to do this type of thing, I am reminded of the expression, “imitation is the best form of flattery”. However, the Liberal government promised it could do better, and it has failed. Even so, I am glad to see it is implementing some of the visionary ideas of our past government, but it only serves to highlight the fact it has none of its own.
In any event, let us go back to Bill C-25.
If adopted, Bill C-25 would result in changes to the corporate governance regime for reporting issuers incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act. In everyday language, this would mean that the rules for companies to report to the public would be changed. Boards of directors that do not reflect the gender and cultural diversity that is Canada would have to explain why they do not.
With this proposed legislation, there are a number of amendments that cover several key corporate governance matters. They include those related to majority voting, individual voting, annual elections, notice and access, diversity related disclosure, and shareholder proposal filing deadlines.
The one I want to focus on is the proposed comply or explain model. Basically, corporate boards in Canada do not accurately reflect the demographics of the population they serve. While things continue to improve, the pace is much slower than most would like to see.
I am pleased to see that the Liberals are moving forward with the comply or explain model that the previous Conservative government had championed. Would I would like to see corporate boards of directors be more reflective of the Canadian population? Well, who would not?
There are benefits to both the companies and society as a whole. It has been shown that more diverse boards benefit all involved. We see better overall decision-making, better organizational structure, resulting in a better economy for Canadians.
I have sat on many boards, and the more diverse the make-up of the board, the better the ideas brought to the table. This leads to better problem solving, innovative solutions, and better communication of ideas. I would encourage any board to diversify and reflect its customer base. More importantly, diversify to reflect the target customer base.
I did want to mention that the Conservative Party has a proud history when it comes to diversity. It was the Conservative Party that had the first female Prime Minister. It was the Conservative Party that elected the first female MP to the House of Commons. It was the Conservative Party that elected the first Chinese, the first Muslim, the first black, the first Latino, the first Hindu, Pakistani, Japanese, and the first physically disabled MP, and the list goes on.
What I am most proud of with respect to our Conservative history is that it was based on merit, not any forced compliance system. All those who were advanced did it because they earned it and not because it was handed to them on a silver platter. This guiding principle of merit and fairness gave us a proud history. I think it shows that forced compliance does no favours to anyone.
Since the Ontario Securities Commission implemented the comply or explain model two years ago, the number of women on boards has steadily increased to 20%. Yes, this is still too low, but it is an improvement. It is worth noting also that across Canada in the larger companies, women make up an average of 34% of the boards. Again, that is an abysmal number, but it is improving.
Over the past three decades, the participation of women in the Canadian workforce has more than doubled to approximately 47%. Women now earn over half of all Canadian university degrees, and 34.5% of MBAs granted in 2011 were to women. In addition, women represented 47% of students in business and management programs at the master's level in 2010.
The level of progress among Canadian women in just a few decades is impressive. Women are achieving success at unprecedented levels in a variety of sectors, be it law, medicine, and other professions, yet the representation of women on those boards has not followed suit. If we give a woman a fair chance of opportunity, they are quite capable of making the most of it. We have seen it first hand, and I have seen it first hand.
I remember as a kid that practically all doctors were male. In fact, I recall people specifically mentioning that they had a woman doctor, as if it were some sort of novelty or unnatural anomaly.
Children today will grow up in a different world, an opposite world. Today, a full two-thirds of medical school graduates are women. Female doctors will be the norm in the future. Sixty per cent of university graduates are now women. Future boards will have no choice but to increase female participation if they have any hope of filling all the chairs around the table.
As a father of three daughters, this is promising and it is good news. However, women are not waiting for legislation to be passed so they can take their rightful place in society, and nor should they.
Take my family, for example. My late wife Heather was a very successful woman in her own right. She served on many boards and ran numerous large corporate projects in her lifetime. My daughters, much like their mother, are strong-minded, principled, determined leaders in their own right. They have made me proud. They have made us proud with their success, both professional and personal.
Without going into too much, it does bother me that women still encounter a wage gap in Canada today. There are excuses for this. However, excuses are not reasons.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-25, and I look forward to any questions.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
That does not negate the possible arguments for or against having a federal framework, but I think it is important to acknowledge, in the context of a claim to the alleged urgency of this issue, what the reality is at the provincial level, because if we look at the various guidelines, it actually seems fairly clear to me that a number of provinces have done a much better job of protecting the vulnerable than the framework the federal government has put in place.
I have raised concerns repeatedly in this House about the lack of protection for the vulnerable in this legislation. It is important that we separate out two different issues. There is the issue of the eligibility criteria, which has been fairly contentious in terms of whether it should be terminal, whether it should simply repeat the language of the Supreme Court, or whether it should use other types of language, as the government does in the somewhat ambiguous term of death being “reasonably foreseeable”, but then there is the separate question with respect to safeguards.
I think, especially in this legislation, whatever Canadians and members of this House think of the provisions in terms of eligibility criteria, that there is an absence of safeguards. If we look at what the provinces have put in place, they have, in many cases, done a much better job of providing important safeguards.
One of the models I would like to draw to the attention of members of the House is the law in place in Manitoba. The law put in place there has actually been praised. It was welcomed as a welcome development, even by someone involved in assisting people accessing assistance in dying, with an understanding of the real benefits of this law.
The system that was set up in Manitoba was that it allowed individuals seeking assistance in dying, euthanasia, or physician-assisted suicide, whatever we want to call it, to have their cases reviewed by government lawyers. It did not require judicial review, which has many advantages but is something that some members have claimed is unduly onerous. It instead created a procedure by which government lawyers would review the eligibility criteria and would be able to, in the context of their legal expertise and knowledge, rule on whether the person in fact met the criteria.
The government's legislation contains absolutely no mechanism for advance legal review by a competent authority, and we proposed an amendment to that effect in hopes of seeing the government bring it in. Unfortunately, it would not agree to that.
I think the Manitoba law strikes a good compromise. It does not require judicial review, but it does have some kind of apparatus whereby we have review by competent legal authority. Certainly in the case of Manitoba, the vulnerable in Manitoba are better off under the provisions of the existing standards in Manitoba than they would be under federal legislation.
Let us talk about some of the other provinces. In general, the provinces I was able to look at use language around attending physicians. They have protections in terms of conscience, but they are rooted in this idea of an attending physician being in some way involved in the process.
The federal legislation, Bill C-14, makes no reference to attending physicians. It does not require the involvement of the attending physician at all. It simply says that any two physicians can sign off. We could have two physicians in the country who see a particular case one way, with every other physician in the country seeing the case a completely different way, and that person would still be able to access euthanasia or assisted suicide.
In their wisdom, most of the provinces, at least most of the ones I have had a chance to look at, have guidelines that deal specifically with some kind of carved-out role for an attending physician. I would argue that involving, in the guidelines, specifically the attending physician provides significantly greater safeguards than we would have otherwise.
This speaks very much to the motion the government House leader put forward, because he is claiming that there is some urgency to passing this legislation on the basis of the protection of the vulnerable. However, if we look at the rules that are in place in the various provinces, it is very clear that they may, so far, in terms of the interim guidelines they have put in place since June 6, have a somewhat more liberal interpretation of the eligibility criteria, but on the issue of safeguards, on the issue of the protection of the vulnerable, they are actually doing a much better job.
I have stated before concerns about the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario's policy with respect to conscience. It is evident in its interim policies that it has introduced, as well, a requirement for effective referral, requiring someone to be complicit or to refer for euthanasia, which is gravely concerning to physicians as well as to many other people within the province of Ontario. However, that would not change with the federal legislation, because the legislation would not provide the necessary protections for conscience.
In other provinces, though, we see a better job in terms of understanding processes that can be put in place which protect the vulnerable and also protect conscience. Therefore, generally speaking, they make reference to this issue of having the attending physician involved, but they do not specifically require the participation or an effective referral. In my home province of Alberta, there has been a system constructed whereby there is a sort of central hub where people would go directly, or where someone might be pointed, in order to have their situation addressed or adjudicated in some way.
These systems prevent what I think is one of the very pernicious aspects of Bill C-14, which is the possibility of doctor shopping. It is where a person, or even a member of their family, could shop the case around, and 10 or 20 different doctors could say absolutely not because the person does not meet the ambiguous criteria. It is somewhat ambiguous under Carter, but no less ambiguous under the provisions of the new government legislation.
What is important in this debate is that people have raised the spectre of a legislative vacuum, in that there will be no legislation, no rules in place whatsoever. Well, June 6 has come and gone, and provinces were ready to respond in a way and to an extent that the federal government simply was not. The government proposed the legislation fairly late. It did not seek to get our buy-in on the substance of the legislation. Instead, the government pushed this forward at a late stage and said that we have to pass it now because it is urgent.
Well, provinces have done a much better job here. Now June 6 has come and gone, and we are not in a vacuum. Provinces have developed standards, policies, and procedures, some of which may be better than others; some of which I may agree with more or less. However, if we look at the substance of these, I think we see that there is not at all a legislative vacuum. In fact, the provinces have in some cases been more effective.
The central issue of doctor shopping, the issue of whether or not someone meets the criteria, needs to be adjudicated. It needs to be adjudicated, hopefully once, and may be subject to appeal or review by someone else. However, there needs to be one person or a group of people who have the expertise, legally and medically, who make the assessment, and then that decision is made.
This fearmongering from the government about the absence of a law or a vacuum, I think really misses the point. We have these bodies, colleges of physicians and surgeons at the provincial level, that have the competency and have come up with guidelines, that have recognized, unlike the government, the concerns about doctor shopping that we have raised repeatedly in the House. They have recognized the problems with conscience and said they could try to construct, using their expertise and authority at the provincial level, a system that works better and that provides real protections for the vulnerable.
Whenever we think about the eligibility criteria, and in some cases the interpretation of the eligibility criteria is different at the provincial level, let us provide the safeguards.
One thing I want to briefly mention is that the federal legislation provides immunity from prosecution for someone who has a “reasonable but mistaken belief” that the standards have been met. Therefore, someone could take the life of a person who did not meet the criteria and still avoid prosecution. That is not a protection for the vulnerable. However, in the absence of the legislation, we do not have that exemption. The vulnerable are better protected because there is not an exemption for those who take life without the consent of the patient and without the proper criteria being met.
In looking at the reality of what is in place at the provincial level, it is not correct at all to talk about a legislative vacuum. Therefore, the motion does not have the urgency that is claimed.
View Len Webber Profile
View Len Webber Profile
2016-06-13 11:26 [p.4363]
Madam Speaker, through you, I thank and praise the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga for sharing his emotional experience resulting from a tragedy which occurred on May 2, 2011 in which he lost his wife Betty, and for supporting Betty's wishes to allow her organs to be donated after her neurological death because she wanted to give them in order to save the lives of others. It was a selfless and incredible gift.
Three years ago, I had the privilege to also bring forward a private member's bill on organ donation, as a member of the Alberta legislature.
The intention of the bill was to create a provincial organ and tissue donation agency. The bill progressed, was adopted into a government bill, and eventually passed unanimously by all members of the House.
The bill incorporated four key pillars, four components, to its content.
The first pillar was to implement an awareness campaign strategy to have advertising, billboards, literature, and bus benches. It was to encourage people to talk to their families to discuss their wishes in the event of a tragedy where their families may have to choose whether or not to donate their organs.
The second pillar was to implement an electronic donor registry.
The third pillar was to implement the training of health care staff throughout the province of Alberta, so that every hospital would have trained staff, ready on a moment's notice, to take advantage of an opportunity that may exist to procure organs in order to save lives.
The fourth and final pillar was to implement the intent to donate on a driver's licence. At the time, in order for people to indicate their wishes to donate organs, they had to sign on the back of their health care card. I found that unacceptable in today's world. The key to making a registry successful is to make the decision easy to make and easy to execute.
I strongly support the idea of getting one's consent to donate organs when someone obtains or renews a driver's licence or a health care card. However, we could even go further and ask it as part of a passport process or other formal registration process. Imagine if we could get the option to declare that a person is a willing organ donor on their income tax return form?
Today Alberta has over 250,000 people registered in its newly implemented organ donation electronic registry, and the numbers continue to grow.
Recently a team of experts at the University of Alberta's Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute made history by completing a record 31 organ transplants in just 10 days, indicating the progress that we have made in Alberta. However, there is a lot more work that needs to be done.
I have visited the University of Alberta Hospital transplant ward, and I have seen the results. I have met numerous people who have received the gift of life. What a moving experience it was. The emotions, the tears, the gratitude that these people had upon awakening, knowing that they had received a gift. It is something that I will never forget.
I have seen the need for a coordinated organ donation strategy first-hand, but I have also seen the results of a unified government that puts aside political stripes to support a positive cause.
This is not about partisan politics; it is about saving lives. I can only imagine the positive outcome of what a coordinated national effort could accomplish.
I, along with other members in this House, currently sit on the Standing Committee on Health. Our team is currently studying the issue of national pharmacare. This initiative is not about overstepping the boundaries of our provincial and territorial counterparts. It is about leveraging our strengths as a country to improve the system of pharmacare for all Canadians. Why can we not do the same thing with our organ and tissue donation procurement system in Canada?
Our Standing Committee on Health has already agreed to look into the issue of organ and tissue donation in Canada. It is only appropriate that we send the bill we are currently debating here in this House, Bill C-223, to that committee, to form part of the study and discussion.
It is not just our constituents and some politicians asking for this, but it is also experts in the field of transplantation right here in Canada, experts such as Dr. Lori West, director of the Canadian National Transplant Research Program. This is a national research network funded by the Government of Canada, dedicated entirely to increasing access of Canadians to transplantation and improving transplant outcomes. She is also the director of the Alberta Transplant Institute and chair of Canada research in cardiac transplantation.
Dr. West wrote all of us in this House just last week and said:
We believe that we have the opportunity to use this bill as the beginning of a national conversation toward improving organ donation in Canada. We strongly encourage your government to send this bill to the Standing Committee on Health (HESA) where we can work together with patients, researchers, health charities and government agencies to create a framework that will improve the national system to increase and support donation and transplantation.
In April of this year, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health said, right here in this House:
...our government recognizes the need for improvement in the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system in Canada. Collaboration, consultation and engagement with the provinces and territories as well as key stakeholders are necessary to address the complexity of the changes that are required in the system.
She says it is necessary to collaborate, consult, and engage with the provinces and territories, and key stakeholders. Why do we not send this bill to the health committee?
The hon. member and the hon. parliamentary secretary should talk to their caucus, talk to their colleagues, talk to the Minister of Health, and encourage support for this bill to go to committee so it can form a critical part of that deliberation.
In closing, rather than continuing to work in silos, our provinces and territories must work together under a national umbrella in order to improve organ donation in this country. We know registries work for organ and tissue donation. We also know that the larger the pool of donors, the better. It only makes sense that we combine our efforts and truly develop a national database that will help achieve our goal to save lives. Even if we are able to save only one life from our efforts, it will have been worth it.
I implore my colleagues here in this House to vote to send this Bill C-223 to the Standing Committee on Health, where the committee has already agreed to study this issue.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2016-06-13 11:34 [p.4365]
Madam Speaker, thanks to the member for Calgary Confederation's contributions at the provincial legislature in Alberta, the province has an electronic organ and tissue donor registry of which I am a donor. I subscribed myself thanks to that new system that he introduced. He is also one of the very few members of the legislative assembly when he served there who actually passed two private members' bills. I hope that fortune and that ability passes on to the member for Edmonton Manning who is pushing for a very wise bill on organ and tissue donor registry.
I have a Yiddish proverb to share with the House: “He who looks for light work goes very tired to bed.” I view the government's response to this private member's bill as a search for that light work. Personal stories on organ donor registries and about specific issues of public policy seem to have a higher impact on the backbench members of the government who might be allowed a free vote on this.
Let me share my personal story. I have three kids. My two oldest kids, Maximilian and Jolie, will both need some day the donation of a kidney to continue living. It is inevitable. There is no cure for the condition that they have called Alport syndrome and they were born with it. For a parent who has to experience that, it is profound and changes one's outlook on life. That is why I became a donor. That is why I became involved in the Kidney Foundation of Canada as a board member for the southern Alberta chapter as well.
Through that involvement I met lots of people on the Kidney March, a three-day 100-kilometre walk through beautiful Kananaskis country. I shared tents with organ donors and experienced people doing dialysis in the camp at night. They would do a 25-kilometre walk and then do dialysis in the camp, and then start completely fresh the next day because the dialysis cleaned out all the by-products in the body that come from exercise. They literally could walk another 30 kilometres the next day and they were not as tired.
I met incredible people with incredible stories of perseverance and strength. They want something like this bill. They need something like this. I met a gentleman who lost both of his kidneys on a trip to Morocco with his friends. He had an emergency flight back to Canada and they were able to save his life, but he is on a second kidney donation now. He does marathons across North America. He is literally the first one to finish the 100-kilometre walk. I tried to keep up with him and I am able-bodied and younger, but I had a tough time keeping up with him. On the second day it is a 38-kilometre walk and he finished first. It is incredible what people can achieve.
I am thinking of my kids and what they went through from the moment of diagnosis and the doctors explaining what would happen to them. An organ and tissue donor registry is the first step. We are not talking about creating an entirely new registry, we are talking about coordinating the actions being done in the different provinces. I know we already have three of these and they coordinate different facets of this. That is why I think this private member's bill goes beyond that and talks about an actual strategy on organ donation and lays out nine further points for a national strategy.
Most strategists talk about simply ideas, a principle, a thought that, although important, does not have what the member for Edmonton Manning has included here, which is nine specific areas that we could look at. I have met with specialists in this field across Canada. They are surgeons responsible for explaining to family members that their loved one is deceased or they are the ones doing the organ donation procedures. All of them say that these nine areas are an improvement that we can lend to the system, so why not legislate on it because that is what we are here to do, to pass good laws and make sure bad ones do not pass.
When I read the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health's argument, I found three excuses I want to highlight and explain why they are not good excuses.
The duplicating of existing initiatives was one excuse. This does not duplicate. We can simply repurpose current work to meet the demands of this legislation. To say they would duplicate would indicate that work is already being done, but national organ and tissue donation rates are nothing to be proud of. They have barely improved over time. Real improvements would be to go after the structural issues and bottlenecks in the system.
Furthermore, this is probably the absolute weakest argument that can be made, because if we are already doing the work, then why not seek the path of least resistance, agree with the legislation, and simply pass it so it can be studied at committee. To say that there are existing initiatives basically says this legislation simply encapsulates what already exists, which is fine, but let us move on to the next point.
The other one the parliamentary secretary mentioned was the shift in responsibilities. She mentioned consent, confidentiality, health policies, and procedures that they are, indeed, mostly within provincial jurisdictions. My issue with that is this. Is there not a better way to coordinate it, perhaps by doing it formally, maybe in a voluntary system, which the member for Edmonton Manning included in his private member's bill? Section 5 of the law creates a voluntary opt-in, so it is optional for the provinces to participate in this. Success will breed a willingness to participate as well, so that as these different parts begin to do their work, as donation rates improve and there is success, more provinces will want to participate. Although it is within their jurisdiction, there is a voluntary component.
Provinces can voluntarily coordinate with the federal government and other provinces in order to improve the system. I will give the example of pensions. Pensions are a provincial jurisdiction, not federal. The Canada pension plan is coordinated across all provinces in Canada. Why can we not do the same thing? The same principle applies. It is not a shifting of responsibility to the federal government, saying we want a national pension plan that is transferrable from province to province; it is simply the coordination of work.
When I worked at the provincial legislature and orders in council were passed, it was basically with the consent of the different provinces and consultation with the federal government about the coordination of the pension plan, to make sure that the provincial laws and regulations that were passed were consistent across the board so that Canadians who moved across the country would have the same pension plan system, wherever they went. Why can we not have that for organ and tissue donation systems? It makes sense and I do not understand where the problem is. I do not understand why this would have been brought up as an issue.
The third point that the parliamentary secretary made was about the privacy of persons due to the collection of related personal health information. I have run into this a few times now. This was probably the most bizarre reasoning at committee. In clause by clause on Bill C-14, I wanted to introduce an amendment on written consent before the procedure, and I was told that this would impede the privacy of the person involved.
Privacy should never be used as a bottleneck or a pit trap for public policy improvements, especially when people can voluntarily surrender their privacy for the sake of a public policy goal that they agree with. We are not going after people who do not want to donate, we are trying to make it easier for people who do want to donate, to be connected with individuals who need organ or tissue donations because their lives are in danger or they have medical conditions that require organ donations.
Of course, this is voluntary and privacy should not be used in this way as an excuse not to do something, especially when the individuals involved want to help. I meet countless living donors who are so happy to have contributed to and extended someone else's life. The connection between donors and the people they have donated to is very deep. I have seen this countless times. I saw this at the Kidney March as well.
Those in need of organ or tissue donations will not stand for this type of bureaucratic logjamming. I find it is straight out of Yes, Minister. It is like we have seen this all before. It is worthy of Sir Humphrey Appleby saying that policy administration is different from the administration of the policy, and we cannot encapsulate this in the legislation. If it is being done already, let us put in the legislation. If we can coordinate better, let us do it through legislation.
Again, I do not see a reason why we cannot do this. None of the parliamentary secretary's objections, to me, stand up to scrutiny. I would urge the backbench government MPs, where I sometimes find kindred spirits, to support this bill. Let us take it to committee. If there are amendments to be made, we can do it there.
View Linda Duncan Profile
View Linda Duncan Profile
2016-05-17 17:12 [p.3498]
Madam Speaker, there has been a lot of debate about the position of various doctors in the country. It has come to my attention that Dr. Peter Zalan, president of medical staff at Health Sciences North in northern Ontario, has stated that he is very disappointed with the bill. He has said:
For me, Bill C-14 is a disappointment. It proposes to keep illegal the resolution of intolerable suffering that is not at the end of life. It will make it impossible to deal with dementia when the afflicted person is still competent. If ever there is a need for Medical Assistance in Dying, it is for conditions like dementia and intolerable suffering when the end of life is not in sight.
I wonder if the member could speak to the fact that, like Dr. Zalan, a number of medical practitioners are saying that the way the bill is being presented, which lacks the clarity in the ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada, will make life more difficult for physicians when making determinations of when to assist their patients.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this important debate about conscience rights. It is an honour to follow my friend, the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands. I want to, particularly, salute the great work done on this motion by the member for Peace River—Westlock, someone who is making a great contribution here, not just with his clever S.O. 31 rhymes but also with his substantive contributions at other times.
I think we have had a good debate today, but at the same time, as much as our conventions are to take a liberal view of topicality, there has been a lot of discussion about aspects of Bill C-14 that do not directly relate to conscience. Maybe that underlines the fact that there actually should have been more discussion of Bill C-14 at second reading. I hope there will not be closure on it at third reading.
I want to focus my comments today on this specific opposition day motion on the issues of conscience.
First of all, right off the bat, I want to underline what we are talking about here. The government has talked about an amendment that was brought in at committee to the legislation that discussed conscience rights. I say, “discussed conscience rights”, but it did not protect conscience rights.
I want to read that amendment so members know exactly what we are talking about. It is on page 8 of the reprinted bill, lines 32 to 34:
For greater certainty, nothing in this section compels an individual to provide or assist in providing medical assistance in dying.
Let us be clear about what that section says, “nothing in this section compels an individual”, etc. The concern was never that this section compelled individuals, but rather, that the interaction of this legislation and policies at the provincial level, which are pre-existing, which we know exist, without the protections in this legislation will have the effect of a violation of conscience protection.
It is sleight of hand for the government to say there is nothing in the legislation by itself. It is precisely the interaction of the legislation with existing policies that causes the problem.
The government has quite correctly pointed out that Conservative members supported this amendment, because it was a very small step in the right direction. However, on the many substantive problems to the legislation, which we proposed amendments about, we did not see any support from government members. We proposed robust, serious conscience protection, things that would not just reference conscience but would actually protect conscience. We proposed those amendments. The member for St. Albert—Edmonton and others did an excellent job of presenting and advocating those, but unfortunately, to no avail.
That is what we are talking about, whether or not the legislation should contain robust, meaningful protection of conscience.
For all those members who have, today, paid lip service to the idea of conscience, I ask, “Why, then, did the members in the committee not support things that would take the necessary action to protect conscience?”
We have heard a number of different arguments about this issue. We have heard that conscience rights are already protected in the charter, so we do not have to worry about them because they are already part of our underlying laws. Yes, it is correct to say that conscience rights are in the charter, but it is not at all sufficient to say that we do not need policies and legislation that ensure those charter principles are actually implemented.
Why is this important?
First, courts are going to show some degree of deference to the legislature when they are interpreting the exact application of these rights. It is important for the legislature to be clear about the importance of conscience rights to us and how we would like to see it operationalized in particular situations.
It also provides certainty. Without the certainty of guaranteeing positive conscience protection in the legislation, people will have their conscience rights violated, at least in the interim, and will be forced to go to the court to seek a remedy.
I am of the view that the current College of Physicians and Surgeons' policy in Ontario does violate section 2 provisions around conscience in the charter, but this now requires what is happening now, which is a legal challenge. For the time being, it creates a great deal of problems and uncertainty. It prevents many medical practitioners from participating effectively in serving their patients.
It is not enough to just say we have these guarantees in the charter so we do not need to think about them. No. We need to ensure that the rights of conscience are protected in policies and in legislation. That is why we want to see positive conscience rights protection here.
There has been some discussion, as well, about this jurisdictional question. It is curious that the government says, on the one hand, “We've provided conscience protection in the legislation”, and then it says, on the other hand, “Conscience protection is not something we can provide; it's at the provincial level”.
Which is it? Its arguments against the motion are in fact mutually exclusive.
Let us be very clear. This legislation does not provide positive conscience protection, but given that the legislation, Bill C-14, is describing the contours of an exception to the Criminal Code, it is very much within our rights, as the legislature, to say that the exception we are creating in the Criminal Code has conditions and exceptions within it.
There is no principle problem with doing that. Again, as has been discussed, this is something that has been done before when the federal government is involved in areas describing the contours of those exceptions and ensuring conscience protection.
We often talk here about the importance of pluralism, about the value of Canadian multiculturalism. Protection of conscience is an essential part of our fabric as a multicultural nation. People come here from other places, people who have lived here for a long time. They have different kinds of traditions, different kinds of values. Multiculturalism is not just that we look different and eat different food but that we can have substantive different perspectives on what constitutes the good life, and that we can live out those conceptions in our lives and that we can have respectful discussions with each other about those different conceptions of the good life.
However, it is important to have that meaningful robust concept of multiculturalism, of pluralism existing, and that we do protect rights of conscience and religion. It is not enough to just pay lip service to these concepts, like pluralism, they need to be protected. Conscience rights provide the foundation on which a well-functioning pluralistic and multicultural society is built.
I want to underline as well that conscience rights are a right of non-interference. They are not a demand to interfere in someone else's life. An expectation of the protection of a conscience right is simply the expression of someone saying, “Just leave me alone. Just let me do my own thing with my own medical practice. I am not going to interfere with someone else, but just let me do what I wish to do within my own sphere.” That is all those who are seeking conscience protection are asking for.
Therefore, why will the government not ensure that the doctors who want to provide good service to their patients, who want to provide palliative care and other necessary services, and who may have a different conception of the good life or of some of these moral questions than others do are left alone? They are not asking for anything special. They are asking to be left alone so that they can continue to do the good work that they want to do.
One of the counter-arguments we hear is that health care is public, so given that there is some degree of public involvement the state should somehow be able to dictate the terms of health care up to the point of taking away individual conscience rights. Is it not curious that as soon as the state is partially involved in something there is this automatic assertion that conscience rights and the rights of the individuals involved go out the window?
Given that health care is, in practice, provided as a partnership between state funding and individuals who are acting within that system who are motivated not just by the funding that comes from the state but by values, compassion, and a desire to serve their patients, and given that health care is a partnership between community groups, volunteer donors, those who fundraise for local hospitals, as well as the state, why not protect the conscience rights of individuals and of institutions so that they can continue to provide services that reflect their values?
We have talked a lot here about law, theory, and principles of rights. Let us bring this back to something very concrete and practical.
I have mentioned Dr. Nancy Naylor before, who is a palliative care physician in Strathroy, Ontario. I have not spent a lot of time in Strathroy, but I do not suspect that there are a very large number of palliative care physicians there. She is leaving the practice of palliative care because she is concerned that her conscience rights will be infringed as a palliative care physician.
We can talk back and forth about the theory of the rights that are at play here, but never mind the doctor and her career, what is the cost to this doctor's patients, the many people who do not want to die and who just want access to good quality palliative care? What about them? Every time a doctor is forced to leave a jurisdiction because of an infringement on their conscience rights that affects those patients who lose access to that family doctor or palliative care physician. That affects far more patients than the doctor or the doctor's family.
Whatever members think about this arguably important theory of conscience rights, they should think about the impact on patients and about the impact on our already woefully inadequate system of palliative care.
I ask members to support this important motion.
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