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View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-03-25 3:15 [p.2068]
Mr. Speaker, we are in an unprecedented crisis that is affecting all Canadians. It is therefore our duty to work together to quickly provide emergency aid. That is why you will find that there have been discussions among the parties and that there is unanimous consent for the following motion:
That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practice of the House:
(a) the application of Standing Orders 17, 36(8)(b), 39(5)(b) and 56.1 be suspended for the current sitting, provided that the responses to petitions and questions on the Order Paper otherwise due shall be tabled at the next sitting of the House;
(b) ways and means motion No. 4, notice of which was laid upon the table earlier this day, be concurred in, that a bill based thereon in the name of the Minister of Finance, entitled An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19, be deemed to have been introduced and read a first time and ordered for consideration at second reading later this day;
(c) following the adoption of this order, the House shall resolve itself into a committee of the whole to consider matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic for a period not exceeding one hour and provided that the Chair may preside from the Speaker's chair; that during the proceedings of the committee, the Chair shall call members in a fashion consistent with the proportions observed during Oral Questions; no member shall be recognized for more than five minutes which may be used for posing questions to a minister of the Crown or a parliamentary secretary acting on behalf of the minister; members may be permitted to split their time with one or more members by so indicating to the Chair; and at the conclusion of the time provided for the proceedings, or when no member rises to speak, whichever is earlier, the committee shall rise;
(d) when the committee of the whole rises, the House shall begin debate on the motion for second reading of the bill referred to in paragraph (b), a member of each recognized party and a member of the Green Party may speak to the said motion for not more than 10 minutes, followed by five minutes for questions and comments; provided that members may be permitted to split their time with another member; and, at the conclusion of the time provided for the debate or when no member rises to speak, whichever is earlier, all questions necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill shall be put without further debate or amendment provided that, if a recorded division is requested, it shall not be deferred and that, if the bill is adopted at second reading, it shall be deemed referred to a committee of the whole; deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, deemed read a third time and passed;
(e) when the bill referred to in paragraph (b) has been read the third time and passed, the House shall adjourn until Monday, April 20, 2020, provided that, for the purposes of any Standing Order, it shall be deemed adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28, and, for greater certainty, the provisions of paragraphs (m) to (p) of the order adopted on Friday, March 13, 2020, remain in effect;
(f) if, during the period the House stands adjourned pursuant to this order, the Speaker receives a notice from the House leaders of all four recognized parties indicating that it is in the public interest that the House remain adjourned until a future date or until future notice is given to the Speaker, the House will remain adjourned accordingly, provided that (i) in the event of the Speaker being unable to act owing to illness or other cause, the Deputy Speaker or either of the Assistant Deputy Speakers shall act in the Speaker's stead for all the purposes of this paragraph, (ii) in the event the House remains adjourned beyond April 20, 2020, pursuant to this paragraph, the words “May 1” and “May 31” in Standing Order 81(4)(a) shall be deemed to read “May 27” and “June 15”, respectively;
(g) during the period the House stands adjourned pursuant to this order, the House may be recalled, under the provisions of Standing Order 28(3), to consider measures to address the economic impact of COVID-19 and the impacts on the lives of Canadians;
(h) during the period the House stands adjourned pursuant to this order, the Chair of the Standing Committee on Health and the Chair of the Standing Committee on Finance shall each convene a meeting of their respective committee (i) at least once per week, unless the whips of all four recognized parties agree to not hold a meeting, and (ii) within 48 hours of the receipt by email, by the clerk of the committee, of a request signed by any four members of the committee, that during such meetings, committee members shall attend and witnesses shall participate via either videoconferencing or teleconferencing, that the committees meet for the sole purpose of receiving evidence concerning matters related to the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, provided that, for greater certainty, each committee may receive evidence which may otherwise exceed the committee's mandate under Standing Order 108(2), all such meetings shall be made available to the public via the House of Commons website, and notices of membership substitutions pursuant to Standing Order 114(2) may be filed with the clerk of each committee by email;
(i) starting the week of March 30, 2020, the Minister of Finance or his delegate shall provide the Standing Committee on Finance with a bi-weekly report on all actions undertaken pursuant to parts 3, 8 and 19 of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act and shall appear before the committee to discuss the report, provided that, until April 20, 2020, or any date to which the adjournment period is extended pursuant to paragraph f), if committee is not satisfied with how the government is exercising its powers under the Act, it may adopt a motion during a meeting by videoconference or teleconference to report this to the House by depositing a report with the Clerk of the House which shall be deemed to have been duly presented to the House on that day;
(j) upon the presentation of any report pursuant to paragraph i), the Speaker shall recall the House to consider a motion to take note of the report of the committee which shall be deemed to be proposed and have precedence over all other business that day, provided that proceedings shall expire when debate thereon has concluded or at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment and that at least 48 hours' notice shall be given for any sitting held pursuant to this paragraph;
(k) the Standing Committee on Finance be instructed to commence a review of the provisions and operation of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act within 6 months of the day on which the Act receives royal assent and to report its findings to the House no later than March 31, 2021, provided that the report may be deposited with the Clerk of the House when the House stands adjourned and it shall be deemed to have been duly presented to the House on that day;
(l) within 30 sitting days of the resumption of regular sittings of the House pursuant to paragraph e) or f) of this order, the government table a comprehensive report of all activities undertaken pursuant to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act and that this report be permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Finance; and
(m) the House call upon the government to provide regular updates to representatives of opposition parties on its management of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a bi-weekly conference call between the finance critics of recognized parties and the Minister of Finance.
That concludes the motion, and that is our government's emergency response to help Canadians. We will get through this difficult time together.
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bill Morneau Profile
2020-03-25 4:32 [p.2079]
moved that Bill C-13, An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bill Morneau Profile
2020-03-25 4:32 [p.2079]
Mr. Speaker, COVID-19 is a challenge unlike any other we have ever faced. Canadians are worried about their health and the health of their loved ones. I understand what people are going through in one sense. Two of my own loved ones are facing this disease right now: one of my sisters who lives in Europe and a godson in the United States. They are both doing well and I know they will get through this, but it is a reminder once again of how this disease is impacting so many people.
We are all in this together. Canadians are worried about the economic impacts as well, keeping a roof over their heads and putting food on their tables. While we do not yet know the full economic impacts, I want to tell Canadians that our government is prepared to do whatever it takes to mitigate the impacts.
Last week, our government announced significant economic measures to support Canadians and ensure that no one is left behind. With the bill introduced today in Parliament, we are taking the next steps to implement our plan to protect Canadians and the Canadian economy during this period of uncertainty.
This legislation aims to provide timely support to Canadians and to make sure that we all have the tools necessary to support them, as well as businesses, as things continue to rapidly evolve in these very uncertain times.
I would like to outline how this will help Canadians worried about their health and their ability to pay their bills.
Canadians' health is our top priority. The bill gives me and the Minister of Health the power to request funds to support the federal government's efforts to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19.
This legislation proposes to provide one-time funding of $500 million through the Canada health transfer for provinces and territories to ensure that our health care systems across the country have the resources they need.
My colleague, the Minister of Health, has been in constant communication with her colleagues. We are in this together. We must continue to work together. This means ensuring that our health care systems have the funds they need to treat patients and continue to deliver world-class care.
We also know that many Canadians do not have access to benefits when they are sick. No Canadian should have to choose between buying groceries and taking care of his or her health. It is not good for that person or for our communities.
We are proposing the new Canada emergency response benefit. It is a simpler and more accessible version of the previous two benefits, the emergency care benefit and emergency support benefit. We want to ensure that all Canadians who cannot work because of COVID-19 and who do not have access to paid leave or other income support get the support they need in a simple and rapid way.
This approach supports any Canadian who finds themself in a situation in which they lose all of their income due to COVID-19, and supports every Canadian business by protecting every employee. It is a wage subsidy delivered directly to people.
Canadian workers who are sick, self-isolating or quarantined, looking after a sick family member or who have been furloughed or terminated because of COVID-19 would be eligible. This includes workers who are still employed but are not receiving income because of work disruptions related to COVID-19. This would help businesses keep their employees as they navigate these difficult times and make sure that they can quickly resume operations when the time is right. It would also support working parents who have to stay home with their children without pay because schools and day cares are closed.
For workers eligible for employment insurance sickness benefits, we are also proposing to waive the requirement for claimants to provide a medical certificate.
For low and modest-income Canadians, we are proposing a special top-up through the GST credit by early May. This would double maximum GST credit payment amounts. On average, for those benefiting, this measure would put almost $400 more in the pockets of single individuals and $600 for couples.
For families with children, our government has proposed a temporary increase to the Canada child benefit. Parents will receive an additional $300 per child, starting in May.
Our government is proposing a six-month moratorium on Canada student loan repayments, with no interest, for those now making payments. This will give nearly one million Canadians an additional $160 a month for this entire period.
Canadians who owe personal income taxes and Canadian businesses that owe corporate income tax will not be required to pay it until August 31. This would free up $55 billion and keep that money circulating in the economy.
We need to help our businesses weather the storm, keep Canadians employed and make sure Canada's economy remains strong and stable.
On top of our direct support to people, which would benefit every business that must furlough employees to maintain operations, this legislation proposes a wage subsidy for small organizations for them to help Canadians working.
We also understand that businesses may require more liquidity during this time, so we are leveraging the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada to work with private sector lenders to coordinate financing solutions for Canadian businesses. They are highly capitalized and well positioned to respond.
With this legislation, we would be making amendments that would give us the necessary flexibility to help businesses, through EDC and BDC. These changes would also allow BDC to provide more financial support to Canadian businesses and give EDC the flexibility to deliver financial and credit insurance support to affected Canadian companies. This important legislation would provide these two institutions with additional resources to respond to the needs of businesses as necessary.
We know that access to financing is crucial right now for businesses across the country.
On top of these changes, the government has implemented the business credit availability program. Through this program, the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada will work closely with private industry to coordinate financing solutions for Canadian businesses.
This program will be particularly helpful to businesses in sectors facing serious short-term challenges, such as the tourism and the oil and gas sectors.
Through this program, Crown corporations will make more than $10 billion in additional support available to businesses of all sizes that are struggling with credit.
The Canada Account is an important tool that can support Canadian companies with financing and guarantees. With the potential economic impact of COVID-19, there could be an increased demand for Canada Account financing. We are proposing to strengthen our ability to act through the Canada Account.
We also recognize that farmers and the agri-food sector will need access to financing. We are proposing to strengthen Farm Credit Canada to support the sector during these times.
The government is also taking action to help the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation increase liquidity in the financial sector by providing stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders to support continued lending to Canadian businesses and individuals. This work is absolutely critical. To this end, the government is launching an insured mortgage purchase program to purchase up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through CMHC.
The proposed actions announced today represent direct support to Canadians and Canadian businesses to help protect jobs and to ensure that Canadians have the money they need during this challenging time.
I should point out that Canada is in a very good position to make these investments. Canada has the strongest record in the G7 and has the financial capacity to support its economy throughout this difficult period.
By working together, we can face up to this global health and economic crisis from a position of strength, give confidence to markets and help Canadians receive the support they need to weather the crisis.
I am asking my hon. colleagues from all parties to support this legislation. There can be no delay. I am confident that all parliamentarians will rise to the occasion. Canadians are counting on us.
View Candice Bergen Profile
View Candice Bergen Profile
2020-03-25 4:42 [p.2081]
Mr. Speaker, if I could take off my partisan hat for just a moment, we all recognize what a difficult time this is for the country, the world and the Canadian government of any political stripe. This is a very heavy load to bear. I am glad we can be here together, not always agreeing, but agreeing on one thing, that we are putting the needs of our fellow Canadians first and foremost.
My question has to do with small businesses. They seem to have been neglected in the finance minister's bill. Small businesses are the backbone of our communities. Whether it is small restaurants, coffee shops or nail salons, these are folks who employ one to three people. They have been neglected. I would like to ask the Minister of Finance what the Liberals are going to do to help small businesses right now who need some support?
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bill Morneau Profile
2020-03-25 4:43 [p.2081]
Mr. Speaker, this is a very important question. We are trying to make sure that we support small businesses through this very challenging time. We know that many if not most small businesses are employers. They may be sole proprietors, but they may be employers. That is why we are delivering a wage subsidy directly to their employees if they are unable to work as a result of COVID-19. We know that this will support their ability to maintain that employment as we come out of this. That is critically important. The employees who keep working will have a 10% wage subsidy. Of course, we are making sure that they do not have to pay pay their taxes until August 31.
We remain open to considering additional measures, because this is a very dynamic situation. That is something we continue to work on to make sure that we are supporting people during this challenging time.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-25 4:43 [p.2081]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having the opportunity to discuss this bill and debate it in the House today and at a later period of time.
I would like to echo the comments of my colleague just now and ask the minister about small businesses. I have heard from so many in my riding of London—Fanshawe that a 10% wage subsidy is simply not enough. Knowing what small business owners put into their businesses, it is their dream and everything that they have in many cases, they want to save their employees and not to have to lay them off.
Therefore, will the government at this time at least consider the 75% wage subsidy that our party has introduced?
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bill Morneau Profile
2020-03-25 4:44 [p.2081]
Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear that any employees of these small businesses that do not have revenue as a result of COVID-19 will be getting direct support, which is a wage subsidy directly delivered to the employee. For the employees who are still there, of course that is also important.
We are trying to ensure that this is something that employers have the capacity to manage through. That is the reason we have been working so hard to make sure that the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada have access to capital and can deliver that access through the business credit availability program and the current banking relationship that the small businesses have.
We know these measures, in tandem, will support people through a difficult time. We are going to continue to think about ways we can support Canadians, the people who are off work and businesses, through this challenging time.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I want to echo the sentiment that these are very trying times, and it is very reassuring to see this House come together and to see all parties working collaboratively together.
There is no doubt that right now, out there, there is a lot of anxiety and worry. The minister has mentioned a number of individual items that he is proposing in this legislation.
I would like to ask him more broadly what his message is to people out there, such as small business owners or individuals who are feeling that anxiety right now. What is the message he wants to deliver to them from the government?
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bill Morneau Profile
2020-03-25 4:46 [p.2081]
Mr. Speaker, first and foremost the message I want to get out to Canadian businesses is that we have a strong and resilient country. We have a tremendous starting point: Our health system is strong, our financial situation is strong and we have a banking system that is literally the best in the world. These are important assets as we face this challenging time.
The reason it is so important to have a strong financial position as a country is that in a difficult time, such as the one we are facing right now, it means we have the capacity to act and to continue to act, because that financial capacity allows us to face today's challenges and the continuing challenges that we will have to face together. Therefore, we have put forward measures that are very significant. They include $55 billion in tax deferrals, direct support to individuals, and support to businesses. We will continue to think about additional measures we can take as we face this situation. We do not know the severity of the situation and we do not know the duration, and that is why we are maintaining our ability to address a dynamic situation with dynamic measures.
We know our approach will get us through this time. It will help Canadians bridge this time to a better future.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
Mr. Speaker, I know that I speak for all parliamentarians when I say that those Canadians who are affected by the COVID-19 virus are in our thoughts and prayers at this time. I know that our actions, whether on the government side of the House or on opposition benches, must continue to be guided by our shared desire to protect the health and safety of all Canadians and to support them through the global pandemic.
These are unprecedented times, warranting an unprecedented response both from governments and the Canadian people.
We know that this crisis is affecting Canadians across the country.
Almost a million workers have already been laid off, stores and restaurants have been told to close their doors and Canadians have been asked to stay at home.
We also know that our economy is taking a hit in this crisis and that the coming months will be very difficult.
While we are all aware that more needs to be done, and we have all heard of isolated incidents of people not following public health advice, overwhelmingly Canadians have risen to the challenge and have shown the care and compassion for which we, as a country, are so well known.
In these trying times, now more than ever, we see the strength of our communities and appreciate our true Canadian heroes: truck drivers, farmers and factory workers keeping our supply chains running at all times; companies stepping up, ensuring workers get paid, even if their doors are closed; grocery stores, pharmacies and cleaning staff working to keep shelves full and doors open; and restaurants offering takeout and delivery to those who need a hot meal.
Perhaps most importantly as we consider the health crisis, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the doctors, nurses, hospital staff, public health officials and first responders working around the clock to keep us all healthy and safe.
I had an opportunity to speak with the president of the Ontario Medical Association last week about what doctors urgently need from the government in fighting this pandemic. Those needs must be met.
The president mentioned the need for greater information-sharing tools so that tracking of cases can be done more quickly, so that when someone has a positive test result, the medical and health agencies can work backward and find out who that person was in contact with and do it through a much faster response mechanism. He also spoke to the need for equipment that must be procured now, before the number of cases escalates. I hope the government takes those concerns very seriously.
Our researchers in the scientific community will also play an essential role in fighting this pandemic and ultimately developing a vaccine.
I also want to acknowledge the leadership shown by provincial and municipal elected officials across the country. While the federal government took its time, the provinces acted quickly, taking advantage of their constitutional powers on health and education, particularly through the police and local services. Each province has tackled its own challenges and proposed new, innovative approaches.
Canadians are worried. They are worried for their health and the health of their loved ones, for their jobs and for their futures, and they are looking to us for action.
Conservatives have been flexible in our approach, while also continuing to ensure government oversight. When we agreed to the extraordinary suspension of Parliament, Conservatives insisted that the government be subject to substantial accountability measures, including the condition that the Auditor General would audit any new spending and that parliamentary committees would be able to review all of that spending when Parliament resumes.
We also agreed to bring back the House of Commons this week with only a small number of members present. We were prepared to quickly pass the measures that the Prime Minister had announced to date.
What we were not prepared for was the government's attempted undemocratic power grab. The Liberals shamefully tried to use a public health crisis to give themselves the powers to raises taxes, debt and spending without parliamentary oversight. However, after hours of negotiation, the government now has backed down from that position, and Conservatives have secured the following concessions.
We demanded that the government remove the section that would have allowed it to raise taxes without parliamentary approval, and the Liberals have agreed.
We demanded that the government walk back its unlimited spending powers and that special warrants expire on June 23, 2020, instead of September 30, 2020. The Liberals agreed.
We demanded that the government include explicit reference to putting taxpayers' rights first, and the Liberals agreed.
We demanded that the government must put sunset clauses in its legislation, a point that only the Conservative Party raised.
We demanded a sunset clause to ensure that the new powers will not remain in place for several more years.
We demanded that the government be accountable to Parliament through regular reports to the House of Commons health and finance committees, and that the finance committee have the right to recall Parliament if we identify any abuses, and the Liberals agreed.
Our effective opposition has also gotten the government to reverse course on other policies.
Let us remember that it was just a short while ago in this House that Conservatives were calling for stronger action to protect our borders. We were the ones who were asking tough questions as to why flights coming into Canada from hot spots around the world were continuing to be allowed. We proposed the idea of restricting travel much earlier. The government's initial response was that closing borders and restricting travel was not an effective way to fight this virus. It turns out that this was exactly what the Liberals were forced to do, just a short while after making those statements.
We asked about the impact of the border closure on the temporary foreign worker and seasonal agricultural worker programs, and the government made exemptions.
We demanded that the government put an end to illegal border crossings, in particular Roxham Road, and it is only thanks to us that the government has listened.
We have also called on the federal government to increase support for small businesses and workers, and I remain hopeful that the government will implement our suggestions.
Conservatives are focused on putting forward constructive solutions to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. We will also continue to ask questions on behalf of Canadians and ensure that the government's response includes clear timelines so that Canadians know when they can expect to start receiving support.
Many of us are looking at models around the world, and we hope that the government can look to countries that had effective measures at the front end and were then able to relax some of their restrictions on the economy much more quickly. I know one of my hon. colleagues has already raised the examples that we can look to in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, where there were a large number of tests being done, as well as rapid information sharing and rapid tracking of individuals who had tested positive so that they could identify who in the community was exposed. Those are some of the measure that we needed to see implemented much more quickly so we could quickly get to the point where our economy can get back on its feet.
While the government is looking for ways to do exactly that, I again want to urge it to do everything that it can.
I know that the Minister of Finance said earlier that the Bank of Canada is independent of government. While that is true to many degrees, there are ways that the government can take steps to ensure that quantitative easing is not an option that the government is looking at. Every time that has been tried in the past, it has led to many negative consequences for years longer than the economic crisis that justified those moves. We know that there is a huge crunch right now in the credit markets and we know the government will be looking to ways to address that, but simply printing more money is not the way to do it. I hope the Liberals take that into account.
We are here to be co-operative as they look to provide support to individuals and to help people pay their mortgages, pay their rent, pay their utilities and put food on the table.
We will be there to help and to propose solutions to ensure that Canadians can keep their homes. We will work with the measures that provide direct assistance to the Canadians affected by this crisis.
I want to thank all my colleagues for being here throughout the day.
I again remind the government that the assistance part of this legislation could have been passed 12 hours ago, but we will acknowledge the progress that has been made and the spirit of co-operation that I see in the hon. government House leader. I want to thank him for all his efforts throughout the day. It has been a lot of hard work and there have been a lot of moving pieces in a lot of ways. Those of us who have been here since the start of the day are grateful that this assistance will be able to flow into the hands of Canadians.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the co-operation that we are seeing throughout the House truly is remarkable.
I would suggest, perhaps in contrast to some of the comments from the Leader of the Opposition, that we saw the government bring forward a plan. It was a plan that the government thought was in the best interests of Canadians. I realize that the opposition had some issues with some aspects of that plan. They made their concerns known, and I think that was really important. What we should take from this is that in a time like this, even with the circumstances that we are in, democracy works. The opposition can do its job and push back on the government, but we can come to a compromise and move forward. I do appreciate that.
Earlier on in the debate today, the Leader of the Opposition questioned the 10% subsidy that was going to be given to small business employers specifically. He suggested that maybe that should be increased slightly. Can he expand on that and suggest where he sees that going?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
Mr. Speaker, I just want to clarify something. It is not the fact that the Conservatives had issues with what the government proposed, grabbing for itself unprecedented powers: it is that Canadians had a massive problem with what the government proposed.
While we may be thankful that we have arrived at a place where we can allow this legislation to go through, I would suggest to the hon. member to do everything he can with his colleagues to point out that there was a tremendous amount of goodwill throughout the last few weeks. If the government had proposals and ideas of how it would like to have greater flexibility to address this crisis as it unfolds, to do so through the normal channels of conversation that had already been established would be far preferable to surprising the opposition in the short amount of time that we had before the House was coming back.
I just leave that with the hon. member. I hope he can take that message back to the rest.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-03-25 5:00 [p.2084]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the leader of the Conservative Party for his speech. I would nevertheless remind him that raising doubts as to the independence of the Bank of Canada twice in a matter of minutes is not the right message to send to the markets.
As far as his intervention on Roxham Road is concerned, I would remind him that the Conservative Party is not the only one to have spoken up about this. The Bloc has been on this from the start.
The same goes for the negotiations that led to this bill. When I compare this morning's version of the bill to the one we had 12 hours later, I see that some changes were made, but they are minor. For example, when the leader of the Conservative Party talks about changing the date from December 31, 2021 to September 30, 2020, the end of this summer, that change was already included in this morning's version of the bill.
Was this a case of much ado about nothing, or were we dealing with a paper tiger all along?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has it all wrong.
His leader left the negotiations. He gave the government free rein. Maybe he decided to go out for a meal instead of representing his caucus and his constituents.
We made a different choice. We decided to stay here to ensure that we have a better bill for Canadians.
There are a lot of differences between—
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
2020-03-25 5:02 [p.2084]
Mr. Speaker, we all acknowledge that the COVID-19 crisis is going to put a lot of Canadians in a difficult position, particularly when it comes to housing. The government suggested that voluntary measures on the part of banks to defer mortgages is good enough. Does the member agree with the government that this is going to be good enough?
We believe that we need to go further and mandate that mortgages be paused and that there be a break on rent to ensure that people are not evicted during this crisis.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
Mr. Speaker, we certainly agree with the objective of what the hon. member is talking about. In the best course of action now, I believe we are talking about an unprecedented involvement in many aspects of the economy that the government has never tried before. Even the most ambitious previous Liberal governments that would have loved more control over the economy did not try it.
In the situation we are facing, there very well may need to be short-term solutions to keep people in their homes. We agree with the objective, and I think now is the time to have our colleagues on the finance committee look at some of the tools that can provide a short-term benefit to allow the government to get in to help people through this crisis and then to get out so that we can return to a normally functioning economy.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-03-25 5:03 [p.2084]
Mr. Speaker, despite the hour, this is a very important time in the House. We are facing an unprecedented health crisis, one I never would have imagined in my lifetime. It is a global pandemic. An extreme situation such as this demands extreme measures and that is what we are talking about today.
Above all, I am pleased that the approach being taken to deal with this global crisis puts health above the economy. The economy is extremely important, but this new virus will have a devastating impact on public health and result in countless deaths if nothing is done about it. I commend the fact that we have decided to join in solidarity to get through this crisis and minimize the number of deaths by putting health ahead of the economy. The Bloc and I commend that.
Obviously it takes courage to make this decision because the consequences to the economy are severe. We can do all the analyses once this is over. Let us hope that this ends as quickly as possible. I am confident that once COVID-19 is contained and dealt with the economy will bounce back quickly. I am sure of it. Until then, let us bring in support measures, extreme measures. No one should be left behind. No one should be abandoned. No one should be forgotten.
In that regard, I applaud a number of the measures set out in this bill. We were worried about workers who did not accumulate enough hours to have access to employment insurance, but there is something for those people. Obviously, there are measures for everyone with health problems or those who have come into contact with someone who may have contracted COVID-19 or is in quarantine. These are important measures. The same is true for self-employed workers who did not register for employment insurance and who therefore do not have access to it. These people will be covered. Many such measures are being put in place.
People's biggest concerns, what we are hearing about in the media and through the calls we are getting at our offices, have to do with efficiency and timelines. People are really worried. They heard about the measures that have been announced on the news, but they were not told when or how those measures will be implemented. It is more complicated. Obviously, if a million people file a claim for employment insurance, Service Canada offices are going to be extremely busy and the phone lines will certainly be jammed. However, I think that we really have the duty to rise above partisanship and find ways of improving the process to provide more information, shorten wait times, reassure people and ensure that they get their first cheque as quickly as possible.
There are also measures for businesses. I am thinking of the lines of credit that the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada can provide. That is important. I am also thinking of the banking systems agreement. I hope that Mouvement Desjardins, Quebec's largest mortgage lender, will be included in the agreements. That is extremely important for Quebec's economy. All of these things will enable financial institutions to ensure cash flow, to make agreements with businesses and individuals who are finding it difficult to make payments in the short term. Let us hope that the six-month deferral period will be enough. If not, we can revisit that issue during the second phase of our plan.
Obviously, I am concerned about entire sectors of our economy. In the agricultural industry, our farmers are very worried. One measure was announced on Monday, but for now it does not seem to be enough to reassure the agricultural community. Everyone is anxious right now, and feeding the population is fundamental. That obviously goes hand-in-hand with health. We therefore need to ensure that our farms get through this crisis without any problems.
In that regard, it was suggested that the government enhance the agri-invest program by 5% without requiring businesses to match those funds. That would give businesses liquidity without making them go into debt. Earlier, in committee of the whole, I got the impression that the government is not going to move forward with that measure for now. I am asking the government to reconsider.
We need to think about the major sectors of the economy. I am particularly interested in Quebec's major industries. We cannot underestimate the importance of the aerospace industry. I was pleased to hear the finance minister recognize it as a strategic industry. This means that, if ever that industry is in trouble, assistance plans will be put in place, as they are for all strategic industries.
It is really important to make sure no one is left behind and to reassure the public.
We are facing an extreme crisis that is creating an extreme economic crisis. We all hope we can get through this as quickly as possible. We will have to create an array of new tools to help us with that.
We know that income support is important during an economic crisis. Businesses need support. They are having a lot of problems. We must therefore continue to innovate in order to get through this crisis as quickly as possible.
As a general rule, economists will say that every crisis is an opportunity to shape the economy of tomorrow. I hope that we will take this opportunity to transition toward a greener economy more quickly.
Our thoughts are with everyone directly or indirectly affected by the pandemic.
I hope that we in the House can set partisanship aside and work together even better than we usually do.
View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2020-03-25 5:11 [p.2085]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his speech. I think that we share many values.
As members from Quebec, we acknowledge the work of all health care professionals and those who are working hard to keep Quebeckers and Canadians safe.
The member spoke about the importance of putting health ahead of economic interests. I agree with him because this pandemic is a serious problem throughout the world.
I would like to give him the opportunity to elaborate on the importance of the well-being of Quebec, Canada and the entire world.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-03-25 5:12 [p.2085]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. He represents the riding where I have my secondary residence. I am lucky to receive his very informative householders.
We need to take care of people who are at risk. Collectively, we are going to have to make huge sacrifices. For example, Quebec decided to put its economy on hold for three weeks in order to slow the spread of the virus. That is a collective choice that we decided to take together. The goal is to save lives and keep people healthy. In my opinion, that is a much more important value than economic values.
Once the pandemic is behind us, we can look forward to a quick economic recovery so that we are all in good health and have money by the new year.
View Luc Berthold Profile
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-03-25 5:13 [p.2086]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke about the importance of setting aside partisanship when we work to address a crisis like this. We worked very hard.
Today, the House Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons worked very hard to improve this bill so that it responds to Canadians' expectations as effectively as possible. We do not agree on everything, but I think that we improved the bill together.
Not playing politics does not mean abdicating one's responsibilities. Why did the Bloc abdicate its responsibilities by failing to participate in the negotiations and not taking a seat at the negotiating table?
The negotiations between our two parties ended at 2 a.m. Why was the Bloc not there?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-03-25 5:14 [p.2086]
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
We negotiated the day before. We were in constant contact with the government. We were fine with this morning's agreement, which was quite similar to the agreement before us tonight. We believe that we need to move forward in this time of crisis and that the situation is urgent. We are thinking of those who have filed EI claims and who are wondering when they will get their cheque.
We want to expedite the process, not slow it down by 12 hours or more. Since the Conservative Party was the one holding up the process, we decided that it should be the one to consult with the government and then update us on the new changes.
We were informed of each iteration. We participated in the meeting with the Minister of Finance and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons at every stage so that we were well aware of what was happening and could share our opinions.
We were there the whole time, but we were ready sooner. As I said earlier, this 12-hour delay was a matter of partisanship. I am looking at what this bill contains compared to what we had before us this morning. I will not comment on the fact that the Conservatives took 12 hours and almost derailed the entire day, which should have ended a lot earlier, but I have my—
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-25 5:15 [p.2086]
Mr. Speaker, I have heard a lot from my constituents specifically about the Canada Post Corporation, and the fact that it is not taking the proper steps to ensure the safety of its employees and its clients. It is not providing protective equipment or sanitizing depot buildings and vehicles. It is insisting letter carriers and mail-service couriers enter businesses throughout their routes, visiting all of those people every single day, and my constituents are really quite concerned.
I am wondering if the hon. member has heard that from some of his constituents and if he agrees that the minister has responsibility to ensure the safety of Canada Post workers.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-03-25 5:16 [p.2086]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent intervention.
Obviously the priority at this time is public health. We have to take measures, including for Canada Post. We need measures and the necessary funding for everything my colleague just listed because we cannot allow essential public services to become a contamination vector.
We have to reassure the public. People who get their mail have to be safe. Mail carriers that I know need to be kept just as safe as the workers in the rest of the public service.
I totally agree that measures need to be taken.
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
2020-03-25 5:17 [p.2086]
Mr. Speaker, I want to take this moment to acknowledge the depth of the crisis that our country is facing and that the world is facing. The impacts of COVID-19 are gripping the world in a crisis, and Canada has felt the impacts and will continue to feel those impacts.
In this crisis, there are many people we need to thank, and I want to take a moment to thank, first and foremost, the health care workers who are running toward the fire and putting themselves at risk to keep us healthy. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of all New Democrats.
I also want to acknowledge that the health care workers who are putting themselves at risk have one clear request of us, and we owe it to them to respond to this request. They are saying that they are willing to put themselves at risk, but they need us to do our part to prevent the spread of this illness: to take social distancing seriously, to prevent the spread of this illness by limiting contact with others by staying at home, and by doing such basic things as washing our hands thoroughly and avoiding touching our faces. We owe it to these workers to do that at a minimum.
I also want to take an opportunity to thank all the people who are keeping us fed, from the transportation and supply chains to farmers and grocery store workers. They are heroes. I thank them for keeping our communities fed.
I also want to thank public health professionals who are sharing information and providing reliable and practical guidelines on what we can do to ensure our safety and that of others.
I want to thank the businesses that have decided to offer their help in this crisis, including the distilleries that are making hand sanitizer and the auto parts manufacturers who are modifying their production line to make medical supplies.
Finally, I want to thank Canadians. In this moment of crisis, we have seen incredible acts of kindness, compassion and generosity. We often hear people talk about the world needing more Canada, but right now Canada needs more Canada. We have seen the the generosity from neighbours who have stepped up to help those they do not even know to ensure that they get groceries, and the kindness between community members to lift each other up at a time when people are going through so much difficulty. I want to thank Canadians who have risen to the occasion during this crisis.
We have seen some great work done in Parliament. I want to acknowledge the Prime Minister, the ministers and all parliamentarians in this House who have done so much work for their communities. I want to thank them. I want to give a particular shout-out to the House leaders and whips who have worked so tirelessly today to get us to this point where we are able to move forward with this legislation.
When these measures were first put forward, New Democrats made it clear that we would be supporting all measures to help out Canadians during these difficult times. I want to acknowledge that the government has shown that it is interested in helping Canadians, but if it truly wants to help Canadians, we need to do more and we need to do it faster. We have outlined some priorities that speak to the needs of Canadians.
Right now, Canadians need money in their pockets immediately. They need to know that they will have a job to get back to once this crisis is dealt with. Finally, and most importantly, Canadians need to know that they have a safe place to live and are not at risk of losing their homes. We have proposed three things to deal with that.
First and foremost, we need to make sure that we send direct financial support to Canadians right away, which is why we are calling for a universal basic income that will send $2,000 immediately to all Canadians and an additional $250 for children. This is an immediate, direct financial support to Canadians who need it right now. We can deal with those who may not need this at the time of taxation and recoup that additional amount.
Second, we have suggested that to ensure Canadians have a job to return to, we need to augment the proposal around wage subsidies. The current proposal is 10%, which small and medium-sized businesses have said is not enough to ensure that they can keep their workforce going. Right now, for a small business, it is crucial to maintain the workforce. The idea of rehiring and retraining would be devastating to a business. This is why we are calling for the government to follow other countries around the world who have increased that wage subsidy proposal to at least 75% or more. That is what we are asking this government to consider to give small businesses some help.
Finally, to help out businesses, families and people who are either in a business or at home, we need to ensure that there is a pause or a break on rent and mortgages. We need to make sure that there is a ban on evictions. People need to know that they can stay in their home, and this is crucial.
We not only have to get money to people as soon as possible, but we also have to do everything in our power to reduce their expenses. There are good measures to help ease the pressure, such as suspending student loan payments and allowing individuals and businesses to defer their income tax payments.
What we need to do is make sure that people have money in their pockets and that we are limiting the money that is going out of their pockets as much as we can during this crisis.
When we look at the reality that we are faced with right now and at the struggles that Canadians are faced with right now, we see that Canadians are being asked to make an impossible choice: They have to decide whether they should stay at home while not knowing if they can afford to pay rent or put food on the table, or whether they should go to work and risk exposing themselves or their loved ones to an illness. That is an impossible decision. We know that this is an impossible decision because we hear the stories.
I remember being at a bakery just a couple of days ago. Young workers there told me that they were afraid to go in to work. They worried every day when they went to work about being exposed to the illness, but at the same time they were afraid that their bakery might be shut down and that they would lose their jobs and not be able to pay their bills.
One of my colleagues told me that in her neighbourhood, the longest lineups were not for groceries. They were not in front of the grocery stores. Instead, they were in front of the payday money-lending stores, because people are struggling for access to money at this point. While people wait for the measures in this legislation to take place, to get that crucial funding, people are going to turn to money wherever they can get it. That often means credit card companies or low-interest loans.
We have a responsibility here to ensure that credit companies and payday lending companies are not able to exploit people in desperate times. We have an obligation to ensure that they are not charging these interest rates anymore.
I also heard the finance minister talk about working with banks to ensure that there are mortgage deferrals. That is simply not working, and it is not good enough. We need to see a pause on mortgages. We need to see a pause on rent. We need to ensure that people can be in their homes.
It is more critical than ever to ensure that people are able to stay in their homes, and it is not just a moral responsibility: It is also a public health responsibility to ensure that people remain in their homes.
How can someone self-isolate if they do not have a home? If we do not take measures right now to ensure that people are not struggling to keep their homes and if we do not freeze rents or put a pause on rents and mortgages, we are going to have not just a health care crisis, but a homelessness crisis of epic proportion. That is why I am calling on the government to take real steps immediately to work with all levels of government to ensure that people have a break on their rents and their mortgages.
We have also spoken with indigenous communities that are deeply concerned that they have inadequate access to housing, to clean water and to appropriate health care resources. We need to make sure that there is a real plan to respond to the needs of indigenous communities.
When it comes to dealing with this health care crisis immediately, we are taking some bold steps and we need to make sure we are doing everything we can, but when we look beyond this health care crisis to the stimulus afterward, we need to make sure that the focus is on workers, not on CEOs or shareholders. We need to make sure that the stimulus that we put in place is going to encourage jobs for people and ensure that they have a livelihood.
We can stimulate the economy and do the things that can transform our country, fight against the climate crisis, build housing, invest in public transit, make it easier for Canadians to use renewable energies, and make our homes and buildings as energy efficient as possible. We can also invest in child care services that every family can afford and provide our children with the quality education they deserve.
We also know that our health care system is under a deep burden. We see the impacts of decades of governments that have been cutting health care funding. We need to make sure that our public institutions are protected. That is why we have been calling for investments in our health care system.
I will wrap up with this—
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I echo the comments of the leader of the NDP that Canadians have risen to the occasion. I have dealt with a lot of worried and anxious Canadians about the times they face, and it is always concerning to see that. However, one of the other things I have seen is Canadians coming together and being Canadian in a way that, quite frankly, I feel I have not seen in a very long time. It is very inspiring to see that. It gives me great hope, and I know that we will come out of this on the other end stronger than when we went into it.
The leader of the NDP brought up the basic income guarantee in his speech. I am wondering if he can comment as to whether he thinks that we would have been better prepared going into this crisis if we had had a basic income guarantee in place.
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
2020-03-25 5:29 [p.2088]
Mr. Speaker, yes, absolutely we would have been better prepared if we had a stronger social safety net. What this crisis has shown is that our social safety net is not as robust as it could be.
I also believe that we have an opportunity right now to do something pretty incredible. Faced with this crisis, we have a decision to make: Do we choose to invest in people and make the right decisions to prevent the loss of life? We know our health care systems are stretched thin, and the potential spread of this illness could mean a serious potential of loss of life. We have a choice to make. If we make the investments now, if we make the right choices now and provide supports for families and for people to stay in and have confidence that they will not lose their homes, we can make sure we get out of this crisis and save lives.
That is why I call on all Canadians who believe in this value we all share about wanting to take care of one another. I believe that is a Canadian value. I believe in Canadians and I believe we will rise to the occasion.
View Michael Chong Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to draw to the attention of this House a concern of mine. Part 18 of this proposed bill would give the minister of employment and social services the power to change a law. The minister could amend, add to or remove provisions of a law simply by getting the consent of the finance minister and the Treasury Board president and issuing an order. This is unprecedented, and it could very well be unconstitutional.
To be clear, part 18 of this bill would allow a minister to bypass Parliament and amend a law by order. While I support the parts of this bill that would aid Canadians in this crisis, I cannot support part 18, and therefore I cannot support this bill.
I am wondering if the member could comment.
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
2020-03-25 5:31 [p.2088]
Mr. Speaker, we are in a national crisis and a global crisis in which we are facing unprecedented problems. People are struggling with unprecedented issues, so in this time, it is important for us to take bold measures.
While the government has proposed some strong measures to help Canadians, what I am calling for is more immediate help and more help. We need to do everything we can right now to stop COVID-19 in its tracks, and that means giving people the ability to stay at home. People cannot do that without financial supports.
I believe we have an opportunity now to do what is right to save lives. To do that, we need to make sure that people have money in their pockets, that they have a job to get back to and that their homes are protected. That is what we need to focus on and that is what I am asking the government to focus on as well.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-25 5:32 [p.2089]
Mr. Speaker, my first question was about guaranteed liveable income or a universal basic income, so I thank the member for responding to that. I am happy to see support in the House, and perhaps we could have further discussions about what that could look like in Canada moving forward.
I have a question about equality across regions and provinces in accessing materials and supplies for dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. There are concerns in New Brunswick that we do not have the public purse to acquire supplies directly at some of the high costs for things we are going to need moving forward.
Can the member comment on reassurances for some of the smaller provinces that are dealing with this issue as well?
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
2020-03-25 5:33 [p.2089]
Mr. Speaker, the member for Fredericton does an incredible job in her community. I want to thank her for bringing up the important issue around making sure that in a country as vast and diverse as ours, all regions are able to access the supports and equipment they need to be able to serve their communities.
This issue is of vital importance, and we need to continue to be vigilant in assuring that the government responds in a way that gives all regions, territories and provinces access to the resources they need to be able to respond to this crisis. This is a serious issue. It is a question of life and death, and I believe that if we make the right choices, we can ensure that all Canadians get access to the help they need and that we can deal with COVID-19 in a way that will allow us to walk out of this with our heads high.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-25 5:34 [p.2089]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to speak here today on this important issue.
We certainly are in unprecedented times. It is remarkable for me to be here today representing my own riding while also carrying the weight of those living in the ridings of my Green Party colleagues, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and Nanaimo—Ladysmith. I have also been asked to share these comments on behalf of the independent member for Vancouver Granville.
I would first like to acknowledge that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. It is essential that we remember the historical and ongoing implications of those words and the responsibilities we bear toward indigenous communities across the nation, especially as we face this unprecedented crisis.
I know I am not alone in having made this bizarre trek to Ottawa to be present here for these proceedings. I made the 10-hour trip by car with my husband and two boys.
We stopped only to get gas and take a break. We followed all the recommended hygiene measures.
Of course, we did our best to entertain a toddler and a seven-year-old for 10 hours in the car. I think of the many families and households across the nation who are answering difficult questions from their children and trying to keep them entertained. I feel that too. I want to let the children of Canada know we love them and we are here for them too. We know this is a difficult time.
I would like to take this opportunity to also humbly thank many, many people: the front-line workers staffing our hospitals, stocking our grocery stores and keeping our communities safe; the businesses and educational institutions that are answering the call and mobilizing in a warlike effort to provide and manufacture and supplies that we need; Dr. Tam and her team for coordinating our public health response, as well as Dr. Bonnie Henry of B.C. for her incredible work; the tireless efforts of our cabinet ministers and their staff to coordinate a response to COVID-19 across government departments; and my colleagues here in this House and those practising social distancing at home for proving that in the face of a national crisis, we can and will work together for the people of this country.
We gather in these extraordinary times to pass extraordinary legislation. It will allow the federal government to reach out and help Canadians directly with their personal finances. It will allow help to reach the self-employed, small and medium-sized businesses and large corporations. I am very relieved that a compromise was found that allows us to pass this legislation today, albeit a bit later than we had hoped.
It is a fundamental principle of Westminster parliamentary democracy that Parliament controls the public purse. We cannot, even in a public health emergency, convey unprecedented powers without any oversight and without any criteria limiting those powers to any government, no matter how well-intentioned.
This is a defining moment for our country. I am prouder than ever before to be Canadian and to see the expedited response to this crisis. I am also so proud to be from New Brunswick. I commend Premier Higgs and chief medical officer Jennifer Russell for declaring a state of emergency. To the decision-makers of the neighbouring Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland, I commend them all for making the difficult decision to close provincial borders to further protect citizens. I thank them for their leadership.
We have now seen more than a week of social distancing, of closures and restrictions. It is now the time for all Canadians to comply and do our part to get us through this together. Effective suppression would mean fewer cases of coronavirus, a fighting chance for our health care system and the humans who run it, a reduction in the number of total fatalities and a reduction in collateral damage. As well, it would give us the time for infected, isolated and quarantined health care workers to get better and return to work.
Canada has been quick to respond so far. Inevitably there are lessons to be learned to ensure that we are better prepared for this type of disaster in the future.
I am here to work collaboratively with my colleagues in government, but I must also point out the ways we need to improve so that we can get this right for Canadians.
I am sure we are all in the same boat when it comes to the level of correspondence with our constituents over the past few weeks. We have been hearing a lot of concern. One thing the situation has made clear is the inequalities within our society. COVID-19 has amplified the challenges people are already facing.
I am thinking of the Canadians who are living in poverty, especially those who are homeless.
Working Canadians have been laid off or are facing reduced work hours, particularly at a time when they feel financially insecure. Older Canadians living on a fixed income are worried about their pensions and investments. Indigenous peoples are facing heightened challenges in their communities.
It is not easy for Canadians living in rural areas to access health care services.
Permanent residents and other newcomers worrying about family abroad are trying to get home amidst travel cancellations. Our charities and not-for-profit organizations are losing their donor base right now and really need our support. We must also stay vigilant against those who want to profit from this crisis, and they are out there.
We are facing this giant together, but from very different vantage points. Almost a million people have applied for employment insurance. Our Green Party has been proposing a guaranteed livable income for Canadians for years, and if we had a GLI in place now, we would easily be able to ramp up payments to people facing layoffs and reduced hours without clogging the phone lines of Service Canada and scaring people who are afraid in their unique situations, leaving them without support. The government measures announced are now taking time to roll out because we lack the infrastructure to quickly disseminate direct payments to Canadians. We need to have a closer look at this issue.
It is also clear to me that if we had already made much-needed improvements to our health care system in areas that have been advocated by professionals, such as improved infrastructure, preventive health care and pharmacare, we would be much better situated to address the needs of Canadians in this COVID-19 crisis.
Best estimates of what lies ahead vary widely. We can all agree that the more we are able to maintain social distancing among those who are asymptomatic and maintain isolation for those who have symptoms, the greater our chances are of getting through COVID-19 without overwhelming the system. The extent to which individual Canadians and businesses can follow the advice provided depends on the extent of their financial ability to do so. People have to be in a financially secure position in order to take the public health advice.
When we talk about the economic impacts, it seems we have left some things out.
We have discussed a few of them here today. Renters, both residential and commercial, need measures to protect them from landlords who are not passing along the goodwill of the banks or who do not have the goodwill of their bank. New Brunswick and a few other provinces have made it illegal to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent. These measures are good, but they need to be standardized across the country.
We must do more for the small and medium-sized businesses that keep our economy moving.
As Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says of the wage subsidies, “It's the right measure, but it's the wrong amount.”
Our assistance measures for businesses are being dwarfed by steps taken or being contemplated elsewhere. For example, in Denmark the government is offering up to 75% of wages, with the maximum payout per employee 10 times higher than the current offering in Canada. As well, there seems to be nothing for unincorporated businesses that have employees. This is a big concern.
New Brunswick is allowing small businesses to defer WorkSafe New Brunswick premiums for three months. The federal government could do the same for EI, CPP and HST.
These are trying times, but we do see examples of hope all across the country. I have seen jingle-dress dancers standing out in their yards dancing for all of our collective healing. I know that we have seen churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship adapting to a new reality and being steadfast in their support of spirituality and faith, which we need now more than ever.
These are emotional times for citizens as well, and we also must consider their mental health. We should get outside if we can, but we must maintain our social distancing. We can go for the online museum tours. Online zoo tours are happening. I have seen people making badminton nets out of tape. We can play Hide the Potato.
I have also seen people making Portugese-style or Quebec-style tortillas.
We are finding really creative examples to deal with this crisis. Let us keep it up. I urge us all to call neighbours, check in, do FaceTime with grandparents. We all have a responsibility here. Let us stay connected. Isolation can be a really difficult thing for each of us to face.
Many of us are setting an example by operating from home as well, and we can continue to play a leadership role here by exploring digital options for the work we do here in the House. Let us continue to have that conversation.
Today means passing this motion to ensure Canadians have the financial resources they need to make ends meet while we rigorously follow the advice of public health experts. We will get through this if we stick together, even if that means standing apart.
View Dan Albas Profile
Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate hearing the member's contribution to this debate this morning.
She did mention inequality. There certainly are a number of different inequalities in this country, things that all of us here would like to address. One of them that I have heard from people is the difference in high-speed Internet access in many rural areas.
I would like to ask the member a bit about New Brunswick. Many people are finding some comfort, when they self-isolate to protect their families from COVID-19, in being able to communicate with the outside world through the Internet and in being able to make a living through telework. What are the member's thoughts on that?
I know that in my province of British Columbia, particularly in certain parts of my area, such as Logan Lake and Princeton and Keremeos, this is a big challenge.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-25 5:44 [p.2091]
Mr. Speaker, I come from rural New Brunswick, where we have faced issues with high-speed Internet access for quite some time. I know that people are trying to work from home or trying to do Zoom conferencing and find ways to communicate in this new reality that we are facing, and it is creating difficulties. We have not been able to communicate through phone calls with our staff members or other colleagues in Parliament. We need to look at what these services can provide to our rural communities as well as all of Canada with this new reality that we face.
The bandwidth just cannot handle what we are currently seeing. There is a surge of people binge-watching Netflix or whatever for entertainment purposes, and then there is certainly our work at home that we will need to be doing for who knows how long. We also need to ensure that everyone has access to those crucial connections to the people they love. I hope that we will continue to have these conversations in the House.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member in particular on her 10-hour car ride with two young children in the car. Being in a family with three children, I know how trying that can be. I congratulate her on that.
On the topic of children, I think that quite often in this discussion about what is going on with this crisis, we are neglecting to focus on what children might be going through. I am curious as to what her message is to children, as a parliamentarian and a leader in her community, and as to her message to parents who have to deal with children who might be experiencing more anxiety now as a result of all this.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-25 5:46 [p.2091]
Mr. Speaker, as a mom of a seven-year-old, I have seen that the seven-year-old understands more than the two-year-old about what is happening. He chats with his friends on his headset when he is playing video games to entertain himself during this time, and I have heard him ask his friends if they are worried about the coronavirus and if they are scared. I wait to hear what the response is and how he might handle that question, and I hear him reassuring his friends and saying that it is okay, that we are going to get through this and that there are people trying to help.
That would be my message. It is that even the kids know how hard everyone is working toward this common goal of fighting COVID-19 as a nation. That is what it is going to take to really get us over that peak: staying together, understanding how important it is to heed the warnings of public health and ensuring that we do stay connected.
My other message would be to change the narrative a bit about the social distancing. Let us focus on the physical distancing with social connection, because that is so crucial right now. We really need to protect that.
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
2020-03-25 5:47 [p.2091]
Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the incredible speech given by the member for Fredericton, touching on the trials of a family coming from 10 hours away and the hope that we have in coming together, while maybe physically standing apart. That was a beautiful analogy.
In our coming together, once we get past the first stage, the impacts of COVID-19 directly on health, there will be a second phase when we look at stimulus to get people back to work and ensure that people have good jobs. On that stimulus, I want to hear the member's thoughts on how we can ensure that the help goes to workers and does not end up giving a blank cheque to corporations without ensuring that guarantees or strings are attached to assure people and workers that they are going to have jobs.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-03-25 5:48 [p.2092]
Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question.
I have been asked by the media and some of my constituents about some of the comments that are floating around about perhaps bailing out the oil and gas industry or other corporations that are involved in different sectors.
My response is that we should first look after the individual Canadians, the workers. They certainly do need jobs to go back to. We just need to be really careful about the future that we are planning.
My hon. colleague from the Bloc mentioned that an economic crisis sets the stage for what is to come, so this is the time for us to make really bold changes to what we want to see in our future here in Canada. I think those bold changes include looking at expanding other sectors.
Of course, I am very supportive of things like renewable energy and other ways that we can maximize our energy output and still have Canadians feel that we have a great role to play on the global stage, but I feel we need to be careful about where we place our investments, understand how the markets are fluctuating and understand what that looks like moving forward in response to COVID-19.
We need to be cautious, but we need to focus first and foremost on the workers and the individual Canadians who need money in their pockets now.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2020-03-25 5:50 [p.2092]
It being 5:50 a.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, the House will now proceed to the taking of the division on the motion for second reading and referral to a committee of the whole of Bill C-13, An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19.
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bill Morneau Profile
2020-03-25 5:51 [p.2092]
moved that Bill C-13, an act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19, be read the second time and referred to a committee of the whole.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2020-03-25 5:51 [p.2092]
The Speaker: The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: On division.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2020-03-13 10:17 [p.2063]
Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today in extraordinary circumstances.
I would like to sincerely and warmly thank all the parties in the House for working with us at such an important time.
I can assure Canadians that the priority of the government and all members of the House is to ensure the health and safety of every Canadian. That is why we are moving the following motion:
That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practice of the House, following the adoption of this order, the House shall stand adjourned until Monday, April 20, 2020, provided that:
(a) the House shall be deemed to have adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28;
(b) for the supply period ending on March 26, 2020, the eighth allotted day shall be the final allotted day;
(c) the order for the deferred recorded division on the opposition motion standing in the name of the member for Vancouver Kingsway, considered on March 12, 2020, be discharged and the motion be deemed adopted on division;
(d) the motions to concur in Supplementary Estimates (B) for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2020, and interim supply for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2021, be deemed adopted on division and the appropriation bills based thereon be deemed to have been introduced and read a first time, deemed read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole on division, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage on division, deemed read a third time and passed on division;
(e) there shall be 10 allotted days in the supply period ending on June 23, 2020;
(f) a bill in the name of the Minister of Finance, entitled An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (special warrant), be deemed to have been introduced and read a first time, deemed read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole on division, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage on division, deemed read a third time and passed on division;
(g) currently scheduled committee meetings shall be cancelled;
(h) the order of the day designated for Monday, March 30, 2020, for the consideration of the budget presentation, shall be undesignated;
(i) if, during the period the House stands adjourned, the Speaker receives a notice from the House leaders of all four recognized parties indicating that it is in the public interest that the House remain adjourned until a future date or until future notice is given to the Speaker, the House will remain adjourned accordingly;
(j) Bill C-4, An Act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States, be deemed read a third time and passed;
(k) during the period the House stands adjourned, the House may be recalled, under the provisions of Standing Order 28(3), to consider measures to address the economic impact of COVID-19 and the impacts on the lives of Canadians;
(l) the government’s responses to petitions 431-00042 to 431-00045 be tabled immediately and questions on the Order Paper numbered Q-245 to Q-259 be made into orders for returns and that the said returns be tabled immediately;
(m) the government provide regular updates to representatives of the opposition parties;
(n) any special warrant issued under the Financial Administration Act may be deposited with the Clerk of the House during the period the House is adjourned;
(o) any special warrant issued under the Financial Administration Act and deposited with the Clerk of the House shall be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the committee shall meet to consider any warrants referred to it within 20 sitting days; and
(p) the House call on the Auditor General of Canada to immediately conduct an audit of the special warrants issued under the Financial Administration Act and that the Auditor General of Canada report his findings to the House no later than June 1, 2021.
Madam Speaker, this decision was taken to help keep all Canadians safe and healthy. We made this decision together, with all the parties, and we did not make it lightly.
Our action today demonstrates that we take this challenge seriously. I want to thank all of the health care workers and professionals.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all health care professionals, who are going through tough times at work as they help us through this crisis.
To Canadians, workers and families; to children concerned for their parents; to sisters and brothers concerned for loved ones and friends, we are all united. We will face this together, and we will get through this together.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I would like to take a few minutes to inform members of an error on the Order Paper. Two private members bills, which are substantially the same, are currently listed under Private Members' Business, items outside the order of precedence. Specifically, Bill C-212 on the Employment Insurance Act, standing in the name of the member for Elmwood—Transcona, was introduced and read the first time on Thursday, February 20, 2020, and Bill C-217, standing in the name of the member for Salaberry—Suroît was introduced and read the first time on Monday, February 24, 2020.
Pursuant to Standing Order 86(4), the Speaker can refuse a notice when he determines that the two items are so similar as to be substantially the same.
In this case, only the first of the two bills should have been put on the Notice Paper. As a result, Bill C-217 is currently before the House in error. I therefore order that the order for the second reading of Bill C-217 be revoked and that the bill be dropped from the Order Paper.
I am sorry for any inconvenience that this error may have caused members. I thank members for their attention.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, we are debating a bill today that strips away safeguards from the existing regime for euthanasia and assisted suicide. Debate started yesterday, and I want to continue in the line I was talking about.
Yesterday, I spoke about some of the philosophical problems underlining the government's desire to remove safeguards. Those philosophical ideas are clearly best understood in the realities of life under legal euthanasia and assisted suicide, in the experience of people and families who have been affected by it and in the concerns of people who will be further impacted by the proposed expansion of the practice and removal of safeguards.
The fact is that the expectation at the time of the Carter decision was for a legal regime that would apply narrowly. However, we have seen the alarmingly rapid process of expansion at the level of policy and practice continuing with this legislation. Given that this bill comes ahead of a scheduled statutory review, it looks like the pace of expansion of removal of safeguards and enlarging eligibility will continue apace even after this. Rates of identified euthanasia and assisted suicide have gone up dramatically every year since legalization, from about a thousand in 2016 to over five times that in 2019. Those rate increases show no sign of abating.
More and more horror stories are coming out about how the current regime has already changed the dynamics of our health care system. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, so I know about the long-standing traumatic effects that stay with many survivors for the rest of their lives. One instance of euthanasia at the Louis Brier nursing home in Vancouver, a Jewish facility that has Holocaust survivors among its clientele, was particularly traumatic for residents and staff.
Doctor Ellen Wiebe met with Barry Hyman and his family in the spring of 2018 and determined that he met all the criteria. She later went to the nursing home and closed his door without informing or consulting with nursing home staff. Hyman was killed by Dr. Wiebe on the evening of June 29, without any consultation with his primary caregivers at the nursing home. Perhaps Dr. Wiebe had good intentions, but someone sneaking into a nursing home and then asking us to trust her own notes as evidence of consent raises serious concerns.
Dr. Keselman, CEO of the Louis Brier nursing home, agrees. He said:
Imagine the implications for our staff and our residents and their families. We have a lot of Holocaust survivors. To have a doctor sneak in and kill someone without telling anyone. They’re going to feel like they’re at risk when you learn someone was sneaking in and killing someone.
Clearly Dr. Wiebe, in this case, was pushing the envelope. I doubt most doctors would behave in such a fashion, but we do see from analyses that have taken place in other countries that a small number of activist, pro-euthanasia physicians are overrepresented in cases with problems. A majority of doctors are trying to do the right thing, but a lot of death can flow from the choices of a small number of envelope-pushers.
In a paper studying cases of euthanasia in Holland between 2012 and 2016, bioethicists David Miller and Scott Kim of the U.S. National Institutes of Health noted significant problems in the application of these laws for vulnerable people, if the screws were not tightened properly.
During that period, Miller and Kim found 33 cases in which doctors had broken at least one rule while killing someone, though apparently none of these justified prosecution. Miller and Kim specifically identified the overrepresentation of certain activist doctors in cases that raised red flags.
I spoke in the House in 2016 about another case in Canada, where a physician declared a depressed person eligible for euthanasia even before examining that person, because the patient “could easily get bed sores and then die of infection”. A person's death was, prior to examination, declared reasonably foreseeable because the person could theoretically die from an as-yet-uncontracted bedsore infection.
It is striking that we have these cases to look to at all in Canada, given the massive data collection gaps. There is no requirement for advance legal review to determine if criteria are being met. There are no national standards on tracking data. In fact, in many cases when a patient dies as a result of euthanasia, their death certificate will not even indicate that as the cause of death.
People who have had bad experiences cannot tell their stories in most cases. The data that the government refers to is severely constrained by these realities. We tried, during the debate on the last euthanasia bill, to push for mechanisms for better data collection and reporting to ensure evaluation and protection was possible, but at the time unfortunately the government did not listen.
Those who have had negative experiences and have lived are understandably reluctant to speak out. However, I want to share one story, with permission, of someone close to me who had a negative interaction with the system after this regime began. This is Taylor's story.
Taylor Hyatt is a twentysomething former member of my staff. She has cerebral palsy. She is vibrant, accomplished and full of life. She went to the hospital a couple of years ago with cold symptoms. She was told that she would probably need some oxygen and was asked if she wanted that. She replied, “Yes, of course”, but then the doctors pressed her on the point by asking if she was sure. Taylor was asked if she was sure she wanted oxygen. She just had pneumonia.
When we look at the government's proposal to further expand euthanasia and assisted suicide, and to expand eligibility criteria and remove the small number of safeguards that exist, we need to ask the same question: Is it sure?
As these cases illustrate, we have particular reason to be concerned about cases in which people receive euthanasia or assisted suicide immediately or alone. If multiple family members and health care staff can see, over a period of time, that a person is clear in the desire to have life end, then there is less risk of vulnerability or abuse.
Imagine a case, though, in which children visit their mother in hospital on a Monday. It seems like she is having a good day and she makes no mention of wanting to die. She is experiencing some pain, but the nurse says she has promising ideas about how to manage that pain. The nurse says she thinks she needs to adjust the levels of a few things that should settle the pain down, and she will work on that as soon as the doctor has a chance to see her. The children leave on Monday feeling reassured.
Then the children are informed on Wednesday that their mother is dead. They are told that when she met with the doctor, she was in extreme pain and expressed the desire to die, so she was killed right away. They did not get a chance to say goodbye and they do not know if the doctor got it right or wrong.
Perhaps their mother really wanted to die, but maybe she was just experiencing a temporary low point from which she would have recovered. Her children will never know the details or the situation. Because of the absence of witnesses and legal review, there is very little evidence left behind. If their mother really wanted to die, she could, but would it be so unreasonable for the doctor to have given it a few days for the children to have been able to talk to her about her wishes?
This particular case is exactly where we should focus our concerns as we look at this legislation. The current legal system requires at least two independent witnesses who are not paid personnel, and there is a 10-day reflection period. I would underline, as members have said and as the government has generally failed to acknowledge, that there is already a mechanism by which the 10-day reflection period can be waived.
However, the 10-day period sets out a rule of general practice that is open to variation. It establishes the general and important principle that people should not have their lives taken as a result of a fleeting sense of hopelessness or because their medication levels are off for a period of time.
It makes no sense, as the government is proposing to do, to reduce the number of witnesses and remove the reflection period when there are already provisions for waiving it and managing that effectively in different situations.
Other members may have had these same experiences. I can tell them I had a close friend dealing with depression a few years ago and his state of mind would fluctuate dramatically from day to day. On certain days, he could not imagine going on, while on other days he would feel, in his words, like himself again.
Recognizing the realities of fluctuations and the development of people's experiences, it is horrifying to me that someone could opt for, and receive, euthanasia or assisted suicide within a few hours without independent witnesses or any reflection period. Therefore, the government must remove the clauses of this bill that reduce witnesses and eliminate that reflection period.
The government has included a clause in this bill dealing with so-called advance consent. The mechanism is that I, as a patient meeting the criteria, might ask to die on June 1, even if I had lost capacity. My consent right now would suffice for the taking of my life on June 1. However, the legislation contains no requirement that I be asked how I feel on June 1.
Suppose that I am facing a loss of capacity and I am afraid of the implications of that loss of capacity, not knowing what it would be like to mentally regress in the way that doctors have predicted that I will. Suppose that, in light of this fear, I sign on to advance consent but then, on June 1, while I have indeed lost substantial capacity, I actually have a much higher quality of life than I expected to have.
Should the advance consent that I have provided, in ignorance of my future circumstances, overrule my feelings in that moment? This is not just idle speculation.
Let me read from an article in the The Washington Post about a Dutch case involving an advance directive. It states:
The patient, referred to in official documents only as “2016-85”, had made an advanced directive requesting euthanasia in case of dementia. But the directive was ambiguously worded, and she was no longer able to clarify her wishes by the time she was placed in a nursing home—though her husband did request euthanasia for her.
Despite the lack of a clear expression from the patient, a physician concluded her suffering was unbearable and incurable—though there was no terminal physical illness—and prepared a lethal injection.
To ensure the patient's compliance, the doctor gave her coffee spiked with a sedative, and, when the woman still recoiled from the needle, asked family members to hold her down. After 15 minutes were spent by the doctor trying to find a vein, the lethal infusion flowed.
The government has tried in this legislation to avoid this most extreme case by saying that advanced consent would only apply to a particular date and that the procedure should not proceed if the patient was clearly refusing euthanasia. Unfortunately, the space left for abuse is still massive.
In the case just given, suppose the patient was given stronger sedatives so she was completely unaware of what was happening, and therefore offered no resistance. That would be allowed under the framework established by this legislation. It does not require that patients be informed or consulted at the time of their death. If they have provided advanced consent, that is considered sufficient.
In virtually every case, the requirement for contemporaneous consent is important in our law and is a necessary part of autonomy. If I am to be truly free, then I must be free from the directives of my past self. My past self should not irrevocably be able to bind my future actions.
Even so, it may be possible to still allow advanced consent, but to have some mechanism through an amendment to ensure that a patient, even with limited capacity, is informed and consulted at the time when his or her life is to be taken. I would encourage the government to consider that.
The government should be open to considering these problems and these fixes, taking out sections of the bill that dangerously remove safeguards and strengthening the section on advanced consent to ensure a patient is informed and consulted contemporaneously.
Finally, on the point of safeguards, let us go back and reflect on what the purposes of safeguards are.
Some members will feel that meaningful safeguards are not necessary because we should trust medical professionals and patients to get it right. The parliamentary secretary has used general data about trends in this area to suggest that there are no problems with abuse.
Let us be very clear that the reason we have safeguards is not to deal with general cases, but is precisely to deal with exceptional cases. Even if there are not problems in the vast majority of cases, we try to introduce reasonable verification mechanisms, because those verification mechanisms will catch instances of abuse and cases where vulnerable people might be pushed toward a death they do not want.
The reason we need law enforcement is not because most people are lawbreakers, but because some people are lawbreakers. The reason we have fire departments and expansive rules and protocols around fire prevention is not because most houses are on fire, but it is because some houses could catch fire.
I hope we will see through this debate that the safeguards in the current legal region really are a minimum and that we can provide reasonable safeguards like a short reflection period that can be waived and a requirement for independent witnesses which, like sprinkler systems in this room and security guards watching over us, insulate us against the possibility of something going very wrong.
For the sake of the vulnerable, let us not fire the security and rip the sprinklers out of our system just to make an ideological point.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2020-02-27 10:38 [p.1652]
Mr. Speaker, I want to point out four matters and lower the tone a bit. We need to talk about facts as opposed to emotional arguments.
My first point is to clarify that depressed individuals are not subject to this regime. We have specifically included a carve out for mental illness as a sole condition.
My second point is that the data collection the member seeks is being beefed up by this very bill.
My third point is that hyperbole has entered into this debate about people being “killed right away”. The notion of having a written consent witnessed by an independent witness and then the eligibility being verified by two independent practitioners, and that occurring in a matter of minutes or hours, is categorically false. That is not the way the system currently operates.
My fourth point is that it is an absolute red herring to raise a case based in Holland, which as has advanced directives for ailments such as dementia. We do not have dementia within the penumbra of ailments subject to this regime. We are also not proposing advanced directives; we are proposing advanced consent.
The member has raised, in some instances, concerns about what he perceives to be patients who are suffering or doctors who are acting aggressively. Those are important cases. If the member has cases, he should have those cases brought to the attention of either disciplinary bodies, regulated physicians or to law enforcement, because those should be enforced.
In fact, what we have is evidence to the contrary, that doctors are not practising this overly aggressively. In fact, there is a small of pool of doctors that—
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, the member should know that the last legislation included a good faith exception, that a doctor who did not follow all the rules, but still acted in “good faith” would escape prosecution. Cases have been referred to disciplinary bodies, but there is a limited capacity to actually prosecute people who are, in the case, described as going into a nursing home and taking someone's life, without any consultation with the surrounding staff. These cases raise significant concern.
The member says that we should lower the tone and avoid hyperbole and then criticizes me for bringing up specific cases in Canada and in other countries that have similar legal regimes. The government should look at these cases and consider them before moving forward.
It is right to bring up the Dutch case, and I acknowledge the differences in the proposed regime in Canada from the Dutch regime. However, I pointed out very specifically that there was no requirement in the existing legislation for the person to be asked in the moment. I would beg the government to introduce that additional requirement for some contemporaneous consultation with the patients. After all, what does it have to lose? There very much is the possibility of someone being killed right away under the proposed legislation.
If the parliamentary secretary is so opposed to that characterization of the legislation, then why not leave in some waiting period? If he says that because of all the administrative requirements, inevitably there would be some delay, then leave the waiting period to consider—
View Louise Chabot Profile
View Louise Chabot Profile
2020-02-27 10:41 [p.1653]
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's remarks.
I have some important questions for him. I felt like his remarks were unrelated to the bill before us.
In my former life, I was a nurse. As I listened to the member, I got the sense that his stories were designed to appeal to our emotions. They seemed to suggest that health professionals are malicious rather than benevolent, but that is not true. I heard the member talk about doctors sneaking into care facilities to kill people. That seems a bit far-fetched to me. If something that terrible really happened, I hope my colleagues brought it to the attention of the appropriate authorities.
That is not at all what this bill sets out to do. The bill was improved thanks to two people who went to court. We are looking at how we can broaden the scope of the bill to include people who are suffering but are not necessarily at the end of their lives.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, simply put, the record will show that the member's characterization of my remarks is not at all accurate.
Let me just re-emphasize a point that I made. The very purpose of safeguards is to deal with the exceptional case. I agree that the vast majority of health care practitioners are not only well-intentioned, but also are not trying to push the envelope in any way. However, the data I cited suggests that in other jurisdictions we have seen how a relatively large number of problematic cases can emerge from the actions of perhaps also well-intentioned but definitely envelope-pushing physicians, who go beyond the intention of the legislature with respect to this bill.
The parliamentary secretary had some points that I wanted to get back to very quickly.
It is true that the legislation excludes depression as a sole condition, but it does not exclude people who suffer from depression from accessing it. In a previous Parliament, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton tried to introduce an amendment, whereby if someone was suffering from depression as well as other conditions, there would at least be a psychiatric assessment—
View Richard Cannings Profile
Mr. Speaker, I need some clarification from my colleague. He finished his speech by talking about final consent. The act currently requires final consent at the time people are assessed and then they have to give final consent when that order proceeds. This has forced patients to make a cruel choice.
Once patients are assessed as being eligible for medical assistance in dying, they have to decide if they should do it right away, while they have the competence and can give an answer, or if they set a date in the future to allow themselves and their families to do all the things they want to do, but then risk that they are not competent and cannot answer and the procedure would not go ahead. I have a friend having to make that cruel decision.
Therefore, could the member clarify his statement about fixing advance consent?
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I have two points in response.
In the context of advance consent, it is important to note that people do not know precisely what their experience will be. They may get a prognosis and think they will feel a certain way about things at that point in time. It is important to underline that the reason we generally do not have advanced consent is because people do not always know what their experience of that will be.
Nonetheless, I want to be very clear. What I would propose as a middle way between having no advanced consent and the advanced consent regime proposed in the legislation is to allow people to give advanced consent, but to still require, even at the point at which they may have lost capacity, some contemporaneous consultation with them, so even at a point of reduced capacity they are told what is happening and will be given the opportunity to assent or not. Even at the point at which they have lost capacity, it is still fair to them to give them some information about what is happening in order to give them the ability to express their objection, if they are able to in the context of limited capacity.
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
2020-02-27 10:47 [p.1654]
Mr. Speaker, it would appear to me that the very concept of medical assistance in dying is the concept to which my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan objects. The courts have ruled that it is a violation of our charter rights as Canadians not to have access to medical assistance in dying. I know it is a very difficult and fraught topic.
I would ask the member this quite directly, not to a hypothetical. Thinking of Audrey Parker of Nova Scotia, who knew she was terminally ill and who choose to end her life earlier because she was denied an advanced directive, would he agree that these sets of amendments to the Criminal Code are fair and within the context of what the courts have directed us to do?
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, there have been various court decisions dealing with this broader topic, but I am not aware of court decisions dealing specifically with the issue of advanced consent.
Clearly the case of Ms. Audrey Parker should evoke a thoughtful response from us. I am not aware of all the medical details of the case. Many people have opinions about the case who also may not be aware of all the details, or the context or the information she received. Therefore, I do not feel comfortable giving an answer in the House of Commons about what should or should not happen in a particular individual's case.
We can, as members of Parliament, try to work together to find consensus, or to have our cake and eat it too, to use the expression. If it is the will of the majority, we can have some mechanism of advanced consent, but still require contemporaneous consent at the point at which somebody's life will be taken. That is very important. We would not want a situation where some people have their lives taken while they are unaware they are being taken or do not want it to happen.
I will just tease the member a little by pointing out that there was a court of appeal decision in Alberta opposing the carbon tax, and I hope she shares my enthusiasm for court decisions in that case as well. Some dialogue with the courts is maybe reasonable.
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to address Bill C-7 and to speak to our proposed changes to Canada's medical assistance in dying legislation.
The proposed measures respond to the Superior Court of Quebec's Truchon decision, in which it ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny access to medical assistance in dying to individuals who meet all the other eligibility criteria but are not near the end of life.
In responding to this ruling, the Government of Canada has had the opportunity to consider some additional measures for which there is strong support. That is why we are proposing changes that will help clarify and add precision to Canada's medical assistance in dying legislation.
Over the past few months, I have had the honour of listening to many Canadians, and it was important for me as the Minister of Health to hear first-hand what they had to say. My colleagues and I hosted a series of round tables and heard from more than 125 experts, academics, ethicists, doctors, nurse practitioners, members of the disability community, indigenous groups and key stakeholders. I also engaged my provincial and territorial colleagues, and my officials worked closely with their counterparts across the country.
In January, I was in Calgary and spoke to Cynthia Clark, who saw her husband through the process of medically assisted death last summer. Her perspective, as well as those of so many others with first-hand experience were invaluable.
I also listened to practitioners who have been providing medical assistance in death in a very thoughtful, compassionate way over the last four years. They had a lot to say about what was working well but also about what was not working well.
We heard many personal stories like Cynthia's, and they helped shape the changes that we are proposing today. In addition, the feedback received from our online consultation was astounding. In two weeks we had more than 300,000 responses.
It is clear that certain aspects could be improved in order to facilitate access, protect the vulnerable and respect personal choice.
With this bill, I think we have achieved a balanced approach that reflects the best interests of all Canadians.
Protecting the safety of vulnerable people while respecting the autonomy of Canadians remains our central objective. That is why the bill proposes a two-track approach to safeguards, based on whether or not a person's death is reasonably foreseeable.
Reasonable foreseeability of natural death would no longer be a requirement for determining whether a person can access medical assistance in dying. It would, however, be used to guide practitioners in determining which safeguards to apply. This is consistent with what we heard at the round table meetings.
Providers involved in assessing the eligibility of applicants for a medically assisted death told us they have a good understanding of the concept and are comfortable applying it. Under the amended law, they would use reasonable foreseeability of natural death to determine not eligibility, but rather which safeguards would apply.
For those whose death is reasonably foreseeable, we would ease some of the pre-existing safeguards. Under the current system, there is a requirement for a 10-day reflection period. We are proposing to eliminate this reflection period. For those who are at the end of their life, the decision to request medical assistance in dying is well considered, and this additional period only serves to prolong suffering unnecessarily.
The current system also requires that two independent witnesses confirm that the person who has signed a request for medical assistance in dying is who they claim to be and that no fraud has occurred, such as the forging of someone's signature. During our consultations, we heard that this requirement was a significant barrier for many people at the end of their life.
We propose requiring only one witness and allowing this witness to be a paid personal or health care provider. These individuals naturally would be excluded from acting as a witness if they are a beneficiary of the person's will or if they would receive a financial or material benefit from the person's death. Anyone involved in assessing or providing medical assistance in dying would continue to be ineligible to serve as a witness.
For those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, we would create a new, more robust set of safeguards. We think it is important, even while improving access, to ensure that people who are suffering but who are not dying are given full and careful consideration as they assess whether or not to pursue an assisted death.
Strengthened safeguards would also serve to protect vulnerable individuals. For example, the bill proposes a minimum period of 90 days for assessing a MAID request in the case of a non-imminent death. This period would allow for exploration, discussion and consideration of options to alleviate suffering by the person seeking medical assistance in dying and with the practitioner.
The bill would also require that the person requesting MAID be provided with information on available counselling, mental health supports, disability supports and palliative care as part of the informed consent process.
We know that the majority of practitioners are already ensuring that their patients are aware of all of the supports and options that are available to them. This provision underscores the importance of the doctor-patient relationship. It allows for a practitioner and a patient to decide whether medical assistance in dying is the right step and provides sufficient time for the patient to discuss and consider other treatment options, which is crucial for patients weighing this kind of decision. This provision supports fully informed decision-making and individual autonomy.
Under the current legislation, those who become incapacitated lose their eligibility for medical assistance in dying because the person must give their consent immediately before the procedure. This means that some individuals deemed eligible for medical assistance in dying have chosen to end their lives earlier than they wanted out of fear of losing the opportunity to receive this service.
That is why we are proposing to include a waiver of final consent for persons whose death is reasonably foreseeable and who have been assessed and approved to receive medical assistance in dying. Individuals at the end of their life who risk losing their decision-making capacity before their chosen date would have an avenue to receive MAID without worrying that loss of their decision-making capacity before their chosen date would disqualify them. Support for this amendment is strong among stakeholders, Canadians and health practitioners.
Canada has had four years to reflect on the current MAID legislation passed in June 2016, and there are many complex issues that require further study.
In December of 2016, the Government of Canada asked the Council of Canadian Academies to conduct independent reviews on three specific types of requests for medical assistance in dying that are currently outside of the scope of the law: requests by mature minors, advance requests and requests where a mental disorder is the sole underlying medical condition.
The Council of Canadian Academies convened a multidisciplinary panel of 43 experts to review an extensive body of evidence, including Canadian and international academic and policy research.
We tabled those reports in Parliament in December 2018. They provide us with a thorough, thoughtful examination of these very difficult subjects. I encourage all members to read those reports as we continue our deliberations on the proposed legislative amendments and the parliamentary review that will be conducted later this year.
There is agreement among experts that allowing advance requests for people with illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease well before they would otherwise be deemed eligible is very complex and will require careful consideration and consultation before it could be included in legislation.
During the round tables I heard directly from health care providers who expressed discomfort because they have seen patients who, as their position progressed, might not have the same desire for medical assistance in dying as when they were first diagnosed. The Council of Canadian Academies' expert panel report on advance requests came to the same conclusion.
At the same time, we know that many Canadians have expressed an interest in advance requests so that they could have the comfort of knowing that they could avoid extreme suffering at some future date.
For all these reasons, we believe this issue deserves deeper examination through parliamentary review. That will be our opportunity to tackle questions that are profound and difficult to answer, even for practitioners who have been providing this service over the past four years.
The proposed changes to the medical assistance in dying legislation would exclude persons if mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition.
This does not mean that people with mental illness are ineligible; it means that mental illness cannot be the sole underlying condition. This is another complex aspect that warrants a more thorough discussion.
Since the federal legislation came into force in 2016, Health Canada has released four federal interim reports that provide more information on how the legislation is being implemented across the country.
In November 2018, we implemented regulations that resulted in the creation of a permanent monitoring regime that sets out obligations for reporting on medical assistance in dying cases by doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists. The first monitoring report under these regulations is expected to be released in spring 2020 .
Since MAID legislation was enacted in 2016, more than 13,000 Canadians have chosen this option of a medically assisted death. This is not unexpected. We have seen a gradual increase in the numbers over the last three years. The number of MAID deaths in Canada, slightly under 2% of all deaths, is in line with international regimes. The increasing use of MAID is largely a result of enhanced awareness of it as a legal option and greater acceptance by Canadians.
The federal government recognizes that public reporting is critical to ensuring transparency and also to ensuring public trust in the legislation. That is why we are proposing changes to expand data collection to help provide a more complete picture of medical assistance in dying in Canada.
Under the current legislation, only practitioners who receive a written request for MAID and pharmacists who dispense a MAID substance are required to provide information, but it has become clear that capturing information based solely on written requests for MAID received by physicians and nurse practitioners has resulted in an incomplete picture on who is requesting MAID across the country, and why.
The amended legislation would authorize new regulations to be developed in partnership with provinces and territories to allow for the collection of data on all assessments for MAID, and this would include those undertaken by other health professionals on the care team. It also clearly aligns with the original intent of the legislation to collect information on all requests for, and cases of, MAID in Canada.
I think we can agree that Canadians with life-limiting illnesses deserve the best quality of life possible as they approach the end of their lives. Palliative care and end-of-life care provide patients with relief from the pain and distress associated with a life-threatening illness. Supporting home care and palliative care is a key priority in our ongoing efforts to improve our health care system.
Through budget 2017, we made historic new investments in health care to improve access to mental health and addiction services, as well as home and community care, including palliative care.
To further support access to palliative care across the country, the government worked closely with provinces, territories, and stakeholders to develop the framework on palliative care in Canada, which we tabled in Parliament in 2018. We have released an action plan to support each of the priority areas identified in the framework.
I want to assure the House that the proposed bill responds to concerns identified by practitioners and experts through the round table discussions.
I will continue to work closely with the provinces, territories and key partners to support the implementation of the proposed legislative amendments, if they pass in Parliament.
This includes working with provinces, territories, health system partners and regulatory bodies to support best practices and information sharing on clinical guidance and other aspects of implementation, which includes training and retrospective reviews.
I have a great deal of respect for the practitioners who have been providing this service over the last four years with immense diligence and a huge amount of compassion. Their experiences have helped us craft legislation that much better meets the needs of Canadians. This law is constructed in a way that supports autonomy, but it includes the flexibility to allow a practitioner and a patient to work more closely together.
Medical assistance in dying is a complex and deeply personal issue. In tabling these changes, our government has considered carefully the need for personal autonomy and the protection of vulnerable people.
There is strong public support for change, and I believe we have found an approach that reflects the best interests of all Canadians. I urge all members of the House to support the proposed changes.
View Tamara Jansen Profile
Mr. Speaker, the minister said Canadians who are deciding whether they wish to receive medical assistance in dying are often experiencing prolonged suffering. The problem is that their prolonged suffering is due to a lack of palliative care. We were promised $3 billion would go to palliative care. Our dear member Mark Warawa spent nine days in hospital before he even saw a palliative care doctor.
I am wondering how on God's green earth we think that loosening these guidelines is a better way to ensure the best quality of life for Canadians.
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite knows, we have made historic investments through provinces and territories to improve a range of health care services, including palliative care.
As I mentioned in my speech, it has been an honour to be part of a government that understands that having a strong framework and having actions that we can take together to improve palliative care at the end of life are very important to all of us, especially since we have an aging population that will require more of those services.
It is also equally important to recognize that Canadians have very loudly said, and courts have agreed, that they deserve to have autonomy at the end of their lives, and that includes the choice to use medical assistance in dying.
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-02-27 11:05 [p.1657]
Mr. Speaker, I just want to comment on access to palliative care, which is indeed very important.
I would remind the House that the Conservatives were the first to cut health transfers. If health transfers had been as high as 25 cents per dollar, there might have been even greater access to palliative care.
That being said, the minister has introduced a bill that responds in all respects to the Baudoin ruling and to the condition raised with regard to the state of health of Ms. Gladu and Mr. Truchon, who were denied the possibility to choose. True freedom of choice requires that there be options.
The minister says that practitioners are able to discern when people with Alzheimer's who initially seemed in favour of medical assistance in dying may have changed their minds along the way. If doctors are able to discern that these people have changed their minds along the way, then why are they not eligible, like Ms. Gladu and Mr. Truchon?
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.
I agree with him that it will take a long time to recover from a decade that lacked investment in health care across this country under the former Conservative government. We are doing our best to make up for lost time.
In the case of conditions such as Alzheimer's, where people have to anticipate how they might feel if they have a condition, it is much harder to do those assessments. We heard this from practitioners who work very closely with patients in all kinds of situations. They said that when people anticipate how they might feel when suffering from a particular condition, they can be dramatically wrong. When people arrive there, they do not have the kinds of feelings they might think they have when they have, for example, a traumatic injury.
For this reason, we believe that advance requests require further study so we understand the implications from a patient perspective and a practitioner perspective.
View Charlie Angus Profile
View Charlie Angus Profile
2020-02-27 11:07 [p.1657]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. minister for her work on the coronavirus crisis. She has been very clear on a number of issues.
I am concerned with this debate. When I was working on the palliative care motion, our Parliament voted and everyone supported the issue of palliative care. I met with groups across the country about end of life. What we heard again and again about dignity in dying and the rights of people was they needed the right to access palliative care. I heard that from every group I met with. However, the only movement we have seen from the government was mandated by the Supreme Court.
I understand we had to put this legislation in place, but I am still concerned. The Parliament of Canada voted on a national palliative care strategy to work with the provinces and territories and put in place the opportunity for people to truly die with dignity next to their families in a much more healing and holistic manner, yet we have only heard a lot of talk about that and only as an addendum to the conversation about assisted dying. We have seen no resources or commitment on palliative care.
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I remind the member that, through budget 2017, Canada made historic new investments in health care, which included $11 billion over 10 years to improve access to mental health and addiction services, as well as home and community care, including palliative care. In August of 2019, Health Canada released an action plan that defines federal activities and the next steps linked to the framework on palliative care in Canada.
There are a number of actions we need to take collaboratively with the provinces and territories. We will continue to work with everybody, including the provinces and territories, to ensure that we improve the quality and availability of palliative care for all Canadians.
View Kyle Seeback Profile
View Kyle Seeback Profile
2020-02-27 11:09 [p.1657]
Mr. Speaker, the minister mentioned there are safeguards in place for the mentally ill or people who only suffer from mental health issues. What specific protections have been put in place? From my review, there is no requirement that an assessment by a psychiatrist be done on someone who might be experiencing, for example, severe depression.
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the proposed legislation excludes people whose sole condition is an underlying mental illness. That is because we still do not know enough about how a desire to receive medical assistance in dying might interact with a mental illness. This in no way negates the suffering felt by people who are struggling with mental illness. I have personally worked with people who have severe mental illness and I fully understand that their suffering can be immense. However, we know that, as part of the expression of a variety of different mental illnesses, the desire to end one's life is one of those components.
For that reason, we believe this is deserving of extra review through the parliamentary review scheduled in June.
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
2020-02-27 11:10 [p.1658]
Mr. Speaker, this topic has come up quite often in the round of questions to the hon. minister. The legislation before us includes, where appropriate, ensuring that a patient has been informed of other means of alleviating suffering, including mental health services, counselling services and palliative care.
I wish to ask the minister again for some specifics. We clearly are nowhere near making any of these areas adequate. It is fine for the legislation to say that patients may be advised of access to these things, but access is inadequate.
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Health, part of my job is to improve access to health care across Canada. It certainly would not be in my mandate letter to improve this if we thought that everything was perfect.
We know that work is under way with the provinces and territories. I mentioned the $10-billion investment that happened a couple of years ago. Obviously, access to primary care and improving supports for addiction and treatment in communities are the kinds of things the Prime Minister has asked me to do in my mandate. We also know that Canadians want autonomy at the time of their death, so there is an important balance we have to strike.
We have to make sure that we continue to work on ensuring that Canadians have equal access to services all across the country. The legislation says that people need to be made aware of services available to them in their communities so that they are fully aware that the choice they are making truly reflects their own particular circumstances.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I certainly applaud the intent and where we are going with the changes to the legislation.
At the end of the day, we pass a lot of money to the provinces and we expect them to do certain things with it. Ensuring that palliative care and all of the other services are available is important.
Is there a federal-provincial group ensuring that a fair amount of the funding we continue to transfer gets to the very areas we want so that people have access to palliative care and other resources?
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, absolutely. There is a federal-provincial-territorial working group that works very closely to determine how we can create equal access to services across Canada and how to make sure the investments we make result in differences in people's access to care independent of where they live. The group ensures we work together to uphold the Canada Health Act.
As we know, the Prime Minister takes this very seriously, as do I. As I have recently tabled my findings under the Canada Health Act, we will be pursuing with provinces and territories their obligation to make sure they are providing the services that have been afforded to all of us throughout the history of health care in this country.
View Kyle Seeback Profile
View Kyle Seeback Profile
2020-02-27 11:14 [p.1658]
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand today to add my voice to this debate. I think it is a particularly important debate. It is an important subject, and I think there are a lot of issues that need to be discussed.
I am going to confine my comments to issues I have with the bill, things I am concerned about, and my genuine belief that the government will take a very collaborative approach to this legislation. If we take a collaborative approach to this legislation, Canadians will have trust and faith that we developed legislation to actually address their needs and protect their concerns.
Speaking of concerns, I have a number of them. I will start off by talking about what I consider to be a significant lack of consultation.
This legislation will come up for review in June. It is the five-year mandated review of the legislation. My understanding is that the government has applied for a four-month extension with respect to the implementation of this legislation, which the Quebec court struck down.
If we have this four-month extension and have the mandated review of the legislation scheduled in June, what is the rush? Why have we rushed to introduce legislation prior to that mandatory review, which would, of course, be extensive and broad and far more in depth than any consultation that has been done with respect to the current legislation? My understanding is that there was only about two weeks of public consultation for this legislation. In my opinion, that is woefully deficient given the gravity of the topic we are discussing today.
This is my first real concern. What is the hurry? What is the rush? The court has given us more time to do this, and I believe we should be taking the time to go through the mandatory review and consult with Canadians, and then decide on the path forward. That is my number one concern.
I want to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Langley—Aldergrove. My thanks to the page for bringing that to my attention. She is doing an excellent job.
The next thing I want to talk about is palliative care. The minister has made comments in the House today espousing the great investments that are being made by the government in health care, but has not really talked about any specific investments with respect to palliative care. I think that is a critical thing to look at when we discuss this legislation. I want to remind the minister that Bill C-277, an act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada, was passed in the previous Parliament in 2017, and clearly states in the preamble:
Whereas the Final Report stated that a request for physician-assisted death cannot be truly voluntary if the option of proper palliative care is not available to alleviate a person’s suffering;
This was passed by Parliament, so if we are looking to expand the scope of medically assisted death without also expanding the availability of palliative care, we are doing an incredible disservice to Canadians, because the availability of palliative care in this country is poor at best. I am going to speak about this personally just for a moment.
Both of my parents suffered from terminal cancer. My mother was not able to get into a palliative care facility because there was no palliative care facility available for her, so she passed away in the hospital. My father was also not able to get into palliative care, but fortunately his illness was longer than my mother's, or unfortunately, depending on how one looks at it, and we were able to get private home care that eased his suffering and made sure he was being taken care of. However, there was no way that he was going to be able to get into palliative care within the scope of his illness.
This is affecting Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and the minister has rushed to introduce this bill. Why would the minister not have introduced corollary legislation, or legislation in tandem, or announced increases in funding for palliative care?
In my riding of Dufferin—Caledon, there is a fantastic hospice for palliative care. It is called Bethell Hospice. It only has approximately 15 beds. That is the palliative care option in my riding. For approximately 200,000 people, there are 15 palliative care beds.
Members can imagine that there is a significant number of people who are not able to get into palliative care. Therefore, the option of medically assisted death becomes far more attractive for someone who is not able to enter into a palliative care facility.
I will repeat that it is clearly a violation of legislation that was passed by the House. When people do not have the option for proper palliative care, their consent for a medically assisted death is significantly in question. I am extraordinarily concerned by the lack of any plan by the government to deal with investments in palliative care.
The minister has suggested that there are significant safeguards in place for people who suffer from any type of mental illness. However, I am not sure what those safeguards are. She suggested that just having that condition would exclude someone from obtaining a medically assisted death. What is the definition of that? How are we proving that is the only issue?
There is no requirement for individuals to go to a psychiatrist in order to assess that they are not suffering from a severe bout of depression. In my own life, I have gone through extraordinary stages and phases of depression during which I actually did not want to live anymore. I was not seeing a psychiatrist at the time. Would I have then been able to avail myself of these services while I was in a period of particular darkness? We know that mental health is an issue that is rampant throughout this country.
Again, I will go back to my first point, which is: Why are we rushing to do this? Why are we not taking the time to go through the five-year review? We need to take the time to find ways to make sure we are safeguarding all Canadians in providing them the option of medically assisted death, if they want it, but also ensuring that people who are choosing this, maybe because of a lack of palliative care, or maybe because of underlying mental health issues, are going to be protected.
These are some of the major concerns I have with respect to this piece of legislation.
Going back to the consultation, two weeks for online submissions with respect to concerns by Canadians is not anywhere near a sufficient amount of consultation. My understanding is that it was mostly online submissions. This is not a way to get the pulse of Canadians with respect to a very significant issue that is going on in this country. I will continue to ask why there was not a longer or broader consultation.
I know this matter will be studied at committee, but having been a member of Parliament now for going on five and a half years, I understand the extreme limitations at committee. We will often have a panel of six witnesses. Those six witnesses will each get their 10-minute statement, and then members of Parliament might get a six-minute intervention to try and raise an issue.
If one is going to suggest that a committee study will be far broader in scope, or somewhat more encompassing than the mandatory statutory five-year review, I will respectfully disagree with that submission.
Committees absolutely do great work, but they also suffer from an extreme pressure of legislation and time. To suggest that one or two weeks or three meetings at committee is sufficient time to analyze, debate and discuss this legislation, I do not think that is the correct answer. We should be putting this legislation off until we have the mandatory five-year review in June, which would allow us to have a far more expansive discussion with respect to all of the issues that are being discussed in the legislation.
These are my comments and concerns with respect to the legislation. I certainly hope the government will listen to these concerns, act collaboratively and co-operatively, and not try to drive this legislation through without listening to legitimate concerns that are being raised by members of the opposition.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-02-27 11:23 [p.1659]
Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the member's points regarding the issue of palliative care.
During the debates in the last session there was a great deal of emotion that was expressed, and I valued and appreciated the contributions by members. I think members from all sides of the House were really trying to get a better understanding of the important subject matter that we were debating.
The member is quite right when it comes to palliative care. Whether it is the national government or the provincial governments who ultimately administer health care, we need to do a much better job on palliative care.
I wonder if my friend from across the way can provide some additional thoughts. I would ask him to look specifically at areas of the country where palliative care is nowhere near where it should or could be compared to other areas of the country. I am thinking of rural versus urban and even variations between urban centres.
View Kyle Seeback Profile
View Kyle Seeback Profile
2020-02-27 11:25 [p.1660]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the point being raised. Yes, access to palliative care across this country is a huge issue. In fact, we are making the situation worse with the government deciding to take away funding from palliative care centres that do not offer medically assisted death as part of the suite of services that they offer. We are losing palliative care beds across the country as a result of that decision.
I am hopeful that the members hearing this topic being raised by members of the opposition will take it back and look at reversing it. The last thing we need in this country is fewer palliative care beds.
I would encourage the member to speak to his leader and to cabinet and get them working on a national palliative care strategy and investing money to ensure we have equal access to palliative care across the country.
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-02-27 11:26 [p.1660]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to reassure my Conservative colleague.
A psychiatrist must absolutely conduct a mental health assessment of the person who is dying or suffering. Family doctors are able to prescribe antidepressants to treat depression. Sometimes, a doctor may have to tell a patient that there are no further treatments available and then refer that patient to palliative care to ease their suffering. If the patient immediately says that they want to access MAID, the doctor will prescribe antidepressants, because there are steps to go through long before a patient can access MAID.
I have a hard time understanding the problem my Conservative colleague sees, since the bill excludes mental illness.
Everyone thinks that pain relief in palliative care is common practice, regardless of whether the patient is receiving care. This is called a good medical practice. Relief is provided for pain. No terminal patient receiving good care that manages pain is forced to ask for medical assistance in dying. Patients who request it do so by choice. This choice is necessary, and for there to be a choice, there need to be options.
View Kyle Seeback Profile
View Kyle Seeback Profile
2020-02-27 11:27 [p.1660]
Mr. Speaker, I am not disputing that people should have options. That is certainly the whole point of the legislation. I am not arguing against that. What I am suggesting is that there are not sufficient safeguards in place, from my perspective.
While the member might say that going to see a family doctor to talk about depression is an excellent way to be treated for depression, I can say from my experience that it is absolutely not a good option. My family doctor and most family doctors are completely incapable of treating someone for depression. Yes, they might be able to prescribe a medication, but medication is not the answer to all depression.
My concern, and we are here to raise concerns, is that this is not properly addressed in this legislation. I do not believe there are proper safeguards in place. That is something we should be discussing here during debate, at committee and certainly in the five-year review that will take place in June.
View Tako Van Popta Profile
View Tako Van Popta Profile
2020-02-27 11:28 [p.1660]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code, specifically section 241 of the Criminal Code. That is the provision of the Criminal Code that makes it illegal to counsel a person to commit suicide or to aid someone to do so.
In the absence of more recent amendments, in the previous Parliament there was Bill C-14 in response to the Carter decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. In that case the court found that the plaintiffs' charter rights had been infringed upon by a strict interpretation of section 241.
Interestingly, Bill C-14 from the previous Parliament stated, as one of its objectives in paragraph six of the preamble:
...permitting access to medical assistance in dying for competent adults whose deaths are reasonably foreseeable strikes the most appropriate balance between the autonomy of persons who seek medical assistance in dying, on one hand, and the interests of vulnerable persons...on the other;
The relevant provisions in the Criminal Code included that language. It states that qualifications for MAID, including with respect to the person:
their natural death has become reasonably foreseeable, taking into account all of their medical circumstances....
All of this is about to change because of the Truchon decision.
I am speaking to Bill C-7, a bill that would eliminate the reasonable death forseeability safeguard and expand MAID, medical assistance in dying, to a larger number of people. I have been encouraged to speak to the bill because of the many letters and correspondence I have received from people in my constituency.
I have received some letters in support of expanding MAID, but the vast majority of the letters I have received encourage me to speak against expanding the availability of medical assistance in dying.
Correspondence that I am receiving from constituents repeat two basic themes. First is that the reasonable forseeability of death safeguard should be maintained as an effective defence of societal interests and Canadian values. Second is that more should be done to expand palliative care services.
To quote one person, let Canada be a society that is known for its modern and advanced palliative care services and not as a country that has ever expanding use of medical assistance in dying. We should alleviate the suffering, not eliminate the sufferer.
I am going to read quotes from two people who each made the effort to write me a letter.
The first is Dr. den Hollander, who states:
If Canada must allow MAiD in some form (and I wish it didn't), it is incumbent upon us to ensure that it is rare. Eligibility requirements should be tightened, not loosened. More safeguards are necessary, not fewer. Enforcement must be scrupulous, not relaxed. Without these protections, vulnerable people will be pressured by family members, friends and medical practitioners to MAiD.
The second is a woman named Ramona. She works in health care, including palliative care. She quotes a person to whose care she attended, and who died in the Langley Hospice facility, as saying, “I want to live well while I'm dying.” Ramona goes on to comment, “Surely this is what health care was created for, to support people while they are alive, not to speed up their death.”
This is the tenor of the input I am receiving from my constituents.
Behind Bill C-7 is the Superior Court decision in Truchon. The plaintiffs in that case argued that their constitutional rights had been infringed upon by the now amended section 241 of the Criminal Code. They argued that the Carter decision, on which Bill C-14 was based, did not require that a person's end of life be reasonably foreseeable, and that is a true statement. That is not what the Carter decision required.
Secondly, they argued that the legislated end of life requirement violated the right to equality, under section 15 of the charter, and the right to life, liberty and security of the person, under section 7 of the charter. The federal government, acting through the Attorney General's office, did the right thing at that time. It defended its law. That is what the Attorney General should do. Bill C-14 was the well-considered opinion of the previous Parliament. It was the law. The Attorney General must defend the law.
Remarkably, the Quebec Superior Court refused to accept the arguments advanced by the Attorney General. The Quebec Superior Court said that the court cannot accept the first two objectives advanced by the Attorney General regarding the affirmation of the inherent and equal value of every person's life and the importance of preventing suicide.
In the opinion of the justice writing that decision, those two principles were not the underlying philosophy of Bill C-14. It was all about protecting vulnerable persons from being induced, in moments of weakness, to end their lives.
Remarkably, the Attorney General of Canada did not appeal that decision. That is what should have been done. Any self-respecting Attorney General would appeal a decision that attacked the laws of Parliament. This Attorney General elected not to do that. Now we are in this position where we are under pressure to amend the law, when we should instead be following the directive of Bill C-14, and that is to have a comprehensive review of the whole legislation.
That is what we should be doing. What is the rush? The rush is caused by the Attorney General's failure to appeal this decision. It should have been tested through the court system, up to the Supreme Court of Canada.
With the reasonable foreseeability of death safeguard down, this is what we have left. An applicant for MAID qualifies if he or she has a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability; is in an advanced state of decline; or their physical or psychological suffering is intolerable to them, which is a completely subjective test. The reasonable foreseeability of death criteria is now gone.
Let us just test this against a couple of hypothetical situations. We can imagine that a person has Parkinson's or MS, or was in a terrible accident and is a paraplegic. Under this new regime, if it becomes the law, people who are not dying but who meet all the other criteria, however subjective they may be, will qualify for state-sanctioned suicide. One of my constituents has said that we should let Canada be a society that is known for its modern and advanced palliative care services, and not as a country that has ever-expanding use of medical assistance in dying.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-02-27 11:38 [p.1661]
Mr. Speaker, in addressing the bill, the member opposite made reference to the fact that he was quite disappointed that the federal government did not appeal the decision from the Superior Court of Quebec.
Does the member feel that, if the government looks at a Superior Court ruling, it would be a viable option for the Government of Canada and the Attorney General to forgo going to the Supreme Court to appeal, and instead make the changes that are being requested?
That is why we see the legislation that we have before us.
View Tako Van Popta Profile
View Tako Van Popta Profile
2020-02-27 11:39 [p.1662]
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-14 was the well-considered response of the previous Parliament to a Supreme Court of Canada decision, the Carter decision. Bill C-14 became the law, it was incorporated into the Criminal Code of Canada.
I am of the opinion that the Attorney General should defend the laws of the country. The law was only three years old and was a well-considered decision of Parliament. The Attorney General should defend the laws of Parliament.
View Laurel Collins Profile
View Laurel Collins Profile
2020-02-27 11:40 [p.1662]
Mr. Speaker, can the member comment on whether the Conservatives support Audrey's amendment and helping families to avoid the kind of cruel suffering and difficult choices people often face when they are looking at imminent end-of-life situations and potentially not being able to give consent farther down the road?
View Tako Van Popta Profile
View Tako Van Popta Profile
2020-02-27 11:40 [p.1662]
Mr. Speaker, I believe people should have choice, but choice should be a real choice. Palliative care is the right way to go. Somebody who wrote to me said that we should let Canada be known as a country of advanced palliative care, not as a country of an ever-expanding provision of MAID.
I understand people suffer and may not be able to give concurrent consent, however this country can certainly invest more money in advanced palliative care, which would relieve suffering to a very large degree. We should work on alleviating the suffering, not eliminating the sufferer.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, there are many different provisions in this legislation. One of them that I thought was interesting is that in the case of someone whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, the government is saying that one of the two physicians involved in the consultations has to have some expertise in the ailment. It is interesting because this did not appear in any of the other cases. It seems to me reasonable to have this safeguard not just for the case where death is not reasonably foreseeable.
In all cases, at least one of the physicians consulting should actually have some particular expertise about the ailment. Physicians deal with a wide variety of things, so the person who knows particularly well the disease should be involved in the consultation. To me, that seems very reasonable, and I wonder what the member thinks of that. I hope the government might be willing to apply this safeguard not just in one of the two streams, but across the board.
View Tako Van Popta Profile
View Tako Van Popta Profile
2020-02-27 11:43 [p.1662]
Mr. Speaker, it stands to reason that I would support anything that would improve and enhance informed consent. The doctor giving the advice to the suffering patient should indeed be an expert in the field. I would also support any argument that would put in that additional safeguard for both streams, patients whose death is reasonably foreseeable as well as those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable. It stands to reason I would support that, and I hope the government would support it.
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
2020-02-27 11:44 [p.1662]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Beaches—East York.
It is an honour to stand up in the House of Commons and participate in the second reading debate for Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code to Canada's medical assistance in dying legislation.
In developing these amendments, Canadians were widely consulted in January 2020. During these consultations, approximately 300,000 Canadians completed an online questionnaire. In addition, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion met with stakeholders in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Quebec City to discuss proposed revisions to Canada's medical assistance in dying framework.
These experts and stakeholders included doctors, nurses, legal experts, national indigenous organizations and representatives of the disability community. The high level of participation in both the questionnaire and the in-person sessions is a reflection of the importance of this issue to Canadians. Moreover, the results of the consultations were critically important in shaping the government's approach to medically assisted dying as it evolves to reflect the needs of Canadians.
This bill would amend the Criminal Code to allow medical assistance in dying for people who wish to relieve their suffering through a medically assisted death, whether their natural death is reasonably foreseeable or not.
This bill would remove the reasonable foreseeability of natural death from the list of eligibility criteria. It would also expressly exclude people seeking medical assistance in dying solely because of mental illness.
The bill proposes a two-track approach based on whether a person's natural death is reasonably foreseeable. Existing safeguards remain and are eased for those whose death is reasonably foreseeable. In addition, new and modified safeguards would be applied to eligible persons whose death is not reasonably foreseeable.
In the spirit of “nothing without us”, I would like to mention the government remains focused on addressing the concerns of the disability community around vulnerability and choice. The proposed changes to the legislation support greater autonomy and freedom of choice for eligible persons who wish to relieve their suffering by pursuing a medically assisted death.
At the same time, full consideration has been given to the protection of vulnerable persons and to respecting the equality rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. In short, this bill would maintain and strengthen safeguards to support fully informed decision-making, while also respecting individual autonomy.
In terms of advance consent, many participants were comfortable with implementing advance requests for those who have been assessed and approved for medically assisted dying, but are concerned about losing capacity before it is provided. This bill would allow people who risk losing decision-making capacity to make arrangements with their practitioner to receive medically assisted dying on their chosen date, even if they lose decision-making capacity before that date.
The bill would also make advance consent invalid if the person demonstrates refusal or resistance to the administration of medically assisted dying. The bill goes on to clarify that reflexes and other types of involuntary movements, such as response to touch or the insertion of a needle, would not constitute refusal or resistance.
In addition, the bill would allow eligible persons who choose to self-administer to provide advance consent for a physician to administer a substance to cause their death if self-administration fails and causes them to lose capacity. This type of advance consent would be available for all eligible persons, regardless of their prognosis.
I would like to take a moment to speak to the progress the government has made with respect to the rights of persons with disabilities in Canada. In fact, last year, the government enacted the Accessible Canada Act, which aims to create a barrier-free Canada through the proactive identification, removal and prevention of barriers to accessibility wherever Canadians interact with areas under federal jurisdiction.
The act is one of the most significant advances in disability rights since the charter in 1982 and is designed to inspire a cultural transformation for disability inclusion and accessibility in Canada. The act created Accessibility Standards Canada, a new organization that will create and revise accessibility standards, and support and promote innovative accessibility research. The CEO and board of directors were appointed and operations began last summer.
That act also established National AccessAbility Week, a week dedicated to accessibility in late May and early June each year. National AccessAbility Week is an opportunity to promote inclusion and accessibility in communities and workplaces, and to celebrate the contributions of Canadians with disabilities.
It is also a time to recognize the efforts of individuals, communities and workplaces that are actively removing barriers to give Canadians of all abilities a better chance to succeed. The act applies to federally regulated organizations for now, but we know the culture shift will have a trickle-down effect, and that awareness and action on disability inclusion will increase across the country.
Our government is taking real action to address the rights of persons with disabilities. The careful writing of Bill C-7 is a testament to that. Representatives of disability organizations and leading disability scholars participated in consultations across the country. Their input informed the reforms proposed in the bill.
We recognize that disability inclusion requires more than legislation. That is why we are continuing to work with the disability community and other stakeholders to address stigma and bias. It is important to bring about a culture change to ensure that the important contributions made to Canada by persons with disabilities are recognized and valued on the same basis as those of other Canadians. Going forward, we will continue to focus on improving the social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities.
We will continue to work hard to ensure that all people are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, especially when it comes to deep and personal issues like ending life. It is imperative that the voices of all Canadians, including Canadians with disabilities, continue to be heard on the issue of medical assistance in dying.
View Tamara Jansen Profile
Mr. Speaker, my esteemed colleague mentioned the extensive two-week online public consultations that happened. I felt the questionnaire was extremely lean, so I held a town hall in my riding with more than 100 participants and we went through the online survey question by question.
It was clear that regular Canadians were being asked to make decisions on highly nuanced questions that were much more appropriate for health care professionals with clinical knowledge to answer. Many chose not to fill in their multiple choice options because of the biased slant of the questions. They chose instead to fill in the comments section to ensure their true answer was recorded without the ability for bias.
When will we have access to the 300,000 responses, most especially the written comments?
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
2020-02-27 11:52 [p.1663]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the excellent question and the concerns that have been raised in the House. Again, we know this is an incredibly complex issue and an incredibly personal issue. Our priority was to listen to Canadians, which is why we conducted extensive consultations with doctors, nurses, the disability community and vulnerable populations across the country. We received over 300,000 responses to a survey that asked Canadians their opinion on MAID.
The legislation before us is of course a reflection of the Quebec Superior Court decision on Truchon, but we firmly believe that it is also a reflection of Canadian voices from coast to coast to coast through those extensive consultations. In terms of accessing the survey results, I do not have that information now but I am happy to provide that information to the hon. member outside of the House.
View Richard Cannings Profile
Mr. Speaker, one thing the NDP is concerned about with this legislation is that people with unendurable suffering face a 90-day period of assessment.
We are wondering where that number comes from. Who gave the Liberals that advice? It would seem that in this situation people seeking this treatment would very much appreciate a more rapid response.
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
2020-02-27 11:54 [p.1664]
Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. If we read the preamble to Bill C-7, we will see the legislation's explicit desire to balance several interests and values: the autonomy of the person seeking a dignified death, the protection of vulnerable persons and the important public health issue that suicide represents.
I believe Bill C-7 achieves that balance by relaxing safeguards for Canadians who are at the end of life, but also strengthening safeguards and, just as important, strengthening supports for Canadians who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition and are in an advanced state of irreversible decline, but not necessarily at the end of life.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
View Blaine Calkins Profile
2020-02-27 11:55 [p.1664]
Mr. Speaker, given the fact that the government, and he is a member of the government caucus, has chosen to accept the decision of a Quebec court rather than appealing it to the Supreme Court of Canada, I would guess the rationale would be based on a sense of urgency to deal with this issue.
I am wondering if I can count on my hon. friend across the way to make the same point in his caucus meeting about the decision in Alberta that the carbon tax is out of jurisdiction, and that the government will accept the Alberta court's decision as much as it is willing to accept the Quebec court's decision on this matter.
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
2020-02-27 11:56 [p.1664]
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure the question is cogent to this incredibly personal, complex and emotional discussion we are having in the House, but what I can say is that our government remains committed to protecting vulnerable individuals and to protecting the equality, value and self-worth of all Canadians.
View Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, we have a unique opportunity to fix our assisted dying laws and to protect the individual right of all Canadians to make such a fundamental and deeply personal choice for themselves.
I opposed the assisted dying laws in the last Parliament because they were too restrictive. They were not in keeping with the Supreme Court's decision in Carter and I believed them to be unconstitutional, and here we are. A Quebec court found the law to be unconstitutional and we agreed, rightly, to abide by that decision. We have another chance to get it right.
As we look forward to what getting it right looks like, we should also look behind us at the Supreme Court's decision in Carter.
Those in the House have talked about striking a balance between the fundamental freedom of individuals to choose for themselves and the autonomy of the individual to make such a deeply personal choice, and protecting vulnerable persons.
For people who read the Supreme Court's decision in Carter, they will know that the Supreme Court struck that balance with a number of safeguards that look like this: to be eligible for assisted dying, one needs to be suffering intolerably and in an enduring way; one needs to be in a grievous and irremediable condition, an incurable illness; and the individual in question needs to be competent and to clearly consent.
The government in the last Parliament incorrectly, in my view, added an additional criterion for eligibility that one's death needed to be reasonably foreseeable. That is unnecessarily and unduly restrictive. I will get to a court case in particular that explains this in greater detail.
There are two core injustices that the new law proposes to fix. First, the question of removing the “reasonably foreseeable” requirement as a matter of eligibility, and also addressing the case of Audrey Parker.
We had another fundamental injustice where an individual who was eligible for MAID took her life earlier than she otherwise would have, lost time in her life that she otherwise would have spent with her family and loved ones. She was worried about losing competence and being unable to give consent near the very end, despite the fact that was exactly what she wanted.
The Council of Canadian Academies identified three levels of advance request: where an individual is already eligible for MAID, such as in the Audrey Parker case; where an individual has been diagnosed and is not yet eligible, but is on the path towards eligibility; and where someone has not yet been diagnosed, so is farther from eligibility for MAID. In this case we have identified a solution to one of those categories, but we ought to solve advance requests more broadly going forward.
Is the law perfect? No, but it is worthy of our support at second reading. However, there are a number of concerns worth highlighting.
First, while a reasonably foreseeable death is no longer a criterion of eligibility, there are additional hurdles for individuals to pass if their death is not within the near future. One of two practitioners assessing eligibility must have expertise in the condition. Although that sounds very reasonable in theory, my only question for committee members as they look at this is to ensure that is not an impossible barrier in practice, particularly for those in rural communities where such expertise may not exist at all times.
There is also a minimum, and I would say somewhat arbitrary, period of 90 days for the assessment of the request. It looks like a backdoor cooling-off period. It would make far more sense for us to have no time limit and the assessment to be done in the ordinary course, or at least a much shorter time period, because we are talking about people who are suffering incredibly and are competent to make the decision for themselves.
Does it cure the case for Audrey Parker? I think largely it does, but I worry if the main procedure must be scheduled already, what does that mean? If Audrey Parker was in a situation to say, “I am not exactly sure what the time period will be. I know it is not now but I know it will be soon”, is she to have scheduled a particular date, which would make her eligible for the advance request, or are we going to put people in a situation where they are scheduling something earlier than they otherwise would?
Mental health is a real challenge because we are building an additional criterion into this legislation that says:
For the purposes of MAID eligibility, a mental illness is not a “serious and incurable illness, disease or disability”...
It sounds reasonable on its face in many ways, because we can immediately imagine a situation where mental illness impinges upon one's ability to give consent, impinges upon one's ability to conduct himself or herself as a competent person, but that is not always the case.
I am aware of some opposition from the Conservative benches. I am also aware of the number of Conservative MPs who come from Alberta. Therefore, want to quote a case from the Alberta Court of Appeal from 2016.
This is about a 58-year old women, identified as E.F., with severe conversion and psychogenic movement disorders.
The court wrote:
She suffers from involuntary muscle spasms that radiate from her face through the sides and top of her head and into her shoulders, causing her severe and constant pain and migraines. Her eyelid muscles have spasmed shut...Her digestive system is ineffective... She has significant trouble sleeping and...is non-ambulatory...While her condition is diagnosed as a psychiatric one, her capacity and her cognitive ability to make informed decisions, including providing consent to terminating her life, are unimpaired.
This women was eligible to take advantage of MAID because we did not yet have an unconstitutional law in place to prevent her from accessing the regime. The Alberta Court of Appeal determined this woman was competent and was able to consent for herself. It noted further that she had consulted with her husband and adult children, who were all in support.
I worry that if we look at restricting mental illness completely, even if it does not impinge upon people's consent or their ability to conduct themselves as competent persons, we are telling those individuals that they are unable to make fundamental and deeply personal choices for themselves and that they have fewer rights than we do. That cannot possibly be right in this society.
This was a recurring problem for the justice department. When it argued the case of E.F. and lost at the Alberta Court of Appeal. it argued that the current criteria meant that terminal illness was required. The court said no. It argued that illness for a psychiatric condition should be deemed ineligible. Again, it lost in the Alberta Court of Appeal.
Therefore, if we are to respect the Carter decision and the precedent in case law since the Carter decision, I do not think we ought to have such a categorical exclusion in our law.
In Carter, the Supreme Court noted:
It is a crime in Canada to assist another person in ending her own life. As a result, people who are grievously and irremediably ill cannot seek a physician’s assistance in dying and may be condemned to a life of severe and intolerable suffering. A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel.
The Alberta Court of Appeal stated, “The cruelty in the situation is there regardless of whether the illness causing the suffering may be classified as terminal”, and certainly continues to be there regardless of whether the suffering has, as its primary focus, a psychiatric disorder.
As a final note on this subject, this law, if carried forward without an amendment, will treat mental illness as lesser than physical illness, a stigma we have worked hard to combat in other settings.
As I said previously, we have to tackle advance direct requests more seriously than we have in this legislation. I know there is an ability to have this broader conversation later this year, as we revisit this conversation. I certainly think if people are diagnosed with a condition and they can clearly see where it is heading, they should be able to determine their futures. I would want to, as a matter of my fundamental freedoms, be able to determine my future. Also, in directing our own futures, we ought to be able to provide advance requests more broadly and more easily, even if we have not been diagnosed.
I recognize the Council of Canadian Academies has identified that we need certainty. How do we provide certainty? Through sunset clauses. If we have not revisited and re-upped our commitment to our advance request within a certain period of time, then it would fall away. That would allow for certainty to take hold.
There are other things we could look to in the law, including mature minors, because minors have the ability to make life-changing decisions in medical contexts in other settings outside of MAID. However, in the end, this law needs to ensure that anyone eligible for MAID, pursuant to the Carter criteria, continues to be eligible for MAID through this law. It is a matter of fundamental freedoms and dignity in the end.
View Tamara Jansen Profile
Madam Speaker, the Liberal government has sent a clear message to the provinces that euthanasia access is a priority over palliative care, as we can see from the fact that the Liberals are letting a Quebec lower court judge steer the way forward for the rest of Canada. We can also see, on the opposite side of the country, that the Fraser Health Authority in British Columbia leads the charge by revoking funding for hospice care beds and is confiscating private charitable donations for the implementation of MAID access.
Why is the government not fighting to ensure quality palliative care access before euthanasia?
View Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I trust the member heard me when I quoted not only the Supreme Court, which the Quebec Court was reiterating the Supreme Court's criteria, but also the Alberta Court of Appeal, which was again reiterating the Supreme Court's criteria.
The dichotomy between palliative care and death with dignity is so completely false. Of course a government ought to be focused on providing all the options for people at the end of their lives to ensure there is dignity. However, in the end, the government has no right to take away my fundamental individual choice.
View Charlie Angus Profile
View Charlie Angus Profile
2020-02-27 12:08 [p.1665]
Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague, for whom I have a great deal of respect.
On the issue of the advance directive, when we think in advance, I think all the individuals I have ever known have talked about how they want to go and how they want to be. My friend was going to sit in the snow, listen to Bob Dylan and drink a bottle of whiskey on his last day. It is a great way to go, but we do not end up getting those options.
When we are faced with death, and I saw this with my sister and her horrific suffering, and her husband just before that, both very young, the will to live is so incredibly strong. People do not realize how much they want to live and how much they want to stay.
I know this is not so much the purview of the bill, but I want to ask about the reasonable limits of advance directives so we are not signing off and saying, “In future if it happens, this is how I want it to be”. When it happens, we are in a very different place and in a different world than we ever imagined we would be.
View Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, this is by far the most complicated area. There are some easy cases, like the Audrey Parker case, where people are already eligible for MAID, they understand their condition and it is very clear an advance request ought to be in place. It is harder, but still fairly straightforward, when people are diagnosed with a disease and there is a short-term trajectory when they can see that they are going to deteriorate significantly.
It is much harder when a person is not diagnosed at all. I am 35. Would I put an advance request in right now? How could that be intelligible? How could we make sense of that? There are two things to say to that.
I mentioned sunset clauses. If we are requiring certainty, individuals would have to revisit their advance requests and uphold those requests. There has to be a window of time when it would then fall away and not be legally valid.
The other thing to note is that the Supreme Court's criteria are also pretty key here. I cannot just say an advance request for anything of which I am eligible to die. I still have to be in a condition that is an incurable illness and where there is grievous, intolerable and enduring suffering. These are incredibly important safeguards to keep in mind.
View Kyle Seeback Profile
View Kyle Seeback Profile
2020-02-27 12:10 [p.1666]
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments on this and many other matters. I raise an issue with his suggesting the false dichotomy between palliative care and this legislation. In fact, in the previous Parliament, the House passed legislation in the preamble, which very clearly said:
Whereas the Final Report stated that a request for physician-assisted death cannot be truly voluntary if the option of proper palliative care is not available to alleviate a person’s suffering;....
This is a critical issue. Access to palliative care is critically short in the country, so there is no false dichotomy. Why is the member's government not putting together a pan-Canadian strategy on palliative care and investing the money necessary so we have that?
View Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, the member should know that we have invested billions of dollars through bilateral agreements with provinces and we have set a priority of home care, including palliative care. The member should know that health care, fundamentally, and the delivery of palliative are within the provincial jurisdiction. The member should also know that in the end, regardless of whether there is palliative care, this is a question of whether individuals have a right to make such a deeply personal choice for themselves. Does the member believe in liberty or not?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-02-27 12:11 [p.1666]
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam.
I am very happy to be taking part in this debate, which is a departure from our usual political and often partisan work as elected officials.
This is the third time in my parliamentary career that I have been asked to debate and vote on the issue of medical assistance in dying. I was a member of Quebec's National Assembly for seven years, and I have served here in the House of Commons since 2015 with the support of my constituents.
I was elected to the national assembly in 2008. As a member of that assembly, I participated in the first debate we had in Quebec on this issue, the first time in a Canadian legislature, in 2010.
I also was a participant in the debate we had four years ago in the House of Commons, when, for first time, we addressed the issue. Therefore, in my parliamentary life, this is the third time I will participate and vote on this very touchy, personal and non-partisan issue.
That is why I would like to remind the House of certain cardinal rules that should guide our actions as parliamentarians in this debate, which we believe should be totally non-partisan. Things may get tense at times, but debate must remain respectful.
Respecting the free vote should be one of the cardinal rules of this debate. In my view, there is no right or wrong position in this debate. There are only positions that we are comfortable with as human beings. Whether we are for or against, there is no partisan politics behind it. There is only the personal opinion that we hold, share and analyze.
Consequently, it is important to keep a completely open mind and respect the fact that certain colleagues from our own party may not share our point of view, while colleagues from other parties may. That is fine. There is nothing wrong with that, really. Some positions we adopt, and some positions we cannot be comfortable with. That is all.
We must respect the debate. We must respect personal opinions. We must respect the fact that there is no place for partisanship in this debate and that positions are neither right nor wrong. There are positions that we can agree with and others that we cannot. We must respect that.
There are also certain elements that we must bear in mind before we dive into this. In our opinion, the bill has some shortcomings.
First, we must respect the freedom of conscience of physicians who are called on to provide MAID. If a physician feels that they cannot in good conscience provide MAID, they should be able to say so and not have to proceed. I have spoken to many people in the context of this debate, in which I have been participating for a very long time. Everyone I have spoken to has told me that physicians can show a certain openness in some circumstances, but change their minds in others. Physicians should never be forced to act against their conscience.
Furthermore, we should always bear in mind that MAID, by its very nature, is the last level of health care that can be offered. We must never forget that the role of palliative care is to ensure that those who are ill can live with dignity even in tragic circumstances. Therefore, we must respect physicians' conscience and focus on palliative care.
Taking our time is another cardinal rule that must be respected in this type of debate.
Let me remind members that the first time this issue was addressed in Quebec, it took six full years, three different governments and three different premiers. There was a huge debate about it, a strong and wise debate. Each and every position had been clearly established by those people who participated in the debate. There is no rush. We must take our time.
For some people, we are talking about assisted suicide. It is a very touchy issue. The worst-case scenario is to rush it. Quebec spent six full years, and we should follow this example. It obviously will not take six years this time, but the first step took six full years.
Let's agree that this debate cannot be rushed.
Why are we debating Bill C-7 today?
When the House of Commons adopted Bill C-14 in 2016, I was a member of the committee that studied it. We knew then that Canadians would challenge parts of it and that there would be court rulings. That is exactly what happened on September 11, 2019, when the Quebec Superior Court struck down the notion of “reasonably foreseeable natural death” in the bill that became An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts regarding medical assistance in dying.
I did not know this before I looked it up, but it is interesting to note that the current Minister of Justice, a man for whom I have tremendous respect and esteem owing to his experience as a lawyer and a McGill University professor, voted against Bill C-14. Now, as Minister of Justice, he is sponsoring this bill as the federal government's response to the Quebec Superior Court's ruling. The bill addresses some of the issues but sets others aside.
The first fundamental element of Bill C-7 is that it eliminates the 10-day waiting period that the current law requires as a buffer between the person's decision and the operation itself, to ensure that the second opinion provided for under the act is in fact obtained. The court deemed this provision invalid, and the minister decided to accept that opinion.
Let's also not forget that the current law, which was passed four years ago, requires the provisions to be reviewed in just a few months, starting in June 2020.
The government decided to take note of the Superior Court of Quebec ruling and act accordingly. That is its right. However, regardless of our views on the issue, we feel that this subject involves some truly fundamental questions and raises highly complex legal concerns. We think this ruling should have been appealed to the highest court in the land, so that the nine justices of the Supreme Court could study every possible ramification.
This bill sidesteps the issue of mental illness entirely. That is a very good thing, because in our view, it is extremely difficult to pinpoint the instant when a mental illness becomes irreversible, which can raise doubts about whether consent was given fully and freely.
As I said earlier, the worst thing we could do in this matter is move too fast. There is no rush. This concern may eventually be debated, but for now, let's take it one step at a time.
Since my time is almost up, I would just like to say that in this debate on such a delicate, sensitive issue, the worst thing we could do is plough full steam ahead and attack people's convictions instead of respecting their choices. Let's take the time to do things right on this extremely delicate and extremely important issue.
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-02-27 12:21 [p.1667]
Madam Speaker, I appreciated my Conservative colleague's speech. We do need to focus on the common good. However, I did not understand his position, apart from his plea that we take the time to do things right.
He knows very well that it will not be easy to take that time because, while we are taking our time, there are people who are suffering, people who have no choice, people who want to give their free and enlightened consent about their condition. However, the state that we represent here is not respecting their wishes and giving them the option to relieve their suffering.
What is my colleague's position on giving people like Ms. Gladu and Mr. Truchon access to medical assistance in dying?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-02-27 12:22 [p.1667]
Madam Speaker, I agree with the principle behind that. It is important to keep that in mind.
My colleague was a member of the Quebec National Assembly. Four years ago, I worked with him on this bill. My colleague knows full well that we need to take action because there are people who are suffering right now. He also knows very well that, in Quebec, we did things right. It took six years of work to get the job done.
During that six-year period, there were people who were suffering and who would have liked to have access to this sort of care, but we took the time to do things right. Similarly, four years ago, in 2015, when we were just elected, we passed similar legislation under a very tight deadline because the Supreme Court ordered us to do so, but we still did not completely rush the debate.
I agree with my colleague when he says that there are people who are suffering right now. However, there were also people who were suffering in the six years that it took us to do our job properly in the Quebec National Assembly. I do not think that anyone in Quebec or Canada can say that we did not do our job properly in Quebec during the six years that we took to study this extremely delicate subject.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-02-27 12:24 [p.1668]
Madam Speaker, as a former provincial representative, my friend understands and appreciates the important role that provincial governments play in the administration of health care and in providing services. One of those very critical services is palliative care. We hear a great deal of debate on that particular issue. The federal government also plays a role in ensuring that there is quality palliative care throughout the country, to the extent possible.
I wonder if my colleague could provide his thoughts on how Ottawa needs to work with the other jurisdictions to ensure that the best possible palliative care is available.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-02-27 12:25 [p.1668]
Madam Speaker, as I said in my speech, it is important to put an emphasis on palliative care. We are really talking about people's lives. It is not an easy task, but the responsibility of any government is to be sure that those who suffer have access to palliative care.
Obviously this is provincial jurisdiction, and the provinces should do something on this, but on the other hand, it would have been better if the bill had put more emphasis on palliative care, as we did four years ago. It was very important for us on the committee to address this issue, and we hope that the government will take care of palliative care.
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2020-02-27 12:25 [p.1668]
Madam Speaker, Quebec worked very hard, within its jurisdiction, and chose to include medical assistance in dying as part of a continuum of care, something individuals can request when they are terminally ill. Such care is a provincial responsibility.
Now we are talking about the Criminal Code. Two separate courts have independently asked legislators to intervene regarding assisted suicide in cases where people are suffering but are not terminally ill.
I asked my colleague if he thinks the bill addresses the specific needs of Ms. Gladu and Mr. Truchon, and if he agrees with the two court rulings.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2020-02-27 12:26 [p.1668]
Madam Speaker, yes, I think I already said so. Perhaps he did not hear me.
The fact is, when it comes to issues like this one, the government should have taken its time. There was an initial ruling that came from one court, and there will be others. I think the government has a responsibility to bring this matter before the superior courts to be sure that all legal aspects are assessed by the best legal minds in the country, in other words, the Supreme Court.
That said, personally, I agree.
View Nelly Shin Profile
View Nelly Shin Profile
2020-02-27 12:27 [p.1668]
Madam Speaker, Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code in relation to medical assistance in dying, is one that I believe was written with the intention of providing compassion to those who are suffering through an unfathomable, unbearable degree of pain by allowing a lawful, expedited termination of their suffering and granting access to a dignified death. The intention is kind. I see an urgency from the government to extend this expression of compassion to those who are suffering beyond comprehension.
However, from the perspective of a visionary and a lawmaker who cares for the long-term wellness and prosperity of our country, I would like to invite all members of the House to pause and bring into our dialogue the long-term effect of this bill and the impact of this bill on the guiding principles of lawmaking going forward.
I do not stand to speak on this bill with the moral authority of one who has reached a point of suffering equal to those who may be applying for MAID. I do not think most members of the House here have the personal experience to speak on that level. However, I do stand here to speak on this issue because there has been a force in my life that carried me through some very dark nights of the soul when adversity, pain and repeated cycles of injustice were poignant enough to wear down my will to fight and to try, sometimes causing me to question the value of my existence.
I have seen this force raise addicts, cancer patients and those experiencing deep depression from deep pits of psychological paralysis and darkness. This force transcends the distinctions of race, gender, socio-economic background, etc. It is almost as vital as life itself. It is a force that is central to the existence of the human race, and that force is called “hope”. While hope is easier to access for some than others, for others it may be almost impossible, because their painful experience is choking the light from their vision.
As caring individuals, as communities and as a nation that prides itself on compassion, it is our duty to turn over every stone to help others find hope when they can no longer access it themselves. Hope is a journey that demands an unrelenting search until it is found.
We saw it with Terry Fox. He is a national symbol of hope, because despite his painful struggle with cancer, he made the sacrifice he made with his cross-country campaign for cancer research because he was in search of hope and giving that hope to others. The story of his triumph over adversity, though his life was tragically truncated at such a young age, still continues to champion Canadians today, as Canadians respond by revering him as a national hero, because we value hope. We have seen the power of hope that compelled Terry to pass the finish line of his last breath.
We see hope whenever we see Team Canada send our paralympians to the Olympics. Many of them have overcome deep physical, emotional and mental suffering. Their focus, discipline and excellence have helped them to overcome their challenges.
Our nation is built on a foundation that values the sustenance of life and the right to prosper. We invest millions of dollars every year in first responders, medical services, infrastructure and laws to protect the survival, sustenance and prosperity of the people.
However, expediting the administration of death is counterintuitive to the inner reach for hope in the human condition. Our very Constitution is founded on the principles of the value of human life, the prosperity of each human being and each one's access to the opportunity to flourish.
While deep with the intentions of compassion and the appropriation of dignity, intervening with easier access to MAID opens a door to a very complicated path of further suffering, even for those who live on.
I would like to bring to the attention of the House the story of a man named Alan Nichols, from my province of British Columbia. As reported by CTV this past September, his family has stressed that Alan struggled with depression and should not have qualified for assisted death.
Alan's brother Gary told CTV:
He didn't have a life-threatening disease. He was capable of getting around. He was capable of doing almost anything that you had to do to survive.
Like many Canadians, Alan's life was altered dramatically when his father passed away. Especially since his father had been so involved in his life, his father's death made him particularly vulnerable, and he stopped taking antidepressants and became more angry and isolated:
Not going out in public, not seeing anybody, not eating properly.
This is how Gary described it.
Alan's family knows that he rid his home of furniture, apart from a bed and chair, and that he would refuse medication and food because of his depression. Another disturbing aspect to Alan's story is that despite his family's attempts to be involved in his life and an advocate for his life, his family members report that the hospital staff would not share information with them and shut them out from hearing the key facts.
There is more to this story, but I will leave it at that. This is accessible information.
The point I would like to illustrate here is that this is a very complicated issue. It is one that touches something so deep and necessary to our existence and our country, and that is hope. All because of the irreversibility of death, there is little intervention that can be done afterward when hope is terminated because there is no breath to receive the assistance of hope.
Rather than be in a rush to legislate this bill, we should focus on tackling things like the epidemic of suicide among first nations communities and youth. We should also focus on giving Canadians better access to mental health care so Canadians have greater access to hope when faced with situations of suffering, as people who are suffering so much consider MAID. We must do this until there are enough measures to show the flourishing of hope and human prosperity to counter a potential culture of death from capturing our nation, if we are to be too swift and lenient in our decisions surrounding issues of death.
It pains me to watch others suffer, but it also pains me to think that as lawmakers, our focus is on expediting access to death rather than expediting access to hope.
My statement in the House today is to inspire all members of this House to not only consider the dignity of the people suffering seeking release through death, but the dignity of existence and human prosperity for the long term.
Removing the mandatory 10-day waiting period reduces protections for vulnerable members of society. The government's original legislation, Bill C-14, went though extensive consultation. It is scheduled for parliamentary review this summer. I would ask the Liberal government to respect the process and allow the review to proceed rather than rush this very sensitive and complex issue in legislation. Let us give this time because death is irreversible.
I have decided to look at this bill through a filter of hope and preserving a culture of hope, as being a force that guides the laws we make not only today but for decades and centuries to come. Therefore, I stand today in the name of hope and invite my colleagues across all aisles to examine this bill through the lenses of hope and preserving hope in our country.
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