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Results: 16 - 30 of 67
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 Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
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 Nelly Shin Profile
CPC (BC)
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.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I wanted to applaud my colleague's courage and recognize that every word she spoke today is probably the same words that all of us as parliamentarians have spoken. Hope is eternal. Hope is what gives us all the energy to fight the battles we have in our lives and in our family's lives. We must never eliminate that hope people want to have in various aspects in their lives.
When we dealt with this bill previously, it was amazingly complicated, as my hon. colleague mentioned. It was probably one of the most difficult issues I have had to deal with in my 20-some years as a parliamentarian. By listening to people, like my colleague and others, we try to find the way that reflects the feelings of so many people.
Investing more money makes sure that there are programs that offer hope, whether we are talking about mental health, palliative care or so many other avenues. We are trying to ensure that everybody has hope and that they do not want to give it up and that we have given them every opportunity possible to access that help.
Does my colleague feel there is still a tremendous lack of those services in the areas she represents?
View Nelly Shin Profile
CPC (BC)
View Nelly Shin Profile
2020-02-27 12:37 [p.1670]
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's compassionate remarks. I am very emotional right now because it is a very important issue for everyone, and in some way or another we are all impacted by it. I have spent time on the front lines. I believe, whether it is in the area I represent or anywhere else in Canada, there is a lack of access to counselling and mental health care that would, as I mentioned in my speech, give tools to Canadians to work through their struggles, adversity and pains to access more hope before moving in the direction of medical assistance in dying.
I understand fully the implications of compassion that this piece of legislation is wanting to present, but because of the irreversibility of death, I feel time is needed. Preventatively and for the long-term future of our country, we must deal with all those other areas with greater care and time.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-02-27 12:41 [p.1670]
Madam Speaker, I rise today to address a very important piece of legislation. Looking at it, I could not help but reflect on the previous debates that we had and the process in the development of Bill C-14, which led us to the point where we are today.
If members who were not here want to get a good sense of how thorough the debate and discussions were, I recommend they take a look at some of the comments in the standing committees, the many lead-up discussions, different presentations and the pre-study that was conducted.
I enjoyed listening to the debates then, because like the member who just spoke said, we heard a lot of personal stories. When people ask me what I enjoy about being in the chamber, it is the different types of debates that we have. These are the ones, like the debate today, that I learn from. I appreciate the stories that come before the House.
We are all concerned about protecting vulnerable individuals in our society. At the same time, it is important as legislators to have a role to support the eligible person to be able to seek medical assistance in dying. It is a very difficult issue.
A good number of us felt with the passing of Bill C-14 that we had something that would move us forward. Even during the height of that discussion, there was a feeling that in a number of years we should review it and take a look at what has transpired in the previous years. We are quickly getting to that point.
However, last September, a Superior Court in Quebec made a determination. Members of the Conservative Party say maybe we should have appealed that decision. I respect that opinion. I do not necessarily believe that would have been the best direction for the government. The direction we have chosen is to make changes to the legislation now, in the hope that we will better serve Canadians.
Having said that, once we get into the summer months, there is going to be a great deal of discussion because it is mandated. When I think of the Bill C-14 debate, and I will provide some personal thoughts on the issue of palliative care, I would like to see us talk about the issue of mental illness. I am hoping that, when we do that comprehensive review, we incorporate that along with palliative care.
I am sure I am not unique and that all 338 members would concur when we think of health care in Canada, there are a couple of issues at our doors: the issue of mental health care services and palliative care services. I used to be the health care critic 15 years ago in Manitoba. We did not have the same sort of dialogue that we hear in the last number of years on those two critically important issues.
British Columbia many years ago elevated the issue of mental illness and made it a separate ministry. There was a minister of health and a minister of mental health illnesses.
I say that because, more and more, provinces are aware of the issue and the importance of mental illness. The Government of Canada has invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the last number of years, and continues to invest in mental illness and palliative care across the country. We are on a very strong footing when we look at where we are today.
We need to reflect on what brought us here. There were many consultations: literally thousands of people were engaged and many hours of debate and dialogue took place. It could have been in the thousands of hours. I do not know that for a fact, but I am sure that, between the time committees met on second reading of Bill C-14, the amount of consultation with Canadians in all regions of the country and the responses received via all sorts of mediums, hundreds of thousands of Canadians in all regions of our country were able to weigh in on this issue.
If we advance to January of this year, again there were consultations and round tables that took us to the different regions of Canada. There was the survey that has been referenced already today on several occasions. Approximately 300,000 Canadians were engaged in that particular survey at the beginning of the year. I do not know if all of the results have gone public to date, but I trust the individuals who helped formulate the legislation we are debating today did their homework in terms of consultations and incorporating all of the ideas. I know the Department of Justice and the Department of Health are following this debate and listening to what members have to say.
From a personal perspective, based on experiences I have garnered over the years, there are two concerns I want to express. One is with regard to health care services and the other deals with the legislation itself. Let me expand on both points.
If we were to ask Canadians what makes them feel good about being Canadian, we would often hear our health care services. I suspect this is probably number one. I referenced mental illness and palliative care. I have witnessed first-hand the evolution of palliative care.
My grandmother was in the St. Boniface Hospital, and many hospitals in our country have palliative care sections. Many of them panel seniors, in particular, who cannot get the quality care necessary in personal care home facilities or the supports they need in their communities and in their homes, so they end up going into hospitals and are panelled.
Many of them will go into palliative care because there are no designated palliative care units in health care facilities, so they end up in hospitals. My grandmother was one of them. She had terminal cancer, and we watched as the weeks went by. Family members visited and it was very difficult on them.
We had a very special relationship, as we all do with our grandparents. Many of us wondered why she had to be in a hospital. Even though it was kind of sectioned off from the emergency department and other aspects of the hospital, she was still in a hospital. It is a different type of a situation, and not necessarily the most comfortable.
Ultimately, my grandmother passed. Then, a number of years later, I had the personal experience of being there for my father in the days prior to his passing. He had to go from home into a hospital, and we were very fortunate that we were able to get him into the Riverview Health Centre. In that centre, with its large windows and beautiful atmosphere, you get the feeling that the type of care is very different.
I reflect on that. I was there at the moment of my father's passing, and we had discussions a number of days prior when he was in fear of what was going to happen, because he witnessed what had taken place with his mother, my grandma, at the St. Boniface Hospital. He did not have that choice, but we talked about having that choice.
I think, knowing my father, he would have been very happy with the way in which he ultimately passed. I really attribute it to his world-class treatment at that particular facility, and I kind of wish that my grandmother had the same sort of atmosphere. Not to take away from the fantastic work that those health care providers and others did at the St. Boniface Hospital, but it was a totally different atmosphere.
During the Bill C-14 debate, we heard many stories like the one we just heard from the member opposite. They are very touching, they are compelling and they make us ask what we can do here in Ottawa to ensure that we have the best quality of health care services we can possibly provide.
It is one of the reasons I am very passionate on the issue of the national framework. It does not have to be a system where we have one thing in British Columbia and another in Atlantic Canada or in the province of Quebec, or in provinces that do not have the same economic means or the same sort of treasury to provide the type of service that they should. This is where the national government has a role to play.
When I listen to comments inside the House with regard to where we might want to go from here, or very serious concerns about the current legislation, I would suggest that we reflect on what we are going to be able to potentially do in the coming months, when we have the opportunity.
Unlike in the Manitoba legislature, our standing committees can be exceptionally effective. It is truly amazing, the type of authority, ability and participation that we can witness if we are prepared to park our partisan hats at the door and try to do what is best for Canadians on this issue. If we can take a look at what took place, with regard to C-14, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we can do that.
If members listened to the previous speaker, they would get a sense of what was taking place when we had the debates on C-14. Whether it is in the health standing committee or whatever it is that we come up with collectively, with representation from all the parties, I would encourage them to take into consideration the possibility of going outside of Ottawa.
Maybe we should look at different regions and see what some of these other provinces are doing, and maybe tour some of the palliative care facilities. There is a great variance.
We need to look. If I reflect on the province of Manitoba, we should take a look at what is happening in Winkler, Flin Flon or Winnipeg. We should take a look at the difference between Riverview Health Centre and what takes place in the Seven Oaks hospital.
Where, and what role, can we play as a national government to ensure that we are maximizing the benefits of providing the type of palliative care that Canadians expect and deserve, given the limitations that we actually have? Only the national government can do that. I suggest it is going to be in a very important role.
Earlier today, the standing committee on trade tabled the CUSMA deal, the trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico. Many of the members were taking pictures of that particular committee, feeling very positive in terms of what they had been able to accomplish.
My challenge to the health committee, if that is going to be the standing committee, is to take that role very seriously in terms of the potentially life-changing report it could produce for Canadians.
I truly believe that the will is there to support what that committee is hoping to accomplish. It is just as significant as, and maybe even more important than, the report tabled today by the trade committee, which from what I understand was supported unanimously by all members of the House. If one listens to the speeches thus far, I do not think anyone would dispute what I said in regard to it.
I really encourage the standing committee, in the strongest way I can, to look at the mental illness issue using the same principles I talked about regarding palliative care. It is such a critically important issue, and Ottawa needs to play a stronger national leadership role on that. Hopefully that will happen, but because of time I am only going to highlight a few very brief points.
The proposed amendments would allow for a waiver of final consent for persons whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable, in the sense that they have been assessed and approved to receive medical assistance in dying, and have made arrangements with their practitioners for a waiver of final consent in certain situations because they were at risk of losing decision-making capacity by their chosen date to receive MAID.
I also want to highlight that the government is very aware of the concerns about the increased risks when MAID is provided to persons who are not dying in the short term. The bill, therefore, proposes additional safeguards that would apply when a person's natural death is not reasonably foreseeable.
These new safeguards aim to ensure that sufficient time and expertise are devoted to exploring requests for MAID from persons whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable and that such people are made aware of, and seriously consider, available means for relieving their suffering.
There is another really important part to me, but maybe I will do it in the question-and-answer period.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-02-27 13:11 [p.1673]
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my very esteemed colleague from Shefford.
The debate we are having today must be handled with restraint, dignity and composure. Partisanship has no place here. This is a serious matter, and our decision will have significant repercussions on the lives of many, and perhaps even on our own lives one day, because we all have to leave this world sometime. It is inevitable.
The sad thing in all this is that, through decisions made in this very Parliament, our society has forced people who are suffering to suffer even more. People with severe medical conditions were forced to appeal to the justice system to have their most basic rights upheld. Worse yet, some had to go on a hunger strike to get access to medical assistance in dying by meeting the reasonably foreseeable death requirement. Do hon. members have any idea what we have asked these suffering patients to endure?
These long-suffering people coping with illness, trying to get through the day in unspeakable physical and psychological agony, were forced to go to court or put themselves in a position where their death was reasonably foreseeable. Everyone knows that the justice system is backed up. The costs and delays are typically unreasonable. These people had to endure a veritable ordeal because we made a decision for them.
We failed to make informed decisions that upheld individual liberty. It is a huge privilege to sit in this House, and with that privilege come serious responsibilities. We must honour our position. I want all members of the House to know that this time, we cannot fail. Courageous patients have had to fight the system to get us to make a wise, informed decision. The Superior Court of Quebec gave very clear directives. We must have the courage and vision to apply these directives and support this bill in principle, because it deserves to be improved in committee.
The Beaudoin decision in favour of Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon is very clear: “The Court has no hesitation in concluding that the reasonably foreseeable natural death requirement infringes Mr. Truchon and Ms. Gladu's rights to liberty and security, protected by section 7 of the Charter.”
We must read those last few lines carefully. They refer to the rights to life and freedom of choice. Which of us can presume to choose for someone else? I want to warn my colleagues against the temptation to think about themselves. I want to warn them against voting according to their own beliefs, philosophies or religion. Freedom to choose must be upheld, and in order to choose, we need options. The basis of the decision, which came after a very long wait and constant anguish, makes it very clear that this is about rights and freedoms. No one can choose for another person. We must remove the barriers so that everyone can live out their last moments in their own way, freely and without constraint. Of course, we must not fail to protect the most vulnerable, in accordance with the well-established rule, in medical practice, of free and informed consent. That means informed by exposure to all possible options, and free from any undue pressure.
This bill is a step in the right direction. It includes important precautionary measures and provides for the study of other important issues that need to be considered. Among other things, it would exclude people suffering solely from mental illness. I think that is a wise decision. This is an extremely complex issue that should be studied further. We cannot decide on this issue right now, hence the need to study it properly without skipping any steps.
We must also look at the issue of advance requests for persons newly diagnosed with a condition that may have an impact on their decision-making ability in the future. These are extremely sensitive issues that we must study with great care and a great deal of precaution. It is therefore wise not to include them for now.
Generally speaking, the purpose of this bill is to allow those suffering from degenerative, incurable diseases to have access to medical assistance in dying, whether natural death is reasonably foreseeable or not, except in cases of degenerative cognitive disease, as I was just saying.
For people whose death is reasonably foreseeable, this is about relaxing the rules by eliminating the 10-day waiting period between the written request and the administration of MAID. The 10-day waiting period may be waived if a person has been assessed and their request for MAID has been approved and arrangements have been made with their practitioner to obtain a waiver of final consent because the patient is at risk of losing their capacity to make a decision as the disease progresses or with the administration of pain-relief medication. That way, when making the request for MAID, the patient can agree to waive consent the second time if their pain is beyond treatment, even with care.
This last measure allows the person to live longer with a reasonable quality of life. The person therefore does not have to feel like they have to rush to request MAID out of fear of losing their capacity to do so.
For people whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, there is a 90-day delay between the request and the provision of the MAID service, unless assessments have been made and the loss of capacity is imminent. This time period must therefore be applied in a reasonable and reasoned manner. Who among us can guarantee that 90 days will be enough for some? Who among us can say whether 90 days will be too long a hell to endure for others? We are entitled to question the application of this delay. No one can say. That is why this clause and this entire bill will have to be implemented in a sensible, flexible and intelligent way. Practitioners are in the best position to determine what is valid and what is not when they work together with their patients, listen to them and, of course, treat them humanely. Ultimately, the priority must be the patients themselves, their well-being and their dignity.
I remind all members that although we are talking about dignity, this is above all about rights and freedoms. Every person at end of life must have options, and that individual is the only one who should be able to make that choice. We must not impose our own values and opinions. We must simply ensure that we provide a suitable framework regulating the practice of and the right to medical assistance in dying. We must respect the freedom of the individual. That is fundamental.
I urge all parliamentarians in the House to consider the huge responsibility we must shoulder. We hold in our hands the fate of hundreds of thousands of people. Not only is the end-of-life suffering of these people in our hands, but the suffering and anguish of their family members is as well. It is horrific to watch a loved one suffer at end of life and to feel helpless. Some members of the House may be thinking about personal choices. As I mentioned earlier, we need to figure out a reasonable framework for this very complex act and, through all of this, maintain freedom of choice for these individuals.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2020-02-27 13:21 [p.1675]
Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. I have some questions for him.
During the debates today and yesterday, a lot was said about some MAID practitioners. I would like to know whether the member heard the same concerns raised by the Conservatives about doctors who pressure patients too aggressively.
My second question has to do with the fact that mental illness is not included in the bill and that we will be studying it, as the member mentioned. I would like to hear his thoughts on the fact that the Government of Quebec also decided to study whether mental illness should be an underlying condition.
I would like to hear his thoughts on those two questions.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-02-27 13:21 [p.1675]
Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague. His questions are valid.
I will start by answering his second question.
With respect to mental illness, the Government of Quebec chose to study the issue more thoroughly before including it in the law. If two separate lawmaking bodies are making the same choices, that strongly suggests we are on the right path. I think it is a reasonable decision. Laws as impactful as MAID legislation must be drafted very carefully.
With respect to doctors' policies, I heard the horror stories some of our colleagues shared with the House. It is important to note that the medical profession is extremely well regulated. We need to make sure this bill provides a solid framework.
Some MPs shared examples of real cases with us, and I would encourage them to report those cases. I believe such cases are rare exceptions.
By far, most health professionals, including doctors, nurses and attendants, are dedicated to and care deeply about the well-being of their patients. They will take every possible precaution to ensure that the patient's choice is free and informed. As I said, for patients to make free and informed choices, they must be made aware of their options.
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
BQ (QC)
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
2020-02-27 13:26 [p.1676]
Madam Speaker, it is with great humility that I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to medical assistance in dying.
Many MPs have very personal stories about the end of life of one of their loved ones. As the Bloc Québécois critic for seniors, it goes without saying that I have heard my share. Therefore, in my speech, I will recall the work done by the Bloc on this issue, the sensitivity that exists in Quebec regarding medical assistance in dying and, finally, the position of certain groups of seniors and women who have come to meet with me.
First, let me go over the context again. In September 2019, the Quebec Superior Court ruled in favour of Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, both suffering from a serious degenerative disease, stating that one of the eligibility criteria for medical assistance in dying is too restrictive. This criterion, that of “reasonably foreseeable natural death”, is found in the federal government's Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts with regard to medical assistance in dying, and the provincial government's Act respecting end-of-life care.
Justice Christine Baudoin said it well in her ruling when she wrote: “The Court has no hesitation in concluding that the reasonably foreseeable natural death requirement infringes Mr. Truchon and Ms. Gladu’s rights to liberty and security, protected by section 7 of the Charter.” Those two individuals had argued that they were being denied medical assistance in dying because their deaths were not imminent.
Let me now remind the House of the Bloc Québécois's position and highlight the outstanding work of the member for Montcalm, to whom I offer my deepest sympathies. I want to thank him for the work he has done on this file because, as he quite rightly pointed out, legislators did not do their job properly with Bill C-14. As a result, issues of a social and political nature are being brought before the courts. We need to make sure that people who have serious, irreversible illnesses are not forced to go to court to access MAID. That would be terrible, and yet that is what will happen if we cannot figure out a way to cover degenerative cognitive diseases.
However, we believe that it is important to be very cautious before making any decisions on questions related to mental health. That is why we are relieved that the bill does not address eligibility for MAID for individuals suffering solely from a mental illness. Indeed, this issue requires further reflection, study and consultation, which will be completed at the Standing Committee on Health as soon as the motion moved by my colleague from Montcalm is adopted.
For the second part of my speech, I would like to talk about Quebec's sentiments on this whole issue. Quebec was the first jurisdiction in Canada to pass legislation on medical assistance in dying. Wanda Morris, a representative of a B.C. group that advocates for the right to die with dignity, pointed out that the committee studying the issue had the unanimous support of all the parties in the National Assembly. This should be a model for the rest of Canada.
Ms. Morris said she felt confident after seeing how it would work in Quebec and seeing that people were pleased to have the option of dying with dignity. The Quebec legislation, which was spearheaded by Véronique Hivon, was the result of years of research and consultation with physicians, patients and the public. It has been reported that 79% of Quebeckers support medical assistance in dying, compared to 68% in the rest of Canada.
In 2015, when the political parties in the National Assembly unanimously applauded the Supreme Court ruling on MAID, Véronique Hivon stated:
Today is truly a great day for people who are ill, for people who are at the end of their lives, for Quebec and for all Quebeckers who participated in...this profoundly democratic debate that the National Assembly had the courage to initiate in 2009....I believe that, collectively, Quebec has really paved the way, and we have done so in the best possible way, in a non-partisan, totally democratic way.
For the third part of my speech, I would like to tell you about a meeting I had with the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale, or AFEAS, in my role as critic for seniors and status of women. During the meeting, the AFEAS shared with me its concerns with MAID. I will quote the AFEAS 2018-19 issue guide:
Is medical assistance in dying a quality of life issue? For those individuals who can no longer endure life and who meet the many criteria for obtaining this assistance, the opportunity to express their last wishes is undoubtedly welcome. This glimmer of autonomy can be reassuring and make it possible to face death more calmly....As the process for obtaining medical assistance in dying is very restrictive, those who use it probably do so for a very simple reason: they have lost all hope....This process cannot be accessed by individuals who are not at the end of life....People with degenerative diseases, who are suffering physically and mentally, do not have access to medical assistance in dying.
Many people are not eligible for MAID because of the federal law governing the practice, which was imposed by a court ruling in February 2015. Four years after Carter, individuals whose quality of life is severely compromised by degenerative diseases are still being forced to ask the courts for permission to end their suffering.
In February 2015, the Supreme Court even struck down two sections of the Criminal Code prohibiting Canadian doctors from administering MAID. In Carter, the highest court in the land stated that a competent adult who clearly consents to the termination of life is eligible for MAID if that person “has a grievous and irremediable medical condition...that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition”.
According to the AFEAS, the Supreme Court's criteria were very broad. In drafting the MAID eligibility criteria, the Government of Canada included the concept of reasonably foreseeable natural death only for people at the end of life, which excludes a significant number of people who are experiencing intolerable physical and mental suffering.
The entire process is based on the intensity of the suffering as assessed by a doctor and a panel of experts. The sick person's own assessment is not always taken into account. There are no compassionate criteria among the requirements for obtaining MAID. A person may be at the end of their life and be unable to make the request themselves because they cannot communicate. The law applies only to people who are able to give their free and informed consent up until the very end, which could be terribly traumatic and even cruel to those who have been suffering for years.
With regard to advance consent, the AFEAS spoke about the case of Audrey Parker, a woman from Halifax who died with medical assistance on November 1, 2018. She made a video three days before her death. In that three-minute video, she said that she would like nothing more than to make it to Christmas, but that if she became incompetent along the way, she would lose out on her choice of a beautiful, peaceful and, best of all, pain-free death.
The Barreau du Québec believes that the law should be amended to comply with the criteria set out in Carter and thus prevent court challenges from being filed by people who should not have to carry such a burden.
A panel of experts has studied this issue and recommends, under certain conditions, ending the suffering of patients who have previously expressed their wish to receive medical assistance in dying, but who subsequently become incapable of expressing their consent, in particular people with various forms of dementia or cognitive loss such as Alzheimer's disease. This is why AFEAS is asking, with respect to human rights, that the process of medical assistance in dying be based more on the rights of individuals and on respect for their wishes.
With respect to reasonably foreseeable natural death, it requested that the reference to “reasonably foreseeable natural death” be removed from the eligibility criteria. With respect to advance consent, it asked that the person's informed consent be respected and that it be given in advance. Also on the subject of advance consent, it asked that the consent anticipated, stated and recorded by the person be recognized.
In conclusion, today's debate demonstrates the need to act so that people suffering from degenerative and incurable diseases are no longer forced to go before the courts to challenge the terms and conditions surrounding eligibility for medical assistance in dying, and so that we can ensure the best possible continuum of care.
Let's take action so that everyone can die with dignity.
View William Amos Profile
Lib. (QC)
View William Amos Profile
2020-02-27 13:55 [p.1680]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on the topic of Bill C-7, as we embark on what I expect will be quite a lively and passionate discussion about issues that Canadians care deeply about and certainly my Pontiac constituents. I heard from them for several years on this topic, regular correspondence, regular discussions at the door, so I appreciate this opportunity to discuss certain aspects of our government's proposed changes to the federal MAID legislation.
It is timely to share some of the insights from three important studies on very complex and sensitive issues that were not included in the 2016 federal legislation. These are requests by people for whom mental illness is their sole underlying medical condition, advance requests and requests by mature minors. I hope we will get to all three of them, but may only get to the first two.
When Bill C-14 was debated in 2016, parliamentarians had difficulty finding common ground on how to address these types of requests within Canada's first assisted dying regime. Understandably, given the challenging nature of these issues and the limited time that was available, due to the Supreme Court's timeline, to deliver on acceptable approaches for Canada, parliamentarians collectively decided that more in-depth study and review of the evidence was needed.
The legislation in 2016 therefore included requirements for the government to undertake independent reviews. There were strict timelines set out in Bill C-14 and the studies that needed to be commissioned had to be done within six months of the coming into force of Canada's new legislation on assisted dying and the government was obliged to table the final reports on the studies within a further two years. Both of these timelines were met.
In December 2016, the government asked the Council of Canadian Academies, CCA, an independent organization that undertakes evidence-based expert study, to inform our public policy development and to take on these studies that were required by legislation. The resulting reports were tabled in December 2018, documenting extensive review of academic and policy research, stakeholder submissions and international experience in the three subject areas.
They also included a broad range of perspectives from relevant health care professions, diverse academic disciplines, advocacy groups, indigenous elders, essentially the whole of Canadian perspective was brought to bear. In accordance with the CCA practice, they did not in fact contain recommendations.
Two of the reports, one on request by individuals where mental illness is the sole underlying condition and the report on advance requests have been particularly informative during the development of our government's response to the Quebec's Superior Court decision in Truchon.
I will first talk about mental illness. Under the current law, very few persons with mental illness as the primary source of their suffering are likely to be eligible for MAID. This is because most mental illnesses do not cause a person's natural death to be reasonably foreseeable.
Removing the reasonably foreseeable natural death criterion introduces the possibility for persons with mental illness to be deemed eligible for MAID, if they meet the remaining criteria.
During the recent federal round-table consultations held on MAID, we heard many concerns from participants who felt that not enough is known to safely extend eligibility for MAID to people whose suffering is caused by a mental illness alone. They felt that the issue required further examination.
We also know that there is generally very little support for expanding eligibility among mental health care practitioners, such as psychiatrists and psychologists, and by organizations representing people with mental illness. The CCA report on this issue noted a number of challenges associated with the delivery of MAID to persons with a mental illness.
View Luc Desilets Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Desilets Profile
2020-02-27 14:14 [p.1683]
Mr. Speaker, on February 13, during my visit to Quebec's wonderful national capital, I stopped in at an original and unique café that is home to 16 cats and one dog. It is called Café félin Ma langue aux chats.
The purpose of this enterprise is to bring veterans out of isolation. It was launched by two veterans who were struggling with PTSD and other issues. I want to recognize the dedication and courage of Marie-Pier Tremblay and Lisa Cyr. Their goal is to provide veterans with a space that is free of judgment and labels, where they can get together and interact with complete peace of mind. Basically, it is a refuge.
With this initiative, these two women are changing perceptions, preventing suicide and reducing the stigma associated with mental health.
I salute Marie-Pier and Lisa.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
GP (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2020-02-27 15:09 [p.1693]
Mr. Speaker, one in five Canadians suffer from a mental health problem or illness in any given year. Mental illness-related costs in Canada are over $50 billion annually.
Social costs are high. People with serious mental illness are at greater risk of living in poverty.
The Minister of Finance has been tasked with setting national standards for access to mental health services.
Could the minister confirm that the upcoming budget will include funding for a national framework that will allow Canadians to access a variety of mental health professionals, including counsellors, and will empower provinces and territories to work together for action on this important issue?
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-02-27 15:09 [p.1693]
Mr. Speaker, the health of Canadians is a top priority for constituents in every riding from coast to coast to coast.
During the recent federal election campaign, we committed to put billions of dollars to support not just mental health, but to improve access to primary care, to implement pharmacare and to improve in-home care for seniors.
I look forward to continuing my conversations with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to implement a plan through our fiscal framework that will improve the health of all Canadians.
View William Amos Profile
Lib. (QC)
View William Amos Profile
2020-02-27 15:15 [p.1694]
Mr. Speaker, I will continue to speak to the report of the Council of Canadian Academies on the provision of medical assistance in dying to those struggling with mental illness.
The complexity of the issue is reflected in the fact that the members of the Council of Canadian Academies working group had vastly different opinions on the subject. On the one hand, the reports note that symptoms of mental disorder can impair cognitive abilities, making it more difficult to understand or appreciate the nature and consequences of treatment decisions.
The word “incurable” is not generally used by clinicians in the context of mental disorders, which makes it difficult to assess the condition of a person with “irremediable” health problems under the current legislation.
On the other hand, the report points out that the autonomy rights of an individual with a mental illness must be respected. The report cites the experiences of Belgium and the Netherlands, which permit assisted dying for psychiatric conditions, with additional safeguards. However, the report also acknowledges that assisted dying for persons with mental illnesses in these jurisdictions remains controversial, and the public debate is ongoing. Ultimately, the working group could not reach consensus on ways to address complexities and mitigate risks associated with mental illness and medical assistance in dying.
On the topic of advance requests, the Council of Canadian Academies report on advance requests also documents considerable evidence and provided many instructive findings on an issue of great interest and concern to many Canadians. Particularly in our riding, this was an issue I heard a lot about.
An advance request is a request for assisted dying made well in advance and in anticipation of the time when the person making the request may face suffering and other circumstances that may make them eligible for medical assistance in death. An advance request would set out conditions under which an individual requests MAID to be provided at a future date. Advance requests are premised on the likelihood that when people's health circumstances deteriorate to the point where they would want an assisted death, they would no longer have the capacity to affirm their decision immediately before receiving medical assistance in dying. In other words, that critical requirement of giving final consent would not be possible.
Many people express the desire to make an advance request so they have the comfort of knowing they will be able to avoid a lengthy period of grievous suffering for themselves and for their families. This is in the event they succumb to an illness that could leave them severely impaired and lacking cognitive capacity for a lengthy time period.
The CCA report helped unpack advance requests, in a way that really was helpful, by outlining several scenarios of increasing complexity. The first scenario involves an individual at the end of life who has been assessed as eligible for medical assistance in dying, but fears losing capacity while waiting to receive it. This is the situation experienced by Audrey Parker from Nova Scotia who chose to receive MAID earlier than she had wanted in fear of losing her eligibility status.
The second scenario involves an individual who has been diagnosed with a serious condition, but does not yet qualify for medical assistance in dying.
The third scenario involves an individual who wants to plan for various future outcomes, prior to any diagnosis.
The report indicated that when the request is farther in advance of the procedure, it becomes more challenging for health care providers to be certain that the request still reflects the wishes of the individual. The report found that the first scenario poses the least risk and is relatively straightforward. Canadians expressed a great deal of support for this scenario in the federal consultations and it is also widely supported by experts and practitioners.
Our proposed amendments in Bill C-7 would permit this type of advance request. This means that an individual who has a reasonably foreseeable natural death, and who is assessed and approved for medical assistance in dying, can wait for their chosen date without worrying about losing decision-making capacity. If the person does lose capacity prior to that date, they would still receive medical assistance in dying on the requested date or earlier, as expressed in their advance wish. It also means that individuals no longer need to reduce required pain medications and endure additional suffering in order to maintain their capacity to consent right before the procedure.
However, the other two scenarios, where significantly more time passes between preparing a request and medical assistance in dying provision, are far more complex and challenging.
I want to point out that we have definitely made movement on that first aspect. It is in those other two aspects where there is significantly more debate, and those need to be taken care of by Parliament in the coming months, which is exactly what this bill provides for.
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