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Results: 1 - 15 of 21
View John Williamson Profile
Madam Speaker, the national revenue minister brought in changes to the disability tax credit in 2017. The government said this was to improve accessibility.
Three years later, constituents from my riding with lifelong mental disabilities are still waiting for access. They are still denied eligibility even after providing legitimate medical documentation. One family was even forced to go to tax court before the government conceded that mental health issues are eligible.
When will the government stop discriminating against Canadians with mental health disabilities so they can receive this tax credit?
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 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 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 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 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 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.
View Nelly Shin Profile
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 Brad Redekopp Profile
View Brad Redekopp Profile
2020-02-27 15:40 [p.1698]
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak on Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding medical assistance in dying.
My office has received about 135 phone calls, emails or letters so far on this issue, and I recognize that this is a very touchy, personal and non-partisan issue.
I will begin with a quick bit of history. The MAID legislation came into law in June 2016. Recently, one judge in Quebec ruled that the wording in the legislation on “foreseeable death” was too restrictive. The Liberal government was very quick to accept this ruling. It chose not to appeal, and instead moved to rewrite the legislation taking into account the decision of the court.
This caused me to compare this ruling to the recent Alberta court ruling in which four judges found the carbon tax to be unconstitutional. It made me wonder if the government is going to be as quick to accept the Alberta court ruling as well and not appeal it, but that is a digression.
As I said, MAID is a very touchy, personal and non-partisan issue. One can always find examples of people for whom MAID legislation is a difficult but welcome option. Unfortunately, those simple examples are usually in the minority. Far more often, it is much more complicated than that. The stories I have heard reflect these complications, such as the case where families are caught by surprise with a death and then forced to deal with the aftermath of that.
There are cases where a person is at a particularly low point in their health but, under this proposed legislation, would be able to request and receive MAID with no waiting period. There are cases where physicians or hospital officials apply pressure on individuals to consider MAID. For example, Roger Foley, an Ontario man who is suffering from an incurable neurological disease, said that the medical staff repeatedly offered him MAID, despite his repeated requests to live at home.
There is also the B.C. case of Ms. S. Dr. Wiebe lamented the profound suffering of Ms. S. but felt that Ms. S. was not eligible for an assisted death. Then, unfortunately, Ms. S. decided to starve herself. Dr. Wiebe and another doctor then determined that, due to the severe malnutrition and dehydration of Ms. S., her natural death was reasonably foreseeable, so Dr. Wiebe euthanized her on March 2017.
According to a Globe and Mail article, this case is the first to be made public in which a medical regulator has ruled on the contentious question of whether doctors should grant assisted death to patients who only satisfy all the criteria of the federal law after they have stopped eating and drinking.
It is not difficult to imagine a situation where a hospital will, for reasons of efficiency, encourage its staff to suggest MAID to patients with chronically difficult and complex cases. It is not a simple problem. It is a very complex problem.
What bothers me about this is that the government is pre-empting the parliamentary review process that was specified in the legislation. We know that the current justice minister voted against the party on the original legislation because he felt that it did not go far enough. Now, as justice minister, he is able to make the changes that he desired. This is troubling, because he is choosing to pre-empt the legislated review process and get his desired changes into legislation without consultation.
The existing law mandates the review of the legislation every five years, and the review will happen in just a few months.
Why is the government is such a rush to make substantive changes to this legislation and pre-empt the legislated review process?
To me, it makes far more sense to deal with the specific issue raised by the Quebec judge only, then do a proper consultation with Canadians this summer and propose changes based on that. Instead, the government had an extensive online survey that lasted two weeks. While it received a lot of responses, I think it just proves that there is great interest, and Canadians have a lot to say about this issue. So far, the results of these responses have not been shared, and I ask for these responses to be shared. I call on the government to do the right thing and leave any changes beyond what the Quebec judge has asked for until the completion of the review process later this year.
Since we are talking about changes to this legislation, I want to talk about palliative care. There are calls for a pan-Canadian strategy on palliative care. I think it is convenient to point to the provinces and say that this is their problem, but there cannot be a full end-of-life strategy without funds and laws around palliative care.
The government broke a key election promise to invest $3 billion in long-term care, including palliative care. Access to palliative care is an essential part of end-of-life decision-making.
I have a personal example from Saskatoon, which has 12 palliative care beds for an area with over 300,000 people.
My mother-in-law had a terminal disease. In her case, MAID was neither requested nor desired. She was fortunate in that her death was relatively quick, and by some miracle she was able to get one of those 12 beds in Saskatoon.
It should not take a miracle to get good end-of-life care. It should not be that MAID is the only reasonable solution at the end of life because palliative care is not available. Therefore, I call on the government to put as much effort into palliative care as it has into MAID.
Another significant area of concern is conscience protection. Physicians and health professionals must be given strong conscience rights. They must be free to not participate and be free of penalty or harassment for making that choice. They must also be free to not be required to refer to another health professional. They must have full conscience protection.
Further, it must be recognized that the conscience objection of institutions must be protected. Institutions are not bricks and mortar. They are collections of people with values. Therefore, institutions must also be given the right of conscience protection. Several Supreme Court cases are instructive here.
The Supreme Court in 2015, in the Loyola case, stated:
Religious freedom under the Charter must therefore account for the socially embedded nature of religious belief, and the deep linkages between this belief and its manifestation through communal institutions and traditions.
In another 2015 decision, the Supreme Court stated:
A neutral public space free from coercion, pressure and judgment on the part of public authorities in matters of spirituality is intended to protect every person’s freedom and dignity, and it helps preserve and promote the multicultural nature of Canadian society.
We must respect the multicultural nature of Canadian society. We must respect both medical professionals and institutions, and allow them to have full conscience protections free from harassment and consequences.
There are some specific changes proposed that I am concerned about. The current legislation includes a 10-day waiting period between when MAID is requested and when it can be administered. The current legislation already allows for this waiting period to be waived. It states that if two medical practitioners:
...are both of the opinion that the person's death, or the loss of their capacity to provide informed consent, is imminent—any shorter period that the first medical practitioner or nurse practitioner considers appropriate [can be used] in the circumstances.
There already is a provision to deal with this issue. There is no need to make changes. The situation has been contemplated and addressed in the current legislation.
Another area of concern is the lack of safeguards for the mentally ill. Mental illness is a very complex situation. Patients diagnosed with an underlying mental health challenge are not required to undergo a psychiatric assessment by a psychiatric professional to determine whether they have the capacity to consent.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the issues of mental health. However, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which a person is in a particularly dark period and considers MAID. It may well be that with proper professional help that person can work through the darkness and emerge a bit better. This may not always be the case, but that is why having a general waiting period is so important. It eliminates the ability of medical professionals or others to make a quick decision that they regret.
A poll in January found that Saskatchewan and Manitoba had the lowest support in the country for MAID. In 2018, in Saskatchewan, only 67 of 172 applicants for MAID actually received medically assisted death. Some were declined, some withdrew and some died before the request could be completed.
In summary, I would make the following observations. Most importantly, in the words of a constituent I spoke with this week, “We need to slow this down, not speed it up.” Yes, we need to deal with the Quebec court decision, but that only requires one change. There is a legislated review that will happen this summer.
Let us wait for a proper consultation and use that lens to view any proposed changes. Let us have a pan-Canadian strategy for palliative care. Let us put full conscience protection in place for physicians and health care professionals. Let us put conscience protection in place for institutions. Let us leave the 10-day waiting period and the ability to create exceptions the way it is. Let us deal with the Quebec court decision and leave the rest until after the legislated review this summer. Let us slow this down.
View Dane Lloyd Profile
View Dane Lloyd Profile
2020-02-27 16:58 [p.1710]
Mr. Speaker, as parliamentarians it is incumbent upon us to draft responsible legislation that protects the sanctity of life, protects those contemplating suicide and protects vulnerable peoples. These are principles that were outlined in the preamble to Bill C-14, the landmark legislation that governs assisted dying in this country. These are principles that, although largely restated in Bill C-7, are being watered down and undermined by this legislation.
As recently as the early 1990s, in the landmark Rodriguez case, the court ruled that there was no constitutional right to assisted dying in this country. The Carter decision overruled that previous decision, and now Parliament has the difficult task of balancing the autonomy of Canadians with our responsibility to create safeguards for vulnerable Canadians. It is one of our most sacred responsibilities to protect the lives of our citizens. We need to get laws on assisted dying right.
The adoption of medical assistance in dying after the 2015 election is an event I am very familiar with. I had the honour of serving under the member for St. Albert—Edmonton as he took the lead as the Conservative vice-chair of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying. During this time, I was involved in all aspects of the committee that was making recommendations on a new law. I heard from all the witnesses, and I listened to all deliberations regarding what direction our country should take.
That committee recommended a radical departure with very few safeguards. These recommendations did not reflect the testimony of experts, but instead the political agenda of special interests.
The Conservative minority report provided at the joint committee was entrenched firmly in the principles of the Supreme Court's decision in Carter, and included recommendations that were laid out by key witnesses, such as the former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, Dr. Karandeep Sonu Gaind. It outlined key principles for us on the issue of physician-assisted dying.
These included not accepting the provision that assistance in dying be provided to those under the age of 18, in line with the Carter decision, which stated that only competent adults should be allowed access to assisted dying. We also did not accept the extension of medical assistance in dying for those suffering exclusively from mental illnesses. We did not believe that any mental illness is irremediable, as the Canadian Psychiatric Association stated.
We also did not believe in the validity of advance directives to allow Canadians to consent to an assisted death far in advance of its administration. This change would stand opposed to the express will of the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that consent must be contemporaneous with the time of death.
We also recognized the lessons of the Quebec experience, as the first jurisdiction in this country to legalize euthanasia. In its regime, medical assistance in dying could only be rendered on adults with a severe, incurable physical illness, characterized by an advanced state of irreversible decline.
I believe many Canadians can sympathize with this limited exception for assistance in dying; however, even these safeguards have proved to be short-lived. Barely five years later, the courts and the government have decided that these safeguards are far too restrictive.
How did we get here today? Barely had the ink dried on Bill C-14 before proponents of expanded assisted dying launched their campaign to eliminate necessary safeguards.
As a Conservative who strongly believes in the sanctity of human life, Bill C-14 was a difficult pill to swallow. However, it was one that I believed upheld many of the values that I hold and the values that many of my constituents hold.
The previous legislation recognized that we must tread carefully with this new reality of assisted dying. It introduced safeguards that limited mature minors, those with exclusively mental illnesses and those whose deaths were not reasonably foreseeable.
I believe this is where the majority of Canadians are, and I believe the government largely got the balance right under Bill C-14. Unfortunately, there are a radical, vocal few who want to undermine even these protections and push this country headlong into a permissive regime for assisted dying, a regime that, as we know from international experience, has resulted in the deaths of vulnerable people.
If we continue to go down this road and liberalize all safeguards, we will continue to see mistakes and deliberate actions that end the lives of vulnerable people. This new legislation outlined in Bill C-7, although not taking these large, radical steps that I outlined, is opening the door to a wider radical departure from principles like the protection of the vulnerable and the sanctity of human life.
I am particularly concerned about the inclusion of the term and policy of advance consent.
The Supreme Court of Canada was very clear, crystal clear, that an assisted death should only be administered with the consent of a person at the time of death. We know that there are some cases where people fear losing their capacity to end their lives. However, we cannot allow the precedent of advance consent to gain legitimacy in our system. Advance consent in this legislation I believe is a Trojan horse designed to build the legal case to accept the adoption of advance directives.
Advance directives are a concept by which people can direct the actions of medical professionals after they have ceased to have the capacity to consent to an assisted death. Many Canadians are familiar with DNRs: do-not-resuscitate orders. DNRs are a completely ethical and morally acceptable practice, whereby a patient can designate that no action should be taken to attempt resuscitation. By respecting the will of the patient and not acting, medical professionals are allowing the patient to die a natural death. Medical professionals can also hasten the natural death of their patient through pain remediation. I believe this is also an acceptable practice.
I support do-not-resuscitate orders, and I think many Canadians are being deliberately misled into believing that an advance directive is the moral and ethical equivalent of a DNR. It is not. An advance directive does not ask medical professionals to withhold action allowing a natural death. It requires medical professionals to take direct action to immediately end the life of the patient.
This is a leap in practice that goes far beyond what I believe is ethical. It undermines one of the greatest medical principles: first, do no harm. I can imagine, in a not-so-distant future, someone with dementia or Alzheimer's who had previously written an advance directive, believing that life would be not worth living with this disease. Imagine in the future that we had the medical expertise and the breakthrough pharmaceuticals that could make life better for those suffering. How can someone consent to have life end without contemporaneous consent at the time of death, when they cannot know what their quality of life will be?
It introduces a high level of subjectivity to the question about what kind of life is a life worth living. This is a dangerous question that will lead us down a lethal road, a road that I do not think anyone wants to go down today. I believe it is unethical and dangerous to allow someone's life to be ended by an advance directive or consent, even with the meagre protections offered in Bill C-7, which includes a provision that no resistance be shown. There is still a threat of abuse. If people are unable to understand and consent to death, how are they supposed to know to resist when someone comes to administer their death?
Parliament is being rushed into liberalizing a practice that is not even half a decade old. Its members lack the experience, the data and the moral understanding to press forward with such a life-and-death issue. I am disappointed that the government abdicated its responsibility to stand up for vulnerable people when it chose not even to appeal the Quebec court's decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. What better court to clarify what safeguards are acceptable than the very court that originally dealt with these significant matters?
Instead, the government has given Parliament little time to contemplate such an important issue. Canadians are still catching up to the reality of assisted dying being legal in this country, and now we are foolishly pressing forward before we can fully understand the impacts of this legalization.
View Gary Vidal Profile
Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to support the Wet'suwet'en people. Over the past weeks, news organizations from coast to coast have mobilized to every blockade and every protest, vying for sound bites and clips to share on the morning news and on their social media. Who has been forgotten in all of this? It seems to me it is the people of Wet'suwet'en nation.
Politicians across Canada and in this House have taken it upon themselves to speak on behalf of the people. I do not want to even pretend to speak on behalf of these people, because I think that would be foolish for me to claim to do so. It would lack credibility and integrity. Let me be clear, however. We are at a very important point in our history, and I intend to be on the side of the Wet'suwet'en people tonight, who have the right to self-determination and to control their own destiny.
The elected leadership of all 20 first nations whose territory runs along the pathway of Coastal GasLink, eight hereditary chiefs and over 80% of the people are in favour of getting this pipeline built. I was the mayor of the city of Meadow Lake for eight years and I know just how difficult it is to get 80% support for a project. It is nearly impossible. That is why I appreciate the hard work that the elected chiefs have put in to negotiate an extremely successful deal with Coastal LNG on behalf of their people.
There is over $1 billion in commitments to indigenous workers and to indigenous-owned firms because of this project. These dollars could be used for important investments in these communities such as housing, mental health, education, recreation and many other things. However, it is not just about the dollars being invested in these communities; it is about the creation of well-payed, sustainable jobs.
I represent a riding that has a population that is over 70% indigenous. During the election campaign and in the months since, I have had many opportunities to talk to people about my vision for northern Saskatchewan, to talk to people about the opportunity to have well-paying, sustainable jobs. It is a very similar theme to what we talk about tonight when we consider this project.
The benefits I have spoken about over and over again are threefold. First, there is an obvious economic benefit that comes with having a good job and being able to take care of oneself and one's family. Second, there is an innate need in each of us to be fulfilled, to feel valued and to have a sense of self-worth. There is nothing greater than the feeling one experiences after coming home, having put in an honest day's work. Third, the most important benefit that I have been talking about over the last several months is the hope that comes from the opportunity of having a good job.
Youth suicide in northern remote communities is very real, and it is a heartbreaking crisis. I have spoken many times about how the suicide crisis in northern Saskatchewan is due to a lack of hope. When young people can look up to those they respect and admire, such as their parents, their uncles, their brothers and sisters, or maybe their older cousins, and see them succeed by being part of the industry in northern Saskatchewan, they have hope. They have hope for a better future and they no longer have to consider suicide. I realize that a good job does not solve every problem, but it sure is a good start and it goes a long way.
The question becomes how we create these jobs. I have spoken consistently about creating partnerships between indigenous communities and private industry. These partnerships create opportunity for people in remote northern communities to fully participate in the economic well-being of Canada as a whole. This project is a perfect example of that model at work.
We simply cannot allow a minority of protestors to stand in the way of the will of the Wet'suwet'en nation. These protestors have taken extraordinary measures to hold Canada hostage, compromising the safety of our rail infrastructure, blocking and intimidating people attempting to go to work and in some cases physically assaulting elected members of a provincial legislature.
These blockades have had real effects on my constituents. I have heard from farmers in my riding that many are being told they will not be able to deliver the grain they have contracted for February and March. Canada's reputation as a stable supplier is at risk. Our farmers are risking losing global customers, and they will find other suppliers.
These are people's livelihoods we are talking about. It is how they feed their families. It is what heats their homes. These blockades have to end. If we allow a small minority to succeed in blocking this project, I am concerned that it will be impossible for future projects to ever see the light of day.
Canada's courts have been very clear. The standard for meeting the fiduciary duties for consultation and accommodation are very high. These thresholds have been met by the Coastal LNG project and they ought to be respected.
My colleague referenced Ellis Ross in her speech a few moments ago, and I want to do the same. Ellis Ross is the B.C. MLA for Skeena and a former councillor and subsequent chief councillor for the Haisla Nation. He served in that role for 14 years and had the following to say recently:
The heated debate over who holds authority over the territory of First Nations — be it hereditary chiefs or elected band leaders — may serve the interests of those seeking to disrupt construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, but it does absolutely nothing for the well-being of an average Aboriginal living on reserve.
He went on to further say:
Allowing outsiders to undermine and dismiss years of careful consideration and consultation with elected chiefs who want nothing more than to secure a brighter future for their membership, is quite unacceptable....
I am not naive enough to not realize there are members of the Wet'suwet'en nation who are not in favour of this pipeline. Of note, four of the 12 hereditary chiefs, as well as approximately 15% of the people, would fit in that category.
I will always support the rights of those not in favour to protest peacefully, but as with any major decision, indigenous or non-indigenous, total consensus is often unachievable. That is why authentic relationships must be developed so we can have difficult conversations when the need arises.
Let me share from my own personal experience and journey in this regard. As I said earlier, 70% of my riding is indigenous. We grew up going to school together, playing sports together, and in general, living shoulder to shoulder.
Later in life when I became mayor, I had the privilege of working with and developing strong relationships with four chiefs from Flying Dust First Nation who served with me when I was mayor. We shared the challenges of water supply, policing, development activities, recreation and many other matters. It is my sincere belief that we were able to navigate these challenges because we invested in positive and authentic relationships prior to the issues being put on the table.
I truly appreciate the effort the Minister of Indigenous Services has made recently to have dialogue, but unfortunately, the Prime Minister has left him in the unenviable position of having to deal with this in a reactive manner rather than in the proactive manner it deserved. It is clear that these attempts to have dialogue suddenly in the wake of a crisis are too little and far too late.
The government seems to be focused on blaming the Harper government for all of its failures, but the Liberals have had four and a half years and all we hear is virtue signalling and lip service.
In my riding, during the campaign I consistently heard the terms “empty promises” and “unfulfilled commitments” from my indigenous friends. That has been made abundantly clear over the past few weeks, with the choices the Prime Minister has made to prioritize a seat on the United Nations Security Council instead of dealing with the crisis here in Canada. That is not leadership, and right now leadership is what this country needs.
We are asking for a common sense approach to this crisis, respect the rule of law, open authentic dialogue on reconciliation and to not allow the minority to overrule the majority.
As a former mayor of Meadow Lake, I know how important these development projects are to indigenous communities. It is a real and tangible path to economic freedom, self-government and true reconciliation. That is why I am standing today in solidarity with the elected councillors, hereditary chiefs and the people of the first nation.
The Prime Minister said in the House today that patience may be in short supply. It seems that the commitment to reconciliation is also in short supply. The Prime Minister did say something I agree with, which is that we all have a stake in this, that we need to find a solution and we need to find it very soon. I would only add that we should have started looking for a solution sooner.
Today in the National Post, Derek Burney wrote, “A minority government should not mean that we have no government.” In the spirit of collaboration then, I encourage everyone to take a deep breath, refocus our efforts, shut out the radical minority and take earnest steps toward authentic reconciliation.
View Steven Blaney Profile
Mr. Speaker, the minister should apply the existing laws, because he is certainly not familiar with the law. The law is clear that the police can suspend a firearms licence, and they can also prevent someone with mental health issues or someone involved in criminal activities from acquiring firearms.
The law is clear, so nothing needs to be changed. Why go after law-abiding citizens instead of tackling street gangs, which are the real problem?
View Rob Moore Profile
View Rob Moore Profile
2020-02-05 14:54 [p.954]
Mr. Speaker, last year, the House passed a bill by the member for St. Albert—Edmonton that would help jurors seek medical or psychiatric counselling for the horrific images and testimony that they deal with at a trial. The bill passed the House will all-party support. Since then, some provinces and territories have moved forward with their own measures to support jurors. Meanwhile, the government has failed to act.
When will the Prime Minister take action and address his responsibility to Canadians fulfilling their civic duty as jurors?
View Bob Benzen Profile
View Bob Benzen Profile
2020-02-05 14:57 [p.955]
Mr. Speaker, section 5 of the Firearms Act says that a person who has threatened or committed a violent crime, a crime related to harassment, drug crimes or has serious mental health issues is unable to have a firearms licence. A person without a gun licence cannot legally have a gun.
It seems that the Prime Minister's red-flag proposal is a solution in search of a problem. Is the Prime Minister's proposal different from what has existed for decades or was he simply unaware of the law?
View Glen Motz Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of privilege arising out of question period. When the Prime Minister was responding to a question asked by one of my colleagues, he misled the House in his statement. He said “they”, meaning the police, cannot suspend the licence of an individual and then prevent that individual from acquiring a firearm.
I am here to tell the Prime Minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, that section 5 of the Canadian Firearms Act allows that to happen specifically, and I can read it for you, as well as section 117 of the Criminal Code.
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