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Results: 1 - 15 of 256
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Brandon—Souris is a very experienced public servant in legislature, and now a fantastic MP. I found it very interesting that the incredible statistic that the Brandon Airport Terminal has tripled in size due to federal investments. That is simply outstanding and indicative of the booming economy of the area.
I wonder if the member could tell us more specific examples of federal investment in his riding. There is a reason I ask this question. In today's Brandon Sun, the member was criticized for making too many announcements, for having been too available to constituents and for having been around the entire constituency.
I wonder if the member could react to this criticism.
View Steven Fletcher Profile
I am not sure that is a point of order. The member for Yukon will know well that there are strange things done under the midnight sun by the people who moil in politics.
This will go on until midnight or in 10-minute intervals until the speakers list is exhausted.
The hon. member for Mount Royal.
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Montcalm for bringing this bill forward. Could the member elaborate on how society could remove systemic barriers that historically prevent persons with disabilities or mobility challenges? What can society do to be inclusive for all Canadians of every ability?
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Montcalm for her leadership in the area of spinal cord injury and disability and for her contribution to Canada as a whole. Public service is difficult, and the member for Montcalm has distinguished herself.
I would like to pick up where the member left off on the washroom issue and the idea of encouraging everyone to spend a day in a wheelchair. We do that. My colleague from Edmonton has done that.
I used to bring people together in the morning. They would come and gather in my office. They would get their wheelchair, and I would be sure to give them lots of coffee. At the end of the day, if anyone said that he or she had spent the entire day in the wheelchair, I knew for sure that the person was telling a white lie, because the washrooms are hard to find, and when one gets there, it is hard to know what to do if one is in a wheelchair.
That is something that is really emblematic of what happens. Just having a flush entrance does not mean a facility is accessible.
With regard to spinal cord awareness week, the United Kingdom has a day and Australia has a week. Part of spinal cord awareness week is awareness. What happens to the body when people have a spinal cord injury is not well understood. It is because nobody wants to talk about what it actually means. It is very uncomfortable. I am going to use this opportunity to explain some of the uncomfortable realities of a spinal cord injury.
Generally, there are quadriplegics and paraplegics. A paraplegic is one who has use of his or her arms. A quadriplegic is someone who is, like me, paralyzed from the neck down.
What does paralyzed from the neck down mean? The obvious thing is that the person cannot move any muscles below the neck. However, it also means not feeling hunger, not feeling hot or cold, not having the sense of touch. It is a bit like being a turtle on a log. One moves toward the ambient temperature of the room or the environment in which one finds oneself.
People who are quadriplegics cannot feed themselves. They cannot dress or undress themselves. They cannot shower. People at a high level, as in my case, need people 24 hours a day to help with the activities of daily living, including going to the washroom. Again, this is really icky, but it is a reality. There are a variety of things that people do, such as using indwelling catheters and other kinds of medical devices. It is the same situation on the bowel side. The individual with the injury needs help with all of that. That is really difficult.
Then we combine it with the need for proper care, which is always difficult to find and finance. Some people are fortunate to have insurance. In most cases the insurance is not nearly enough. That is something auto insurance companies and workers' comp need to look at because most spinal cord injuries occur come from a driving or work accident.
Also, the issue of reproduction is compromised as well. It is a fundamental part of being human. We are physical creatures. The change in the lifestyle that the member for Montcalm describes is almost a metamorphosis into a different kind of existence. I have to live in my mind and I am very glad that I live in Canada where someone like the member for Montcalm, or myself or many others can be a quadriplegic or paraplegic and still contribute to society.
However, there are many barriers and they include attitudinal issues. I am sure the member for Montcalm has had this happen to her. When I go to a restaurant, someone asks the person who I am with what I want to eat. The person responds “Why don't you ask the person in the wheelchair?” Then the person will sort of raise their voice and say “What would you like to eat?” It is like there is some sort of cognitive or hearing impairment associated with the wheelchair.
These are well intentioned people, but too many people do not have the awareness. I admit that I was one of those people before my accident in 1996.
Another thing is accommodation in the workplace. In the House of Commons, I would like to thank all my colleagues for allowing a stranger in the House, my caregiver who sits with me. Here, in committees and in cabinet, no one raises an eyebrow.
There have also been efforts to adjust the seating to accommodate wheelchairs. I remember when I got here, they put me over on the opposition side because we were in opposition. Claude, the architect, described all the things he had to do to accommodate me. I told him all of that was temporary, and he kind of looked at me. I told him that in a few months I would be on the government side of the House. He laughed. Then I looked him in the eye and said “Then I'm going to run for Speaker”. If we want to see an architect melt down, that is one way to do it.
I give those examples as if those most sensitive committees at the highest level in Canadian society can accommodate a quadriplegic who cannot even move a finger, there is no reason workplaces, educational institutions or any other part of society cannot accommodate people with a disabilities. They may not be able to answer or solve a problem the same way most people can, but they will get there. Technology is a great equalizer.
Since I am not competing to play football or anything, I focus on my strengths. When I ran the first time, people said interesting things. First was that I did not sound disabled. That was a classic. I was asked why would anyone vote for me, given I was really a nobody and in this physical situation. This was on the radio too. My response to that was “I would rather be paralyzed from the neck down than from the neck up“.
The point is that we need to evaluate people on the content of their character and their ability to contribute, and we need to be creative in how that contribution is made. We also have to ensure that we have the supports in home care, transportation, and the education system. We need to empower people so that they can make the best decisions for themselves, so we need to remove the systemic barriers that exist.
What we need for spinal cord injury applies to senior citizens. Members may be interested to know that. It applies as well to people with temporary or episodic disabilities. It goes on and on.
The last comment I would like to make is that Dr. Fehlings at Toronto Western Research Institute is a medical hero in Canada. Just last week in the media he announced that research had allowed paraplegics to gain more sensation through his work and that of his team with respect to the central nervous system. That is a game changer.
The government has invested in this, and I know all of the parties support that kind of investment. Would it not be wonderful if someday spinal cord or brain injuries were something for the history books and that we would all be able to live long and prosperous lives?
We live in the best country in the world. It is the best time in human history to be alive. God bless Canada.
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, most baby boomers will not die on the golf course. Nobody lives forever. Some people listening probably believe Elvis is still alive or that they will have a second chance as a zombie. A lot of young people these days fantasize about becoming immortal vampires. Personally, I would not want that hickey. A rare few will live long and prosperous lives and die in their nineties while having sex with their bride of 65 years.
Some people may end up in a situation like Sue Rodriguez, a victim of ALS. She asked Canadians, “If I cannot give consent to my own death, whose body is this? Who owns my life?” On February 6, 2015, the Supreme Court yelled back to Sue, “It's your life, Sue. You decide your fate”, and with that, physician-assisted death became legal in Canada.
Let us talk about it.
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, the previous minister, the great Jim Flaherty, did a lot of innovative budgeting for persons with disabilities.
I wonder if the member for Whitby—Oshawa would discuss, perhaps, the EI compensation increase from six weeks to six months, the accessibility home tax credit, the RDSP, the enabling accessibility fund, or anything else that helps Canadians reach their full potential?
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary if she could expand on her comments about the punishments associated with these reprehensible acts and also if she could give us a perspective on what her constituents would support in this important area. It seems that many Canadians would be surprised that the laws are not already stricter.
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments carefully. I was involved in this debate when I was parliamentary secretary and before that, as health critic. The terminology is important. It is not a safe injection site in Vancouver. It is called a supervised injection site. Would the member agree that there is no such thing as a safe injection site or safe injections?
If I understand the member correctly, he wants facilities to be BYOH, “bring your own heroin”. Is that what he is suggesting?
Is he offering up his riding for a supervised injection site that he is promoting so valiantly today?
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Montcalm for bringing forward this motion to declare a national day of recognition of spinal cord injuries. The member for Montcalm and I have become good friends, as far as we can become friends across the aisle, ever since we had that first race down Parliament Hill, which she won. Then, in my power wheelchair, I think I won the race going up Parliament Hill.
There are now two people in Parliament with spinal cord injuries. I think it is indicative of how Canada is progressing when it deals with persons with disabilities, but we have a long way to go. Disability crosses a large spectrum, and spinal cord injury is a sliver of that spectrum, but it has a lot of neat characteristics. I would like to share some of those with the House.
When it comes to acquired spinal cord injuries, the categories are generally quadriplegic and paraplegic, quadra meaning four limbs impaired, and para two limbs.
In my case, as many people may know, though I do not believe I have ever spoken about it in the House, I hit a moose in 1996 when I was 23. At the beginning of my life, I had a lot of things going for me at the time, and the moose went through the windshield and landed on the back seat. My car went into the ditch and the moose went over me again.
It was in a part of Manitoba that was remote. There were no cellphones in those olden days. Someone had to find me. Then they had to drive down to the nearest town. Then they had to drive up with the ambulance, then drive me back to Winnipeg. There were no helicopters or anything else to help. It was a tough rescue, and for whatever reason, somehow I survived.
The reason I raise that is that if my accident had happened 10 years earlier, I would not have survived. People are now surviving injuries that historically were not survivable. That is from the advancement of medicine, and Canada should be proud of that.
However, on the one hand, we often save people from catastrophes, then on the other hand, not provide the resources or the opportunities to allow those same people to live meaningful and dignified lives.
Let me explain. I will use my injury as an example, but whatever I am about to say could be transferred to anyone with a spinal cord injury. My injury is what they call a C4 cord injury. If those at home feel behind their necks and count four vertebrae down, that is where my neck is broken. That is a cervical spine, and it was a complete injury that has paralyzed me completely from the neck down, so I do not feel anything. It is just pins and needles.
One does not feel touch, heat, cold, pain, pleasure, hunger, or temperature. Body temperature regulation is messed up. Many people have problems with blood pressure, strange or unusual bone growth at joints, if they are not taken care of, and a whole host of other issues.
In my case, I need help with all the activities of daily living. I cannot move, so I have someone with me 24 hours a day. It is sad to say that not everyone is as fortunate as I have been in acquiring that level of care. In my case, I have had a lot of fights with insurance companies and other funding partners and over the years have been able to lay the foundation for a reasonable quality of life.
However, it was not always that way. After leaving the hospital, I refused to go into an institution, though that was what was offered. I ended up in a one-bedroom apartment with no wheelchair accessible washroom or shower or anything, so it was a tough time. Many people are still experiencing that tough time. In fact, I would say it is the vast majority.
With quadriplegia, there are some estimates of costs. A quadriplegic in his or her early twenties will cost society tens of millions of dollars if he or she lives a normal life expectancy. A paraplegic costs less than that, but it is still substantial.
The Government of Canada has provided monies for the Rick Hansen Institute and the brain injury institute and has invested in stem cell research. These are all fantastic investments, and there is great promise in stem cell research. However, we have a lot to do to improve the day-to-day lives of people with spinal cord injuries. When we do that, we also improve the lives of everyone, everyone with an illness, and the elderly. We are creating an accessible society so that people, like the member for Montcalm, can be seen in Parliament, as CEOs of companies, on top of glaciers or mountains, scuba diving, and living life.
There is a difference between existing and living. As Canadians, if we are going to save people, we need to make sure that they have the option to live meaningful and dignified lives. We need to step up and make sure that the systemic barriers in society are removed. Spinal cord injury awareness day will help us in recognizing the necessity of making society inclusive for everyone, regardless of what type of disability one may have.
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, what we are debating today is a motion to set up a committee to try to collect information so that the government can draft legislation to meet the Supreme Court of Canada deadline.
I am concerned about the 12 weeks. That is not a lot of time. A budget is coming up. We have the regular legislative stuff that we deal with all the time. There is the summer break and then there will be an election. Nothing is really going to happen until after the election on October 20, and it will take a couple of weeks for the government to get organized, so we are looking at November. We really are talking about a couple of months.
I wonder if Parliament should not recommend to the Supreme Court an extension of the 12-month timeline. Would the member agree with that?
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member intently. I cannot help but reflect that there is an undertone of partisanship which does not suit this debate, as other members from all sides have suggested. On the issue of time, we already have 12 months and an extra 6 months seems to be reasonable if that means we get a better law.
I would remind the House that the member and the party had years to bring forward opposition day motions or legislation on this issue and have not. The member was a minister of public health in the previous government and did nothing on this issue.
I introduced a private member's bill. I wish the member would support something in that realm.
The fact is that to now say that the Liberal Party is all for it is a little bit disingenuous. When the Liberals had the chance, they did nothing about it.
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to table, in both official languages, the Supreme Court ruling in Carter v. Canada, which is essentially what we are talking about today.
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, perhaps I will ask again later.
The reason I wanted to table the Supreme Court ruling is to make sure that we are all clear on what we are talking about. To do that, I am going to read a large section of the ruling. It says:
Section 241(b) and s. 14 of the Criminal Code unjustifiably infringe s. 7 of the Charter and are of no force or effect to the extent that they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.
Then it gives the 12-month extension to deal with the ruling. It goes on to say that the reason there is a shift in the debate is that there is additional information from when the Rodriguez case was heard:
In particular, the law relating to the principles of overbreadth and gross disproportionality had materially advanced since Rodriguez. The matrix of legislative and social facts in this case also differed from the evidence before the Court in Rodriguez.
In plain English, they got more information, more empirical information. That is why their decision is different. The court continued:
The prohibition on assisted suicide is, in general, a valid exercise of the federal criminal law power under s. 91(27) of the Constitution Act, 1867, and it does not impair the protected core of the provincial jurisdiction over health. Health is an area of concurrent jurisdiction, which suggests that aspects of physician-assisted dying may be the subject of valid legislation by both levels of government, depending on the circumstances and the focus of the legislation. On the basis of the record, the interjurisdictional immunity claim cannot succeed.
Insofar as they prohibit physician-assisted dying for competent adults who seek such assistance as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring and intolerable suffering, ss. 241(b) and 14 of the Criminal Code deprive these adults of their right to life, liberty and security of the person under s. 7 of the Charter. The right to life is engaged where the law or state action imposes death or an increased risk of death on a person, either directly or indirectly. Here, the prohibition deprives some individuals of life, as it has the effect of forcing some individuals to take their own lives prematurely...
People are taking their lives prematurely to avoid the terror of what might happen. That is what it says in English vis-à-vis the legalese.
I will go on and ask again if I could have unanimous consent to table, in both official languages, the Supreme Court ruling, Carter v. Canada.
View Steven Fletcher Profile
In that case, Mr. Speaker, I will encourage viewers to read the Supreme Court ruling, as it is a very interesting and really sets out the parameters on which Parliament can act.
This morning in debate, the Hippocratic oath came up. In the court ruling, it specifically says that physicians will not be in any way obliged to conduct a physician-assisted suicide. Some people have said that the Hippocratic oath forbids such an action. I have printed the Hippocratic oath and would like to share it with hon. members. This is called the modern version, written in 1964 by the academic dean of the school of medicine at Tufts University and is used in many medical schools. It says, among other things:
If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
There we have it: the Hippocratic oath already contemplates both saving lives as well as ending lives.
In March 2014 I introduced two private members' bills on physician-assisted death. These bills would have replaced section 241 and created a framework to ensure that someone, a competent adult, wishing to end his or her life would be able to do so after going through a whole set of procedures and review by at least three doctors, and also a lot of safeguards to make sure that the individual knew what they were talking about, that they were aware of the resources available to them, be they hospice care, home care, palliative care, and so on.
My bill also outlined situations where there would be a lag time between when the request was made and granted and when the action would take place. I was quite open to amendments. Quite frankly, legislation like that would be the preferable way to do this. I would much rather have Parliament be supreme and make the rules, and then the Supreme Court interpret those rules.
We have a situation again where the courts are trumping Parliament. That is an issue for another time, but unelected, unaccountable judges should not be making laws. It should be elected representatives.
My bill is also before the Senate, which is another pathway, if the Senate were to choose to do so, to bring the issue to committee. I throw that out on the table by way of suggestion.
I will finally say the Canadian people are far ahead of the courts and parliamentarians on this issue. A recent huge poll that was done showed that 86% of Canadians support physician-assisted dying.
The question asked was about a serious incurable illness or condition with an advanced state of weakened capacity that is permanent, incurable, and results in unbearable suffering.
That is a harsh question, but Canadians support physician-assisted death, and we should support the Supreme Court decision.
View Steven Fletcher Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Vancouver East for her thoughtfulness in this debate, and my previous colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, for her eloquent words as well.
To the question, the motion today is one way to proceed; however, it will only be a small step, because we do not have time, which is really the enemy of the process. We have 12 weeks before the end of the session. We have a budget to debate and legislation that is already underway. We then have the summer break. Also, I suspect, although I do not know and have no inside knowledge of this, that there might be an election in the fall. All of this will eat up a lot of time.
There is the possible alternative of going through the Senate. That could be done if we could get agreement among the senators.
There are alternatives, but I think the bulk of this will be done after the election.
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