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Results: 1 - 15 of 25
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-02-27 13:41 [p.1678]
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Pontiac.
I want to start by saying that this subject is no doubt difficult for many Canadians watching. It is one in which we try to reconcile our deeply held view that life is precious with the right to liberty and the right to make our own independent decisions. This is a place where parliamentarians need to reflect not only on our own values but on what our courts have said.
In the Carter decision, the Supreme Court determined that section 7 of the charter meant that our provisions in the Criminal Code on assisted suicide were invalid. It said there was a class of people who were entitled to have doctors and nurses assist them in dying, so in 2016, Parliament had to move forward with legislation.
I had the pleasure of being the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights at the time. I listened to witnesses who had a myriad of opinions. I listened to professionals from all sides, including doctors, nurses, psychologists, people representing the disabled, and groups that advocated the right to die with dignity. What we crafted was a law that attempted to bridge all of those gaps. We knew that this law would not be in place forever. We knew that we, as a society and a country, would learn from the experiences of that law and that we would move forward with changes.
Indeed, I was very pleased that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights made some significant changes to the legislation. We carved out conscience protection for medical professionals so that they were not obliged to assist with medical assistance in dying if it violated their own conscience or their moral values. We said that the law needed to be looked at again five years later to look at various classes of people we had left out of the original law, such as mature minors and people suffering from mental illness, as well as to examine the issue of advance directives whereby people could make decisions before they declined into dementia.
We also required the review to look at palliative care and its availability across Canada, because the two issues are intrinsically tied together. We do not want people to ever make a decision that they need medically assisted death because they will be deprived of proper palliative care.
That review is coming up. I know that Canadians across the country will have the opportunity to pronounce on these issues.
However, our courts have made another decision.
In the Truchon-Gladu ruling in Quebec, the court ruled that a class of people were entitled to access medical assistance in dying in accordance with Carter. The legislation passed in 2016 had removed this class of people from the list of people eligible for medical assistance in dying. We must therefore remove the section that limits medical assistance in dying to people whose death is reasonably foreseeable. This amendment to the original law is designed to remove this class of people and to enable people who meet all of the other criteria to access medical assistance in dying, even if their death is not reasonably foreseeable.
I support that position because I have not only looked at the court decisions but have also walked the experience of Canadians over the last four years.
We have heard of people who were enduring grave suffering and who should have been entitled to medical assistance in dying because they met every aspect of the law, except that no one could say with reasonable certainty that their death would happen in the near future. We heard, from Canadians everywhere in Canada who fall under that class, that this is unfair. The courts in the Truchon case and in a number of other cases have hinted that this requirement is unconstitutional, so the government is moving forward to respect the court's decision in Truchon and remove from the law the requirement for death to be reasonably foreseeable.
However, the government is also adapting the law to deal with other difficulties that have arisen.
We never talked about, or if we did, it was rare, the issue of people deciding to prematurely end their lives because they were worried they would lose capacity at a future date. People should not shorten their lives because they are worried that a month later they will no longer have the capability or capacity to make that decision under the terms of the law. If it will give people an extra two or three weeks or an extra month with their family, we should do that.
Therefore, the law is being amended to allow people to offer consent to a medically assisted death even if they lose capacity, but it also establishes safeguards. In the event they get to that date and they no longer wish to have medically assisted dying, even if they have lost capacity, by any word, any gesture that is not involuntary, then the pre-consent will disappear.
I want to clarify this, because it has been talked about a great deal today. This is not an advance directive. These are people who already know exactly what their illness is, they are already suffering from this illness, they are in an advanced state of decline, they have no ability to relieve their pain by medical treatment reasonably accessible to them and they have, after being reviewed by two medical professionals and declaring before an independent witness, decided they want to offer consent to end their lives on a certain date, even if they have lost the capacity to consent.
This is a really important change, and I credit the government for doing so.
I also want to look at the issue of how we have handled that class of people whose death is not reasonably foreseeable. We have established a 90-day waiting period in that case. We have not made this something that could happen in the 10 days that was previously reflected under the law. We have done so with due seriousness. We understand the differences and the challenges that the issue poses for people when their death is not imminent.
For example, people could have a catastrophic event that occurs and their circumstances change suddenly. We want them to have a proper reflection period before moving forward with medically assisted dying. We also understand and have made the exception for those people who may lose the capacity to consent during that 90-day period.
The amendments to the bill reflect well where Canadian society has gone.
I do want to say that when we passed the legislation in 2016, very few jurisdictions around the world allowed medical assistance in dying. It existed in Belgium, the Netherlands, Uruguay and five or six U.S. states.
We were one of the first countries in the world to allow medical assistance in dying. For that reason, we chose to take things slowly.
This new amendment to the original law takes us to a place where Canadian society has moved. Canadian society, much more than in 2016, accepts and supports medically assisted dying, because they have watched the practice happen. We have seen the challenges we have confronted with the existing law and we have taken steps to improve the law and comply with the Truchon decision.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-02-27 13:50 [p.1679]
Madam Speaker, I have faith in health care professionals across Canada, including nurses and doctors. I believe that the great majority of physicians and nurses in the country are dedicated professionals who do their jobs appropriately and follow the law.
In those cases where physicians or nurse practitioners have violated the law, I strongly suggest that members report them to the professional order of their province and to the police, and justice should prevail.
I clearly agree that medical assistance in dying is a decision of the person, but it is a decision of last resort. I believe palliative care is a priority, and everyone should have access to good palliative care in the country.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-02-27 13:52 [p.1679]
Madam Speaker, I greatly appreciate my colleague's question. I also commend him for his speech.
In my view, we must make a distinction between people whose death is reasonably foreseeable and those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable. I believe the 90-day period could be 75 days or 120 days. I believe that 90 days is a good compromise, but there is an exception. For people who obtain all the necessary authorizations from a doctor to have access to medical assistance in dying and who will lose the capacity to consent, there is an exception in the legislation that allows the waiting period to be shorter than 90 days. I believe that is a good step forward. I imagine we could propose amendments on this at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Those amendments will be studied by the committee.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-02-27 13:54 [p.1680]
Madam Speaker, in 2016 at committee, the requirement to see a specialist was suggested by a number of the groups that appeared. It would be a specialist in the area of the condition the person had.
Concerns were expressed that two doctors, or a nurse practitioner and a doctor, who did not have expertise in the condition would not be able to properly assess the individual. When we are talking about people whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, I do not believe this is outside the bounds. This is a reasonable way to approach the situation. With video conference and consultations, there are ways to reach remote communities. The person does not have to be in the room with the patient.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-02-20 16:00 [p.1340]
Madam Speaker, I always respect my colleague's speeches.
He stated in his speech that he heard the government instruct the police, in this place, not to enforce the law. I have listened very carefully to the Minister of Public Safety, and I have listened very carefully to the other ministers who have spoken about this issue. Each and every one of them has said that the police have discretion in terms of what to do and that the government does not instruct the police on what to do.
Could he please tell us exactly which minister said that the police should not enforce the law, and at what time they said that?
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-02-20 16:22 [p.1344]
Madam Speaker, words have meaning. Words particularly have meaning when they are said in this House of Commons. Tone is important, particularly at a time when the country is facing this type of escalation.
There are people who are frustrated. There are many people in my riding who are frustrated, and I empathize deeply with each and every one of them: the commuters who are impacted because they are unable to take the train to Toronto; the small business that is unable to get supplies; those who are facing shortages and need to lay off workers; those workers who are being laid off, and their families; farmers who are having trouble getting goods to market; or those who are worried they may be short of propane or chlorine.
Canadians are worried, but our indigenous people are also worried and concerned. They are concerned that their voices are not being heard, concerned that their treaty rights are being violated, and concerned, in the case of the Wet'suwet'en, if we listen to the press conference that happened in British Columbia today, that the RCMP's police actions have not followed the rule of law. There have been many concerns expressed, and tempers are flaring. When tempers are flaring, calm is important: calm, measured words.
We have all been faced with what has recently happened with our neighbour to the south, in the United States, where some politicians on one side of the aisle have sought to blame identifiable groups for the problems that face society. Some people have blamed Mexicans. Some people have blamed immigrants and refugees. Some people have blamed Muslims. On the other side of the aisle, some people have blamed Wall Street. Some people have blamed millionaires and billionaires.
As we know, there are good people and bad people in every group. There are good millionaires and bad millionaires. There are good Jews and bad Jews, good Christians and bad Christians, and good Muslims and bad Muslims. Whether it is race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or political conviction, we have good people and bad people in every group. My biggest fear is that by using words that are inflammatory, words like “radical” or “anarchist”, we seek to inflame tensions where those tensions are already on the point of being inflamed.
Indigenous Canadians should not be vilified. Indigenous Canadians should not pay the price for illegal blockades. The vast majority of indigenous Canadians never asked for these blockades, and the vast majority of indigenous Canadians are not responsible for these blockades. I am worried that by using language that is inflammatory, we will cause Canadians who are already upset about their own issues and problems that have been caused by the illegal blockades to take it out on others.
I appeal to all of my colleagues. I heard the most eloquent statement the other day from the member for North Island—Powell River, who talked about her concern for her family members who she was afraid were being scapegoated. We have all recently seen, in the case of the coronavirus, how Chinese Canadians have been singled out. We, as members of Parliament, beyond anything else, have the duty to show all Canadians who are affected by this crisis that we empathize with them, that we understand the anguish they are going through and that we are seeking constructive solutions. The worst thing that we can do is inflame passions by using heated rhetoric and language.
It is totally important for us to recognize that negotiations do not happen in the public space.
As the Bloc Québécois leader has acknowledged in his questions over the past few days, we all know that the ministers are in negotiations with first nations on this matter. However, it would be impossible for these negotiations to take place in public.
We know that business owners and lawyers never release the details of their negotiations. That is just not possible.
As an MP, I am very pleased with my cabinet colleagues who are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to build ties with indigenous peoples and everyone who is protesting. I am confident that progress has been made.
Today the RCMP announced that it would leave the occupied road, the one the hereditary chiefs see as the greatest provocation. Progress is being made. We must continue to negotiate. However, we cannot publicly reveal the details of those negotiations.
It is easy to say that the ministers are doing nothing, but we all know that they are doing something, and that they have built relationships with various groups in order to negotiate. I firmly believe we will see concrete results.
I also want to point out two different things. The first is that policing is best left to those who have operational knowledge in the local sphere. We, as national politicians, do not know exactly what is happening at each blockade.
I am confident that the Sûreté du Québec knows how to do its job.
I trust that the Ontario Provincial Police know what they are doing. I trust that the RCMP know what they are doing, far more than I would know as one individual member of Parliament without all of the information about what is happening at every local site.
All police forces have their own protocols that they use to deal with situations like this one. In most cases, the use of force to remove protesters is something of a last resort, not a first resort. It is not something that could never be done or should never be done, but it should wait until all options of negotiation have been exhausted within a reasonable framework.
If people go in and remove protesters when we are talking about an issue as sensitive as this one, I believe the end result would be that a lot more people across Canada would want to create further blockades. The only practical way to fully resolve this issue is to deal with the core issue and achieve results.
However, Canadians cannot wait forever, and rightly so. We cannot be seized forever with illegal blockades that stop goods and services from getting across Canada, grain from getting to market and passengers from getting to where they are going. At a certain time, there is a point where patience will be exhausted. We have not come to that point, but it is rapidly approaching. I beg and plead with the hereditary chiefs and I beg and plead with those people who are blockading to recognize that two wrongs do not make a right. If something horrible has happened throughout history, if Canadians have violated the rights of indigenous people or have not respected those rights, it is not best to plead that cause by illegally blockading and stopping Canadians from going to work or going to their jobs.
Government has an obligation to listen and to dialogue, as do those who are causing the blockades. I hope that we will peacefully resolve this situation very shortly, because that is what all Canadians expect of us.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-02-20 16:33 [p.1345]
Madam Speaker, our common goal should be to end the blockades. When members of the House of Commons call people who are doing the blockades “radical activists”, including members of the Mohawk nation, it does not in any way further a solution or cause those people to want to dialogue with the members of the House of Commons who are calling them radical activists.
As I mentioned before, name-calling is not acceptable. There are good people and bad people in every group, and I would include the people doing the blockades. There are going to be good people and bad people. Some people are doing it for what they believe to be very good reasons, and others perhaps not.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-02-20 16:35 [p.1346]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his kind comments.
What I can say is that I trust we will do what is required to engage in dialogue and find a solution. I am certain that the Prime Minister of Canada will do everything he can to find a solution, as will the Minister of Indigenous Services and all those involved.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-02-20 16:37 [p.1346]
Madam Speaker, there is an elected council. The majority of the elected council supports the project. With respect to the hereditary chiefs, I acknowledge that outside the limited territory that the band council controls, there is power of the hereditary chiefs that has been recognized, and again there has to be negotiation with them. I am hoping that over the next couple of days that this negotiation will happen and that there will be a fortuitously good outcome.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-02-07 11:35 [p.1089]
Madam Speaker, let me be very clear. This dispute is a provincial issue. We are aware of the dispute at the refinery. Our government has faith in and believes in the collective bargaining process. We encourage both parties to work together to resolve the dispute. The Government of Saskatchewan announced its intention to assist the parties, but again, this is a provincial issue.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-02-07 11:51 [p.1092]
Mr. Speaker, we always share any concerns relating to Canada's official languages. The French language must be protected throughout the country for safety reasons. There is no question that the minister will review the situation as it relates to safety and language.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-01-31 12:29 [p.773]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the new NAFTA. I would like to start by showing why this agreement is so important.
More than 400,000 people cross the Canada-U.S. border every day for work. Every day, $2.4 billion in goods cross the border. About two million Canadian jobs are directly linked to free trade with the United States. We now have six time as much trade with Mexico than we had when we signed our agreement in 1993.
Let us also look at the history of why we are negotiating NAFTA. The U.S. president was elected by saying that NAFTA was the worst deal ever made. It was inevitable that any Canadian government was going to have to renegotiate with the United States on NAFTA.
This Canadian government, in my view, did an exceptional job in arriving at a deal that is even better than the previous NAFTA in almost every area. That is sensational when looking at the difference in size between Canada and the United States. The United States has a population that is about nine times bigger than that of Canada.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that Canada is the U.S.'s biggest trading partner in the vast majority of states and that millions of American jobs are linked to NAFTA, there is far less knowledge in the United States on the importance of the trading relationship between Canada and the United States than there is in Canada.
As a result, the team had to deal with numerous challenges in this negotiation, one of which was educating Americans on how important their trading relationship with Canada is. Another was navigating the system in the United States, where the administration was of one party and the majority in the House of Representatives was of another party.
We have now arrived at a point where Mexico has ratified the new NAFTA, the United States Congress has passed it and the U.S. president has signed the bill, ratifying it. We in Canada are now left to decide one thing: Do we go along with our partners in the United States and Mexico and ratify this deal or do we not? I would say yes, we need to do so.
I will talk about a couple of the areas where Canada resolutely defended its position in the NAFTA negotiations.
First, there is chapter 19, the dispute resolution mechanism. We all heard the Americans continually challenge chapter 19, trying to have it removed from the new NAFTA. Indeed, in the initial agreement between Mexico and the United States, that chapter was removed. Canada was able to ensure that this chapter remained, leaving us a dispute resolution mechanism with the United States, something we desperately need in dealing with a trading partner that is vastly bigger than us.
In the course of these negotiations, we succeeded in protecting supply management, something the Americans, who saw it as one of their key issues in the deal, said they wanted us to repeal. We also succeeded in this deal by getting new labour and environment chapters that were not in the previous agreement, things that will be of benefit to Canadian workers and the environment. Indeed, with changes made through the demands of Democrats in the U.S. Congress, the enforcement mechanisms for the labour and environmental chapters are better now than they were in the original deal.
As parliamentary secretary for labour, I am very pleased with the labour chapters in NAFTA. The labour standards that are now established in NAFTA are progressive and fully enforceable. They help level the playing field for Canadian workers and businesses; are a major upgrade from those in the original NAFTA because they protect migrant workers and union members; prevent the import of products made by forced labour; require measures to protect workers against discrimination; ensure that laws and policies that protect workers' rights, like those for collective bargaining and freedom of association, are enshrined; give Canadian businesses a chance to grow; and give workers a fair chance to share in the benefits of free trade. That is something.
In addition, for automobiles to be NAFTA-certified, 70% of the parts used in them have to be made in North America, in Canada, the United States or Mexico. In the current NAFTA this obligation is not there. That is a huge deal for parts makers in Canada that contribute to the auto industry, and it includes steel and aluminum. Seventy percent of the components need to be made in North America.
I understand the concerns that have been expressed about aluminum, but we have to remember that we started with a 0% requirement and are now at 70%. For those parts that are manufactured in Canada and the United States, the anti-dumping measures prevail and, as such, Canadian aluminum producers are doing far better, despite concerns that Mexico may use Chinese aluminum. We do not want that to happen, but that could be happening and is probably happening right now. The deal does not change that issue. It only means that now 70% of the parts need to be made in North America.
While I acknowledge it is true that the deal for steel states that parts need to be poured and melted in North America and it does not for aluminum, that will come into effect seven years from now. We have seven years to see if we can improve stuff on aluminum. However, it still means that the protections for aluminum providers today are better than they were under the previous NAFTA. It is a gain, not a loss.
Another thing that is really important is now a significant percentage of parts need to be made by workers earning more than $16 an hour. That is a huge deal because it means that factories in Mexico with low-cost workers will no longer be able to produce the NAFTA-certified parts under this threshold. That means that more jobs will be kept in Canada and the United States and not moved to Mexico. That is an incredible victory in this deal. Canada has established with Mexico a working group to improve labour standards and working conditions. Mexico is going to need to make labour reforms, especially in areas that are crucial for the implementation of the new NAFTA. The Canada-Mexico bilateral labour working group will ensure that Canadian expertise is available to share our best practices and strengthen co-operation with Mexico. It will bring together Canadian and Mexican experts to help implement the new NAFTA's labour protections and standards. Therefore, when we talk about all of the different things that NAFTA could have been, and we look at the U.S. original negotiating position, this new trade agreement could have been very difficult for Canadians. In the end, this panel of people that Canada has put together, from our professional civil service to our government members working on this, to those many others that helped in the process, including many members of the former Conservative government who aided our current government in negotiating NAFTA, all talked about former prime minister Brian Mulroney, who was intricately involved in assisting our government, and the former interim leader of the Conservative Party, Rona Ambrose. This was a Team Canada effort, as it should be, because when we create a trade deal that is of so much importance to Canadian jobs, Canadian workers and our Canadian economy, it is primordial.
It is primordial to have a first-rate team of people from all over the country who represent labour, employers, unions, individuals from all different groups, including the government, the opposition and everyone. I think Deputy Prime Minister Freeland and her entire team did an outstanding job.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-01-31 12:38 [p.775]
Madam Speaker, in closing, what I would say is this. This trade deal, while not perfect in every area, is better even than the previous NAFTA, is an incredible victory given the political context of our times and the current U.S. administration we were negotiating with. I am very proud to vote in favour of this trade deal.
View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-01-31 12:40 [p.775]
Madam Speaker, I would note that the rhetoric of the current U.S. administration seems to shift from target to target to target with a lot of volatility.
I cannot necessarily speak to the issue of rhetoric. I can say that the Canadian government stood resolutely for the points that Canada said we would make in the current NAFTA, meaning we resisted U.S. demands to remove the dispute resolution mechanism from NAFTA, which the Mexicans had agreed to in the initial deal with the United States. That was reinserted because Canada insisted upon it. The United States wanted us to completely remove our supply management process. We resisted that.
I am proud of the fact that we not only reached a deal but we reached a deal by resolutely standing in defence of Canadian workers across the country.
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