Madam Speaker, as always, it is a true honour and privilege to stand here in the House of Commons to represent my beautiful community of Peterborough—Kawartha.
Today we are debating Bill C-39, an act to amend the Criminal Code in terms of medical assistance in dying, which I will refer to as MAID for the remainder of this speech, and extend the exclusion of persons living with mental illness from being eligible to receive MAID beyond March 17, 2023.
We are going to need to rewind a bit to paint a picture of how disturbing this legislation, conversation and ideology are. In December of 2021, without any consultation, study or discussion, the Senate added an amendment to Bill C-7 to make people with mental illness eligible for MAID. This is gravely concerning and indicative of the Liberal government's recklessness to add such a serious amendment, which targets the most vulnerable, without due diligence of study and consultation with experts.
Instead of recognizing the undemocratic and dangerous way the amendment was added and scrapping the entire thing, which should have been what happened, the Liberals' proposal is simply to extend the deadline with an arbitrary date.
The MAID special joint committee was created after the amendment was added. How backward is that? The committee heard testimony from many experts, including Dr. John Maher, clinical psychiatrist and medical ethicist, who said, “Psychiatrists don't know and can't know who will get better and live decades of good life. Brain diseases are not liver diseases.”
Of course, today I will support this bill, but let us call it what it is, which is window dressing for a much bigger ideological problem. We do not need to extend the timeline of this bill; we need to get rid of making those with mental illness eligible for MAID. We need to call out the Liberals for not providing a dime of their promised $4.5 billion to the Canada mental health transfer. We need to ensure people at home watching know we are working diligently to give them timely access to treatment and recovery when they are willing to get it. That is what we need to be doing.
I urge every member in this House to listen to their constituents and recognize how dangerous the message is that we are sending to those struggling. I encourage every member in this House to support Bill C-314, which was introduced last Friday by my colleague from Abbotsford and would solve this problem instead of prolonging and dragging out an amendment that should never have been put there in the first place.
It is difficult, if not impossible, in the case of mental illness to determine whether someone can recover, get better or get healthy. Therefore, one can appreciate how dangerous a bill like this is.
I am going to read into the record a letter that was recently sent to me.
“Dear Michelle Ferreri,
“My name is Kayla. I am going to be sending this letter to several MPs, but as you are the MP presiding over the constituency where I reside, I thought I should send this to you first. I am very troubled by something that is going to be happening very soon in this country, and I hope you will listen to what I have to say.
“Overall, I am a very healthy individual. I have a mental health condition, but it is my sole medical condition. However, I was mortified to discover last month, that medical assistance in dying (MAID for short) will be available to people whose sole health condition is a mental health condition as of March 17, 2023.
“Persons who suffer from mental health conditions suffer horribly. I know that. I have suffered with mine for nearly 12 years. Perhaps the most appalling things of all are that ‘The law no longer requires a person's natural death to be reasonably foreseeable as an eligibility criterion for MAID,’ (Government of Canada, 2021) and ‘There is no obligation for a person or their health care practitioners to inform family members if that person has requested or received MAiD.’ (CAMH, 2022).
“I think you are an intelligent person, Michelle. I think you see this for what it is. As of March 17, 2023, I will be eligible to end my own life on the basis that I have an incurable mental illness. Let me give you a bit more background: I have two university degrees, in biology and environmental science. I have a job that I love and have held since a little while after I graduated. I have never failed to pay taxes, nor have I ever taken extended leave or gone on EI due to my mental illness, no matter how hard it gets. I have family and friends that I love dearly, and they love me too. And yet now my own government has deemed my life not worth living. This just isn't unfair. This is monstrous.
“But it gets worse. What about those people who are in the same boat that I am medically, but are much, much worse off. They cannot pay their taxes because they cannot work. They have a substance addiction. They are veterans with PTSD. They are homeless because they cannot seem to fight off their demons. These are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. To say nothing of the nature of the 'mature minors' (whatever on Earth that means) that will be able to access MAiD in the future if this doesn't stop.
“Make no mistake. This thing that we dress up with a nice name 'MAiD' is euthanasia of our most vulnerable people because they cannot 'contribute to society' like others can. The fact that the government would offer to get them out of the way (read: convince them that they should die) in this way, just because the systems that the government put in place are failing them is an unspeakable evil.
“I hope, Michelle, that you will do everything in your power as an MP, as I will do everything in my power as a citizen, to abolish this law. I understand the federal government is seeking to push back the timing of this law, likely because it has received so much criticism. I understand that it likely wasn't you that made any of the decisions for this law to go ahead. But I also understand that you are in more of a position to do something about it than many other people are. I hope you will respond after reading this letter.
I did talk to Kayla, and it was a heartbreaking conversation. She is living very well, and I would like to give Kayla a round of applause for being so brave as to share that. This letter says everything Canadians need to hear. We need to be sending a message of hope and recovery, not a message that their life does not matter.
I leave members with one final story. Elyse is a young university student and she chatted with me during the Christmas break. She said she needed to tell me something. She said she was so worried about this legislation to extend MAID to those with mental illness. She said that she had struggled with mental illness and knew with certainty that if someone had offered that to her during her times of illness, she would not be here today. She told me that she would not be getting her university degree; would not be in a happy, healthy relationship; and would not know that her life is worth living.
We have a duty in the House to bring hope and create legislation that provides a better life for Canadians. A better life means access to help when they need it. I urge every MP in the House to listen to the experts and Canadians, and not just extend an arbitrary deadline, but drop this dangerous and reckless legislation. To everyone at home watching, including families who are supporting those with mental illness and those who are living with mental illness, we see them. They are worth fighting for, and their lives are worth it.