Evidence of meeting #7 for Justice and Human Rights in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was maid.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Marc-Olivier Girard
Jennifer Gibson  Director and Sun Life Financial Chair in Bioethics, University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, As an Individual
Alain Naud  Family Physician and Clinical Professor, Department of Family and Emergency Medicine, Laval University, As an Individual
André Rochon  Retired Justice of the Québec Court of Appeal, As an Individual
Michael Villeneuve  Chief Executive Officer , Canadian Nurses Association
Anne Boyle  President, Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians
Harvey Chochinov  Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, University of Manitoba, Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians
Bonnie Brayton  National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada
Catherine Ferrier  President, Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Iqra Khalid

You're out of time, unfortunately, Mr. Cooper.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Okay.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Iqra Khalid

Hopefully you will get to that in the next round.

I'll move on to Mr. Kelloway for six minutes.

Go ahead, Mr. Kelloway.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Kelloway Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Hello to my colleagues.

To the witnesses today, thank you for being here. It's truly an honour and a privilege to have you here.

My question will be directed towards Dr. Bonnie Brayton.

Madam Chair, former federal cabinet minister and Manitoba member of the legislative assembly, who has been living with quadriplegia since the age of 23, recently spoke to the debates around the MAID legislation. Steven Fletcher said that, given the large range of disabling conditions, no one, including disability rights groups, can decide for someone else what is tolerable. He said that new safeguards and talk of protecting the vulnerable are “insulting” and “condescending”. Further, he said:

Everyone is a minority of one.... From that perspective, everyone should have all the rights and responsibilities...as everyone else. And when you look at it from that perspective, all those other arguments don't make any sense anymore because we're going to be protecting the rights of everyone, period.

Madam Chair, I think of groups in my riding that are huge advocates for inclusion of individuals with varying physical and intellectual disabilities. Just thinking of inclusion and the words of Mr. Fletcher, I'm curious to hear your thoughts, Dr. Brayton. Do you agree that we should all have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else, and that not allowing some to participate in MAID would be moving backwards in terms of inclusion and would be an infringement on their autonomy as an individual?

Thank you so much. I look forward to your answer.

12:45 p.m.

National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada

Bonnie Brayton

Thank you for assigning me a doctor's degree. That's wonderful. I appreciate that very much.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Kelloway Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

I'll give you one if you give me one.

12:45 p.m.

National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada

Bonnie Brayton

I will be very blunt. Mr. Fletcher is not an expert in this area. He is a white male who is involved in other work but is not an advocate for people with disabilities and has no history of looking at the research, the situation. I think many of the points raised by the panellists here would not be something I would consider Mr. Fletcher to be an expert on.

I have no disrespect for Mr. Fletcher, or even for Senator Petitclerc, in terms of their positions on this. I would remind everyone that these people are members of the political class and are not members of the communities we are talking about and for whom we express concern regarding these changes.

To be really clear, I think if we want to really push this out all the way—and I'm not comfortable doing this, but I think the point needs to be made, if you'll pardon the obvious and not intended pun—if we understand that singling out a rights group in the context of this legislation, specifically saying that it is people with disabilities for whom this applies, that is what is problematic. If Mr. Fletcher takes his argument all the way to the limits of his perspective, then what we end up with is the possibility that everyone should have access to MAID.

Of course, we don't think that's the right solution. I think a lot of experts here made it really clear that palliative care and other solutions are what we need to address the kinds of problems that drive people to a place where MAID is the only option they have, instead of good palliative care or quality of life, as with the example I shared earlier in terms of Ruth.

As I said, while I understand the concept, I think there is a real problem here in terms of the reality, because we're talking about people who are extremely vulnerable, not about Mr. Fletcher.

Thank you.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Kelloway Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Thank you for your answer. I appreciate it.

I'd like to stay on a similar line of thinking, and I was going to say “Dr. Brayton” again. I almost gave you two doctorates.

Disability advocates participated heavily throughout the consultations, and we truly value what we heard from these groups. That's why we believe this legislation strikes the right balance of autonomy and protection of vulnerable people.

I am wondering how you would suggest, Ms. Brayton, striking the right balance of protection of vulnerable people and also allowing them to maintain their autonomy. I wonder if you can do a deeper dive on that, if possible.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Iqra Khalid

You're on, Ms. Brayton.

12:50 p.m.

National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada

Bonnie Brayton

I think what's really clear is that there aren't enough social protections for vulnerable Canadians, including people with disabilities, and the reality is that this legislation is an aspirational piece of legislation. While I understand that some people believe this is towards enshrining the rights of individuals to make a choice, they have missed the reality check that I think we all have to have. The majority of human rights complaints in this country are disability-related, sir.

The United Nations has expressed concern to Canada with respect to even entertaining this kind of change in legislation. I really believe that it's an important opportunity for legislators to take a moment, to take a pause, to do the five-year review, as has been suggested by other members of this panel, and to slow down this process.

It's critical that we take a step back. As I said, I don't think anybody here wants to regret making an egregious decision in legislation that's going to take away people's lives, and I'm afraid that's where we are. That's not based on anything that has been presented here, of course, because we haven't had objective evidence presented, and I think that's another key issue.

Thank you.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Kelloway Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Thank you very much.

How much time do I have left?

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Iqra Khalid

You have 30 seconds, Mr. Kelloway.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Kelloway Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

I will forgo the question, because I may give Ms. Brayton a third doctorate.

I appreciate your insight and your perspective. Thank you so much.

November 12th, 2020 / 12:50 p.m.

National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network of Canada

Bonnie Brayton

Thank you so much, Mr. Kelloway.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Iqra Khalid

Thank you so much.

We'll now move on to Mr. Thériault for six minutes.

Go ahead, Mr. Thériault.

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to all the witnesses for their valuable contributions.

The inherent dignity of every human being is not an intellectual conceit. It is embodied in the biomedical context through the principle of self-determination. This is why it is often said in clinical ethics that the patient comes first and that free and informed consent should not be infringed upon. The legislation must ensure that free and informed consent is given.

Dr. Ferrier, in this context, why should medical assistance in dying not be proposed as an option?

12:50 p.m.

President, Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia

Dr. Catherine Ferrier

You mean it is the doctor or the professional who provides that option to the patient?

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

For patients to be able to make a choice and for their choice to be respected, patients must be informed about those choices. Why not recommend that option?

12:55 p.m.

President, Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia

Dr. Catherine Ferrier

In my presentation, I talked about the number of people who will become eligible for medical assistance in dying with this bill. We are talking about thousands and millions of people.

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Let's talk about people who are terminally ill.

12:55 p.m.

President, Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia

Dr. Catherine Ferrier

The bill is no longer just for that group of people, it's for everybody.

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

I'm asking you about that group in particular.

12:55 p.m.

President, Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia

Dr. Catherine Ferrier

Most terminally ill people don't want to die faster, they want to live as long and as well as possible. The fact that a doctor or a nurse or any other professional comes to a patient and tells them that one of their options is to be killed right away—I know we don't like that kind of language, but that's what we are talking about—is a way of taking away their hope. My colleagues in palliative care could tell you more about this. It is like telling patients that it is not worth continuing to fight for their life because there is nothing more to be done.

Even so, the physician has the power to—

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Excuse me for interrupting. You mention that it is telling patients that it is useless for them to fight for their life. But they are in a situation where the process of death has already begun and is irreversible. Hopefully, the dying person is in an optimal palliative care setting; that would be the ideal situation.

Since palliative care is the optimal support for human beings as they move towards death, why would a request to die that comes from an optimal palliative care setting be considered a failure rather than a success? From the moment that a human being is ready, one morning, serenely, to let go, why would that not be a success for the support palliative care provides as death approaches?

12:55 p.m.

President, Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia

Dr. Catherine Ferrier

I think you have changed the subject, Mr. Thériault, but—