Madam Speaker, I would like to say how happy I am to finally be able to exercise my rights as a member of Parliament to speak to Bill C-14. Over the last few weeks, I have been in line to speak, but have not been able to do so because of the shutting down of debate and the antics put forth by the Liberals. I am really pleased to be able to talk today for my constituents.
I think it is important, when Canadians watch the debate, that they remember the debacle this week and that this was all about a vote on Wednesday to shut down debate on Bill C-14.
As my NDP colleague just said, we only have one more day, just a little over two hours, to debate 16 amendments. I think what is really important is for Canadians listening to this debate to get in touch with their MPs. They only have one week. I want them to look at the amendments and get in touch with their MPs, especially their Liberal MPs. As members sadly know, many of the backbench Liberal MPs will not be able to speak to the bill. The reason is that their front bench does not want them to speak on it. For me, for every member in the House, and for all Canadians, this is a very personal and very important bill, and has strong views on many sides of the debate. It will change the social structure of our country .
If we look at the foundation and the founding principles of our country and the great democracies around the world, they are based upon rights for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, we are actually debating some of the opposites of that: the opposite of life being death, the opposite of liberty being enclosure, and the opposite of pursuit of happiness basically being sadness.
I have been able to speak with, but also to listen to many of my constituents who have very diversified opinions. I think it is essential for all of us here in the House to respect these many points of view. At the extreme of one end, some were very much against the bill. Others were very much in favour of it. However, for most of the people I was able to listen to, they are somewhere in the middle.
The one thing that most of the people in Oshawa I have talked with agree on is that the act of assisted suicide should be an exception and not the rule. In other words, assisted suicide should only be made available on the rarest of occasions, and, of course, have the greatest of safeguards.
My concern, as we heard from my colleague here in the House, is that this is a flawed bill. In the rush to pass the assisted suicide bill before the deadline of June 6, the Liberal government has created confusion and despair. What have the Liberals chosen to do? They have chosen to break their promise to Canadians. I want to bring up and emphasize my question to my colleague across the way. When the Liberals were campaigning, they promised Canadians that they would put $3 billion into a palliative care system. I do not know where my colleague was reading it, but when I read the budget, there is absolutely no new money for health in the budget. In the first year, when the government is rushing to hit this date, there is no new money to support the other side of the equation. There is nothing. There is zero.
As far as health is concerned, this is a horrible message. It means that health care is not a priority for the Prime Minister. Canadians expect a choice between quality palliative care and this legislation. Instead, the Liberal government has chosen to support just one-half of that choice. It has put all its time and resources into assisted suicide and has not provided the promised $3 billion to palliative care, supportive care, for Canada's most vulnerable.
That is why I called on my colleague across the way to call on the Liberal government to immediately keep its promise. It is not too late to invest in palliative care. According to the Supreme Court, and from what we have heard, Canadians have the right to choose, to choose between assisted death, or hopefully the government can give them a choice to live comfortably near the end of their lives.
That is where this is really important and why I am glad I am able to speak today. The constituents I have talked to feel that the Liberal government needs to be held to account. Making the choice between assisted death and good palliative care has to be made available by June 6.
This is the first time in Canadian history that our government in Canada is drafting a law that would make it legal for one person to take the life of another. The Supreme Court has said that it is not just a required service, but has determined that it is a matter of individual rights. What precedent does that set? What do the experts in palliative care say?
Madam Speaker, I would like to share with you, but also with Canadians watching this debate and with my colleagues in the House, some of the thoughts of a very special constituent of mine in Oshawa. Her name is Dr. Gillian Gilchrist.
Dr. Gilchrist is a leading expert in the field of palliative care and she has practised medicine for over 50 years. She started the palliative care system in Oshawa in 1981, which was 35 years ago. I do not know anyone in the country with more experience, more respect, and more knowledge. Recently, through an initiative with Lakeridge Health in Oshawa, and Queen's University, a research chair has been named in her honour, dedicated to palliative care. It is the first fully funded academic research chair in palliative care at a community hospital in Canada. Dr. Gilchrist said that proper palliative care cannot be done without a team, and there is a lot that palliative care can do. There needs to be more volunteers and training. Patients deserve support, and the families need support as well.
One of the things Dr. Gilchrist said to me very strongly is that euthanasia is wrong, that doctors should not do it, and that it is not what they were trained to do. Dr. Gilchrist has treated more than 5,000 patients, and not one of those patients asked for euthanasia. She went on to say that palliative care cannot stretch across every corner in Canada, but with the assistance of the Internet, patients can obtain assistance to treatment as well as the support they need. Those individuals, at the end of their lives, can actually have a true choice. We know that experts have said that given the choice of good palliative care, 95% of patients will choose life over assisted suicide.
This affirms one of the most obvious weaknesses in the Liberal approach to this most personal and sensitive subject. How can the government rush forward so blindly toward an artificial deadline of June 6 without even providing the funds to improve palliative care options for Canadians? Have the Liberals even asked the Supreme Court for an extension?
Choice also belongs to doctors, whom the Supreme Court has said will have to perform this final irreversible act of assisted suicide. Doctors and institutions deserve the right of protection of conscience. We know that doctors have taken a Hippocratic oath that calls for them to first do no harm. The question is, why has the current Liberal government failed to adapt the legislation to provide positive protection for those doctors and institutions who cannot participate in suicide due to conscientious objections?
The legislation being presented today simply references conscience, but there is no guarantee of protection. There is a mishmash across the country. Conservatives have proposed explicit provisions for conscience protection. However, the Liberal government chose watered-down protection.
For me, it is beyond understanding how a group of nine unelected lawyers from the Supreme Court can tell physicians how they must practise medicine. We do not see medical doctors telling lawyers how to practise law, especially without guaranteeing their rights to abstain from a practice that all of them swore to reject. As Dr. Gilchrist told me, this is not why they became doctors.
I want to repeat that I have been prepared multiple times to speak to Bill C-14, and I have been able to listen to my constituents. What I think is really important for Canadians to understand is that this is not a debate about money, about technicalities, and this is not a debate about regulations. This is an unprecedented debate about the subject of one individual taking the life of another. It is a national debate. All Canadians deserve to have their voices heard.
I want to thank you, Madam Speaker, and I want to thank the House leaders for all they have done. This is probably one of the most important issues that I have faced as a parliamentarian in the 12 years that I have been here.