House of Commons Hansard #47 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was death.


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I will support the bill introduced by my Liberal colleague. We think that it is a way to better detect alcohol. However, the fact remains that the problem of impaired driving is much more complex than that. This is just one of many measures that need to be implemented to better detect impaired driving.

The bill would allow police officers to use passive alcohol detection devices. A passive detection device is a meter with a display of coloured stripes that light up when the presence of alcohol is detected in the ambient air. In order for a police officer to administer a breathalyzer test, he must have grounds to suspect that the person consumed alcohol. That does not necessarily mean that the police officer needs grounds to suspect that the person is drunk, just that he or she consumed alcohol. The police officer can then administer a breathalyzer test.

This device would not be used to collect evidence, but it would help give police officers the grounds they need to conduct breathalyzer tests and perhaps detect more people who have been drinking. It could help prevent impaired driving. Every year, too many families are the victims of impaired driving. That is why we must make use of all of the tools available. However, we need to do a lot more to prevent drunk driving. There are many factors to consider. In rural areas, it is a matter of infrastructure, of public transit, or organizations that provide driver services.

When people do not really have any options for getting home after a night out, it may, unfortunately, make our roads less safe. We need to look at those aspects of the issue. Data indicates that it can take up to three years before a person who regularly drives drunk is caught by the police.

For instance, in our rural regions, people who drink might decide to use back roads that have less traffic to get home, in order to avoid roadside checks. There are also people who drink in the morning. By noon, these people could already be impaired. Roadblocks are more often set up at night. This does not necessarily allow authorities to catch everyone who might be impaired. Furthermore, this might not be the first thing an officer thinks of when they stop someone for running a stop sign at 11 a.m., for example.

Using the tool in question, we would be able to better screen these individuals, so it is a good tool, but we need to do a lot more to discourage people from driving while impaired. Of course, any time we increase the risk of being arrested, the risk of being caught, that can have an impact on the number of drunk drivers, but we need to do a lot more.

Unfortunately, there are people who are repeat offenders. It is really hard to put an end to this. We also see cases where there is no doubt about the person's state. When these people decide to drive while impaired but do not hurt anyone, the consequences are relatively minor, so they may continue doing it for quite a while, and as a result, the safety of the public is at risk during that entire period.

It is therefore important to take a more enlightened approach and examine the problem of drinking and driving in its entirety.

As I said, we will be supporting the measure introduced by my colleague, but it is just one small measure among many much larger initiatives that should be implemented to actually reduce the problem of drinking and driving.

In my riding, a disproportionate number of people drive under the influence. For example, in the RCM of Témiscamingue, which has the smallest population of the four RCMs I represent, there are more drunk driving incidents. It is also the largest RCM in terms of size, and there is little in the way of taxi service.

Ville-Marie is the biggest city in the RCM of Témiscamingue, and I believe there is one single taxi in operation there, and it is not available nights. This points to a lack of infrastructure. There is no taxi service because there is not enough demand, and there are no local services to drive people home. That can cause people to take risks they should not take. Locally, there is a lot of awareness-raising going on. Groups are trying to make people understand that they have to plan how to get home before they start drinking. This work is never done.

Organizations that try to prevent drinking and driving should receive more support, especially in rural regions where people have few alternatives. We cannot tell them to take the bus, walk, or ride their bike. It is simply impossible. Some people live 30 kilometres from town. It is very hard. Taking a taxi is not really an option either.

When it comes to drinking and driving, there has to be a better strategy than passive detection devices. We have to gain a better understanding of the situation and take the time to talk with the people on the ground. We have to talk to people convicted of impaired driving, in order to determine what they could have done to avoid taking the wheel. We have to learn from past mistakes in order to prevent the loss of lives. It is not easy.

As a caregiver, I have seen people arrive at the hospital in the middle of the night who, minutes earlier were behind the wheel of their car with more than twice the potentially lethal limit of alcohol in their blood. Intoxicated is not the word for people like that. They are as drunk as a skunk, if you will pardon the expression.

When we see such situations, we can only hope that more efforts will be made to solve the problem of drunk driving. We have been working on this for years, and I do not believe that we are going to solve the problem by taking a piecemeal approach. We have to have a comprehensive plan. I hope that such a plan will be introduced and that we will take a giant step forward in the fight against impaired driving.

We must not forget that many Canadians have lost a loved one because of drunk driving. I hope that my children will never be exposed to this danger, that I will be able to provide them with infrastructure, and that I will teach them to be responsible when it comes to drinking. I hope that more lives will not be lost and that more families will not be broken.

I am pleased to express my views on this matter. I look forward to following the committee study and I hope that a much more comprehensive plan will emerge.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 2016 / 6:10 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured and pleased to have the opportunity to rise today and join in the second reading debate of Bill C-247 introduced by the member for Mississauga—Streetsville.

I will begin by offering congratulations to the member for Mississauga—Streetsville for his passion and commitment to this very significant problem in our society.

He and I have had the privilege of having a number of conversations about the various approaches and concerns he had with respect to impaired driving. He has shared with me some of the stories, as he did today about Kassandra's death, but other things have compelled him to respond with this private member's bill, and I want to commend him for his passion and commitment in bringing this important issue forward.

The social impact of impaired driving in Canada cannot be overstated. We have heard a number of statistics, but it is important to actually break those down into the impact it is having on families and communities across this country.

Each year, on average, nearly 1,500 Canadians lose their lives as a direct result of a decision some Canadian has made to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol. That means, on average, that each and every day in this country nearly four people lose their lives, and there are very few families and no communities that have not been impacted by this terrible crime. As has already been stated, impaired driving is the number one leading cause of criminal death in Canada.

As my colleague the member for St. Albert—Edmonton has indicated, we have seen some improvement over the past number of decades in societal condemnation and in the number of impaired drivers we see; but there is so much more work to be done.

It is important to reflect on why we have seen some of those reductions. I was actually a young police officer in 1979 when the first roadside screening program was established in the city of Toronto, the RIDE program, which is now “reduce impaired driving everywhere” but began as “reduce impaired driving in Etobicoke”. As young police officers, we were sent out with the task of randomly pulling over vehicles on the street to determine if their drivers had been drinking and driving.

That program had two very important purposes. The first purpose was to detect the people who were driving impaired and to hold them responsible for their conduct. However, perhaps most importantly and most impactfully, it had the effect of sending a very clear message about society's condemnation of impaired driving, the seriousness with which we as a society and our police and courts took this offence. It also created a stronger impression among the population that this was a crime, a crime that would be dealt with effectively, a crime where we would increase the likelihood of detection, where there was a greater certainty of consequences and that those consequences would be significant and serious enough to deter that criminal behaviour.

We have also seen some additional tools and technologies that have enhanced our ability to be more effective in those roadside stops. For example, many years ago, roadside screening devices were developed that enabled police officers to administer a test on the basis of reasonable suspicion of those people who we believed had been consuming alcohol prior to operating a motor vehicle.

If I may, I will explain to my colleagues a little bit how that is done. I actually got a fair bit of experience at roadside RIDE spot checks as a police officer in Toronto. I think for the last 20 years, I have spent every New Year's Eve standing along the roadway with a number of other police officers pulling over cars.

When we do that, as a car is going through the spot check, the police officer will stop the driver and make certain observations and certain inquiries. Among the observations, the officer will will try to detect the scent of alcohol on the driver or glassy eyes or slurred speech. We would ask those drivers if they had been drinking alcohol.

If we make observations that cause us to be suspicious that the driver has been consuming alcohol—and it has to be a reasonable suspicion, not a mere suspicion but not at the level of reasonable, probable grounds—police officers are empowered in law to make a demand for the driver to submit to a roadside screening test, the consequences of which can lead to other things I will speak of. However, because we stop literally thousands of cars in an evening in this way, the opportunity to detect if the individual has been consuming alcohol is somewhat limited.

The experience of police officers across this country in conducting those all important random stops has been that people do not not admit to having consumed alcohol or the signs of consumption are not obvious. We know that many people avoid detection, notwithstanding the enormous amount of resources and effort being put into making a difference in our communities. It is quite obvious to those of us who have worked out on the streets in our communities and seen the carnage, seen the impact it has on families, seen the literally thousands of people who have lost loved ones to impaired driving, that we must do more.

Our current court system is processing nearly 60,000 criminal cases each and every year related to impaired driving. In addition to that, there are literally tens of thousands of injuries as a result of the decision that some people make to drink and drive. We must do more. The private member's bill brought forward by my friend from Mississauga—Streetsville gives the police authorities one more tool to enable them to do their job.

Bill C-247 proposes to amend the Criminal Code to specifically authorize the police to use a device referred to as a passive detection device, often referred to as a passive alcohol sensor, at the roadside in an effort to better detect impaired drivers. These sensors are able to detect alcohol in the ambient air. It does not require that the driver blow into a machine. It can provide police officers with a reasonable suspicion that would enable them to make a demand for a roadside screening device to be administered.

Not two weeks ago there was another private member's bill brought forward in this House by the hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis. In that bill, he made a number of very important proposals. Many members, representing all parties, stood in this House to express their concern about the need to do more with respect to impaired driving. I would submit that the private member's bill that we are speaking to today is along very similar lines. It is one additional and important tool that may enable us to keep our communities safe.

Historically, there have been a number of things that we know can make a difference in preventing crime in our society. One of the most significant things that we can do as a society is to increase the likelihood of detection and conviction for those who would choose to commit a crime. We know that the offence of impaired driving often goes undetected even at roadside screening sites where the police are randomly stopping cars. We know that the proposed private member's bill would increase the likelihood of detection.

We also know it is important to reinforce societal condemnation of impaired driving. We can do that through public education. We can do it by advising people of the risks and consequences of driving impaired. I can give an example of when the increased likelihood of detection and consequences made a real difference to the safety of our communities.

In many jurisdictions across this country, drivers under the age of 21 are required to drive free of all alcohol and are subject to administrative suspension if they choose to drink and drive. The likelihood of consequences at the roadside screening events has had a very significant effect on drivers under 21 right across this country choosing not to drink and drive. It has changed the societal attitudes among those young people about drinking and driving and has made our roadways safer. Anything that we can do to improve the decisions that people make about not drinking and driving will make our roadways safer.

In the limited time that I have, I also want to make some reference to the other important element of Bill C-247, which proposes to change the name of two impaired driving offences. This bill proposes to rename two impaired driving offences, specifically the offence of impaired driving causing death and the offence of “over 80” causing death, to vehicular homicide as a result of impairment. I think there is cause to consider both of these recommendations. I look forward to having the opportunity to bring this matter before the justice committee for further discussion.

I believe it is very important that this House do everything possible to respond to the tragedies that families and communities have experienced as a result of impaired driving.

I want to take a final opportunity to commend the member for Mississauga—Streetsville for his commitment, and I want to assure him of all our commitment to do everything possible to make our roadways safer for all of our citizens.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Scarborough Southwest for what was almost a testimony with his experience on the ground. I was privileged to meet him for the first time here in Ottawa at a ceremony where we honoured the fallen in the line of duty. He certainly is bringing his experience to the House in a very important debate regarding impaired driving.

Also, I want to praise the member for Mississauga—Streetsville for bringing this private member's bill forward. The member for Scarborough Southwest said that the bill would give the police one more additional tool. In this House we are giving more tools to law enforcement to ensure that we reduce the number of deaths caused by impaired driving.

In his speech, the member referred to the other part of the private member's bill, which is to change the name of this crime which is already in the Criminal Code. It is the biggest cause of death in the Criminal Code. There is an expression.

In French we say, “il faut appeler un chat un chat”.

In English, we say to call a spade a spade.

I would ask the member, in 2016 are Canadians ready to accept that when a person willingly takes to a public road and is obviously not meeting the first requirement, which is to have a licence to follow the rules of the road and also to be sober, and then hurts or kills someone, it is a homicide? In the member's view, is Canadian society ready to consider a death caused by impaired driving as a homicide?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We are actually resuming debate. We are under the private members' hour rules of the Standing Orders. There are questions and comments for five minutes after the sponsor's introductory comments on the bill.

That said, I recognized the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis under resuming debate, and it was a slot for his party. He has actually up to 10 minutes if he wishes to continue to make some commentary. There will not be an opportunity for the parliamentary secretary to respond in this case, but if the member wishes to carry on, he has another seven and a half minutes if he wishes to weigh in on this particular point.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to waste my hon. colleagues' time, but I would like to say that we can work in the House in a constructive manner to advance bills that can save lives.

I would like to recognize the work of the new MP who introduced a bill in a constructive manner. This bill should be studied and debated at second reading.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues, those from both the western provinces and Ontario, who also supported the bill that I introduced and that was intended to save human lives too.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to add some thoughts in regard to the private member's bill. In essence, and I put it in the form of a question earlier, the member for Mississauga—Streetsville has put together a bill on what I believe is a very important constituency issue.

As a number of members might be aware, I have been around as a parliamentarian for a number of years. Both I and my colleague, the member for Winnipeg South Centre, were first elected back in 1988. I can recall shortly thereafter trying to canvass the residents I represented at that time on what issues were important to them. One of the issues that came up back then was drinking and driving.

The member has been with us now for just over eight months, a number of sitting days, and he has already hit on what I think is an important constituency issue. I applaud him in recognizing an issue that really does matter. He has brought forward this legislation which we anticipate will ultimately come to a vote in the House. Hopefully, we will see it pass to committee stage. I know the member is open to receiving amendments and I suspect there is a very good chance we will see something coming down.

I want to add some of my thoughts with respect to the legislation itself.

The member who spoke earlier, the former chief of police, I believe for the Toronto area, talked about societal attitudes and the degree to which society has really changed in this regard. I thought it was interesting when he made reference to the fact that it was back in 1979, I think, when we started to see these roadside awareness campaigns take place.

Before 1979, back in 1975 and 1976, I can recall pumping gas at the age of 12 or 13 years at a car lot and in the background there were mechanics and others deeply engaged in drinking alcoholic beverages and who thought nothing of getting behind the wheel and driving away. It was something that was not frowned upon whatsoever. In fact, when I was in high school, they even had names for individuals who got caught drinking and driving, and it was in reference to a dollar amount of a particular fine.

How things have changed. I go to graduation ceremonies, as we all do, and I find it is the young people of Canada, in recent years in particular, who are leading the charge in terms of changing the attitudes with respect to drinking and driving. We will see safe grads taking place at the local high schools throughout our communities. Individual guests are allowed to participate in the graduation activities but they have to sign something, or if the young people know they are going to be drinking, they have to have a designated driver. I have seen safe grads booklets, literally booklets in terms of responsibilities. Whether it is at Sisler High School, Maples Collegiate, R.B. Russell Vocational School, St. John's High School, and others, just in the north end of Winnipeg alone, they have recognized how important it is to have a change in attitude. That change started, I believe, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when we started to see police forces across our country following, in part, but also leading in terms of the need to change societal attitudes. For all of those who have done that, I applaud their efforts.

As has been pointed out far too often, every day there are hundreds of individuals who lose their lives as a direct result of drinking and driving. What a terrible way to lose a life, because someone made the stupid decision to get behind the wheel of a car and drive while intoxicated.

We need to look at ways to change that situation. That is also not to mention the thousands of Canadians who are affected every year through loss of limbs and other types of injuries that are sustained. When we talk about those victims, it does not include the victims who are family members who have to endure the loss of a loved one, or those individuals who are going to have to provide the care that is necessary. That could include everything from a broken limb to someone being paralyzed.

The costs to society are huge, both socially and economically. That is the reason that when we look at good government policy, we should be looking at the initiatives that could really make a difference.

My understanding of the passive alcohol detection device that the member is making reference to is that it would assist police in ensuring a higher level of detection. That is something we need to pursue because, for whatever reasons, there are some who are very slow at understanding the importance of not drinking and driving. Here we have a suggestion, through legislation, that could have a profound and positive impact in dealing with the issue of drinking and driving and prevent others from doing that. As legislators, where we can take action on issues of this nature, I believe we should.

In my question to the member, I made reference to the fact that our police agencies of all sorts do a phenomenally good job in keeping our streets and communities a safe place. In doing that, they have a number of tools that they can use. What is being suggested in the legislation is yet another tool.

If we need to look at ways to change the law that would enhance a police officer's ability to make our streets safer, we should be exploring that. That is the reason, without hesitation, why I stand in my place today to applaud the member's efforts.

The member has said that he is open to amendments. I look forward to the bill hitting committee stage in anticipation that at the end of the day we will have a safer community because the member took the initiative to make a difference and bring forward a piece of legislation that could ultimately save lives and contribute to making our communities safer.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Should he wish it, the hon. parliamentary secretary will have two minutes remaining for his remarks when the House next resumes business on this particular motion.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying), be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.


Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I get started, I want to congratulate my colleagues who sat on the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying. When legislation like this comes before us, we always sit long hours. I certainly want to thank the members of the Conservative party for the dissenting report. It was great to see that at least some of those ideas were worked upon in the legislation.

This House finds itself in a position where we must pass an effective regulatory framework to make way for medically assisted suicide. I am rising today to help ensure that this new framework respects the charter rights of physicians and patients alike.

It is my fear that the proposals put forward by the government in an attempt to bring our laws in line with the charter may in fact do the opposite. I believe there is a potential to break with the charter by not effectively protecting the rights of physicians to practise according to their freedom of religion and conscience.

Additionally, I fear that the government's promise to revisit this legislation in a few years simply gives it an opportunity to further expand it.

As a member of the opposition party, I feel compelled to warn the House of what I fear might happen if the bill is passed in its current form. I believe that decisions such as this can inevitably lead down a slippery slope.

While the government has chosen to forego many of the more contentious recommendations made by the joint special committee, Liberal and NDP members of that committee clearly felt confident in the recommendations. This leads me to believe that, in time, this law will be expanded even further to include those measures.

The Supreme Court was quite clear in its ruling. Access to assisted suicide was to be limited to a “competent adult” person who “clearly consents to the termination of life” and 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.”

I am happy to see that the government has listened to some of the recommendations made by my hon. colleagues in their dissenting report. In that report, they referenced a system currently used in Quebec, where only patients aged 18 and older with severe incurable physical illnesses, and whose medical condition is characterized by an advanced and irreversible decline, can request medical help to die.

Furthermore, in Quebec, the attending physician must ensure that his or her patient has clearly consented to physician-assisted suicide, ensuring, among other things, that it was not the result of external pressure, while also providing the patient with a full prognosis on the condition and possible treatment options along with the likely consequences.

Quebec physicians are free to act according to their conscience. If they do not want to proceed, they must refer the patient to an independent body which will contact another physician. Two independent physicians must confirm that the patient meets all of the criteria prescribed by the legislation.

Keeping in mind the Quebec system and considering the irreversibility of assisted suicide, we must acknowledge that the realities of this practice as a form of treatment permanently ends a human life. As such, we must exercise great caution to ensure that there are effective safeguards against any abuse of the system.

I understand that the Minister of Health has said that physicians cannot be prosecuted under the bill for failing to comply with a patient's desire to end their life. The absence of any specific mention of this in the legislation that was brought forward is troubling. Without a specific reference to the rights of physicians to act according to their conscience, I believe it will not be long before doctors are facing lawsuits for failure to comply with a patient who wishes to die.

Again, while I am glad to see the government has decided not to include certain recommendations that the committee made, I feel it is necessary that I voice my objections to them before the government decides to add them at a future date.

I am doing this because my constituents are very concerned about this issue. I have received dozens of letters and calls from people in my riding, and they all want me to warn of the consequences that opening this door may bring.

I will touch on some of the most at-risk parts of society as far as assisted suicide is concerned, namely the young, the elderly, and those who suffer from mental illness.

In the preamble to the bill, the government said that it would leave the door open for non-legislative measures involving requests for assisted suicide from “mature minors, advance requests and requests where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition”. This is where I take the most issue with this bill.

What the Liberals call “mature minors” are people who are not allowed to buy alcohol or vote, and people who are subject to a different set of criminal standards than adults.

The Government of Canada, for many decades, has been of the opinion that while all citizens are entitled to their constitutional rights, there are what we call reasonable limits on certain rights. What I mean by this is that the rights of an individual stop when they directly conflict with the rights of another individual. Therefore, there is no primacy of one constitutional right over another.

Now that the right to assisted suicide has been added to that list, I believe it should not now or in the future be made available to minors. When setting the voting age or creating the Youth Criminal Justice Act, governments create a different system for people who are not yet adults. The rationale for these differences comes from the medically accepted fact that the human brain is not fully developed until around the age of 18.

With respect to the possibility of providing assisted suicide to requests where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition, I have two points. First, the Supreme Court did not mention mental illness in its ruling. Second, the court said that individuals seeking assisted suicide must be fully competent.

To that point, I would ask the government this. When a predisposition toward suicide is often a side effect of mental illness, how are doctors supposed to decide when the decision to die is the true wish of the patient or merely the effect of their condition? Is this a decision that we really want to force upon our doctors?

Another group of individuals that I fear may be exploited as part of this system are the elderly. Elder abuse is already a well-known problem in Canada and, no matter what actions the government takes, it is difficult to stop it entirely. The inevitable consequences of access to assisted suicide is that the elderly are put at risk of being exploited.

In jurisdictions where assisted suicide is legal, there have been cases of elderly people seeking the service because they feel they have become a burden to their family or to society. There have been even worse examples, such as situations where the elderly person's own family has pressured him or her into seeking assisted suicide. We cannot allow this to become a feature of the system.

What we do need to do is to help our elderly folks, providing them with a better system of palliative care.

During last year's election, the Liberals promised to invest $3 billion on new palliative care. However, when the budget was released, there was nothing. I know that a number of my colleagues have raised this in other speeches, so I will not get it into in any greater detail. However, this is part of a broad theme of the Liberals breaking campaign promises during their high-spending agenda in many other areas.

Earlier, I spoke of my fears that the rights of doctors to operate according to their own conscience and religious convictions may be supplanted with this new right that the Supreme Court has granted.

I have seen arguments from people who say that doctors should have no right to deny such treatment, especially if they are working in isolated areas. To those people, I would say that we all have constitutionally protected rights, and one of those rights is that of the individual to practise their religion unhindered by the government. Each major religion in Canada disapproves of suicide in one way or another. Many of our doctors subscribe to and conduct themselves according to these religious beliefs. We cannot allow the rights of assisted suicide to replace the rights to practise one's religion or to follow one's conscience.

I want to add that I have had a number of religious nursing homes in my riding, Grimsby, Vineland, United Mennonite, saying “What happens if the doctors refuse? Does it now fall on us, as an institution, to try to carry out their wills?”

These are some of the things that I think need further discussion.

We, as parliamentarians, must ensure that the proper safeguards are in place to prevent exploitation of the system. That is why I join with my colleagues on this side of the aisle in cautioning against moving too fast and too far on this issue.

Our goal, first and foremost, should not be to extend assisted suicide to patients, but to protect patients from it. By this, I mean a strong regulatory regime is required, one that would ensure that only those with incurable diseases and unconscionable suffering are granted access to this treatment.

We cannot make this a common form of treatment. It must be the absolute last resort.

This is by far the number one reason that my constituents have written to my office in recent days. I tell them what I am saying right now.

We cannot allow this system to become the norm. We must ensure that the first priority of this legislation is to protect human life. We cannot allow minors, whether mature or not, access to a system that ensures they have no future. We need to partner with the provinces and tackle mental illness rather than making suicide a more valid alternative. We also need to further the partnership to support palliative care.

I know that I am very fortunate. In Grimsby, we have the McNally House Hospice, which is well sponsored and well looked after in the community. I know in the greater region of Niagara that we have a number of facilities that people support in a big way. They give access to late-in-life care to more elderly members of society, therefore reducing the risk of elder abuse. I believe that is very important, and I realize that is not what every community has in this country.

We must, above all else, treat this issue with the same care that we would expect our doctors to provide to us.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, this process did not start well. The work was done in Quebec for many months and years in advancing this conversation forward. There seems to be some reluctance in the country to talk about end of life. It is not a comfortable conversation for many Canadians. It is not one that often happens even within families to a proper level before that time comes. We all wrestle and grapple with these issues.

Once the Supreme Court decision came down, we joined with the then Liberals in opposition to suggest that a special committee be struck. The then government voted against that and wasted many precious months in hearing from an even broader spectrum of Canadians than we were able to since the last federal election. However, that all happened and now we are here.

The member mentioned something about the conscientious objectors. This is my question. We note that it is in the preamble of the bill, but not in the structure of the bill itself. There are those in the medical profession who, for whatever reasons, be they religious or personal beliefs, do not wish to practice physician-assisted death. Yet it does not appear in the text of the bill itself. For those who have been around Parliament a bit, they know there is a difference between those two things in terms of its strength.

Having read both the committee's report and the dissenting report, could my friend comment as to why the government did not include such an important measure within the very heart of this legislation that would affect so many?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.


Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was one of the concerns I heard the most in my office. I mentioned earlier in my speech that caregivers approached me in my office from various religious nursing homes and nursing facilities, which obviously have a very conscientious view of life and how important it is to them. One concern they had was that in smaller communities, there may not be many doctors or people may not have as many options, maybe not even palliative care, for that matter. If a doctor did not want to perform that service, what would happen? Would it mean that the responsibility would go back to the nursing home or care facility? That is a concern.

To maybe echo the question back to the member, that is one of the things we need to strengthen. We need to ensure it is not just in the preamble but in the actual legislation, so there can be protection for those with conscience and want to act according to their faiths.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his good work on this and also for his partnership with institutions in his riding that provide excellent care for many vulnerable Canadians, especially those facing end-of-life situations in hospices and nursing homes.

My question is related to the protection of the vulnerable groups among us, for example, those people who may have some underlying psychological issues and may not have the capacity to make decisions. The legislation has in it the need for two independent witnesses and two independent doctors. That is a big improvement over what we thought might come from the committee report. Yet there is no regime in place to ensure that those two supposed independent witnesses and doctors are actually independent.

Would my colleague support an amendment that would include some type of prior review, which would mandate either a judicial or a tribunal review to ensure that the assertions being made were actually factual?

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6:45 p.m.


Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to again thank the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his excellent work on the committee.

I would certainly support that. One thing that concerns me is how far the report actually went. While I appreciate where the government legislation landed and that it is not perfect, my concern is what will happen in the future as we look to review these kinds of things. What happens then? Do we push it further?

We have seen before that if we do not clearly articulate the legislation, it becomes very easy to push the limit, to move around the edges, and then say we thought it meant something else or maybe we could go in a direction that was not originally intended by the people who were there at the time.

I, by all means, would support a notion like that.

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6:45 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I often say it is a pleasure for me to rise, because it is such an incredible honour to even stand in the House of Commons and attempt, in our ways, to try to represent the great group of Canadians from our territories. Yet, as I approached Parliament this evening, thinking about this particular debate, I found myself struggling to use the word “pleasure”. It is simply because this debate strikes at the very heart of some of the most difficult questions we face as legislators, that we face as Canadians, that we face as friends and family of those who have faced the incredible difficulty of end of life.

There has been a certain amount of trepidation and perhaps fear from many of us in this place to talk about end of life, end-of-life care, the palliative care question, and to talk about end of life and the issue of medical assistance and dying, physician-assisted suicide.

I suppose there are some things required of us all in this debate. One is to fully appreciate and understand that great sense of responsibility and to bring to this conversation as much humility as we can muster. For some of us in elected office, humility is not always at the ready and available. It is also perhaps to bring the best wisdom we can from those who know a great deal more about this subject than we might.

Oftentimes we say we have to separate the personal from the political, that we as legislators have to act purely in the best means and understanding that we have about the law and how we wish to craft the it in a way that is defensible at the Supreme Court, and is representative of our constituents. Yet, this debate brings those two things together for many of us.

This is incredibly personal for any who have stood in the House and spoken to this bill, or who will, if one reflects back on any experiences we have had with family members facing those challenges at end of life.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously and gave Parliament a timeline to work toward creating legislation. It struck down the laws in Canada as it saw them. Many of those judges were appointed by the previous Conservative government.

What concerns me in what we see before us today is the government, as we often hear, has attempted to strike a balance. It has attempted to seek a perfect middle ground on such a contentious issue. While I admit that is a very difficult thing to do on legislation on an issue like this, we raised a number of concerns at the special committee.

We continue to raise those concerns, even though the New Democrats support getting this bill to the committee stage so we can hear from those witnesses who now have seen the final legislation. We need to understand whether it is constitutional, whether it is helpful, and whether it will actually achieve what the Supreme Court and Canadians have asked us to do.

I mentioned in the past that it was with regret that after the Supreme Court came down with a very clear directive to Parliament to form a new law, to create new rules for our country, the previous government was unwilling or unable, for whatever reasons, to begin that work at all. We sought to pass a motion in the House of Commons to start the committee process, to bring the witnesses in so we could hear from them, but we were also six to seven months out from an election. The government seemed to not want to really talk about it.

The government struck some process that has since not borne any fruit, and now we are under the proverbial legislative gun. We are sitting late. The committee has worked incredibly hard. I want to thank all members, Conservative, Liberal, and New Democrats alike, who worked tirelessly to bring us incredibly important recommendations, some which made it into this bill, some which did not.

I know the Liberal co-chair of the committee has expressed his disappointment on some of these important issues. Yet, we face this time crunch, somewhat of Parliament's own manufacturing, unfortunately. While the process has been hard worked at, it perhaps will need some revising as the bill moves forward.

Let me take some specific moments and some concerns that we raised. The protection of medical practitioners, while it appears in what is called the preamble of the bill, in the aspirations of the bill, it does not appear in the actual heart of the legislation, it does not appear in the law. For those in the medical services community who have sincere religious, heartfelt beliefs that prevent them from assisting someone with end-of-life procedures, we need to have the most complete protection for those health care professionals.

I come from northern British Columbia. This is an absolutely contentious issue. Faith leaders from a broad set of denominations and those working within the medical profession, who are incredibly dedicated and gifted medical service providers, have come forward with serious concerns. I am not able to allay their concerns with what I see in this legislation.

We helped unanimously pass a motion from the member for Timmins—James Bay to finally have a national palliative care strategy. It is the other side of this coin. While there is the incredibly important issue of what happens at that moment of end of life, for all the moments leading up to that, what kind of care do we offer those who are passing from this life? What kind of honour, respect and love do we offer them through our medical system, through this great Canadian public medical system?

For so many years, governments have spoken the words. They have said that palliative care is important. They have said that they care for our seniors, for our elders, and for our sick, yet we see nothing for this in budget after budget. We do not see the ability to lift up that burden together and provide that palliative care. In some senses, Bill C-14 would be an opportunity to enshrine at least into law the requirement for the country to finally have a national palliative care strategy. It is disappointing that it is only referenced as opposed to being brought in with full weight and structure.

I was also disappointed because the committee worked so hard. As a New Democrat, it is difficult for me to credit a joint Senate House of Commons committee. However, I know those good senators came to this process with an open mind. They worked very diligently and came up with a series of recommendations for the government over a number of the issues, and they were simply ignored.

That brings me to another concern. Legal and medical experts told us that even Ms. Carter would not actually qualify for assistance under this bill. She brought this case to the Supreme Court. She suffered so much. Her family went through hell trying to achieve the services they desired and had to go all the way to the Supreme Court. It finally won that arduous process.

Rather than get that perfect place where the government has sought to balance the competing interests over such a sensitive topic, my concern is that the government has muddled it entirely and invited future challenges in court. We have also heard from some of the lawyers who presented in front of the court. They said that this legislation would be challenged almost immediately. Therefore, what have we just gone through?

The committee met many hours and heard from dozens of witnesses. We looked at the very clear ruling from the Supreme Court. Then we came out the other end with something in the middle that offered neither side any great solace, if there are just two sides in this debate. We have heard from a number of the groups that have worked tirelessly on this issue, for decades in some cases, of their disappointment and dissatisfaction. Happily, the way the process works in our Parliament, the bill can go and be remedied.

This is the true test for the new government. This is its first constitutional legislation. This is the first time it must meet the challenge of the charter in legislation. Will it meet that challenge with the humility, courage, and intelligence that is required to do the right thing, not just the right thing by the courts, but the right thing by Canadians who are desperately seeking the ability to end their life on their terms when they are suffering so greatly? For us, to stand in judgment of them and their families, for us to say we will decree, under more and more narrow definitions, who can actually access this service seems dangerous to me. It seems hubris and unintelligent. This is simply because we invite years more of litigation in the courts and years more of uncertainty and suffering by those very families that are already suffering with a family member whose life is coming to an end in such terrible conditions.

I want to congratulate again the members who served, particularly the member for Victoria, who brought his legal wisdom and his compassion to this conversation, as well as the member for Timmins—James Bay, who first and most importantly raised this issue of palliative care and the need for that strategy. To all members of the House, we must find our convictions, find our courage, do the right thing, and do what is necessary both legally and morally.

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6:55 p.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague on his speech.

In it, he referred to palliative care. If hospitals and health care facilities offered quality palliative care, that would also affect the quality of life of people who are dying. What does he think about that? Would palliative care not also be an appropriate way to ensure that everyone can die with dignity? How important is palliative care in the health care system?

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7 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my dear colleague for his question.

When it comes to palliative care, studies all show the same thing. Quebec is setting an example for the entire country, not only with regard to the end-of-life issue, but also with regard to palliative care.

We asked the Liberal government what its plan was and where the money was. It is difficult to provide high-quality care without money.

The questions refer to a void that exists. They look at only one side, not both sides. What are we going to do for Canadians? What is the government going to do for people who want palliative care for themselves or a family member?

I find that sad, but it is also an opportunity to build something that is strong, direct, and clear, to develop a national strategy that will give us a strong and ethical palliative care system.

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7 p.m.


Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my colleague bringing forward a number of the issues he outlined. I am wondering if he feels that had there been more time given by the courts, some of these issues could have been addressed and the legislation could have been more robust.

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7 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, while my friend was not here in the previous Parliament, it is a difficult question simply because the previous government made some decisions which many of us thought were unfortunate in terms of the question of time. While I appreciate and understand how difficult this conversation is, how politically charged it can be, emotions run high on all sides of this issue, the previous government delayed the efforts of Parliament to the point where we had to seek an extension by the court, which is not something the Supreme Court loves to do. Fair enough, it gave us a full year and we had to go back and seek more time.

I am of two minds. Yes, of course, we could have used more time, yet very little happens in life without a deadline. We need that impetus and urgency in order to get something done. I appreciate that we are having long sittings so that all members get an opportunity to speak here, and that the committee is sitting very long meetings right now. We heard from the health minister and the justice minister yesterday. It is what it is now.

What I fear, and I do not think this will happen but it is a legitimate fear, is that if we push anything further past the deadline that we have right now, then we will have nothing. We will simply have no law on the books. Whatever side of the issue people sit on, I do not think that would be an acceptable conclusion, simply because Parliament would recess into the summer and we would have two or three months in which the laws have been struck down by the courts and we have nothing in their place. Then what do we say to the medical professionals? What do we say to the families who have someone at end-of-life stages as to what the rules are? We have no rules.

There have been previous difficult debates in the legislature. This legislature poorly dealt with the issue of abortion and never really resolved it completely. We cannot do that again around this question. We have to find the courage of our convictions and be resolved to bring forward our best thoughts and our best heart toward this question.

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7 p.m.


Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an important and sobering issue that I rise to address, which is on the minds of many Canadian families.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada found the current Criminal Code prohibition on physician-assisted dying to be constitutionally invalid. This decision required the government to revisit Canada's long-standing prohibition against euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Bill C-14 came about as a response to the Supreme Court ruling on the Carter case. The Carter case determined that persons who satisfy the following criterion of being a competent adult, suffering intolerably from a grievous and irremediable condition, and able to give their clear consent, have a right under section 7 of the charter to physician-assisted dying, or PAD.

Since that decision, the government appointed a Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying to make recommendations on a legislative response. Liberal and NDP members in the main report for the special joint committee recommended a very permissive physician-assisted death regime beyond the parameters set aside by the Carter case. Their original report included provisions that suggested that physician-assisted death be available to persons with terminal and non-terminal illnesses, and to persons with physical and psychological conditions. What was most concerning, however, was the suggestion that the government would, in the future, study issues related to physician-assisted death for minors.

The recommendations and provisions suggested by the original report would set Canada on a very treacherous path. In response to these concerns, my Conservative colleagues released a dissenting report, which reined in some of the worrying suggestions and put forward a framework that more closely reflects the Carter decision.

In the dissenting report, my colleagues raised key issues that the legislation could tackle, which included limiting physician-assisted death to competent adults 18 or over; safeguards for vulnerable persons, including a provision for a psychiatric assessment; no advance directives; and conscience protections for physicians. Bill C-14 has adopted some of these key provisions from my colleagues' dissenting report.

The main safeguards in Bill C-14 include limiting euthanasia and assisted suicide to physical illnesses only, and putting in place an age restriction for such procedures. For those individuals who fall under the criteria for PAD, there is no specific referral to a psychiatrist in order to determine whether there are underlying mental illness issues that would compromise their capacity to give an informed consent.

Letters have been pouring in from communities in my riding. I did promise my constituents that I would listen and study all of the important points that have been raised.

This situation has pit the gravely ill against their own family's moral positions, and I too have been touched by the many stories that I have heard. Departed friends and family members had spoken to me in the past about allowing for a merciful end to their suffering, a position that many of us may find ourselves in when our time has come.

However, I am concerned that amendments may be introduced in committee to make the current legislative framework more permissive, or that an opening is presented for regulation to allow for the same permissiveness later on. This concern does not come from thin air, but rather from the very study penned by the special joint committee. Perhaps there could be amendments that would spell out a more restrictive legal framework so that we could effectively ensure that the safeguards are there to always protect the most vulnerable.

Canadian families on all sides of this debate are left anxious as to what lies ahead when the bill moves forward. The Carter case has forced Canadians to come to terms with this difficult decision.

I want to reiterate what my Conservative colleagues have been saying in the weeks leading up to this debate: our priority as parliamentarians should be to ensure that any new legislation developed conforms strictly to the Supreme Court decision, nothing more and nothing less.

Most Canadians want to see the government focus on improving palliative care, as it is an integral part of end-of-life care. There was unanimous agreement from the special joint committee and stakeholders, including the CMA, on the need for a pan-Canadian strategy on palliative care with dedicated funding. If it were up to Canadians, a national strategy on palliative care would be priority number one.

The conscience rights of health care professionals should also be taken into consideration. For some, physician-assisted death is against their moral code. It would be unjust to force a medical professional to act against their convictions. The oath to do no harm is founded in our commitment to look after one another and to care for our most vulnerable through viable medical interventions that honour the sanctity of life. There are many physicians and other health care providers that have raised this issue both with their members of Parliament and at committee. We parliamentarians need to address this for their sake.

There are harsh lessons to be learned from past experiences of jurisdictions such as Belgium. After legalizing euthanasia, deaths from such interventions increased every year. Safeguards were allowed to be removed and euthanasia is now available to individuals who are experiencing mental distress.

One of the most troubling instances of this slippery slope was when the Belgian parliament approved a bill that removed the age restriction from physician-assisted death, a provision actually recommended by our special joint committee report. This PAD extension to minors was not included in the original legislation passed by Belgium years before either.

The slippery slope is a real social phenomenon. We cannot allow Canada to go down that path. We cannot allow any legislation on physician-assisted death to be permissive. Provisions must be restrictive as the Carter case dictates it to be. Canadians expect us to be steadfast in delivering a fair and clear legislation, but we have to avoid expediting any circumstances that would lead to fewer safeguards.

I urge my colleagues to learn from these harsh realities and lessons. While it has become imperative that the House pass legislation before June 6, it is equally important to make sure that we have an effective piece of legislation.

It is also true that not having a legislative framework to address physician-assisted death is equally irresponsible. Without a comprehensive legislative framework, Canada would consist of a patchwork of provincial protocols that would create other serious concerns.

We must also remember to be realistic. Even with safeguards, consent can be coerced and vulnerable individuals will never be without risk. In Belgium, there are cases where physician-assisted death was administered without explicit consent; it could very well happen here. Life and death decisions should never come easily, nor should it come from anyone other than oneself .

Life is truly a gift and we must treat it as such. Providing care should always be the priority, and I hope that a pan-Canadian strategy on end-of-life care is also unveiled. This legislation as it is does not carry sufficient provisions and safeguards. We can do better. We owe it to our constituents to do better.

I hope that if the bill is sent to committee, parliamentarians will have the chance to amend it further to include improved safeguards.

In closing, I would like to pay tribute to friends and family I have lost along the way. My mother and father, Verna and Herman Dreeshen, in life taught me and others so much about compassion and kindness. My parents also showed so much during their final days about strength of character, faith, and the realities of life. Of course, they are both dearly missed. The care they received was exceptional and there were opportunities for us to talk.

I remember specifically when my father passed away I had been in the House for two weeks. The first week we had elected a Speaker, so I had the chance to go home that weekend and talk to him about the individuals I had spoken to, such as Ken Dryden whom I did not agree with politically but I certainly did on hockey. We had a chance to talk.

I also had a chance, during the next break, to speak with the prime minister and talk about different issues and things that were going on. To be able to relay that information to him the week before he died was very important.

I say to all Canadians, as we face this sobering reality for ourselves and our loved ones, that they should know they are always in our hearts and prayers.

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7:15 p.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

How would he suggest that we balance protecting a doctor's right to choose whether or not to provide end-of-life services with making this service available to Canadians from coast to coast?

How does the member suggest that we balance these two rights? How can we ensure that this service will remain accessible all across Canada, even if doctors or health care professionals do not want to provide this care? As we have often heard throughout this debate, we need to ensure that this bill respects doctors' right to choose whether to offer this care, according to their conscience.

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7:15 p.m.


Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if I caught all of the question, and I apologize if I go off in a different direction.

For a number of years, I was the chairman of a hospital board, and one thing that was very important when speaking with provincial counterparts was the study of ethics as far as physicians and health care providers were concerned. That became a discussion that the board had with many different physicians. The rationalization of resources was a discussion point as well.

I think we have to make sure we respect their rights. Simply saying that, if one physician does not want to deal with this, we will provide another one to carry it out, I do not think is the way for us to go. We have to make sure that the safeguards exist, the psychiatric assessments have been taken into account, and we respect the rights of the health care providers.

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7:15 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member about advance review. There are a few interacting problems that create sort of a perfect storm in this legislation.

There are relatively ambiguous criteria, and yet there is no requirement for legal review beforehand. There are also opportunities for individuals or family members, who want someone to be euthanized or to take part in assisted suicide, to go from doctor to doctor until they get the kind of review they want. It may be that most doctors do not think a person meets the criteria, but the person finds one who thinks he or she does.

Would the member agree with me that, given these interacting problems, we need some solutions in terms of amendments that would actually protect vulnerable people, whether that is a system of advance legal review or some kind of other measure that would prevent this process of doctor shopping? Would the member agree that amendments are essential for protecting people who may actually not consent and may be pushed into euthanasia or assisted suicide because of some of these problems in the way the bill is structured?

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7:15 p.m.


Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, truly, one of the issues that is so important for us to study and look at is an issue like elder abuse, the kinds of pressures that are applied, and we end up with the elderly or sick, when they get near the end of life, feeling that they have become a burden. We have to make sure pressure is not applied on them, hastening the decisions they may be making. Of course, if pressure is applied and we find that is the case, there is going to be an issue as far as the courts are concerned, as well.

There are laws on elder abuse, and this would have to be looked at as well to make sure counselling is not provided to end people's lives through physicians.

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7:15 p.m.


Phil McColeman Conservative Brantford—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I approached this speech tonight, I have said to many in my community and my family that this would be the most important speech I ever deliver as a member of the House. I have been here eight years and hope to represent my constituents into the future.

I am going to speak about the most vulnerable, about meaningful safeguards, and about addressing the slippery slope that is Bill C-14.

First, here is full disclosure. I am the parent of a 29-year-old intellectually disabled son. I held the hand of my mother as she exited this world in pain. I watched a very close friend pass away over two years, in pain from a horrible disease.

Earlier in this debate, the member for Durham used words that resonated with me, that we all seek “compassion on both sides of this issue”, and that is essential.

I am going to refer to some messages that have been written and sent. I should also disclose that I, too, have held public meetings. In fact, this issue was brought up during the election campaign, and I stated my position very clearly and concisely to the voters on this particular issue.

I would like to start with a quote from the member for Calgary Nose Hill who said in her opening statement that this is about “the sanctity of human life”, “defining the morality of our country”.

I would like to read the words of someone who is greatly respected. His name is Jean Vanier, and he wrote an article, along with Hollee Card, in The Globe and Mail on March 1. He heads up an organization called L’Arche, and he said:

We in L’Arche have had the privilege of accompanying many on life’s journey, not only in times of health and strength, but in times of fragility and weakness as well. Through this experience we have learned many things.

Most importantly, we have learned that it is the most fragile among us who are the closest to their humanity, to their suffering, and to their need to be loved. It is they who show the rest of us the way to live in truth and in love.

He goes on to say:

This is why we have a special obligation to ensure that the care available to each of us throughout our lives, but especially in our final stages of life, affirms both our dignity and humanity. Otherwise, we diminish our range of experience to include only our independence. We diminish the love we can share, and the vulnerability we can show to one another.

Such a spartan culture ultimately devalues life. In its place we must recommit to honouring and accepting ourselves and others by finding ways to accept our frailties, and the full course of life.

Members can see that Bill C-14 undermines the precarious position of people with disabilities in Canada.

Other interesting comments that were shared with all parliamentarians came from an individual named Hugh Scher, a solicitor and lawyer, who for 25 years has advocated on these issues. By the way, he points out at the very front end of his letter to us that he was not invited to talk at the committee, yet he has advised every party in the House on these issues.

Let us talk about the safeguards he points out.

Judicial or Tribunal oversight to ensure compliance with legislated requirements and to identify vulnerability before the fact is an essential requirement for effective oversight in respect of any regime of assisted suicide;

He goes on to say:

The requirement of judicial or tribunal oversight and of vulnerability assessment and identification before the fact by way of prior review are an essential requirement of any regime of assisted suicide and must be implemented by Parliament in the event that there is to be any prospect of safe implementation of an assisted suicide regime. Failure to implement such measures will leave vulnerable Canadians at significant risk without any means of enforcement or protection from abuse;

By the way, Bill C-14 does not have those protective measures of judicial oversight in it.

Some say the bill does not go far enough. Let us take the example of Belgium and how it has evolved over the years. Thirty-two per cent of cases carried out in Belgium are without any request or prior consent of the individual. Even though the law requires it, it is ignored and it is not prosecuted. The numbers since that bill was introduced until today are staggering. What happens is that society changes. Society changes and this becomes the norm. People start accepting the fact that this is the way it is.

One of the issues with Bill C-14 is the fact that, in the preamble, there is a statement to allow for further study for mature minors and persons with mental illness. To me, I interpret that as code. That code is saying that those who want wide-open, available euthanasia, death on request, are not to worry, that it is coming. That is the code. If we look at the report of this particular special committee and what it brought back to Parliament, stating what these people would love to have, we see the code that it will be coming. It is written right in the preamble of the bill.

Some have said that it is the incremental expansion over the course of time in ways not yet contemplated. Over time, citizens become more used to it. Over time, the law would encourage and encompass people with more ailments and younger patients. There is a dangerously contagious effect of assisted-suicide laws that has been observed in the Benelux countries and in the jurisdictions that have had this law on the books for a long time. This is about the sanctity of human life, defining the morality of our country, as the member for Calgary Nose Hill so accurately said.

Let us talk just a minute about the conscience rights of health professionals in institutions. These are not in the bill. We would have to amend this bill to have these rights in there. At my public meetings, we had many doctors who expressed their view that this was absolutely essential for them to carry on in practice really and they would look to alternative jurisdictions to not have to abide by this. That is also for health care professionals in general.

Moving on to palliative care, I and the people of my riding are very fortunate to have the finest palliative care in the country. One of the individuals who spoke at the public meeting said she has watched many people at end of life resolve issues among their friends and family, who would never have had the chance. These are people who have passed along in the best possible environment.

My comment is that the Supreme Court has forced us to this position. If we are to have a law, we must have a law that is as airtight as possible. We must protect the most vulnerable. If one person dies because of a badly scripted law in this country, it will all be on us.

I appreciate the time to speak tonight.