Madam Speaker, I am going to try to watch my time, and I hope to be on the same timeline as you are.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-14, which is a bill that makes amendments to the Criminal Code and other acts that would, for the first time in Canadian history, make it legal for someone to have medical assistance in taking his or her own life.
It would also make it legal for not just a doctor, nurse practitioner, or somebody involved in the medical community, but an aid, somebody outside of the medical community to kill someone, should the person want to be killed, if the conditions that are set out in this legislation are met.
It is an extremely serious matter that we have before us, and no doubt it will go down as a historic matter. It is something that will go down in history.
I want to take a couple of moments to address a few things. I want to begin by talking about where and how we got to this place, and build on some of the things that my colleague just talked about. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled just over a year ago that it was a charter right for Canadians to be able to have medical assistance in dying. The court gave us a year, a very short time frame, to talk about it, to consult, and to come up with legislation.
I want to take this opportunity to articulate not only my frustration but the concern of many of my constituents and many Canadians in what seems to be happening over and over again. Certainly, the Supreme Court is within its purview to make these decisions that have huge and lasting implications on Canadian society. Unfortunately, what is happening is Canadians feel, and it is becoming more and more prevalent, that they have no say in these matters, whether it is issues like assisted death, which is before us right now, or legalized prostitution, which we had to deal with in the last Parliament.
We are also seeing laws that have been passed in both this House and the other place that are being overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada. We have seen this in recent years and even recent weeks.
I would say for the record, and I would suggest, that it might be time for the government to start using the tools that we have at our disposal to bring some more balance back to our process. We have the legislative branch of our democracy and we have the executive, which are both accountable to voters. Then we have our judiciary, which is a very valuable part of it, but it has become what I believe and what my constituents are telling me imbalanced. They feel that there are nine people down the street in Ottawa who are making very important decisions, and the Canadian people have no say in them.
The tool that we had when the Conservatives were in government is the notwithstanding clause. For the record, I want to say that I think we might have to, and I know the government now has four years and there is a lot that can happen, for the people of Canada, start using that.
We are, though, at a place where the Supreme Court has ruled, and we absolutely respect that. Even though we might disagree with something that is said by a judge or a number of judges, in Canada, we respect the law and we follow the law.
Again, my colleague talked about how the Liberals could have asked for more time, and certainly that is something that could have been done, but we are now at a place where we have to look at a law and either pass the law or not.
I will not be able to support this piece of legislation. I believe it is flawed. My constituents have not had enough time to talk about it and be part of the process. A number of the issues that are concerning about the bill have already been articulated. I want to reinforce that I am very concerned there is not enough protection for vulnerable persons who may be victims or easily manipulated.
In my previous role, I worked a lot with people with disabilities with a variety of abilities. I met recently in Winnipeg with an individual who has an intellectual disability, but is a very smart, capable individual. He said to me, “Sometimes we can be taken advantage of when we are getting a new phone. It is so easy to manipulate us.” He said, “I am worried if somebody is trying to encourage some of us to die, we can be easily manipulated.” There is very little protection in this legislation for vulnerable Canadians.
There is also no protection, or very little protection, as has already been stated, for doctors, nurses, or other medical practitioners, or institutions for that matter, where killing someone goes against their conscience. The federal government has a duty to protect their rights. This bill could be strengthened by protecting those rights.
Also, it is very unclear and ambiguous, as far as language goes, around waiting times, around those who can sign for a patient, and there is very little oversight as far as who may have a financial benefit if somebody were to have an assisted death.
There are number of huge concerns. More time is needed to fix these flaws and to protect the vulnerable and rights of conscience.
Last, I want to talk a bit about my experience working in palliative care. I was a volunteer for a number of years. It was really something to behold to be with people as they went through those last stages of life.
However, there are a lot of misconceptions about what assisted suicide is, what assisted death is. I talked to one of my friends this weekend and she said, “Well, of course, Candice, if I'm in a vegetative state, I would like to be able to have the cord unplugged. I don't want to be kept alive.”
I said to her, “That's not assisted suicide. You absolutely already have that right in Canada to have a living will, to have a do-not-resuscitate order, to refuse medical treatment.” Those are all things that are already entrenched in law and that Canadians have the right to refuse. I think even our Prime Minister talked a number of years ago about his own father refusing medical treatment when he had cancer. Absolutely every Canadian has that right.
However, that is not at all what we are talking about today. That is not the decision that we are forced to make in a hasty way. That is not the decision that Canadians are being cheated out of being able to talk about, and being able to even, dare I say, vote on. It should be a major issue for Canadians to have major input. We are not talking about refusing treatment. We are not talking about saying “do not resuscitate”. We are not talking about palliative sedation, either.
My sister passed away nine years ago from cancer. Some of my family members said, “I think she died because the doctor gave her a lot of morphine when she was in pain.” No, she did not die from the morphine. She died from the cancer. Palliative sedation is not assisted suicide.
I find it ironic, in a very sad way. I just finished my 308 conversations in my riding last week. The 308 conversations was an initiative of the Canadian Mental Health Commission. It was a wonderful idea for 308—at that point 308 members of Parliament, now there are 338 of us—conversations around how we prevent suicide and how we better equip ourselves as community leaders, as health practitioners, as people working with youth, to prevent suicide.
I had these meetings. About 70 people were there, committed to preventing suicide in our communities in Portage—Lisgar. I said, “Folks, I am now going back to Ottawa and I am going to be debating how we can help people commit suicide.”
This is a very difficult issue. It is not one that we can just excuse and say, “Well, in this case, we don't want these people to die, because they're young people who have bullied on the Internet, so we want to make sure they don't commit suicide, but for somebody else who might have a mental illness and just has no hope, we want to be able to help them commit suicide.”
That is wrong and I do not think we can easily reconcile the two. I think we need to talk about it and we need to have protections in place.
Palliative care is very important. It is about giving hope to people. Studies show that if people have a terminal illness and they are assured they can die pain-free, they choose life and they let God decide when they go.
I think we can all agree, absolutely, that it is about helping people and giving them hope, whether it is a mental illness or whether it is a terminal illness; we give them hope and we help alleviate their pain. I do not think we ever want to see choosing death as the honourable way out. We never want our loved ones to feel like it would be more honourable if they chose death. I think we can all agree. Let us choose life every step of the way. Let us choose life.