I was honoured to sit on the special legislative committee that dealt with assisted suicide and euthanasia in response to the Carter decision. From that came a number of witnesses who highlighted two prominent needs.
First, there has to be a national palliative care strategy in Canada to prepare for our aging population. People who need palliative care are primarily elderly, at end of life. People do not have to be old to die, though. Palliative care provides those basic, dignified needs of people at the end of their lives, whether they are young or old.
The second issue was that we needed to provide conscience protection for physicians and health care institutions.
I am thrilled the member for Sarnia—Lambton received a low number in the private members' business draw and was able to have this bill presented. I am also thrilled this basically has been unanimously supported in the House and will very soon go to the Senate, with some very constructive changes.
This is needed in Canada. Right now there are more seniors in Canada than there are youth. One in six Canadians is a senior. In 12 short years, and I have been here 13 years, one in four Canadians will be a senior. Right now, 70% of people who need palliative care do not have access to it; 30% do.
As a civilized democracy, a western democracy, we need to provide for the basic needs of dignity. In testimony we heard different terms. We heard “medical aid in dying”, which is not assisted suicide. It is helping somebody die by reducing the pain and making them comfortable. That can be through visitation, drugs, palliative sedation, or medical apparatus. There is a number of ways.
I was shocked that our medical professionals received very little training in palliative care or end-of-life care. There is a very large interest in taking care of babies, in pediatrics, but for geriatrics, not so much. Babies are very cute. We desperately need to train Canadians in geriatrics.
With the massive change in our demographics in Canada, the aging population, where one in four will be a senior, it is not possible to build enough care facilities. Therefore, we need to train people so we can provide that home care.
Palliative care includes all of that, medical care and required infrastructure. We need to create this national seniors strategy. Again, I thank every member in the House who supports Bill C-277.
Then we need the investments in the infrastructure and the training to see this happen. The aging population is coming. It will be here in 12 years. We are not ready for it. I encourage the government and I thank it for supporting the member for Sarnia—Lambton and for its commitment to this bill. We all look forward to the investments in the next budget. Next spring when the government introduces the budget, there have to be those investments.