Madam Speaker, it is an honour to participate in the debate on Bill C-7, which will amend the Criminal Code.
As someone who travels four or five hours to get to Ottawa on a regular basis, often I sit in Parliament and ask, “Do my constituents really care about what we are talking about?” I am pleased today to participate because I believe that this is a subject matter that every Canadian feels strongly about, one way or another, and that potentially could impact every Canadian. I feel very honoured to participate in this debate today.
We are doing so because the Supreme Court deemed certain provisions of the original medical assistance in dying legislation, MAID, to be unconstitutional. That provision, deeming death must be reasonably foreseeable, is being withdrawn in Bill C-7. The second important piece of this bill is the removal of the 10-day waiting period. In my remarks today, I want to address both of those changes.
First, I would like to state at the outset that I support the bill. In contrast to some others who have spoken, I do not believe the government should have appealed the Supreme Court decision. While I commend the government for finally bringing forward this legislation, it is unfortunate that the Liberals are only acting when being made to do so by the courts. This is somewhat of a repeat of four years ago when the government was forced by the courts to introduce the original MAID legislation.
Those suffering near the end of life should not have to resort to the courts before government acts. I guess one could say, however, that late is better than never, and it is certainly better than endless appeals of the decisions.
Four years ago when the original bill was introduced in the House, I made a special effort to obtain the collective views of my constituents. While I personally supported the original legislation, I also wanted my vote to reflect the feelings of my constituents. I reached out extensively to survey my constituents through phone calls, emails, Facebook and direct mail.
The responses at that time were from all age brackets and all demographics. The end result was 77% of several thousand respondents supported the legislation. Ironically, that number is awfully close to the percentage of support I received in the general election just one year ago. I am confident that a similar survey today would yield the same results, and the majority of my constituents would be supportive of the changes being proposed in the bill.
What I heard from constituents reflected my own personal views. While I respect some deeply held views from constituents who do not support MAID, I am of the belief that I, and only I, should determine how much pain and suffering is reasonable for me when end of life is near. I do not believe any institution or government should deny me my constitutional right.
Some medical professionals do not support MAID, and that is their constitutional prerogative. Those advocating against these changes feel those rights are not adequately protected in the legislation. That may be legally correct, but medical professionals not wanting to administer MAID clearly have a professional responsibility to refer patients. In Alberta, the website for Alberta Health Services has a listing of doctors who are willing to perform MAID. If it is the view of a medical professional that he or she is not prepared to perform MAID, they can make a referral.
The second important piece of this bill is removing the 10-day waiting period. I also support this. The contention that someone who is suffering to the extent that they ask for MAID one day will simply wake up a few days later and change their mind, I do not agree with. In my view all the 10-day period provided for was additional suffering and an opportunity, for those who oppose MAID on fundamental principles, to try to change the patient's mind. In my view, both are wrong.
I am sure most MPs are receiving the same emails I am getting, many from constituents asking that I support the legislation and others who are opposed. I have no issue with those opposed to MAID. Where I do take issue is with some of the rationales that are being used. Medical professionals' conscience rights is one, and I have spoken to that.
Others claim the legislation would take us down the slippery slope of other countries, where euthanasia is available to children and those with mental illness. Clearly those are red herrings because this legislation would do none of that. Others are asking for more study, another delay tactic, similar to appealing the court decisions. It is more work for lawyers, less satisfaction for those suffering.
Increased funding for palliative care has also been raised as an option by those opposing this legislation. Enhancing palliative care is always welcome, but in my view is not directly related to this issue. We are talking here about people wanting to end excruciating pain and suffering. These people are not asking for their pain and suffering to be made more comfortable.
Our health care system must do both things well. It must allow for people to live with dignity and receive excellent care as they reach the end of their lives. In addition, the provision of health care is a provincial responsibility, and I do not believe it should be part of this discussion.
Since the original MAID legislation was passed four years ago, I have taken a special interest in this issue. Unlike some other members who spoke earlier, I have not attended a death where someone has chosen MAID. However, I have had dozens of constituents make a real effort to tell me they experienced MAID with a loved one and that it was very special and appropriate. They personally thanked me, as someone charged with making laws in this country, for making this provision available at end of life for their loved one.
I have not had one constituent call me to say how bad this experience was. In almost all cases, these same constituents have said that society needs to go further. In fact, many constituents seem to believe advance consent already exists. They cannot believe they are not allowed to prepare a legal document, while of sound mind, that would provide their loved ones with guidance in the event they are nearing their end of life but are no longer of sound mind. For that reason, it is critical the minister get on with his public consultation on a broader review of MAID, which was promised some time ago.
The minister needs to find out what Canadians want and not make those suffering take years to go through the court system to get change. Like most things, the Liberals blame COVID. However, there are many ways of seeking input from the public regarding other changes to MAID, and the minister needs to get this discussion moving now.
In summary, I look forward to the bill being studied in committee. I know there will be those opposed to the bill and those in favour making presentations, and all need to be heard. For me personally, I have consulted and listened to my constituents and feel very comfortable voting in favour of the legislation.