House of Commons Hansard #45 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was death.


Canada Post Corporation ActRoutine Proceedings

December 8th, 2020 / 10:05 a.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-260, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act.

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to rise today to table my private member's bill, Bill C-260, entitled an act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act. The title of the bill may sound simple, and that is intentional. That is because it is simple. The bill intends to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act to allow Canadians to order and enjoy their favourite wine, spirit or craft beer from any province or territory from sea to sea to sea, without restriction, delivered to their doorstep by the fine employees of Canada Post.

As it currently stands, many Canadians cannot find their preferred wine, spirit or craft beer on the shelf of their local stores, and Canadian producers are unable to ship their product because of these archaic and outdated interprovincial restrictions that continue to vex this country. This not only stands in the way of the enjoyment of these products by all Canadians, but also hurts these small and medium-sized businesses by limiting who they can sell and ship to.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that Canadians feel more comfortable and safe shopping online or over the phone. This simple amendment would not only increase the happiness of Canadians and allow them to shop safely, but also help the small businesses that are seeing a sharp decrease in their local foot traffic because of the pandemic.

I am confident that all members in this place will join me in supporting this bill to enact a simple amendment and open the taps to all Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

InsecticidesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today in Parliament to present a petition dealing with an issue that is of grave concern to many constituents. It is the issue of neonicotinoid insecticides and particularly their impact on pollinators. The petitioners call on the government to take action to follow the lead of the European Union, adhere to the cautionary principle and ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in Canada.

Falun GongPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House this morning to present a petition signed by Canadians who want to remind the government that the Chinese Communist Party has committed crimes against the Falun Gong community. The petitioners want the people involved in these crimes to be sanctioned under the Magnitsky Law.

I will read part of the petition:

For over 21 years, China's communist party officials have orchestrated the torture and killing of large numbers of people who practice Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline promoting the principles of “Truth, Compassion and Tolerance“, including the killing of practitioners on a mass scale for their vital organs to fuel the communist regime's organ transplant trade.

Members of Falun Gong have been making representations for years, and a number of MPs from all parties have supported their requests. Today I am pleased to table this petition in the House.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition from young people from across my riding of South Okanagan—West Kootenay and the neighbouring riding of Kootenay—Columbia. These young people are concerned about the increasing impacts of climate change. They point out that the government's targets and actions are woefully inadequate, and they want jobs that are sustainable, not for short-term gain at the expense of future generations.

The petitioners ask the government to support their future with a detailed climate strategy based on science. They want to eliminate fossil fuels subsidies and redirect those funds to renewable energy, energy efficiency, low-carbon transportation and job training.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from December 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Durham Ontario


Erin O'Toole ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, it my pleasure to rise on behalf of the Conservative Party on probably the most important bill before this Parliament. I say that, without knowing how long this Parliament will run, because this is a decision with respect to the state interacting with one of its citizens at end of life.

This is probably one of the most important debates this Parliament will have, and if there is commentary coming from the government or from some pundits on why we are late and why we are approaching a time limit, that was entirely in the hands of the government for three reasons.

First, the government decided, with no reason and no grounds, to prorogue Parliament. We lost several months that could have been spent having substantive and compassionate debate on Bill C-7 and a range of other things.

Second, the bill results from a Superior Court judgment in Quebec, and normally something so fundamental would have been appealed to two higher courts: the Court of Appeal in Quebec and the Supreme Court of Canada. That was not done, and it should have been. Most legal observers believe this should have been the case.

Finally, as we may hear from the government and the Attorney General today, they could have asked for more time, given the prorogation, their own delays and the pandemic. I think they will end up doing that today, and that is appropriate.

We are getting close to the deadline for this bill because of the government's inaction. The government was slow to appeal a Quebec court decision. The government also prorogued Parliament. That is why we are so close to a deadline set by a Quebec court decision.

As I said when I spoke to the previous bill, now Bill C-7, four and a half to five years ago, when we debate the role of the state at the end of life of one of its citizens, there is compassion on both sides. There are people who do not want to see the suffering of someone near the end of life.

I will speak to the Sue Rodriguez case, when the Supreme Court was first charged with this. Someone with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, loses their physical abilities and is confined in a horrible way. Approaching end of life, are they able to consent in the same way that someone would otherwise and make their own decisions about end of life?

There is compassion from people who want the well-being of their loved ones to be provided for. There is also compassion from people who are concerned about the state making determinations about quality of life. In fact, the justice in Quebec quoted many speeches from the last Parliament on the previous bill, following the Carter decision, including my speech. I talked about the concerns of a slippery slope and that we would be back in a few years. I said more vulnerable people might be swept into a law, and I am sad to say that is exactly where we are.

As a Parliamentarian, a lawyer, a father and the son of a brave woman who fought cancer, with profound memories of her from the palliative stage of that disease when I was nine, I am here to make sure the bill is debated properly and that safeguards are provided. Anyone who suggests we should be rushing this debate does not understand how profound it is.

Today's debate should be approached with respect and compassion. It is not a normal debate on normal policies. We are talking about the power of the government to take away a person's life at that person's request. It is a very serious action, and the debate that seeks to establish an appropriate legal framework is a necessary one. We are talking here about the value of human life, about human dignity.

I know that people on both sides of this debate have good intentions, but I am concerned that the bill is a first dent in the value we place on life. It is a slippery slope that we should not be taking with such a vague law and no safeguards.

In the Rodriguez decision, Justice Sopinka, who represented the Supreme Court at the time in the 1990s, talked about the distinction of a passive role of the state and an active role of the state at the end of life. “Passive” refers to palliative care, assistance with pain and, potentially, non-intervention, do not resuscitate, but the active role, when the state takes that role, attaches to section 7 of the charter, which is based on human dignity. The Attorney General clerked under Peter Cory of the same court, and in fact, the McLachlin and Cory dissents both focused on human dignity with respect to section 7 of the charter.

All of them talked about the role of the state in protecting the decisionally vulnerable, as they were called, people who could be pushed into end-of-life treatment because they felt they were a burden. This has been talked about since the 1990s, and this Attorney General is removing the safeguards from our regime. Every ounce of case law on the issue of assisted dying, euthanasia or assisted suicide talks about protecting those vulnerable.

That went on in the Carter decision, which reinterpreted and changed the stare decisis, the precedent of the Rodriguez decision, because of societal norms, but the one thing that did not change was the need for safeguards. In fact, the Carter court said that a “carefully designed...system of safeguards” was required and that they would be scrupulously monitored.

That is the only way the Carter decision changed the Rodriguez decision and allowed there to be assisted dying in Canada. However, Bill C-7 does not provide for assisted dying. It provides for assisted suicide, where the end of life, the reasonably foreseeable death, is removed entirely, and it removes the safeguards that every decision of the court on this subject has said are fundamental to the state having a role at end of life.

The Attorney General seems to be out of touch with the entire body of case law with respect to assisted death. I think it is shameful that he is not allowing reasonable amendments to reinsert a scrupulous approach to the vulnerable. He is removing the 10-day waiting period. There is no coming back from this decision, and when the state plays an active role in the death of its citizens, the two-witness requirement is also removed.

The Attorney General, who is entirely out of touch with the case law in Canada, out of touch with the decision of Mr. Cory whom he clerked for, is rushing something, suggesting we are being unreasonable, when all Conservatives want to do is safeguard the decisionally vulnerable, something both Supreme Court decisions in Rodriguez and Carter said was critical to human dignity, section 7 of the charter. All disability groups are opposed to this bill the way the government is presenting it because of the removal of safeguards and because of the redefinition.

Inclusion Canada's Krista Carr said:

Equating assisted suicide with an equality right is a moral affront. Having a disability should not become an acceptable reason for state-provided suicide. MAiD should remain restricted to the end of life.

One of the leading scholars, which I would invite the Attorney General to review, Professor Grant from the University of British Columbia, said:

Disability organizations hear almost daily from individuals who are considering MAiD because the appalling lack of state supports makes life intolerable. It may be because they are institutionalized, because they cannot afford treatment, or because they are socially isolated. We have seen the social inequality of illness with COVID-19.

The government is a little upset the Conservative caucus is demanding what two decisions of the Supreme Court have demanded and is asking for, reasonably, what section 7 of the charter is built upon, which is dignity of life, to make sure we do not change the regime in a manner I spoke about five years ago: a slippery slope for the decisionally vulnerable such as the elderly isolated in a home.

We heard testimony of some people feeling like they were pushed or pressured because of the cost or lack of institutional care. Some of the professors and some of the indigenous witnesses who have raised concerns also raise concerns about generational trauma, residential schools and people who are facing that trauma and pain in their lives. Is the state then going to provide assisted suicide as a tool or should we help these people?

This is about compassion. This is about an appropriate role for the state. This is not about fundamentally changing a regime that has only been in place for a few years.

I said at the outset there is compassion on both sides, but there is an entirely out-of-step approach from the Attorney General. In fact, the former attorney general, the member for Vancouver Granville, has also criticized the reckless approach of this Attorney General with respect to the post-Carter decision regime, because he would be removing the safeguards both courts have said need to be scrupulously monitored: 10 days, a few witnesses.

All major disability groups in Canada agree with the compassionate and reasonable position being presented by my Conservative colleagues. I am very proud of the advocacy we have shown. We have also been joined by legal scholars, indigenous leaders and people working with people with mental health issues. I have worked on mental health and suicide prevention for many years since my time in the military.

We are also not providing enough palliative care support. Going back to the original Rodriguez framework, where Justice Sopinka talked about the passive role of the state, allowing someone's life to end without pain and to be present, allowing family gathering at palliative, we are not doing that well enough.

The government has actually violated the spirit of the Carter decision by removing the safeguards. Remember, the safeguards, the carefully designed safeguards, were fundamental to the Supreme Court Carter decision change from Rodriguez. Why after a few years would the government remove those, particularly when some of the vulnerable Canadians, seniors and disability rights advocates, have said they feel under attack? In fact, another comment Ms. Carr made is that Bill C-7 is their “worst nightmare”.

What is the job of Parliament? We are not just delegates here to be polled. We are here to bring our perspective in the Burkean tradition of being passionate representatives for our communities, our families, our values and our points of view. I cannot think of a more important debate for us to bring those values.

As the Supreme Court said back in Rodriguez and throughout, this is about human dignity with respect to access to section 7. The early debate, both in Carter and Rodriguez, was always that we cannot have an unfairness for someone who cannot physically make a decision about end-of-life suicide, so we have to have an approach. That was McLachlin's approach in the dissent in Rodriguez. She thought that choice was cruel with respect to Sue Rodriguez.

It was never about just having a widespread approach to assisted suicide with no irremediable or reasonably foreseeable death being a part of it. Now this is opening up a state-run regime with respect to suicide, with vague terms about grievous conditions or just disability writ large. The same concerns I raised reasonably a few years ago around people with mental health issues, who could get help if we are there for them, or people who are decisionally vulnerable, as the court said for now a generation, are why the safeguards are there.

The government should not lecture us about timelines when it prorogued Parliament and when it did not appeal a superior court decision on a fundamental issue just a few years after the Supreme Court ruled in Carter. It is now ignoring disability advocates. It is ignoring indigenous leaders. It is ignoring physicians, legal scholars and the opposition. What are we demanding? We are not saying eliminate the system that was established in the last Parliament. We are saying to maintain the safeguards. There would be no Supreme Court right under section 7 of the charter were it not for the safeguards.

I am proud that the Conservative opposition is not going to step away and allow our vulnerable to be forgotten. We are going to scrupulously maintain the safeguards that the state should have when we are making profound decisions about the end of life of our citizens. We are here for the people without a voice. We are here for the people who might feel coerced, in isolation during a pandemic, into an end-of-life regime without full capacity and consent.

If we step outside the bubble, I do not care what political party one belongs to or associates with, all Canadians want to make sure the vulnerable are provided for. That is all we are asking. If we have to stay here for 24 hours a day, seven days a week to stand up for those Canadians, we will do that.

Who is being unreasonable? Is it the Attorney General, who does not understand the entire body of jurisprudence with respect to assisted death? I am actually very disappointed. He was a law professor at McGill and seems to have not read the Rodriguez and Carter decisions. He is removing safeguards that are fundamental to protecting the decisionally vulnerable as per Sopinka, McLachlin and Cory in Rodriguez, and the McLachlin court in Carter.

Every single indication from the Supreme Court of Canada says that we cannot have end-of-life assisted dying, assisted suicide, euthanasia or whatever words someone uses, that section 7 charter right cannot be accessed without a very carefully crafted and scrupulously governed system of safeguards. This includes a 10-day review period to make sure somebody was not at their lowest point and then the state moves in, and two witnesses to make sure that there is not someone vulnerable being forced or coerced into it. These are very reasonable amendments that not just Conservative MPs are asking for, but Canadians are asking for.

We are adopting a reasonable approach by proposing amendments to the bill on medical assistance in dying. It is a critical issue for our society and that is why we, the official opposition, are here to defend the most vulnerable members of our society. That is why we already proposed reasonable amendments for seniors, people with disabilities and Canadians with mental health problems.

This is a very important debate for the well-being of Canadians across the country. That is why I am proud of my caucus, whose approach to Bill C-7 is very compassionate and defends the most vulnerable members of our society.

It is up to the government. Today, it might be asking for a delay from the court, which is something it should have done months ago. It should have appealed the decision or not prorogued Parliament. Even with the fact that we feel there is a deadline, we should not lose sight of who we are safeguarding.

When we come to the bar and bow to you, Madam Speaker, that is because Parliament is a court. It is the highest court and we have a dialogue with the Supreme Court on decisions related to the charter. Parliament is supreme. When the government suggests we are being unreasonable because we want to keep with the spirit of the Carter decision, this court should be respected that as well. I have not seen this from the government yet.

If the government just reviewed the Carter and Rodriguez decisions and provided those safeguards, held up the dignity required under section 7 of the charter, we could ensure that the right guaranteed in Carter would be respected with a rigorous and scrupulous approach to protecting the decisionally vulnerable and most vulnerable in our society. The Conservatives are here to provide those reasonable amendments for the well-being of our country.

I appreciate the opportunity today to allow Canadians to realize that it is not the Conservative Party holding up legislation or not respecting a court. This is the Conservative Party asking for the will of the Supreme Court, through these two decisions, for our most vulnerable in society to be protected.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation Québec


Stéphane Lauzon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the leader of the official opposition, for his speech.

We are accountable to Quebeckers and Canadians, as well as to the Quebec Superior Court.

I would like to know how the leader of the official opposition can believe it is appropriate to disregard a decision from the Quebec Superior Court.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, what is appropriate is to protect the most vulnerable in our society. That was actually the essence of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in both Rodriguez and Carter.

Unfortunately, that was not the Liberal government's approach. Now here we are, with the deadline fast approaching, because of prorogation. We are here because of the government's inaction. That is why we are proposing reasonable amendments. That is why we will continue to protect the most vulnerable, including seniors at the Herron long-term care centre, for example, who are very isolated.

We are here for Canadians, people with disabilities and seniors. That is why the amendments, the safeguards, are so important.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to make a correction. The hon. member spoke a lot about mental health, but the bill explicitly states, in paragraph (2.1), “For the purposes of paragraph (2)?(a), a mental illness is not considered to be an illness, disease or disability.” Then, if we go “Safeguards”, paragraph (3.1), one of the criteria is “that the person meets all of the criteria set out in subsection (1)”. I say that because this is a critical debate in the House and we are responsible for providing the Canadian public with accurate information.

He spoke a lot about dignity. I know, from the advocates I have worked with in the disability community, that one of the things they are fighting for is a guaranteed liveable basic income so they can live in dignity. Does the member opposite support implementing a guaranteed liveable basic income as has been requested from the disability community?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Winnipeg Centre for raising what she perceives is a carve-out for mental health. The challenge is this. Mental health can be approached with a psychiatry handbook and a recognized condition. Mental health can also be someone who is in depression in a grievous harmful situation, isolated in a pandemic, a senior who feels her or she is a burden on his or her family. That is why, going back to the Rodriguez and Carter decisions, which I would invite all members to read, including the Attorney General, consent and capacity and 10-day review is to ensure there is no state-of-mind issue for someone is feeling coerced or vulnerable.

Mental health is a part of the end-of-life decision, the stress and pain, all those considerations. That is why the Carter decision said that a carefully designed system of safeguards was critical. The government does not have that. We are asking for reasonable safeguards to protect our most vulnerable.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the contributions of the Leader of the Opposition. I would put out that safeguards have in fact been increased in the legislation, particularly in track two with respect to the 90-day requirement for an assessment and the expertise being required as part of that assessment panel.

When we consider why track two is appropriate, the member opposite went to great lengths to cite extensive jurisprudence. The jurisprudence in the Truchon decision indicated that not making medical assistance in dying available to persons who were not at the end of life, including persons with disability, like Madam Gladu and Monsieur Truchon, was itself unconstitutional.

Given that we have dealt with extensive consultations, given that Canadians are needlessly suffering and given that we have straightforward legislation before us, will the member opposite use his leadership with respect to his caucus to ensure we can have a vote on the legislation to address, and no longer prolong, the needless suffering of Canadians?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, when the government removed the irremediable, it changed this from an assisted dying regime into an assisted suicide regime. The hon. parliamentary secretary is recognizing that in his own comments.

The government is removing some of the safeguards. It is making it easier to access, making more decisionally vulnerable people vulnerable and removing two of the safeguards in the process. It actually flies directly in the face of Rodriguez and Carter's clarity on dignity and on the decisionally vulnerable.

I would ask the hon. parliamentary secretary to use his leadership. Our amendments really just ask the government to stop eroding protections. The government is running roughshod over what the court has said. When it takes out that approaching reasonably foreseeable death, that is gone. That should concern Canadians, particularly as we have seen the isolation in this pandemic for some of our seniors, that fear. They are the decisionally vulnerable. That is who the courts have been asking us to look after.

I would like the hon. parliamentary secretary to use his leadership, perhaps dropping a copy of those judgements off with the Attorney General. The former attorney general, who passed the regime following the Carter decision, a former Liberal until she was pushed by the Prime Minister, has concerns with the approach as do disability groups, a lot of indigenous leaders, mental health physicians and the opposition. All we are asking for is a few reasonable safeguards. It is up to the hon. parliamentary secretary to put down the talking points.

When the Liberals decided to prorogue, they put the time pressure on. We will continue to stand up for our most vulnerable.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have heard the Leader of the Opposition outline how the bill shifts toward an assisted suicide regime. Then we heard the parliamentary secretary talk about Canadians who were needlessly suffering. I am concerned about the intersection of those two points without the state looking at doing everything possible to preserve the ability of Canadians to live with dignity.

Could the Leader of the Opposition talk about the need for the government to move on issues like support for persons with disability, housing, palliative care and the atrocities we see in long-term centres across the country right now? Could the Leader of the Opposition talk about how it is not just about this legislation, but that there needs to be a framework in which people are not needlessly suffering because they see hope and a choice through other services and programs?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill for her advocacy for some of the folks we are talking about.

As was said by some legal scholars, by Prof. Grant, UBC and others, when we do not even have efficient palliative, end of life, care, when we have some challenges with long-term care, those holes and gaps have been exposed through the pressures of COVID, when we know there are rising mental health issues, there is trauma experienced by those who have suffered childhood abuse and other things, when our society is scrambling to get supports for the vulnerable to address those issues, but on the other hand is actually eroding safeguards to keep those people out of a state-run system with respect to end of life, we are failing our citizens.

Our approach here is to ensure that the vulnerable are protected. As I said to the former Liberal attorney general, who brought in the post-Carter regime, I was becoming comfortable with the other regime, knowing that safeguards were there and that it was to be irremediable, reasonable, foreseeable end of life. The government is fundamentally changing this and taking out the safeguards at a time when we know there are more vulnerable as a result of the pandemic.

It is reckless public policy on the most important debate our Parliament will have. That is why I hope the government will see the light. With a few reasonable amendments, I think a lot of Canadians will be protected.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very grateful for the opportunity to put a few words on the record concerning Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code, medical assistance in dying, which I will refer to as MAID throughout my remarks.

The bill from the Liberal government would amend the original MAID legislation that achieved royal assent only four and a half years ago. The new bill was initiated in response to the Truchon case, where a federal court in Quebec struck down the clause in the original legislation that said MAID could only be applied if natural death was reasonably foreseeable. The Quebec Superior Court judge ruled on September 11, 2019, just over a year ago, that this clause violated section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person, making this clause of the original legislation unconstitutional.

The court's ruling will come into effect on December 18 of this year. The Conservatives have held firm to the position that this ruling by the Quebec Superior Court should have been appealed by the federal government to the Supreme Court of Canada. Given that it is a ruling that affects life and death, I sincerely agree with our position.

Had the Liberal government appealed, it would have given Canadians significantly more time to discuss this very critical issue, and had the Liberal government not prorogued Parliament for six weeks in August and September, Parliament would have had more time to study and debate the bill. However, this position was resoundingly ignored by the Liberal government. Now we are voting on a radical expansion of MAID, and I have many concerns and will not be supporting the bill.

I do understand the desire for legalizing MAID in Canada. I witnessed my grandmother suffer terribly at the end of her life. MAID was not made available to her and, frankly, I do not know if she would have chosen it. She was a very strong and resilient woman, with a gift of the gab and an incredible ability to write, which I have inherited those gifts. That is why I am able to be here today as a member of Parliament, which she would have been so proud to see. She had these abilities despite not even having a grade eight education. She would have achieved amazing things had she not been born into a very poor family in rural Manitoba.

She tragically suffered a stroke and after that she could not speak or write, her favourite things. Then her diabetes wreaked havoc on her body and her leg had to be amputated as a result. A short while later, the doctors told us that they would have to amputate her other leg. It was really horrible and the worst thing in my life to see her go through this. I wonder if MAID would have been a kinder option for her. For that reason I understand and deeply appreciate why MAID was legalized in Canada.

However, the Conservatives have flagged a number of critical issues with this new expansion of MAID and we worked hard to bring forward amendments to ensure safeguards remained in place for Canada's most vulnerable people. Unfortunately, the Liberals voted against every one of our proposed amendments, and I really do not understand why. We presented many strong, sound arguments from stakeholders across the country, most of whom had no partisan connection whatsoever to the Conservative Party. In fact, this is not a partisan issue and yet it is being treated like one by the Liberal government, which I find deeply upsetting.

When I was researching the bill to determine my position, I was startled to discover that over 1,000 physicians had written to the Attorney General in opposition to the bill. I would like to read into the record some of what their letter said because I found it extremely compelling. They said:

This bill, expanding “medical assistance in dying” (MAiD) to virtually everyone who is sick and suffering in Canada, will, if passed in its current form, make our country the world leader in administering death.

As medical doctors, we feel compelled to voice our dismay...The shock of a sudden illness, or an accident resulting in disability, can lead patients into feelings of anger, depression, and guilt for requiring care - emotions that, with proper support and attention, can resolve over time.

They went on to say:

The care and encouragement shown by physicians may be the most powerful force in overcoming despair and providing hope. Unfortunately, patients can no longer unconditionally trust their medical professional to advocate for their life when they are at their weakest and most vulnerable. Suddenly, a lethal injection becomes part of a repertoire of interventions offered to end their pain and suffering.

Finally, they went on to say:

Bill C-7 would allow those who are not dying to end their lives by a lethal injection at the hands of a doctor or nurse practitioner. Shockingly, most of the safeguards that Parliament deemed necessary in 2016 to protect the lives of vulnerable individuals from a wrongful death are being removed. Under the new bill, an individual whose natural death is considered to be “reasonably foreseeable” could be diagnosed, assessed and euthanized all in one day. We are very concerned that removing the 10-day reflection period and other safeguards will lead to an increase in coerced or tragically unconsidered deaths.

The reckless removal of safeguards previously deemed essential will place desperately vulnerable patients directly in harm’s way and may cost them their very lives.

The comments tie in very well with what we have heard from the disability community at the justice committee and the like when we were studying this legislation. In fact, 72 national disability advocacy groups have opposed this legislation. I personally fielded many calls from my constituents, who were the first to tell me that they usually vote NDP, yet they felt very compelled to reach out to me to express their fear of what this bill meant to them.

There is a genuine terror in the disability community of this bill, which I have heard first hand, yet those fears are being completely discounted by the Liberal government. I really do not understand why.

More than that, the Liberals are even ignoring the United Nations with this legislation. A UN special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities responded to the expansion of MAID with clear dismay. She said:

I am extremely concerned about the implementation of the legislation on medical assistance in dying from a disability perspective. I have been informed that there is no protocol in place to demonstrate that persons with disabilities have been provided with viable alternatives when eligible for assistive dying. I have further received worrisome claims about persons with disabilities in institutions being pressured to seek medical assistance in dying, and practitioners not formally reporting cases involving persons with disabilities. I urge the federal government to investigate these complaints and put into place adequate safeguards to ensure that persons with disabilities do not request assistive dying simply because of the absence of community-based alternatives and palliative care.

That is a pretty powerful quote, in my opinion.

We know that there are considerable issues with palliative care. We know that 70% of Canadians, seven out of 10, do not have access to palliative end-of-life care in Canada. I find that to be a shocking number, and I had no idea until I did research for this bill.

I do believe that without access to good quality palliative care, we have failed to offer Canadians a real choice. If they cannot peacefully live out their final moments with safe, reliable care that is supportive and catered to their needs, then I can understand why MAID would be so appealing.

More than that, the COVID-19 pandemic has really lifted the veil on the terrible state of elderly care in Canada. In Winnipeg, our residents in elderly care homes have suffered tremendously. While we have many care homes that are doing phenomenal, outstanding work, others, not so much. A few weeks ago, Manitobans were horrified at revelations of an elderly care home just outside of my riding that was understaffed, and overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.

When paramedics arrived, they found that some residents had been dead for hours and no one knew. Others were severely dehydrated and starving to death. If we are to provide dignity in dying, we must also ensure dignity in living. This is paramount to the discussion and has been completely ignored by the Liberal government. In fact, in the Liberals' 2015 election platform, they promised billions of dollars for palliative care. This was never delivered.

Further to that, I found it alarming that the 10-day reflection period in the original MAID legislation would be eliminated with the passage of this bill. It is important to note that the existing MAID legislation allows the 10-day reflection period to be waived under special circumstances, so flexibility on this 10-day reflection period is already in the existing MAID framework.

I am really not married to the 10 days specifically. It could be a bit shorter, or it could be a bit longer. I would need to hear from professionals in psychology to truly understand how many days are best to ensure end-of-life decisions are not made emotionally, or made in the heat of the moment, so to speak. However, I do firmly believe, at the very least, someone who requests MAID should have to sleep on it, given that there is no going back from it.

Given there are tough days, whether someone had a poor interaction with a health care worker or does not like their new room or facility, or their family has not visited in a while, or it has just been a physically or emotionally tough and painful day, there are so many reasons why someone within their most vulnerable state should have safeguards in place when making life-ending, “game over” decisions. With this legislation, if it is passed, MAID could be administered only hours later.

What really solidified my thoughts on the removal of this safeguard was the former Liberal minister of justice, the member for Vancouver Granville, who was responsible for the original MAID legislation only four and a half years ago. She questioned the current justice minister on removing the reflection period, given removing this safeguard was not called for in the Truchon decision. The person who brought forward this legislation four and a half years ago is asking why the Liberals are removing this reflection period, yet we received no firm answer from the Liberal government as to why that is. I find that to be pretty compelling. The Liberals, for reasons unknown, went far beyond what was required in the Truchon case when they created Bill C-7, and I believe these concerns are valid.

In fact, we learned in the “First Annual Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada, 2019”, that 3.6% of patients who made written requests for MAID subsequently withdrew those requests. Now, 3.6% may not sound like a lot, but of the 7,336 people who applied for MAID, 263 of them changed their minds.

We should keep in mind that MAID is new in Canada and not easily accessible everywhere. Members can imagine how many people will be applying for this after Bill C-7 passes. As MAID becomes increasingly normalized, we know that 263 lives were allowed to continue to live on because of that reflection period, which is, in my opinion, so important to maintain. However, it will not exist moving forward because of the Liberal government's refusal to listen.

Conservatives also proposed an amendment that would extend the new 90-day reflection period for those seeking MAID whose deaths are not reasonably foreseeable. We proposed to extend it to 120 days, and the arguments for this are solid. The over 1,000 doctors who I quoted earlier have said, “We live in a country where the wait time to see a psychiatrist in certain areas is 4-8 times longer than the 90-day waiting period proposed in the bill for those whose natural death is not considered 'reasonably foreseeable'”.

Further, we know that after a catastrophic accident causing, for example, a life-altering injury, suicidal ideation is very common, but with the proper support it goes away and a happy and purposeful life can resume. Moreover, it takes much longer in many cases to get a wheelchair or quality specialized rehabilitation care than the 90 days, so I ask this: What good is 90 days if someone is not able to access alternatives in that time period? I do not know.

Additionally, Conservatives believe we can better protect vulnerable patients by requiring the patients to be the ones who first request information on medical assistance in dying, and not have it openly or flippantly offered to a patient as a standard every-day option like pain medication or various therapies. Conservatives believe MAID is an extremely serious matter and should not be something pushed on patients in their most vulnerable state.

Whenever members on this side of the House state the potential for pressure to be put on patients concerning MAID, I do find, during these debates, that Liberal members essentially roll their eyes. They scoff and say that never happens, while the justice committee heard something different. It heard first-hand from witness accounts that pressure does, in fact, happen and has been happening over the past four and a half years.

Roger Foley is an infamous example of this pressure. He was offered MAID on four separate occasions to date and never once indicated that he was interested. In fact, he indicated quite the opposite. When he was having a bad day it was offered to him. It was almost as if they were tempting him by saying there is an easier way and suggesting he should just end it all. I just find that terrifying.

I find Roger's case very alarming. Safeguards must be put in place to ensure that when people are at their weakest and most vulnerable moments, they are not offered something that would end their lives forever, but rather are provided various options for better care and support, if they want it.

Another issue I have with this bill is that it moves to expand MAID so quickly. Really, this MAID legislation's original framework was just legalized four and a half years ago, which is really a blink of an eye in relative terms. The original legislation was thoroughly researched and vetted, and numerous safeguards were put in place to ensure our most vulnerable were protected. Those safeguards were considered critical at the time.

Now, less than five years later, the Liberal government is massively expanding MAID and doing away with many of those safeguards it itself deemed critical in the first legislation not even five years ago. At this pace, I very much believe and fear that we may be debating expanding MAID for children or those with mental health issues within my lifetime, and I find that absolutely terrifying.

More than that, this legislation comes before the mandatory five-year review. I feel that without that we are flying blind without the proper data that could have been revealed in a comprehensive review. There are simple questions I would have hoped would have been assessed in that review, such as these: “Who is taking MAID?”; “Is it mostly the elderly or the poor?”; “Is it racialized communities or wealthier white people?”; “Is MAID affecting certain demographics?”; “Why those demographics?”; “Are there reoccurring themes for choosing MAID that could be addressed by providing better care during suffering at end of life, rather than death?”.

We should be doing everything we can as legislators to provide alternatives to MAID that are reliable and easily accessible to everyone, yet the current government is not doing that at all.

What I find interesting on this is that the current Liberal justice minister is responsible for this aggressive expansion of MAID. He, in fact, voted against his own government's Liberal legislation on MAID, the original one four and a half years ago, because he believed it did not go far enough. We have known for a long time what his position is, and that leads me to question whether the Liberal consultations on this bill were really impartial. It may explain why this legislation goes far beyond the what Quebec superior court judge called for in the Truchon ruling.

There are so many questions with this new freedoms Canadians have with MAID. I firmly believe we have the responsibility as legislators to proceed on ending the lives of Canadians with extreme caution. There is a profound shift happening in our society concerning MAID, and we must proceed thoughtfully and with thorough, exhaustive research, which has not happened with this expansion of MAID. For me, this expansion, to put it plainly, is too much, too fast, too soon.

Bill C-7 would remove other critical safeguards as well, such as the requirement to have two independent witnesses sign off on MAID for a patient. This safeguard helps to prevent abuse and coercion of MAID and provided much-needed oversight on those discussions with patients. To think a person needs two independent witnesses to sign off on a will, but not to end their actual life, makes me feel as though we are living in the twilight zone.

Further, Conservatives have advocated for amendments that would ensure physicians who sign off on MAID applications have expertise in a patient's condition. One would think that for a life-ending decision such as MAID, the safeguard would be a given, but no, the Liberals disagree, and again for reasons largely unknown.

Additionally, a number of constituents have reached out to me with significant concerns that health care professionals who do not agree with the morality of MAID would be forced to help administer it. The Liberals have insisted that this will not be the case and that the conscience rights of health care professionals will be protected. However, communication on that has been dismal, to say the least, otherwise I would not be receiving so many calls about it. I urge the Liberal government to invest more time and energy into communicating on this specific issue.

I will end with a quote from the over 1,000 doctors who I have mentioned throughout my remarks. They said:

Our profession has been coerced into facilitating suicide rather than preventing it, for ever-increasing numbers of citizens. We watch in utter dismay and horror at how the nature of our medical profession has been so quickly destroyed by the creation of misguided laws. We, the undersigned, declare that the passage of Bill C-7, if left unchecked, will contribute to the destruction of much more than our medical profession, but fundamentally, of a Canadian society that genuinely values and cares for its most vulnerable members. Canadians deserve better.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, I myself am a strong advocate for palliative care. I was a founding member of the all-party Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care, and I have the largest palliative care hospice in the country in my riding, the Teresa Dellar Palliative Care Residence.

The member mentioned that the Minister of Justice voted against the original bill, but the reason he did so was because he knew from the start that it was unconstitutional precisely because he did understand the jurisprudence. This makes me think that the Leader of the Opposition was being rather glib when he suggested that the Minister of Justice did not understand the jurisprudence.

The member mentioned that people should be allowed to sleep on it, but prior to the 10-day waiting period, there is an assessment period when people are obviously reflecting on the matter. I just do not understand how the member feels that, by taking away the 10-day waiting period, people are not being given the chance to sleep on it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate that the member has phenomenal palliative care in his riding. I wish the rest of the members of Parliament in the House could say the same. Had the member's Liberal government delivered on its 2105 promise to invest billions in palliative care, that may be the case in more ridings than his own.

To his question concerning the 10-day reflection period, I still believe it is very important that when the final decision is made, people still have to sleep on it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Kildonan—St. Paul for articulating so well the risks to Canadians that this legislation represents.

I want to reference palliative care that the member's speech also referenced. She is correct that in 2015 the Liberal government announced it was going to deliver support for palliative care, which it never did. In 2017, it reannounced that, and it never delivered. In 2019, it never delivered. More recently it announced somewhere in the order of $6 billion over 10 years across the whole country. It is a drop in the bucket to try to improve palliative care across the country.

I would ask the member to comment on the state of palliative and perhaps reference her grandmother again. She made a poignant reference earlier about her grandmother's end-of-life care and how palliative care played into that situation. I would ask her how it could be improved going forward.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, there are many palliative care facilities in my riding that are absolutely phenomenal and doing incredible work, particularly during this pandemic. As I remarked in my speech, there are a number of other care homes for the elderly in Winnipeg that are not doing so well. As I mentioned, at one point the situation was so dire, with so many COVID cases and such a staff shortage, that paramedics were called and when they arrived they were completely dumbfounded by what they found. There were numerous people who had been dead for hours and no one knew they had died. People were starving: “starving to death” was how they described it.

My grandmother had decent palliative care, I have to say, but I found that more could have been done to perhaps support her in her final days. Looking back, I would change so much. I think we all say that and think that about our grandparents and parents when they pass on, but I find this a very important discussion. If we are going to expand MAID, we have to expand palliative care.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I have been here for five years listening to a great deal of debate on this very important issue. All lives are of equal value. I genuinely believe that. We need to emphasize how important personal care, home care and palliative care all are. I have enjoyed those discussions. Money has been flowing in that area.

Will the Conservative Party be transparent and honest with Canadians by stating the real reason why it is not prepared to see this bill go forward?

It does not support the legislation and it would rather have it appealed to a superior court. If it was in government, it would not be passing this legislation at this point because it would have referred it to a superior court.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, the member opposite is correct. We would have appealed it to the Supreme Court. When we are talking about life and death, something of this magnitude that is going to be this much of a change for society should absolutely go to the highest court in the land. End of story.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I know this issue engages the most profound issues of conscience. It requires great care as legislators.

I remember when the Carter decision came out. I am a lawyer by training. I read it carefully, and I was concerned that the government put in a requirement that death be reasonably foreseeable, because that was not called for in the Carter decision. Of course, that led the plaintiffs in the Truchon decision, Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, to appeal.

It is worth mentioning why they did so. Ms. Gladu was 74. She used a wheelchair. She had post-polio syndrome: a condition that weakened her muscles and reactivated her childhood scoliosis. She had difficulty breathing and was in constant pain. Mr. Truchon was born with cerebral palsy. He no longer had the use of his limbs. In 2012, he lost the use of his only working limb, his left arm, due to severe spinal stenosis, which left him almost completely paralyzed and caused painful spasms. He had given up most of his activities and gone into assisted living since there was little left that he could do by himself. Each of those people had been refused MAID under the Quebec legislation regarding end-of-life care, and they did not meet the requirements of the federal legislation because the ends of their lives were not reasonably foreseeable.

Does my hon. colleague agree with the Truchon decision, insofar as it has found the requirement that death be reasonably foreseeable to be a violation of Canadians' constitutional rights?