Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to once again rise in this House and speak to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying). This bill proposes amendments to the Criminal Code provisions on medical assistance in dying, or MAID, in response to the Superior Court of Quebec Truchon decision, which struck down the eligibility criterion that natural death be reasonably foreseeable.
I would like to highlight five major components that stood out for me.
First, it repeals the condition that a person's natural death be reasonably foreseeable, with the exception of patients whose sole underlying condition is mental health issues.
Second, it introduces new safeguards in addition to existing ones for patients whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable.
Third, it permits the waiver of the requirement for final consent, allowing patients to provide consent to health care practitioners in advance, in the event that their death is naturally foreseeable and they are at risk of losing capacity to consent.
Fourth, it permits the waiver of the requirement for final consent if a patient chooses MAID by self-administration, in case complications arise following self-administration, such as a loss of capacity.
Fifth, it modifies the MAID monitoring regime to require that health care providers and pharmacy technicians provide regulated information when assessing a patient's eligibility or when dispensing a substance for MAID.
Over the last two days, many of my colleagues from both sides of this House intervened on a fair number of details. It gives me great pleasure to see that there is broad agreement that this legislation, with these amendments, gets voted in and move to the committee for further study.
I rose in this House during the 42nd Parliament back in 2016, and shared my experience, which dealt with the tragic loss of my father as a result of stage 4 cancer back in 2014. Such assistance was not available to us and we saw the loss of dignity. We saw the loss of the person I called “my hero” losing the capacity to be able to function and lead our family, as well as the fact that his desire would have been met, had we had this type of assistance available.
Also, as the chair of the all-party mental health caucus, I have been advocating, and our caucus has been advocating, for the consideration of mental health and the exclusion of that. I am pleased to see that that remains.
As I was listening attentively to the interventions over the last two days, at times there were questions raised about why it took so long. Considering that, and considering that we are almost halfway through this debate, I decided to focus my intervention mainly on the journey that our government has gone through over the last four years. The key concepts within that journey are the challenges that we are faced with; the stakeholders that we engaged with; the consultations during the studies; and the implementation, successes and challenges we have had.
Having said that, since the introduction of the legislation for medical assistance in dying in 2016, we have witnessed a steady increase in the number of Canadians and health care providers who have adopted this new regime. We have seen a relatively smooth integration of MAID assessments and delivery in end-of-life care service available across the country.
The enactment of this historic legislation was just the beginning of our efforts. Our government has since been very active in supporting the implementation of MAID across Canada. The 2016 legislation included clear directives for action, including the need for government to initiate independent reviews on three complex issues not addressed in the bill back in 2016. Some of my colleagues before me touched on those complex issues.
Rather than proceed too hastily, Parliament felt that it required more study and a review of available evidence. The government tasked the Council of Canadian Academies with undertaking these studies and that is where the journey started.
The resulting report tabled in Parliament in 2018 reflected an extensive review of academic and policy research, stakeholder submissions and international expertise in all three areas. It documented a range of perspectives from health care professionals, academic disciplines, advocacy groups and indigenous leaders; hence, the stakeholders that we have engaged with. We expect dialogue on these issues to continue during the parliamentary review and, as I have indicated, I hope that everyone in the House votes for this so that we can move it to committee and continue this dialogue.
Taking into account our federal system and division of responsibility for health care and criminal law, the federal government developed the monitoring and reporting regime to collect valuable information about requests for and the provision of MAID. In all other jurisdictions permitting assisted dying, there is an oversight and monitoring mechanism in place. The roles and responsibilities of these monitoring regimes vary.
In the wake of this monumental shift toward legalized assisted dying, Canadians wanted to know what kind of uptake there would be. Some were keen to know how accessible MAID would be across this vast country. Others want to know how safeguards would be applied and if there were protections in place for the vulnerable. Our government worked quickly with the provinces and territories to establish an interim reporting system, collecting and reporting on the best data available.
I want to acknowledge our provincial and territorial partners that had the challenging task of arranging safe access to MAID services from scratch, in a short period of time and in collaboration with multiple partners, such as health care providers, professional associations and health care delivery institutions. This tremendous task involved setting standards of practice for physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists to support the consistent and safe delivery of MAID within a legally sound framework. It also helped minimize the disparity to access in rural and urban areas.
Our government produced four interim reports using data voluntarily transferred by providers and various jurisdictions from 2016 until the creation of the permanent regime in late 2018. These reports covered a six-month period and provided information on the number of MAID deaths, patient demographic information, underlying medical conditions and predicted MAID requests.
In reviewing these reports, we know that the awareness of MAID as a legal option is growing. There appears to be a growing comfort among health care providers. In the interim period, our government worked to establish a permanent national monitoring and reporting system as considered in Bill C-14.
Through stakeholder consultation and collaboration with provinces and territories, the government enacted federal monitoring regulations in late 2018. These regulations set out the reporting requirements for all physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists who participate in MAID. We were mindful of balancing the need for information while limiting the reporting burden on health care providers and avoiding duplication of effort. This system has been operating for just over a year. Late this spring, our government plans to release the first annual report using data from this new monitoring system.
Budget 2017 announced $11 billion over 10 years to support home and community care services, including palliative care, mental health and addiction services; $6 billion was specifically allocated to those services I talked about. In 2019, our government worked with all the provinces and territories to develop the framework for palliative care in Canada, which I consider a cornerstone of this bill.
Over the last three and half years that MAID has been available, our government has worked to support a smooth integration into the health care system based on the foundation I have just laid out. On the evidence that we have gathered, we have put together a bill that represents the Truchon decision and addresses other issues where there is clear consensus and a reasonable path forward. It is my hope that, after due consideration and debate, we move this bill to committee.
I will close by saying that I support this bill and I thank all members for intervening on this topic.