Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague did have a fantastic speech just prior to question period and I believe that her time wrapped up with the beginning of question period.
We once again find ourselves debating one of those issues that should cause each and every member of Parliament to take pause. These are literally issues of life and death. We are debating medical assistance in dying. I have had the opportunity to enter into discussion now a number of times on the subject and I am pleased to be able to do so again on the amendment that my colleague made to the report back from the Senate, some of whose changes I would suggest are troubling ones from the deliberations that took place in that other place.
Before jumping into this, I would like to discuss some context, as I do every time I discuss this issue. Early on in the last campaign when I was not even elected, I was door-knocking in a community in my constituency where I happened to knock on the door of a physician. This was pre-COVID times. It is hard to believe that we are now a year into the pandemic. The sort of campaigning we did in 2019 seems such a long time ago.
Nobody actually answered the door. I was walking back down the driveway to the front yard and somebody called out from the backyard. I went to the fence and ended up having a lengthy conversation. What I find very interesting is that this particular physician articulated some of the concerns regarding this and other issues that he faces in the medical profession as a doctor in a small, rural community in Alberta. He outlined some of the concerns regarding medical assistance in dying.
I will not deny that I have positions on this issue that I have developed over my time in both politics, studying this and on many other issues, but what was very interesting as I reflect back on these comments is this physician outlined a whole series of concerns. In politics, they say one should not spend more than a couple minutes at the door, but I wanted to give this gentleman the time to outline his concerns. He outlined to me, ironically, some of the concerns that we are debating today with a suggestion about the slippery-slope argument.
I followed closely some of the debates that took place in the last Parliament and issues around the initial court cases that led us to Parliament being tasked with creating a framework in the last Parliament, and then some of the continuation of that. What I find very interesting is how accurately this doctor predicted some of the significant challenges that we are now facing. This is me paraphrasing this conversation from a number of years ago now, but he outlined that very activist, vocal causes are skewing the national conversation on ensuring that those who need protection most in our society are protected.
Here we are today. I had the honour of being elected and have a seat in this amazing chamber, the place of democratic discourse in our country. Here we are and I look at both the contents of what came back from the Senate and the various discussions had regarding Bill C-7 over the last number of months. It is very troubling that this gentleman was almost prophetic in the way he talked about these issues and some of the groups of people who are being affected in this framework that could lead to direct discrimination and how some of their voices are being ignored.
I find it very interesting. In fact, I had the opportunity earlier today to ask the Minister of Justice, after his opening remarks, a question about consultations. I was troubled by his response, although it was passionate, and I grant him that passion. We are all passionate about various issues, especially ones of such a personal nature as this. The minister went on to talk about how we need to address the suffering, but failed to truly answer why the government did not go down the path of appealing this decision to a higher court, which would have allowed for greater certainty on the type of legislation that would be enacted and ensure that it could be done in a way that we do not find ourselves here again in maybe a number of years, or sooner than that.
It is troubling, again in the words of the physician back in that driveway during my first campaign running for office about a year and a half ago, that the very vocal activist causes are getting a disproportionate amount of airtime. I bring that up because we have seen an evolution in this debate from what was discussed in the last Parliament and the very valid concerns that some of my current and former colleagues had, some of whom have retired, or whom I count as friends, like the member whose board I sat on while going to university, the late Mark Warawa, all of whom have defended life with passion in this place. However, where we find ourselves today is the definition of a slippery slope, and that is incredibly concerning to me.
It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we take seriously our obligation to debate, discuss and try to come up with the best outcome possible to serve, protect and ensure that Canadians are not placed in a position they should not be in. This issue would probably be in the top five and maybe even the top three of the issues I hear about. I hear feedback on every side of this debate, which is good. That is called democracy. It is called discourse and is exactly what the point is. It is why we are organized into parties and represent different regions of the country.
Each of us brings a different level of expertise, and I joke often that the only job requirement for a member of Parliament is that one happens to get more votes than the other guy. It is incredible the strength of our democracy is in the diversity that results from that. It is that diversity of opinions that forces us to take pause and debate these very important issues.
I will go back now to the consultations that the minister undertook on this issue back in the early sitting weeks of Parliament before prorogation. I spoke to many constituents, was sent emails and cc'd on others, and I found it very troubling to hear from a number of them that the so-called consultations were being conducted in a way that would confirm the objective of those who wrote the consultation piece. That is the antithesis of what we try to do here. In some cases, individuals with passionate perspectives on this subject felt they could not even participate in the consultations because of the way they were formatted. I find that was a troubling start to this process.
We have seen saw the Minister of Justice's comments, in addition to those of others in the government, about this as we have been going through this process. It was debated after prorogation, which of course slowed everything down. We lost about 35 sitting days. Whenever the government says that the Conservatives ought to hurry up because they are delaying the process, I will point out that 35 legislative days were lost in this place for it to do its job.
It is not just the two days that the members opposite like to suggest; it is 35 sitting days. The context for that deflates any argument that the other side would suggest on this, that we should simply rush something like this. There was the ability to appeal this to a higher court. When discussing this matter with one of my colleagues, it seems like the Liberals were not even aware that it could have been appealed to a higher court, among some other notable instances where there is a troubling lack of information.
An evolution has taken place from when the minister first stood up. When questions first started being asked last fall, he said that they had found the consensus, making clear definitive declarations, saying that they had consulted, that they had listened to the consultations and they did their job. That was being said by the government and the minister.
As questions were asked and as committee discussions went on both in the House of Commons and the committee, and then the pre-study and debate of the bill in the other place, we saw the government language change quite a bit. There was acknowledgement of a diversity of opinions. A lot of the diversity of these opinions was not respected in the beginning until there was a groundswell of concern. My office received hundreds, maybe thousands, of pieces of correspondence showing concern on this issue.
There are very few issues that garner this type correspondence, but this was one of those issues. In fact, people would call and tell me that they did not vote for me, but that they were concerned with the direction the government was taking. I heard from indigenous people. They told me that this went against the very fundamentals of their world view. Disability advocates are deeply concerned about an ableist-type mentality within the country, which could have very troubling consequences. We have the utmost responsibility to take these things very seriously.
This debate is very personally for a lot of us. I know there has been some emotion expressed in that regard, and this is part of an issue that is as important as this. As Conservatives, we have a free vote on this issue and we see a diversity of opinions within our caucus. That is great; that is democracy.
I do not know exactly where other parties stand on this, but certainly the autonomy of the member of Parliament is a constitutionally enabled thing here, which is often forgotten, certainly by our media and in the education of our parliamentary system. I emphasis for all those listening and on Zoom that the autonomy of the member of Parliament is one of the keystones of our democratic system. It needs to be respected. However, that is a bit of a segue.
This is an incredibly personal issue. Everybody has had an experience. I too have sat with loved ones during some of their last breaths. I have seen the consequences and I understand why this can be so emotional.
When I look at this in terms of the context of what we are debating today and the amendment that has been proposed in the government's response to the Senate amendments, important steps are taken to ensure that those among us who are most vulnerable are protected. My colleague from Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes spoke to that. It strikes at a good-faith attempt by the Conservatives to try to move the dial on a host of what many have pointed out are problematic aspects of what took place in the other place.
Let me take a brief moment to commend some of my Conservative colleagues in the other place. I have spoken with them about the process and in some cases their great disappointment and utter surprise at what they hoped to accomplish going into those deliberations and what resulted. I do commend the Conservatives who sat around that table. I will note that they have some of the most personal connections to this issue. When hearing those stories, it certainly strikes right at the heart.
We are now tasked with having to come to a place where we develop a framework. The government likely has the support to get the bill passed. We have introduced an amendment to the government's response to try to address some of the challenges that we have heard. This is not about some ideological parade to try to make our points known. This is about trying to address some of the challenges that we have with the bill and specifically the response.
When we introduce an amendment, it is important for debate in this place to acknowledge the ability to improve upon legislation, to address deeply problematic aspects of it, to try in good faith to add a level of protection to the most vulnerable within our society, to ensure that we are not creating a situation where a medical assistance in dying regime ends up pushing people to a decision that there is no coming back from, trying to take some small steps to help move the bill in a direction that at least addresses some of these very serious concerns. For those who are watching, I would refer them to some of my earlier speeches on the matter.
This is what we are attempting to do today. Specifically, I would mention the irony in which we find ourselves. The House unanimously supported a motion for a 988 suicide prevention helpline, which was absolutely the right thing to do. I was proud to support that. However, this is not just an ideological thing, but many have suggested the bill moves medical assistance in dying, assisted suicide, euthanasia, however it is defined, in a direction that many, including myself, suggest is very concerning. There is an irony between supporting suicide prevention and a regime that may unintentionally, I certainly hope unintentionally, result in what could be catastrophic for our country.
There is a need for palliative care. I mentioned the late Mark Warawa. He is an example of living his faith. He announced he would not run in the next election. He was going to become a chaplain to help people through the end of their life. He ended up being diagnosed with a very fast moving cancer. He ended up living out the very example of why palliative care is so important.
We find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic where disproportionately those affected are our seniors and those most at risk, yet we are debating something where we need to ensure there are safeguards in place. That the tragic irony is certainly not something I think anyone here would like his or her legacy to be, that while discussing and debating COVID supports in response, that we would also enable something that could be abused and would result in the end of life for vulnerable Canadians.