Madam Chair, I will be splitting my time with the member for Yorkton—Melville.
Millions of Canadians live with a mental illness. Tragically, each year more than 4,000 Canadians commit suicide, the vast majority of whom suffer from a mental illness. Concerningly, many more Canadians who suffer from mental illness will have their lives prematurely ended as a result of the Liberal government's ideologically driven, evidence-free expansion of MAID in cases where mental illness is the sole underlying condition.
It was not long ago that the Minister of Justice himself cautioned against expanding MAID in cases where mental illness is the sole underlying condition. In this very place, when Bill C-7 was debated, he said that there are “inherent complexities and risks with MAID on the basis of mental illness as the sole criterion, such as suicidality being a symptom of some mental illnesses”. What has changed? Those inherent complexities and risks remain. What has changed is purely political.
When Bill C-7 went over to the Senate, the Senate adopted a significant amendment to drastically expand MAID in cases of sole mental illness by way of a sunset clause that would come into effect in March 2023. Despite having spoken of “inherent complexities and risks”, the Minister of Justice, incredibly, did a 180° turnaround and accepted the Senate amendment, despite the absence of meaningful study and the absence of meaningful consultation. Then, the Liberal government shut down debate to ram through the bill and ram through this radical expansion of MAID.
By law, in order to qualify for MAID, it must be established that the patient suffers from a “grievous and irremediable” condition that is “incurable”, in which one is in an “irreversible” state of decline. In other words, in order to qualify for MAID, it must be established that one cannot get better.
The Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, of which I am a vice-chair, has heard testimony from medical experts, including psychiatrists, and the evidence is that it is not safe to move ahead. That is because it is not possible, or at the very least it is difficult, to predict irremediability.
Even the government's own expert panel concluded as much. On page 9 of the government's own expert panel report, the expert panel said, “it is difficult, if not impossible, for clinicians to make accurate predictions about the future for an individual patient” in cases of sole mental illness. That means persons who are suffering from mental illness who could get better and go on to lead happy and productive lives will have their lives prematurely ended.
As such, I submit that it is reckless and irresponsible for the government to move ahead. What the government should do instead is take the evidence of the expert panel, listen to the experts who have come before the special joint committee and put a pause on this significant and, I would submit, dangerous expansion of MAID. Anything less would be a betrayal of some of the most vulnerable people in this country.