Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Kootenay—Columbia.
Medical assistance in dying is definitely one of the most important social issues our country and our Parliament will face and have faced in a long time. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the most delicate issue that our Parliament will have to deal with.
I would like to say that I will be supporting this bill at second reading stage even though I feel that we need to amend it.
We have known from the beginning that the NDP will have a free vote on this personal and delicate issue. Therefore, we are not seeking a consensus, but rather we want to continue consulting our constituents and the many experts studying this issue in order to determine what would be the best bill to reflect Canadians' rights.
It is important that we clarify the bill we are studying because it leaves room for interpretation and, above all, it contradicts the Supreme Court's ruling in the Carter case.
We will debate the necessary amendments in a non-partisan manner, but it is important for everyone here in the House to remember why we are voting on this issue. The issue at hand is not whether we are for or against medical assistance in dying. The Supreme Court of Canada was very clear that medical assistance in dying is a charter right. We are here to debate the bill and ensure that it reflects the Carter decision and does not leave anything open to interpretation.
As I just said, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that competent Canadian adults who are suffering intolerably as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition have the right, under the charter, to medical assistance in dying.
The Supreme Court mandated our Parliament, and also the provincial legislatures, to pass legislation that is compatible with the Supreme Court's decision. This decision sent a strong message to update our laws, which are meant to protect vulnerable people and also the health care professionals who help them.
It is important not to politicize this issue or deal with it in a partisan manner. It is also important not to reduce this major issue to a pro-life and pro-choice debate since we know that debates like that can be never-ending.
I am very proud to have been a member of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying. I worked on that committee with my colleague from Victoria, and I would like to sincerely thank him for his expertise, experience, and wealth of knowledge on this issue. This was my first experience with committee work. I would therefore like to thank him again, along with all of the committee members and the staff who assisted us. It was a privilege for me to be part of that committee because it gave me the opportunity to carefully study the Supreme Court's decision in this regard, and the provincial court decision that preceded it. We also carefully considered the laws in Quebec. I am very proud of the role that Quebec has played in leading the way on this sensitive issue. We also considered legislation from countries around the world.
Our committee reviewed two major studies, which together heard from over 13,000 people and more than 100 organizations. We held 11 hearings.
Sixty-one expert witnesses shared their work with us. Since February 6, 2015, the day of the Supreme Court ruling, every medical organization in the country and every organization that represents people with illnesses or health care professionals has given this sensitive issue very careful consideration. Those speaking on behalf of doctors told us how they were trained up until February 6, 2015. Their careers were based on the duty to heal. Since February 6, 2015, they have become aware that their role is now also to help people avail themselves of their right to seek medical assistance in dying.
During the committee's work, I made a point of meeting with all of the organizations in Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot with an interest in this issue. I met with representatives of organizations for people with disabilities, user committees, institutions, medical institution representatives, and an organization that works with bereaved families and supports people at the end of their lives. I shared the committee's thoughts with them. I also had a meeting with all of these stakeholders to discuss our committee's report. Everyone who is directly involved in this issue and deals with it on a daily basis was very comfortable with our recommendations.
The role of the committee was to take advantage of this unique opportunity to reflect on all of the aspects of physician-assisted dying. Of course, we know that the government will not take all of our 21 recommendations into account in its bill. As the parliamentary secretary was saying, we do not have a lot of time. However, we should be considering all aspects of this issue. We made one recommendation that generated a lot of questions, our recommendation on mature minors.
Some witnesses told us that, for years, they have been helping young people around 16 or 17 years of age who have lived with incurable diseases for a long time and that those young people achieved a degree of maturity that very few adults achieve over the course of their lives.
Of course, after hearing this sort of testimony, we cannot close the door on that aspect of the issue. We cannot move forward with it now, because studies need to be done. One of our recommendations was that the necessary studies be conducted according to a certain timeline. We should not wait for these young people to end up before the Supreme Court.
As I said, the legislation leaves too much room for interpretation. I believe that, as parliamentarians, we have the duty to ensure that people who are sick do not have to continue to go before the courts to defend their right to physician-assisted dying.
Lawyers told us that we could consider the Carter ruling as a floor. That is what we, as MPs, chose to do. The Conservatives are saying that the Carter ruling should be considered a ceiling. The Liberals decided to go below the Carter ruling and down into the basement with their provision on reasonably foreseeable natural death, and that needs to change.
The Liberals keep telling us that $3 billion has been promised for palliative care. That is only a promise. There was nothing about it in the budget. However, all of the witnesses spoke about palliative care. Everyone in my riding has talked to me about it too. The important thing is to work for the best interests of all Canadians and to allow them to die with dignity.