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Conservative MP for Kitchener—Conestoga (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 43% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Citizenship Act June 16th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I agree that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. However, we are aware of many Canadians who have given a lot of money and set aside hours of time to sponsor private refugees coming into Canada. There is a church in my area that has raised over $70,000, already spent over $7,000 that is gone, and still no sign of the refugee family.
I wonder what my colleague, who I believe sits on the immigration committee, would recommend to clear up this backlog of mismatch between people who are waiting for a refugee family and refugee families who have been waiting in some cases up to six months, have been cleared at all security and health clearances, and yet no action? I wonder if my colleague would have some recommendations for us.
Madam Speaker, I remember serving on the committee together. I agree we had very respectful although diametrically opposite points of view, but there was a large degree of respect.
As it relates to choice, it comes back again to the fact that no man is an island. When I have the right to ask for someone to help me to assisted death, it automatically implies someone else has been asked to participate in that. It is not a matter of just individual choice. That is why I have been relentlessly calling for better protections for health care workers and health care professionals who have been professionally trained and have no interest.
I have a letter from a palliative care physician, who indicates, “In addition, all palliative care providers are dually trained. We have clearly told the Canadian Medical Association and others that we will quit palliative care and do other jobs if we are forced to participate”. That is why I have been relentless on this. We cannot simply say this is a choice of mind. It is a choice that will impact another person who will be implicated in either actually carrying out the physician-assisted suicide, or referring to someone who will.
Madam Speaker, I hope my colleague heard my opening remarks when I referred to the unfortunate activism of the Supreme Court of Canada. We have seen it on this issue. We saw it just a few days ago in relation to some sexual behaviour with animals. All of these things are not the job of the Supreme Court. This House is elected to represent the Canadian population. It is up to us to decide societal norms. It is not up to the Supreme Court to make that decision.
However, as it relates to this specific situation, many times in the House we have referred to the fact that we are under a time crunch. Invoking the notwithstanding clause would simply have given Parliament up to five years. It did not need to take that long if it did not want to, but Parliament would not have been rushed into making a decision in three months, a decision that takes much longer.
In the end, we are going to be sorry for the decisions we are making. In spite of the attempts to get this as good as we can, it is still a bad law.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
I have had the privilege of following, from a distance, the proceedings in the Senate over these last days. I am disappointed that a number of the options that were given to the Senate were not adopted.
Senator Plett's amendment to make it a criminal offence for anyone to compel an individual, organization, or medical practitioner to provide medical assistance in dying or to refer was rejected by the Senate.
I wish I could share the optimism of our Minister of Health when she assured me a few minutes ago that no one would be compelled to participate in this. I do not share that optimism. I am hopeful I am wrong on that. I am hopeful there will never be a case where a medical professional, a health care worker, a health care institution will be obligated to participate or to refer for this practice when they find it morally objectionable.
The other amendment Senator Plett put forward was adopted by the Senate, however, rejected by the government today in its response. That is the amendment relating to not allowing a beneficiary of a person who is seeking medical assistance in dying from assisting that person.
It seems quite clear to me that if we are to protect vulnerable people, this was one of the key points that needed to be adopted. By rejecting this amendment that was passed by Senate, we are actually increasing vulnerability. That is a sad result of rejecting this amendment.
It goes without saying that this is a very sad day, a disappointing day for me. This is a day when choices will be made that will affect generations to come, and it is without question the most important choice that I and most of my colleagues will make in our parliamentary careers.
It is disappointing on two points. First, it is disappointing to see the activism of the Supreme Court. I mentioned earlier in my comments on this topic that it was unfortunate the Supreme Court of Canada had taken it upon itself to force legislation to be written which would overturn hundreds of centuries of our understanding of the intrinsic value and dignity of every human life. The Supreme Court has done this, completely rejecting the fact that as elected members of the House, we have rejected initiatives to legalize physician-assisted suicide on at least 15 occasions since 1991, the most recent one in 2010 by a vote of 59 to 226.
The other reason this action is disappointing for me is because of the many years I have worked on the issue of suicide prevention. I have worked with people who have been left to suffer the aftermath of suicide, parents who have lost children, children who have lost parents, and more. To know there are groups across Canada today that are working very hard to prevent suicide, to save lives, and to see we are now, in a way, normalizing suicidal behaviour is disappointing.
Bill C-300 was an initiative that the House passed almost unanimously, calling on the federal government to initiate a federal framework for suicide prevention. Just a few weeks ago, the Minister of Health indicated that the bill was almost ready to be fully implemented by the Public Health of Canada.
On one hand, we are working as hard as we can to prevent suicide, which I applaud and will continue to give my efforts to. On the other hand, it appears that we have given up and we are allowing those who are losing hope to actually access assisted suicide.
Ten Canadians each day lose their life to suicide. In Canada, groups are working hard on the ground to prevent suicide. Mental health care workers, experts, are providing safe talk training so front-line workers, such as teachers and our volunteers in our minor sports programs, can observe these first signs of suicidal ideation, and intervene with the intent of restoring hope to that person who has lost hope and is now in despair. Their motivation has always been to save lives.
Now, to turn 180 degrees and begin the path towards normalization of suicide, is a tragic course, a tragic course of action for all of Canada.
Again, I want to quote from an expert in this field. Aaron Kheriaty, an associate professor of psychiatry and director of the medical ethics program at the University of California, Irvine school of medicine, states:
The debate over doctor-assisted suicide is often framed as an issue of personal autonomy and privacy. Proponents argue that assisted suicide should be legalized because it affects only those individuals who — assuming they are of sound mind — are making a rational and deliberate choice to end their lives. But presenting the issue in this way ignores the wider social consequences.
What if it turns out that the individuals who make this choice in fact are influencing the actions of those who follow?
Professor Kheriaty goes on to report that in states where physician-assisted suicide has been legalized, there has been an increase in suicides of 16.3% overall, but among those over 65 an increase of 14.5%. He further states:
[These] results should not [be surprising to] anyone familiar with the literature on the social contagion effects of suicidal behavior. You don’t discourage suicide by assisting suicide....
...Aside from publicized cases, there is evidence that suicidal behavior tends to spread person to person through social networks, up to three “degrees of separation” away. So my decision to take my own life would affect not just my friends’ risk of doing the same, but even my friends’ friends’ friends. No person is an island.
Finally, it is widely acknowledged that the law is a teacher: Laws shape the ethos of a culture by affecting cultural attitudes toward certain behaviors and influencing moral norms. Laws permitting physician-assisted suicide send a message that, under especially difficult circumstances, some lives are not worth living — and that suicide is a reasonable or appropriate way out. This is a message that will be heard not just by those with a terminal illness but also by anyone tempted to think he or she cannot go on any longer.
Debates [around] physician-assisted suicide raise broad questions about our societal attitudes toward suicide. Recent research findings on suicide rates press the question: What sort of society do we want to become? Suicide is already a public health crisis. Do we want to legalize a practice that will worsen this crisis?
I believe life is to be chosen over what some would call “death with dignity”. There is nothing dignified about deciding someone's life is not worth living. If a patient has a need, let us address it. Our goal should be to eliminate the problem, not the patient.
It is my firm belief that the House and the current government should be invoking the notwithstanding clause in order to protect Canadians. For thousands of years, all caring societies have agreed that it is not okay to kill another human being. We can try to soften that language. We can call it physician-assisted death. We can call it medical assistance in dying. We can use any euphemism we want, but the reality does not change.
Today, we are intentionally throwing away the wisdom of our faith foundations and the wisdom of centuries of civilization. My fear is that in a few short years, we, our children, and our grandchildren will live to see the folly of allowing physician-assisted suicide.
Madam Speaker, the minister mentioned fundamental change and transformative change. Certainly, I think we agree that it is. Where we disagree is on whether it is a positive or a negative transformative change.
She referenced, different times, vulnerable persons in her comments. I just want to remind Canadians that in the preamble of the bill it clearly is looking at the possibility of extending physician-assisted suicide to those where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition. I do not know if there is anyone more vulnerable. Another group of vulnerable people are those who might be coerced by relatives who may be beneficiaries. I cannot understand why the Liberal government would reject this amendment that was passed in the Senate.
Finally, she assures me that no doctor would be coerced into participating in physician-assisted suicide. Could she assure me that no medical doctor or health care institution would be forced to either participate or refer for physician-assisted suicide?
Mr. Speaker, there is no question in my mind, and in the minds' of my colleagues, that this is the most crucial issue this Parliament and any of us as parliamentarians will deal with in our lifetimes.
One of the comments the minister made was that there is no clear relationship between physician-assisted suicide and suicide in general. I would like to point out that in one of my previous interventions I did quote Aaron Kheriaty, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the medical ethics program at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine, who stated:
The debate over doctor-assisted suicide is often framed as an issue of personal autonomy and privacy. Proponents argue that assisted suicide should be legalized because it affects only those individuals who—assuming they are of sound mind—are making a rational and deliberate choice....
He goes on to report that in states where physician-assisted suicide has been legalized, there has been an increase in suicide of 6.3% overall, but among those over 65, an increase of 14.5%.
It is clear that there is a direct link between authorizing physician-assisted suicide and the increase in suicide in general. That is a major concern that we should be seized with.
Petitions June 15th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present petitions signed by over 500 residents from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec in regard to the protection of vulnerable Canadians from assisted suicide. These residents are calling upon the Government of Canada to draft legislation that will include adequate safeguards for vulnerable Canadians, especially those with mental health challenges; provide clear conscience protection for health care workers and institutions; and protect children and those under 18 from physician-assisted suicide.
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns June 14th, 2016
With regard to consultations undertaken by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister, and any members of their staff with respect to the Office of Religious Freedoms, for the period of November 3, 2015, to April 22, 2016: what are the details of these consultations, including (i) the persons consulted, (ii) any persons representing or employed by the government present or involved, (iii) the position presented by the party consulted?
Questions on the Order Paper June 10th, 2016
With regard to projections calculated by the Department of Finance on the costs of servicing government debt over the next 50 years, has the Department calculated the costs associated with servicing the deficit projected in Budget 2016, and, if so, (i) how were these calculations made, (ii) what interest rates were used for the purposes of these calculations?
Questions on the Order Paper June 10th, 2016
With regard to the changes to Old Age Security (OAS) announced in Budget 2016: what are the details of any research conducted into the (i) impact on government revenues, (ii) impact on the costs and sustainability of the OAS program, (iii) anticipated costs of reversing these changes?