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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was terms.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as Conservative MP for Brantford—Brant (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2019, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Criminal Code February 23rd, 2021

Madam Speaker, this is the House-issued headset.

Criminal Code February 23rd, 2021

Madam Speaker, I apologize that the equipment is not quite correct.

I was on the point of the slippery slope argument. I will go off my notes here for a second.

Since this legislation came into existence in 2016, I have spoken with everyone I can who has major concerns regarding end-of-life issues. One was a colleague in previous Parliaments who is in a wheelchair. I asked him to give me a compelling argument that this is not a slippery slope, because I was open to accepting that. He could not. He wanted it for himself and I understood that. I might be in the same boat as him at that point myself, but let me talk about the effects on the larger society.

When society is conditioned to accepting death upon request, many of the advocates for open expansion of euthanasia will say that will never happen. I hope they are right, but the international data and experience with euthanasia and assisted-suicide laws is both revealing and startling. Belgium and the Netherlands have expanded the scope of their laws and, in practice, the safeguards have failed. In 2002, Belgium had 24 cases. The latest statistics in 2019 are 2,656 cases. In 2002, the Netherlands had 1,822 cases. In 2019, it had 6,361 cases. In practice, being tired of life is an accepted reason.

Doctors are also able to bypass the law by diagnosing so-called polypathology. This refers to multiple complaints that occur in old age, such as loss of vision and hearing, chronic pain, rheumatism, weakness and fatigue. This comes from the Vienna-based Institute for Medical Anthropology and Bioethics.

I would also like to address the indigenous community, because it represents the single largest first nation in Canada, the Six Nations of the Grand River. Indigenous leaders recently came from across Canada to say they have grave concerns about efforts to expand the availability of assisted suicide, warning that it will have a “a lasting impact on our vulnerable populations” and that “Bill C-7 goes against many of our cultural values—”

Criminal Code February 23rd, 2021

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for St. Albert—Edmonton.

I have spoken to this issue twice in the House, the last time being December 4. I entitled that speech “Stay safe, my son”, because I do tell the personal story of being a father of a 34-year-old developmentally and intellectually disabled son who lives with us and is cared for by us. His name is Jordan.

In a larger way, my speech dealt with the removal of the safeguards for Canadians with disabilities and how the government is choosing to ignore and dismiss the concerns of disability groups across this country who have joined in arms in opposition to Bill C-7 because it fails to protect them and their safety in the long term. A quote that is most often used and referred to by the disability organizations is that this is the worst possible scenario.

After that speech, I discovered the United Nations office on human rights has stated that legislation extending euthanasia and assisted suicide to persons with disabilities “would institutionalize and legally authorize ableism”. For those who may need help with the word “ableism”, as I did, I went to the Oxford Dictionary and this is the official definition in it: “Discrimination in favour of able-bodied people.”

For full disclosure, I am a parliamentarian who sees Bill C-7 for what I think it is: the next step on the slippery slope in the MAID debate created originally by Bill C-14 in 2016. Today we are being asked by the Senate to make amendments to further remove safeguards for those living with mental illness. The Canadian Mental Health Association's CEO and spokesperson, Margaret Eaton, wrote to all parliamentarians, saying that “The exclusion of mental illness as the sole underlying cause for medical assistance in dying must be maintained to safeguard those living with mental illness.”

Understand that the Canadian Mental Health Association is the most extensive community in mental health across Canada, with a presence in 330 communities across every province and one territory. It provides advocacy, programs and resources that help prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive. She goes on to explain the three compelling reasons that the exclusion of mental illness, as the sole underlying cause, was justified and urges all parliamentarians to oppose the Senate amendment that proposes to drop that protection for people with mental illness.

The slippery slope is the continual easing of restrictions and expansion of euthanasia to a day when society will be conditioned to accepting death upon request. Many of—

Criminal Code December 4th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, I would elaborate more if I had the time, and I will personally elaborate more with my colleague.

However, we must come to grips with this. Society is not well equipped for this, frankly. The legislature is not equipped. We, as legislators, are not well equipped to set a course that protects the most vulnerable. I agree with protecting minorities. This applies to the most vulnerable. This bill, Bill C-7, would take away protections. That is why the disability community has spoken out.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your time and indulgence.

Criminal Code December 4th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that very personal question.

The fear comes from this. Parents and caregivers, and the community in general around persons with disabilities, know that there will come a time in their lives when that care may deteriorate, and society no longer values persons it interprets as being imperfect. If we look at the trajectory of euthanasia and assisted-suicide legislation around the world, that is indeed the direction it is going.

It is going in the direction of this. It may not be now, through this piece of legislation. Perhaps there may be good intent, and I hope there is, but eventually, we as legislators must decide there are lines we cannot cross. That is why I say, “Stay safe, my son,” because I will no longer be here to keep him safe, and that is the fear of most parents.

Criminal Code December 4th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, first of all, for her work on this issue, and for her passion for those I know she has personally worked with as the member of Parliament for Sarnia—Lambton.

I wish I could bring all of Parliament to the palliative care facility in my community. It is, without question, one of the most brilliant and well-thought-out places in which a person can choose a path to the end of life with dignity, and can have family and the community participate. I have spent many hours at this facility as a member of Parliament, visiting members of my community who are in their last days. It is one of the most rewarding and wonderful experiences of life.

Death is part of life, and should be celebrated as someone comes toward the end. They may be in great pain—

Criminal Code December 4th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, I, too, have a great deal of respect for the member who is asking this question. It is a great question.

There are supports needed for all families and for support workers, as well as for individuals with disabilities who choose to live on their own. In many of the provinces, believe it or not, they are sufficient.

I totally agree with the member. We need to set, for society, a moral compass on this issue. The government cannot look at this Parliament as solving this problem. We must set a tone and a future that guarantees, air tight, that persons with disabilities will live fulfilling lives, and that we will treat them as they are: as one of the most vulnerable minorities in our society.

Criminal Code December 4th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, I reflect back on a few comments made previously in debate by the parliamentary secretary, and in the question and answer period, which were that this is not a partisan issue. However, the only two people I have heard criticize a particular political party in this debate are the two members from the Liberal government side.

The member said the protections for persons with disabilities are in this legislation. He is wrong. That is why the disability community has spoken so loudly and broadly across this country, yet the government is not listening.

Criminal Code December 4th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this time to speak on this incredibly important issue to all Canadians.

As I was leading into this speech, I reflected back on the debates on Bill C-14. On May 3, 2016, the House was debating the creation of an euthanasia and assisted suicide bill. At the time I spoke in the evening on May 3, I mentioned how this would probably be, in my career as a politician, a member of Parliament, having at that time served eight years and now in my 13th year, perhaps the most important speech that I would ever make.

When I look back on that speech today, I think I was wrong. I think perhaps this is the more important speech because at that time Parliament was faced with a court deadline as well to put into place legislation for euthanasia and assisted suicide. Like many countries around the world that have these bills, going back to the first legislation in the Netherlands in 2002 until today, I have seen the progression of what has happened in these countries as an example of what will happen on the slippery slope of this legislation.

I should say as well, as I did in 2016, I come at this with a very biased approach and that is because I am the father of a 34-year-old intellectually disabled son. My son was brain damaged at age two. He suffered irreversible damage that has caused him to lead a life with his parents as his caregivers his entire life. When the people and organizations that represent persons with disabilities speak, and they have spoken loudly, to the particular changes and amendments that the government is bringing forward in Bill C-7, they have said this is the worst possible scenario.

I interpret that from my lens as a parent in terms of protection for my son. Frankly, it causes me to reflect on what we are currently experiencing: the COVID-19 crisis. Just about every piece of communication that I receive, email, text, telephone call, whatever, usually starts with a sentence where that person says to me or I say to them, “I hope your family is safe”. Generally speaking, the salutation at the end of those communications is, “Stay safe”. I believe all parliamentarians have probably experienced the exact same thing.

One of the concerns of the disability community is this. What will happen to our children in their latter lives when we are no longer with them, when we can no longer care for and protect them? Therefore, the theme of my speech today is “Stay safe, my son”.

Let us look at the evolution of these laws across the world. I will read a few recent headlines that I found through my research coming into this today. “'What kind of society do you want to live in?': Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing”. This headline is from the BBC on October 14, “Netherlands backs euthanasia for terminally ill children under-12”.

Let me read a couple of excerpts from this article, which are fairly poignant considering today's discussion. The article begins, “The Dutch government has approved plans to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children aged between one and 12." Of the current law, it goes on to mention, “It is also legal for babies up to a year old [to be euthanized] with parental consent.

I could go on with more headlines, but I choose not to because I think members get the point. The point is this: Where do we stop? With Bill C-14 in its original form, the preamble said it all, which was, and I am sure the committee heard this, that there are many in society who say this bill does not go far enough and does not satisfy those who want wide open death-upon-request euthanasia laws. When we look at this, we must look at it from both sides, because both sides of this issue require our compassion.

I have spent time with three significant people in my life at the end of their lives. One is my mother, who was in extreme pain for a long period of time. I held held her hand upon her death. I also watched a very good friend deteriorate from age 39 to age 41 before his death. As well, lately, a very good friend, who is choosing to end her life early, and who I had quite a frank conversation with out of total respect. All of them had been, or are in, the final stages of a terminal illness.

Compassion must go to people who are in situations that are unbearable. Fortunately, there are other alternatives. I happen to live in Brantford, Ontario, and we have one of the finest palliative care units in all of the country. People come to study it and look at it. They come to see it as an alternative. If we were to focus on something going forward that a government could do, but that it would perhaps not see as a priority, it could be to give people the resources to make a choice.

Let me get back to this discussion of the most vulnerable. They are persons with disabilities, and to name a few, they are autistic children, autistic adults and persons with brain damage, like my son. These are not mental illnesses, by the way. Some of these are genetic, such as Down Syndrome. There are some who have met a person with Down Syndrome who just lights up their life because of their complete innocence and their complete love, not only for others, but also for their own lives. There are many others who the disability community speaks for.

Bill C-7 undermines their precarious position. It takes and diminishes the few protections that existed in Bill C-14, and of course, this is what is being chosen, as per the votes up to this point, on this issue by the majority of members of Parliament.

To my son, I say, “Stay safe.” To the constituents of Charlottetown, I say, “Stay safe.” To the constituents with disabilities in Scarborough—Agincourt, I say, “Stay safe.” To all Canadians, I say, “Stay safe.”

The trajectory of where we are heading, and it is in that preamble to the legislation, is what is happening around the world. It is happening in society. People in legislatures are making the decisions for the rest of the country as to what the future will look like.

This is a critical moment. It was a critical moment back in 2016. Again, we are faced with a critical moment. The priority has become a deadline set by a court, instead of the fullness of all voices being heard.

The parliamentary secretary can articulate the numbers. He can articulate the fact that there were so many submissions and individuals we were able to listen to. At this point in time, the people who represent the vast number of persons with disabilities and their families in this country are dead against this legislation. Let us be clear about that. Let us not try to sugar-coat this. This is where we are today.

What kind of society do we want? Where this leads to, frankly, is one of those headlines. As we take away the protections for individuals with disabilities, as this law does, we eventually lead society into the normal course of accepting that assisted suicide and euthanasia are natural things. We move toward being a society that starts to look at individuals as either being healthy in society's mind, and living fulfilling lives, or beings one of those who have been brought into this world, or has had something happen to them in this world, that puts them in this very precarious situation.

Is life easy for persons with disabilities and their caregivers? In most cases, it is not easy. We can attest to that. We have three healthy children, as well as our special needs son with disabilities. Part of the richness of life is the fact that the child who many would see as imperfect is the one who brings the most joy to life. They are the ones we must protect at all costs.

Why do we not spend the time to get this legislation right and make it airtight so their lives are never at risk? I do not believe this legislation does immediately put them at risk. Some would say this legislation is quite to the contrary, but looking to five, 10, or 20 years from now, when most of us here will no longer be in Parliament, it will be a new group of elected representatives looking to make changes down the road.

Is there anything in the international experience to tell us that this is not a continual, gradual and incremental deterioration of the protections for those who are the most vulnerable?

The other point that needs to be made is that persons with disabilities are a minority in our country. Over the 13 years I have been in Parliament, more time has been spent on legislation, members' statements, just name it, than communications from government about protecting minorities. This is a vulnerable, if not the most vulnerable, minority in society. It is definitely in the top grouping of the most vulnerable.

Disability knows no boundaries. We are involved with groups of people, and I represent the Six Nations of the Grand River, the largest first nation in Canada. We are helping aboriginal individuals from Six Nations who have children with disabilities. They feel very strongly about the fact that the few protections that exist need to not only be kept in place, but also enhanced and made airtight for their children.

In those debates in 2016, the member for Calgary Nose Hill said in her opening statement that this is about, “the sanctity of human life” and “defining the morality of our country.” I could not agree more wholeheartedly with those words.

I will finish my remarks by saying, “Stay safe, my son.”

Veterans Affairs March 10th, 2020

Mr. Speaker, it is sad, but not surprising, that the minister cannot answer since today at committee he told us that the department runs the department.

There seems to be no plan to clear the backlog, and it is questionable who is really in charge. Can the minister tell us when the backlog will be cleared, or should we check with his deputy?