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Liberal MP for Don Valley West (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 54% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Criminal Code May 2nd, 2016
Mr. Speaker, indeed, I think the member for Kitchener—Conestoga has it right. There are a variety of ways that people die and there are people who have been very clear about having a “do not resuscitate” order or that no heroic measures be taken.
However, there also comes a time when certain people have reached the end and physicians are working with them. There is a covenant. There is a sacred covenant, I believe, between our physicians and patients that allow them to understand that the role of the physician is to end suffering. It is not necessarily to prolong life. There are certain times when the natural course of life is taking too long for people who are suffering.
There was a case in Quebec recently where someone did not meet the bar because their death was not in the foreseeable future. They had to actually starve themselves, stop taking food, stop taking water, for 53 days, until they were finally allowed to pass away, as people say these days. I think that is unfair, and the Supreme Court has ruled that unfair.
The reality is that the Supreme Court has said it both allows for physicians to assist people in dying and for people to take that upon themselves with physicians helping them. I am proud to live in a country that is that compassionate.
Criminal Code May 2nd, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Oakville North—Burlington.
I want to begin by taking a moment to pay tribute to two Canadian women whom I did not know but have come to know in their deaths, and who I think are two of the most courageous women. They are Gloria Taylor and Kay Carter. These two women were on a journey of life that was not of their choosing, and they came to the point in their lives where they wanted some assistance in the final days of their lives in the final part of their journey.
As a United Church minister, I walked that journey with many people, hundreds of people in fact, and have done even more funerals where I did not know the people and only came to know them through the stories of their families and the legacy they left behind. Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor are two such women whose courage, tenacity, hopefulness, and love of life have instructed us to this very day, where we are now considering a bill on medical assistance in dying.
In paying tribute to them, I also want to give them thanks for engaging us in what is one of the best civics lessons that we could ever have as a chamber. Each of the branches of our government has a chance to speak to this. There is a legislative branch and a judicial branch, as well as the executive branch.
We actually began this conversation in 1982 where we invoked the charter that is now so much part of our Canadian culture of rights and freedoms. That charter has instructed all Canadians, Canada's courts, and Canada's legislators since the day it was passed. The reality is that when Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor made their appeal to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, and it went to the Court of Appeal in B.C. and then to the Supreme Court of Canada, we had the opportunity to have our judicial branch take a look at their rights and the possibility of their having assistance in their deaths. The courts ruled on that and gave one year for the parliamentary branch and the executive branch to come up with a law.
The parliamentary branch then spoke by having a joint committee with the House and the Senate. I need to say to this chamber that it was probably the richest experience I have had as a member of Parliament. Men and women—senators and members of this House—engaging in a discussion, listening to the stories of life and of death and of healing and of hope, changed me profoundly. It gave me the opportunity to recognize that the parliamentary system that we have gives Canadians a great opportunity to hear their voices being heard at committee and now in this House.
The executive branch then picked up from the report and has presented Bill C-14. I want to thank the minister for her work on this, and the work of her office and of justice, for taking the report that we did seriously, engaging in it further, and coming up with a piece of legislation that at this time I am very clear I will be supporting at second reading.
That does not mean that I think we are finished with this piece of legislation, because it is now back to the parliamentary system where we are to engage in the dialogue with the executive branch about making a law that could be good enough better. When we are dealing with issues of life and death, I do not think “good enough” is good enough. We can honour the quest that Gloria Taylor and Kay Carter engaged in and that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on and that the executive branch has presented a law on, and as parliamentarians take seriously the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, take it to our hearts and look at what it is that we as members of Parliament are sworn to. It is more than allegiance to Her Majesty. It is about upholding the Constitution of this country and engaging in it with love, with commitment, with passion, and with hope, and looking at how the decision that the Supreme Court made can actually live out in the life of Canada.
We have a piece of legislation that is before us today, and it was decided that section 7 of the charter could not be used to deny the rights of two women looking for assistance in their deaths. The government of the day tried to fight that section 7 declaration of rights by invoking section 1 of the charter, saying that there were reasonable grounds to withhold those rights. However, the Supreme Court of Canada did not allow that. It said it would be unreasonable to deny those rights to be given to those women. The court made a very specific decision on a very specific case at a specific time.
The Supreme Court also said in paragraph 127 of the decision that it did not pronounce on things that were not before it in that case. That was a requirement for Parliament and also the bill, which, yes, does engage all Canadians in a discussion about what it is that we can have as a continuum of care that continues to the place where we help people on that final journey.
We come at it differently. I have full respect for the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga. He has engaged this subject well and I have taken into account the fact that he has passion. We have come at it differently, but I have no doubt that everyone on both sides of the House is concerned about the well-being of Canadians. However, I think the bill needs to go even further to be faithful to our Constitution.
I have concerns in that I think there could be further challenges to the bill in the courts, which I do not think Canadians should have to endure. I have a couple of very specific concerns that I would like to raise in the House and one is the use of the word “incurable”.
The court was very clear that it did not want to use the word “incurable”. Instead, it used the word “irremediable”. By invoking the word “incurable”, one begins to look at the disease instead of the person. What I mean by that is that sometimes a disease may be incurable or curable, but the person has the right, the Supreme Court said, not to undertake treatments that are not acceptable to that person. The treatments may be cruel or punishing and the reality is that the court said they do not need to undertake them. The disease may be curable, but that person has chosen a different path and that, under section 7, is their right. I have that concern about invoking that word.
The other concern I have is the introduction of the concept of foreseeable death or death in the foreseeable future. All of us live a precarious life. Life is fragile, life is precious, and life is dear, but for some life has become intolerable. Some diseases are not necessarily mortal in the sense that people are automatically going to their final days with that disease, but people still have pain that is intolerable. The Supreme Court decision in Carter says they have the right to medical assistance in dying.
The introduction of that concept of death in the foreseeable future has muddied the waters. Physicians are asking what it means. Does it mean “terminal”? Some hospitals have a different definition of “terminal” than other hospitals and other physicians have. We have to be very careful on that.
The third point I would make is about one of the safeguards. This is robust legislation. There are safeguards in place that I do not believe are of great concern. One safeguard worries me, and that is the final one in the third section on safeguards, proposed paragraph 241.2(3)(h), which says that immediately before the administration of those substances that will cause death, the person needs to, once again, declare competently that they want death to happen.
I have been in too many hospital rooms. I have sat with too many dying people. Most of the people who will access this kind of continuum of care are dying and will probably be receiving morphine. To take them off the morphine to ensure they have the capacity to give consent is cruel. The reality is that in a 15-day period, that person should be allowed to make a gracious exit and be given the compassion not to be once again required to become competent, because the morphine is helping them with their intolerable suffering. That they are suffering intolerably has already been declared.
With those exceptions, I am supportive of the bill. The justice committee has its work to do. I am looking forward to thorough deliberations. I have utter confidence in every member of that committee. I am looking forward to the bill returning to the House and going to the other place. I know that Canadians will have a law that helps them and makes Canada a richer and stronger country.
Committees of the House April 22nd, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security concerning Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board Act and other Acts and to provide for certain other measures.
The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.
Don Valley Revitalization April 22nd, 2016
Madam Speaker, today we celebrate Earth Day. Tomorrow I will join friends for neighbourhood and park cleanups as we enjoy nature in the beautiful Don Valley. Next weekend, I will paddle the Don, a river whose history has been inextricably linked to countless generations of Toronto residents since it was first known to the Ojibwa as Wonscotanach.
On Earth Day, we are reminded of our shared task to ensure that the Don Valley and its river will be a living place for generations to come. I am proud of the broad new efforts of our government, which is making progress on climate change and on protecting our national parks.
I am equally proud of local groups such as Friends of the Don East and the Evergreen Brick Works, which are working with the City of Toronto to restore the river that shaped Toronto and make better use of its adjacent green spaces.
On Earth Day, I thank the students, volunteers, planners, and architects who are working hard to revitalize the Don Valley, and I invite all members to discover the Don.
Committees of the House March 9th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in relation to the supplementary estimates (C) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016.
Physician-Assisted Dying March 7th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, over the past month, I have had the honour to co-chair the special joint committee considering the question of medical assistance in dying. On February 25, we tabled a report.
Today, I want to take the opportunity to do two things.
First, I would like to draw the House's attention to the tremendous effort put in by every member of the committee, from all three parties and from the Senate. I was struck by both the compassion and intelligence that guided every member of the committee as we wrestled with the issues of life and death, living and dying, and suffering and hope. Even when there was disagreement, there was great decency and respect shown by every member of the committee.
Second, I want to encourage every member of the House to read the report, the whole report and not just the recommendations. In this way, they will, in part, share in the journey we took. I encourage them to seek out committee members to hear their experience and to discuss the report with families, friends, and constituents so they, too, may grapple with this important issue.
Committees of the House February 25th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present the report. I thank all members of the committee for their very diligent work.
Committees of the House February 25th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying entitled “Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centred Approach”.
I would like to take just a moment to thank the members of the committee—members of Parliament and senators—who worked both diligently and extremely faithfully on this difficult and rewarding study. We were unable to reach consensus. However, the majority of the committee members, representing both parties, were able to agree with the vast majority of the report.
I will acknowledge the dissenting report with disappointment that some members of the committee were unable to reach consensus with us. They fundamentally had a flawed understanding of a paragraph of the Supreme Court of Canada—
Public Safety February 4th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, the committee met for the first time this morning and established a process whereby we will look at all important issues and determine which ones need to come first. Every issue dealing with the safety and security of Canadians will be considered seriously.