House of Commons- May 17, 2016

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to join the debate today on Bill C-14 that addresses medical assistance in dying. I would like to acknowledge the incredible respect and thoughtfulness expressed by members in this very delicate debate.
Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the advice and insights I received from a former colleague, Dr. Lorne Martin, Chief of Staff at Halton Healthcare, on the medical ethics and physician perspectives that would be created by the legislation.
The bill has generated significant debate and feedback from my riding of Oakville, both from people who wrote or contacted me on their own initiatives, as well as those who responded to the forums that were created to solicit feedback through local media and my interactive website, I have read and carefully considered the many views and concerns that came from residents of Oakville and I would like to address those that are relevant to this act and the amendments proposed.
The community responses can be grouped into five categories. The first is from those who are opposed to any form of medically assisted death and want the law to respect and protect every human life from conception to natural death. These are individuals who put forward the principle that we must not take another’s life. There were many submissions of this nature.
For people who hold these values, I believe it is important, once again, at this stage, to understand that the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision in the Carter case was a declaration that the Criminal Code prohibitions on assisted dying were not in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Effective June 6, 2016, medically assisted death is legal in Canada whether the bill is passed or not.
Therefore, the issue before this legislature is not whether medically assisted death will be allowed. Rather, the issue is whether medically assisted death will be permitted in accordance with the parameters set out by the Carter ruling or under a legislative framework established by elected representatives. Accordingly, our decisions are: how to safely implement this new practice, who should be eligible, what safeguards are needed to protect vulnerable individuals, what are the roles and responsibilities of medical professionals, and how do we create a monitoring regime to ensure accountability, transparency, and improvement in this area as we go forward.
The second category of responses from my community were in reaction to the special joint committee recommendations. Many Oakville residents wrote to me expressing their concern that the rights of vulnerable Canadians may be infringed upon as we protect the rights of those seeking autonomy in their end-of-life decisions. Specific concerns were raised in relation to including Canadians with psychiatric conditions, psychological suffering, and minors.
Bill C-14 and the proposed amendments are more restrictive than both the Carter decision and the committee recommendations, in part, for the reasons raised by these constituents. To protect the rights of the more vulnerable, the bill has not included these broader situations or circumstances in the eligibility criteria, thereby addressing the concerns raised by the residents.
The third category of responses were diametrically opposed to those previously stated. These residents spoke in favour of the Supreme Court decision and about their beliefs that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should allow autonomy to the individual in end-of-life decisions. Several accompanied their statements with personal stories of difficult end-of-life experiences for loved ones or worries about their own unique circumstances.
They also expressed concerns that Bill C-14 is too restrictive and does not address all the circumstances that should be considered eligible under the act. In particular, the clause requiring that natural death be reasonably foreseeable was felt to exclude many Canadians that they felt should be allowed.
In addition, there were concerns raised about denying advance directives. Denying advance directives puts people who suffer from degenerative illnesses that will eventually affect their competency in the position of having to exercise their right to an end-of-life decision in advance of losing competency.
The fourth category of concerns surrounded the rights of medical practitioners and institutions to ensure that they would be able to have freedom of conscience and religion to decide whether to participate in a medically assisted death. Bill C-14 would not compel participation by health care providers and I feel it is sufficient…

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