By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
The following is the speech by Honorable Ed Fast during the second hour of debate on Bill C-314 on October 5, 2023 at 6:30 pm. The final vote on Bill C-314 will happen on Wednesday October 18, 2023.
Link to the video of this speech in parliament.
Link to his first speech in parliament on Bill C-314.
Mr. Speaker, medical assistance in dying will soon be expanded to include those with mental illness, including depression. My bill, Bill C-314, would reverse this terrible decision. My bill is very narrow and would not repeal the other provisions of Canada’s medical assistance in dying laws.
There is no national consensus on expanding MAID [Medical Assistance in Dying] to include mental disorders, none. The most recent Angus Reid poll found that a very small number of Canadians actually favour expanding assisted suicide to the mentally ill, somewhere around 28%.
The mental health community has raised significant concerns. A recent letter to government from the heads of seven Canadian psychiatry schools implored decision-makers to hold off on expanding assisted suicide to the mentally ill. Similarly, the Canadian Psychiatric Association does not support the expansion of MAID due to the many ethical and clinical concerns that have not been resolved. They argue that mental illness is often highly treatable and that patients should be provided with the treatment they need to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.
Stakeholders have deplored the lack of social and economic supports for persons with mental illness and how this can lead people to consider MAID. They have pointed to the fact that the federal government has not fulfilled its promise to deliver dedicated mental health and palliative care funding to the provinces, leaving Canadians without access to the support that would lead them to choose life rather than death.
Many others have joined the chorus. They note that the issues of suicidal ideation, irremediability and competency have not been resolved, ensuring that Canadians will needlessly die because we have rushed ahead with expanding MAID.
At greatest risk are those suffering from depression, veterans suffering from PTSD, the opioid addicted on our streets, our indigenous communities and those seeking to escape a life of poverty. The government has even signaled its openness to allowing children to access assisted suicide, presumably without their parents’ consent.
Last year, in my home town of Abbotsford, Donna Duncan was swiftly approved for assisted suicide after failing to receive proper treatment for chronic mental health issues. Her assisted death happened so quickly and so totally blindsided her daughters, Alicia and Christie, that they referred the case to the RCMP. Is this the dystopian world we are leaving behind?
Has anyone consulted with our first nations? Meaghan Walker-Williams of the Cowichan Tribe recently wrote in the National Post:
As a Sixties Scoop survivor, my lifelong personal journey back to my community of Cowichan has also been marked by the painful consequences of policies that didn’t respect or understand Indigenous cultures. Another policy, blind to my culture, may soon join them: assisted suicide for mental illness.
She concludes by saying,
“it’s crucial that the narrative remains firmly rooted in upholding the sanctity of life—a cornerstone of Coast Salish teachings.”
I note that the government originally excluded the mentally ill from its MAID regime and went to great lengths to explain why that was necessary. It was only after the unelected Senate included the mentally ill in Bill C-7 that the government suddenly enthusiastically embraced the idea.
The question is this: Should Canadians be able to trust their government to act in a way that values the life of every Canadian, or do we give up on the most vulnerable among us? Someday, all of us will have to give an account.
A famous world leader by the name of Moses once challenged his own people with a choice and a promise: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live”.
I want my descendants to live, to prosper, to thrive, and I want the same for our mentally ill, our Indigenous peoples and indeed all Canadians. It is time to end this experiment. With so much uncertainty, surely we should err on the side of life, not death.
I respectfully ask members to support Bill C-314.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog [http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.com/2023/10/ed-fast-parliamentary-speech-in-support.html] and is reposted with permission.