Editorial: Culturally safe for who?

  • December 7, 2023

In Health Canada’s latest voluminous annual report on Canadian MAiD’s “evolution” to world-leading status, the minister in charge highlights Ottawa’s commitment to “culturally safe” medicalized killing of Indigenous peoples.

In fact, Health Minister Mark Holland double-highlights the importance of “culturally safe” MAiD by repeating the phrase twice in three consecutive sentences.

“We recognize the importance of meaningful engagement and ongoing dialogue with Indigenous Peoples to support culturally safe implementation of MAID,” Holland writes in the report released last October. “Hearing from and working closely with community members, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Cultural Carriers and Indigenous Leadership at all levels of government is essential. Such engagement is key to shaping the tools to educate and train healthcare providers in delivering culturally safe care.”

Culturally safe. Got it. And all to the good in terms of pursuing genuine reconciliation through essential consultation and vital inclusion of First Peoples. It’s a laudable historical reversal from darker times. Backing commitment with action, Health Canada will spend $900,000 to “mobilize the voices, viewpoints and lived experiences of their community members on MAiD,” including development of an “online engagement tool” to collect the thoughts and attitudes of Indigenous people on MAiD for a report to be released in 2025.

Again, proper and important work. Indigenous people are certain to have much to say about the specific impact on First Nations’ territories of our skyrocketing MAiD deaths. In 2022, after all, our 13,241 MAiD “provisions” represented a 31-per-cent increase over 2021. MAiD accounted for four per cent of all deaths from sea to sea to sea. It’s statistically improbable First Nations aren’t touched by, and therefore insistent on shaping, this novel form of “culturally safe care.”

There, however, is where a first problem arises — one Indigenous peoples themselves might be at pains to emphasize. MAiD is not care. It’s obliteration. It annihilates human life. No matter how much its advocates contort the language, it’s not end-of-life care. It’s the end of life. Even if all the “culturally safe” practices in the world are “meaningfully engaged,” in the end, it’s killing. Call it medicalized killing if an adjective softens the harsh truth. Still killing.

There the second problem kicks in. The Catholic Church teaches Catholics universally (which by definition includes Canada) that killing (which by definition includes MAiD) is not simply “unsafe” but a mortal sin that puts the sinner’s eternal soul in peril.

Okay, so sin is not part of the broader secular vocabulary any more. Yet it is, and always will be, at the very heart of Catholic faith and therefore Catholic life. Catholic life is lived religiously, yes, but that means it is necessarily also lived culturally. If it is prudent, and proper, and important and all to the good to ensure a “culturally safe” approach to MAiD for Indigenous peoples — and it is all those things — is it not equally vital  to ensure “cultural safety” for Catholics as well?

The answer would seem to be irrefutably yes. Yet the record says the opposite. As The Register has reported, in Montreal a hospice created from a former Catholic church has almost certainly been forced to knuckle under and accept MAiD “provision” despite the building still being owned by the Archdiocese, and a specific clause in the lease prohibiting medical killing on the premises.

Likewise, as our colleagues at The B.C. Catholic report in this issue, St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver has been browbeaten into accepting the presence of a MAiD facility literally next door and connected by a passage way to the Catholic health care centre.

Both forced conversions are occurring despite what might be called the “community members, Elders, Knowledge Keepers (and) Cultural Carriers,” otherwise known as the Archbishops and parishioners in Vancouver and Montreal, vehemently opposing the imposition of MAiD provision on the faithful and the faith.

It’s one thing for Canada’s political, legal and medical class to have accepted the absurd precept that killing is somehow care. But surely prudence alone should lead them to see that “cultural safety” should be a consideration for all whether Indigenous or Catholic or, for that matter, Indigenous Catholics.

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