Justice Minister David Lametti

‘Religious right’ remark angers critics

  • December 15, 2020

OTTAWA -- Changes that would open up Canada’s legally-sanctioned euthanasia system have been approved by a two-to-one margin by MPs in the House of Commons, but some MPs who voted against the changes say the government unfairly maligned religious Canadians during debate over the contentious issue.

Comments made by some members of the minority Liberal government, and specifically by Justice Minister David Lametti, angered some Conservative MPs who feel the Liberal government tried to tar opponents of the changes as being members of a “religious right” cabal within the Official Opposition.

At one point in the House of Commons on Dec. 9 during debate on Bill C-7, which eases a number of restrictions in Canada’s existing medical assistance in dying (MAiD) regulations, Lametti said, “Conservatives have made it clear they are not interested in improving the bill, they want to stop it,” adding “the leader of the Official Opposition (Erin O’Toole) does not seem to have the power in his own caucus to rein in the religious right elements in his caucus, elements that are always against this bill.”

Lametti has been critical of the Conservatives for prolonging debate on Bill C-7, despite there being a Dec. 18 Quebec court-imposed deadline to make changes to MAiD after the requirement that a person’s death already be “reasonably foreseeable” before they qualify for MAiD was deemed to be too rigid and unconstitutional. Both the Canadian and Quebec governments decided not to appeal that 2019 Quebec court ruling,

After Lametti spoke in the House, Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, who was participating in the debate virtually, immediately slammed Lametti’s comments.

“Madame Speaker, I think you’ll find the bigotry the minister is expressing towards people of faith is unparliamentary and he should be asked to withdraw it,” Genuis said.

Although no action was taken by the Speaker after Genuis made that comment, Lametti said in the House that “I am a person of faith.”

“I practise my faith and it is something that is always in me,” said Lametti, who is Catholic.

Conservative MP Nelly Shin also took issue with the minister’s statement about “religious right elements.”

“I’ve heard a lot through the debate of my party, my caucus being accused of filibustering and trying to delay,” Shin said. “I feel that is a little heartbreaking because this is an issue that does have to do with life and death.

“Rather than attack the motives of other members on this topic that we would continue in our debate and understand this is a very complicated issue and that we can have discussions … but avoid comments like the minister made about the religious right which I find very offensive,” Shin said.

The Catholic Church in Canada has been opposed to legal euthanasia since its inception in 2016 and has been vocal in its opposition to Bill C-7. The legislation passed 213-106 and is being reviewed in the Senate.

When Canadian Catholic News contacted Lametti’s office for clarification on his “religious right” comment in the House, his spokesperson Rachel Rappaport said his comments were related solely to what the government viewed as delaying tactics in the House by the Conservatives.

“As a Catholic and a person of faith himself, Lametti has acknowledged the multitude of views that members of different faith communities have shared about these difficult issues,” a statement from Lametti’s office said.

“As with any issue that comes before Parliament, we know that not everyone will agree on the path forward,” the statement continued, adding “the Minister’s comment was aimed squarely at politicians who had decided to prevent this important issue from coming to a vote, knowing full well the risks that doing so could have on the most vulnerable and on those who are suffering.”

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