Michael Swan

Liberals should stick to MAiD promise, MP says

  • May 19, 2023

Conservative MP Ed Fast is looking to stop the intended expansion of Canada’s assisted-suicide regime in its tracks with Bill C-314 and harnessed his argument to Liberal promises when MAiD was first introduced. 

The six-term House of Commons veteran presented his case to his colleagues on May 17 as to why the intended plan to offer MAiD (medical assistance in dying) to individuals solely suffering from a mental illness as of March 17, 2024, should be abandoned. 

Fast outlined how the federal government’s plan violates a Liberal Party assurance to Canadians in 2015. Following the Supreme Court’s Carter v. Canada decision that legalized this procedure, the government stated access would be strictly limited to Canadians with incurable diseases and whose natural death was inevitable. 

“At the time, the government and its supportive stakeholders assured Canadians that this was not a slippery slope, where the scope of MAiD would continually be expanded to include more and more vulnerable Canadians,” said Fast. “However, not surprisingly, in the intervening eight years since the Carter decision, the government has begun to expand Canada's MAiD regime to include more and more defenceless Canadians, most particularly those living with disabilities.”

Fast first tabled this legislation on Feb. 10. Less than one week later, a poll jointly released by the Angus Reid Institute and the non-partisan think tank Cardus revealed that 51 per cent of 1,816 surveyed Canadians agreed with Fast that the expansion of MAiD should be opposed. Only 31 per cent expressed support for broadening access, and 18 per cent responded, “not sure/can’t say.”

Fast cited the cases of veterans with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) being counselled to undergo MAiD,  and the homeless and poor seeking information about assisted suicide at food banks as prime examples of the unsettling expansion of MAiD culture.

“These are the vulnerable that the Liberal government promised to protect. Canadians have the right to ask whether this government is exercising the requisite caution and care to avoid unnecessary overreach and ensure that MAiD is not abused or misapplied.”

Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree, the parliamentary secretary for Justice Minister David Lametti, said he will oppose Bill C-314 when the second reading vote is called. He recognized this is a “complex, sensitive and polarizing issue,” and that “some very legitimate concerns have been raised.” However, he expressed confidence that the Canadian health system will be ready for this expansion.

“We are not ignoring the concerns that have been raised. In fact, many of these concerns led to the one-year extension of the exclusion,” said Anandasangaree. “We are moving in a prudent, measured way with the ultimate goal of ensuring that our MAiD framework supports the autonomy of those who are eligible to receive MAiD and protects those who may be vulnerable.”

Bloc Québécois speaker Luc Thériault also signaled opposition to Bill C-314, but NDP MP Alistair MacGregor admitted “I am certainly going to take a lot of time to think about which way I want to go with this bill.” He said his experience serving on the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying forced him to “wrestle with two concepts.”

“How do we as parliamentarians, with the power we have to change Canada's laws, find a way to honour the personal rights, capacity and autonomy of the individual versus the need of society to step up and protect the most vulnerable?” asked MacGregor. “Those were two great themes that were constantly a struggle for me personally when listening to all of the witnesses who came before the special joint committee on the five thematic areas we were charged with by this House and the Senate.”

A second reading vote for Bill C-314 has not been set.

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