Conservative MP Ed Fast. Photo by Nicholas Elbers, The B.C. Catholic

Broken promises torpedo Bill C-314, says Fast

  • October 25, 2023

Conservative MP Ed Fast is “profoundly disappointed in the Liberal MPs who had promised” they would support Bill C-314, but ultimately chose not to when voting time arrived on Oct. 18. 

The bill was defeated by a 167-150 vote at second reading. That means medical assistance in dying (MAiD) is still on track to be offered to individuals solely living with a mental illness as of March 17, 2024.

If the outcome went the other way, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights could have studied and potentially recommended terminating the expansion of the Canadian euthanasia regime.

Though he chose not to disclose specific names, Fast claimed “10 to 15” Liberal MPs reneged on their word. 

“I believe they relied on a false promise from the Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau) and his Justice Minister (Arif Virani) that the resurrection of the MAiD committee would address their concerns,” suggested Fast. “The problem is I fully expect that the mandate of that committee will not allow the members to study the underlying merits of MAiD. They will simply study safeguards that should be implemented to move forward with MAiD.

“In other words, I sense that the fix is in and a preordained outcome for MAiD is simply being implemented by the government.”

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) concurred with Fast. Though the EPC “is pleased the government will consider further oversight of the law,” the group “is not confident that the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, which is stacked with pro-euthanasia MPs and Senators, will offer any substantive changes.”

Fast did garner some cross-party support for his legislation as all 24 NDP and both Green Party members voted in favour of Bill C-314, and eight Liberal MPs broke ranks with their colleagues. The Bloc Québécois, however, held the balance of power on the vote as each member voted against the bill.

Jeff Gunnarson, president of the pro-life political advocacy organization Campaign Life Coalition, decried those voting “nay.”

“Shame on all the MPs who told people struggling with mental illness and depression that their lives are expendable by voting against this common-sense bill,” said Gunnarson.  

Canadian Physicians for Life executive director Nicole Scheidl watched the vote count live. Like Fast, she was disappointed by the Liberals who shut down Bill C-314.

“I was saddened that so many of the Liberals, who I know have concerns, just refused to support the bill,” said Scheidl. “Supporting the bill doesn’t mean you are going to vote for it in the end, but it recognizes there is an issue worth talking about. It would have gone to committee for an opportunity for wider consultation.”

Conversely, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC), a non-profit with a stated mandate of “improving quality of dying, protecting end-of-life rights and helping people across Canada avoid unwanted suffering,” applauded the result in a post on X.

“This outcome affirms the measures adopted in Bill C-7 that recognized excluding people whose sole underlying condition is a mental disorder from assisted dying legislation would be a breach of the Canadian Charter, and it would discriminate on the basis of a person’s diagnosis,” stated DWDC. “

Recent polling data released jointly by the Angus Reid Institute and the Cardus think tank suggests DWDC’s convictions are against the tide of Canadian public opinion. Only 28 per cent of Canadians endorse assisted suicide access for those whose sole condition is mental illness. About 82 per cent agreed that mental health-care services should be improved first before euthanasia eligibility is extended to include this grouping. Over half the participants (52 per cent) fear treating mental health will no longer be a priority once the expansion occurs.

Fast characterizes this situation as ideology trumping logic.

“When the government moves forward based on a fixed ideology, common sense goes out the window,” said Fast. “The fact (is) so many Liberals voted against my bill when they fully know that there is a high, high risk — in fact a virtual certainty — that there will be individuals who will be euthanized that could have lived productive and meaningful lives.”

Though Fast sought to subdue assisted suicides in a non-partisan fashion through his bill, he said he welcomes Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s pledge to repeal MAiD access for Canadians only experiencing mental illness should he win the next federal election, which will take place on or before Oct. 20, 2025.

Fast said he will continue to make the case against MAiD going forward. Over the past several months, Fast has co-hosted town halls about this issue alongside Conservative colleagues Michael Cooper, Marc Dalton and Tako Van Popta in various communities across Canada. More of these forums will be hosted going forward. 

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