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44th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 281

CONTENTS

Tuesday, February 13, 2024




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 151
No. 281
1st SESSION
44th PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Speaker: The Honourable Greg Fergus

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayer



Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1000)  

[English]

Petitions

Taxation 

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to present a petition that notes we are in the middle of both a climate crisis and a cost-of-living crisis. Petitioners note that folks across the country are struggling to afford housing and food, while also dealing with unprecedented climate disasters that will only continue to worsen if urgent action is not taken.
    They note that while this is happening, fossil fuel companies made record profits last year, with the five largest fossil fuel companies operating in Canada alone making annual profits of over $38 billion. They note that a significant portion of these profits were made as a result of price gouging at the pump, in 2022, costing Canadians an additional 18¢ per litre, more than their previous profit margins on fuel and far more than the 2¢ per litre that carbon pricing went up in the same period last year. They also note the similar taxes on excess profiteering on those oil and gas companies has been instituted in Canada in other sectors already, as well as on oil and gas companies in the U.K. and Europe.
    They then call on the Government of Canada to immediately apply a 15% windfall profit tax on the excess profits of oil and gas companies operating over the past three years and to reallocate the revenues that would be generated from that to proven climate solutions as well as to efforts to make life more affordable for Canadians, including investments in public transit, in retrofitting buildings and in greening the grid.

Firearms  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to table a few petitions today.
    The first one is in regard to the Liberal government's firearms buyback program. The Liberal government's plan to confiscate legally acquired firearms from law-abiding firearm owners and from retailers will do nothing to reduce the crime in Canada.
    These petitioners are calling on the Liberal government to cancel its plan to enforce a costly and ineffective firearms buyback program, and instead, to set its sights on common-sense polices that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals.

  (1005)  

Military Chaplaincy  

    Mr. Speaker, the next petition I am presenting is on public prayer in the Canadian Armed Forces. The recent directive issued to military chaplains banning religious symbols and public prayer at ceremonies like Remembrance Day actually undermines our religious freedoms, and one of the very values, ironically, that our men and women in uniform have fought to defend.
    The petitioners are calling on the House of Commons to affirm the right of public prayer in our Canadian Armed Forces.

Children and Families  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to table my last petition regarding Bill C-318. We know that adoptive and intended parents in our country are at a disadvantage under the current EI system, and all parents deserve equal access to parental leave benefits. Bill C-318 delivers equitable access to parental leave for adoptive and intended parents.
    The undersigned of this petition, the residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to support adoptive and intended parents by providing a royal recommendation for Bill C-318.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise and present a petition from constituents in Saanich—Gulf Islands who are concerned about the nexus between the climate crisis and the health of humanity. The petitioners note that the World Health Organization has determined that, “Climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.”
    The health impacts from climate change include lung disease; heat-related illness and death; the spread of infectious diseases, and we note, in Canada, the spread of lyme disease related to climate change; displacement; famine; droughts; and mental health impacts, which are already being felt in Canada and abroad, and they are expected to accelerate.
    Petitioners are, and I want to underline this, a particular class of knowledgeable individuals. The petitioners are described as physician mothers of Canada. They are people who are mothers and also speak with concern for our children, as many of us do, but with the added lens of the knowledge that they bring as physicians.
    They call on the government and the House of Commons to act on the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment's calls to action on climate change and health, prioritize the reduction of emissions as quickly as possible, implement a national carbon pricing strategy and commit to the rapid elimination of fossil fuels from our economy.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand at this time.
    Is that agreed?
     Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[S. O. 57]

[Translation]

Government Business No. 34—Proceedings on Bill C-62

Motion That Debate Be Not Further Adjourned  

    Mr. Speaker, in relation to the consideration of Government Business No. 34, I move:
    That debate be not further adjourned.

[English]

     Pursuant to Standing Order 67(1), there will now be a 30-minute question period. I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise or to use the “raise hand” function so the Chair can have some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in this question period.
    The hon. member for Battlefords—Lloydminster.
    Mr. Speaker, here we are once again, seeing the Liberals enforce time allocation. I wonder, through you, why it is that the Liberals are so terrible at managing legislation to put forward the House calendar. At the end of the day, they are the ones deciding what the calendar is and what their priorities are, and it seems like it is at the eleventh hour, every single time. Here we are, once again, with them trying to invoke closure.

  (1010)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her contributions, but reject the characterization.
    We indicated quite openly and publicly that we would not proceed with medical assistance in dying where mental illness is the sole underlying condition until after we had received the study from the joint committee that is made up of members of Parliament and of senators.
    That joint committee study was tabled in this chamber on January 29. Shortly thereafter, we reviewed that document, prepared legislation and tabled that legislation expeditiously. That legislation is now before this chamber, and we have a statutory deadline to meet prior to March 17 that relates to the sunset clause, thus necessitating the need to move it expeditiously through both this chamber and the upper chamber.
    Mr. Speaker, we do have a date that has been fixed, which is March 17. We have, at this point, only 14 sitting days to get this bill not only through the House of Commons but also through the Senate, as the Minister of Justice said.
    My concern is the confusion. If this bill has not gone through both Houses, what we would end up with is a situation of utter confusion for something as fundamental as medical assistance in dying. To have that confusion is something that I do not think is acceptable to any Canadian.
    It is important that we get this right. It is important that we meet the deadline. What I am surprised about is that we do not have a consensus. This is the kind of situation where all parties should get together and facilitate getting this through the House because of the importance of not adding or installing the confusion that would surely result in us not meeting the deadline.
    My question for my colleague is very simple. Why is there not a consensus around this so that we can move it through the House this week without the use of time allocation?
    Mr. Speaker, I would say, quite candidly, that I agree with the member's supposition. When we are dealing with a matter of such compelling interest and such consequential interests that are at stake, with respect to a life-and-death situation involving medical assistance in dying, it is important that parliamentarians work in unison. There have been divisions on this issue in the past, and there remain divisions in this chamber with respect to this issue.
    What we are saying is that we are dealing distinctly with the issue of mental illness as a sole underlying condition. On that piece, we believe the prudent course is to have an extension of time for a following three years. We hope that all parliamentarians would support that and the pressing need to get this piece of legislation through both Houses to royal assent prior to March 17 to avoid the very confusion the member identified.
    Mr. Speaker, when I reflect on this, the whole discussion and debate that has taken place over the last number of years has been fairly extensive.
    Going back to the Supreme Court of Canada's Carter decision of 2015 and to the amount of committee and House of Commons' time, there has been a great of deal of discussion, justifiably so. It is important to recognize that medical assistance in dying is not necessarily a new issue. It has been well discussed in many different forms, even the issue of mental health well-being.
    I wonder if the minister could provide his thoughts on the journey taken to bring us to this point today and on why it is so critically important that it pass by the end of this week.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his contributions today and every day in this Chamber.
    The journey has been a detailed one, a responsible one and a prudent one. What we understand, as a government and as parliamentarians, is that mental illness causes suffering, and that suffering is equivalent to physical suffering. We also understand people have decision-making capacity, including those who are mentally ill.
    We also understand that, as a federal government in a federation where the health care system and the delivery of health care is primarily the jurisdiction of provinces, proceeding in a situation where the provinces have spoken with one voice, saying that provinces and territories are not ready to deliver medical assistance in dying for people who have mental illness as their sole underlying condition, in that context, we have to listen to those provinces and work with those provinces to help them with their readiness.
    The provinces have spoken uniformly to the Minister of Health and to myself about their lack of readiness and about the fact that more time would be beneficial to ensure that there is better take-up of the curriculum and that supports are in place for those who would assess and provide MAID, and that there is more understanding of how those safeguards would be implemented in the context of an individual who has mental illness as their sole underlying condition. Based on that, we are seeking, through this chamber and through the upper chamber, an extension of three years. That would be a prudent course when the situation is very significant, when the interests are significant and when then consequences are very permanent.

  (1015)  

    Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I apologize. I misspoke. I said 14, but there are actually only nine sitting days, including today, before the deadline.
    I thank the hon. member for the clarification.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank hon. Minister of Justice for sharing these comments with other members of the cabinet, particularly the Minister of Health.
    This is perhaps the most difficult issue any of us will ever deal with as members of Parliament. Strangely enough, I will just add that, had she been alive when I was a member of Parliament, Sue Rodriguez, who went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada for the right to die with dignity, would have been my constituent. She lived in North Saanich.
    There is tremendous public support in my area for medical assistance in dying being available to Canadians. However, I have to say, when it came to Bill C-14 and extending it to where mental illness was the only underlying cause, I voted for that bill only because there was a time delay, and we should be ready before it comes into effect.
    I support what the Minister of Justice just said. We know the provinces have spoken with one voice. I am very concerned that access to treatments for mental health are still not available and might push people toward seeking MAID because they cannot get access to something like psilocybin that could deal with their underlying causes.
    I very much object to using time allocation. I do not think I have ever voted for time allocation in this place, but now I must because the court deadline is approaching; March 17 is soon. We need to make sure that we do not leave Canadians in this awful gap where we do not have anything in place, as a Parliament, to deal with the current crisis.
    I offer those comments just to say that I will be voting differently from the way I typically have, but I still vigorously object to time allocation being used routinely.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her contributions today and every day in the chamber.
    She outlines exactly the balance that we are trying to craft, and have tried to craft since 2016, in response to the Carter decision. Those are basically two different ideas: promoting the dignity and the autonomy of an individual in this country, and ensuring that we are protecting vulnerable people with adequate safeguards so they are not victimized. In this context, the safeguards and the protection are critical in the context of those who are mentally ill. That has been guiding theme here.
    In addition to the provinces and territories that have spoken up about the lack of system readiness, we have also heard from the Canadian Mental Health Association and from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health that they are also not ready and concur with the provinces' and territories' assessments.
    With respect to the last point raised by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, she talked about mental health supports. This is critical now more than ever, particularly coming out of the COVID pandemic. What I would say to her is that when we reached a deal about one year ago to provide a record number of dollars in support of the Canadian health care system, we outlined certain parameters for that support. One of the pillars of that support was to support mental health and the mental health needs of Canadians. That is a fundamental priority for us and will remain so.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I think that the issue before us is an important one, and I recognize the work that my colleague, the Minister of Justice, has done on this file.
    That being said, with all due respect, I have to say that we already deliberated on this issue several years ago and that we determined that March 17 would be the date on which this would come into force. Quebec has worked on this and it is prepared to administer the medical assistance in dying that we are talking about. It would be easy for the government to simply adopt the amendment proposed by my colleague from Montcalm, which, we are going to vote on later today, I believe. This amendment would enable the provinces that are ready to administer the treatment to do so.
    Take section 720 of the Criminal Code, for example. It provides a similar process for drug treatment. It stipulates that provinces are allowed to administer a provincially approved treatment even if it is not otherwise authorized by the Criminal Code. A similar system could be set up for MAID. It is true that some provinces are not ready yet. That will likely always be the case. I am fairly certain that in three years, five years or ten years, some provinces will still not be ready. However, we cannot allow that to paralyze Parliament. Some provinces are ready, and we can set up a process that will allow those provinces to administer MAID.
    I invite my colleague and his entire government to support the amendment proposed by my colleague from Montcalm to allow provinces that are ready, like Quebec, to proceed with the administration of MAID.

  (1020)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to give a two-part answer to that question.
    First, the Province of Quebec itself has said that it is not prepared to provide medical assistance in dying to people whose only medical condition is a mental disorder.
    Second, my colleague mentioned advance requests. That is another issue. I have tremendous respect for the crucial work that has already been done in Quebec on advance requests. However, Canada has only one Criminal Code, and there is a very good reason for that. Canadians deserve to have consistent standards and clarity about what is criminal and what is not criminal across the country. There is no quick way to safely allow an exception for Quebec on this issue at this time.
    The conversation does not end here, though. We are committed to working with Quebec to determine the next step. We have taken a cautious approach to medical assistance in dying from day one back in 2016. We will continue to proceed with caution on this issue for the whole country.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I too am very concerned about closure on such an important matter. My opinion is that by allowing assisted death on the basis of mental illness alone, we might inadvertently close the door on potential recoveries and the possibility of life returning with dignity and purpose.
    Furthermore, enabling medical assistance in dying for mental health conditions could imply that some lives are less worth living and that some forms of suffering are less deserving of the full measure of our medical and social resources. This could lead to a slippery slope where the right to die may, under subtle social pressures, become a duty to die, particularly among the marginalized or the less privileged members of our society. For those reasons and many others, we need to be very, very careful.
     Having closure on such a critically important issue, to me, says to those who might be considering this that they are less worthy. That is the farthest thing from the truth. We should be able to debate this. I do not know what took the government so long to bring the debate, given that, as my friend from the NDP said, there are nine days left. What took the government so long to bring it forward in the first place for proper debate?
    Mr. Speaker, I respect the member opposite, but I am going to take issue with some of the submissions he just made. It is precisely because of the contentious nature of what is at issue that we are ensuring, using every tool that we have, that the bill becomes law prior to March 17 and the expiration. If the bill does not become law by March 17, we would have the confusion that was mentioned by the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, a situation where people may be able to avail themselves of MAID where the context is mental illness as the sole underlying condition.
     We do not believe the system is ready, because we have heard that, to a person, from every health minister in every province and territory. We have heard it from the health care practitioners, the nurses, the MAID assessors and the MAID providers. A curriculum has been designed, but take-up of the curriculum is not where it needs to be. The safeguards are not in place. The oversight mechanisms are not in place.
    It is precisely because of the unpredictable nature of some people's mental illnesses that we need to ensure that we are working prudently and safely before we propose an expansion of the regime to persons for whom mental illness is the sole underlying condition.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister's answer to the question posed by my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord is inadequate. Yes, in 2021, Quebec ruled on the issue before the report of the expert panel on mental illness was published.
     However, the minister had a year to implement the most widely held recommendation of the special joint committee on medical assistance in dying concerning advance requests. Even a Conservative member from Quebec voted for it.
     Why did he not introduce a bill aimed at enacting this provision, knowing full well, unless he is unaware, that Quebec was going to legislate accordingly? As for the report, we are talking about a year and he wants three years, but that is another story. He cannot possibly tell us that he did not have the time to implement the special joint committee's main recommendation.
     Now it is a double standard. He accepted the special joint committee's recommendation about mental illness and made it into a bill, yet he is doing nothing about advance requests, which Canadians from coast to coast agree on.
    Will the minister commit, if he does not support my amendment, to tabling a bill on advance requests as soon as possible?

  (1025)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's remarks and his hard work on the special joint committee.
     I have several points to raise. The first one is that the bill addresses mental illness as the sole condition. The act requires that we deal with the issue before March 17, 2024.
     I have a lot of respect for my colleague across the aisle. He mentioned that Canadians from coast to coast agree on the issue of advance requests. Although Quebec has expressed its willingness, I do not believe that all Canadians agree; that is the second point.
     Obviously, if we want to extend medical assistance in dying to advance requests, we need to do so responsibly and with caution, as we did with all of the other issues, in other words, with all of the health experts, namely health ministers, psychiatrists, doctors and nurses. We need to proceed with caution, making sure to respect individual rights. We also need to strike a balance between individual rights and the protection of vulnerable persons. That is how we have been doing things since 2016, and that is how we will continue in the future.
    Once again, it is important to note that the Criminal Code applies to the entire country. It is important to have clear information for all Canadians, so that everyone understands their rights and the criminal rules that apply across Canada. Criminal law must be consistent from one province to another.
    That said, political discussions with Quebec are ongoing because this conversation needs to be had. However, we need to proceed carefully, cautiously and prudently.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in the previous Parliament, I was the NDP's representative on the medical assistance in dying committee. I do support medical assistance in dying, but it was the most difficult issue I have ever dealt with, and I agree with my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands that it was probably the most difficult issue most of us have ever dealt with in the House. For that reason, I agree with the minister that we have to proceed very cautiously and very deliberately in any expansion to medical assistance in dying.
     Today I would rather be talking about removing mental illness as the sole underlying condition, but Parliament dealt with that question with the private member's bill from the member for Abbotsford, Bill C-314, so we cannot do that today. We are placed in the awkward position where the Senate added the provision to the original medical assistance in dying legislation, which I think was very ill-advised.
    However, we have no choice at this point, I believe, but to support the closure motion to try to get this done so we can prevent the provision from coming into force, when we know clearly we are not ready and when we know some of us have very clear moral reservations about the expansion.

  (1030)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for his contributions today and every day, particularly on the justice committee and on the joint mixed committee. I agree with him that this is probably the most challenging and personal issue that any of us has touched, particularly for those who were elected in the class of 2015, who have been dealing with this for the last eight years. Because what is at issue is so significant, because the consequences are so permanent by definition, it is critical to get it right and to proceed in a prudent manner.
    Some of those things are outlined in the charter statement we have tabled in the House. It talks about the screening for decision-making capacity being particularly difficult in the context because of the symptoms of the person's condition or because their life experiences can impact their ability to understand and appreciate the decision they are about to make. Further, feelings of hopelessness and wishing to die are common symptoms of some mental illnesses, which can make it difficult for even an experienced practitioner to distinguish between a wish to die that is fully autonomous and considered, and something that is a symptom of one's personal illness.
    Also, the course of a mental illness over time is very much less predictable than that of a physical illness. Last, and importantly, we do not have a record of evidence that has been built up in this country with respect to how the practice would unfold. Ensuring that we build up that record of evidence and that we build up the important curriculum and the uptake of that curriculum for the assessors and providers is critical.
    For these and many other reasons, we are adopting a position that we would proceed responsibility, cautiously and prudently in three years' time with the initiative, but also reconvene the joint committee on which the member has sat so it can assess system readiness about two years from now, prior to the three-year deadline's coming to the fore.
    Mr. Speaker, it has been said that the character of a nation is revealed in how it treats its most vulnerable. I cannot think of a higher obligation for the House that houses the representatives of the people to take up than this very discussion. It is a matter of debate that should not be rushed. It should not be shut down and should not be in any way pushed through in expeditious fashion. We should take all of the time required to make sure we get it right, because we are literally dealing with matters of life and death. The sensitivity surrounding the issue cannot be overstated. The impact on families that are going to be and are being affected by the issue cannot be overstated.
    I would ask the minister to reconsider the direction he has taken with this and allow Canadians to have their voices expressed, for their concerns and desires for proper safeguards to be fully expressed in the House during the debate for as long as it takes to get it right. Would the minister care to comment on that?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite, but I think his comments reflect something that was raised also by the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner.
    Just to be clear for Canadians, if we do not proceed expeditiously in this chamber and in the Senate, the law will change on March 17 so as to allow medical assistance in dying for people who have mental illness as the sole underlying condition.
    If the member for Tobique—Mactaquac is concerned about supports for those who are mentally ill, and I believe he has that concern, then what he should be doing is working with us collaboratively to ensure passage of the bill to prevent that situation from arising. The logical premise of his question is false.
    What we are doing is proceeding expeditiously as a responsible government after hearing from the joint mixed committee of MPs and senators about the need to put a pause on this. We would be putting a pause on it. We presented the legislation expeditiously and are seeking passage of the legislation expeditiously.
    As we have have heard from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, in this context even she is making an exception to her principled approach towards closure in order to invoke closure so we can get the bill done and protect Canadians. Fundamentally, my job as Minister of Justice is to do just that, and I will not be deterred in that task.

  (1035)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister did not answer one aspect of my question.
    Why the double standard?
    The minister had a full year to implement the recommendation of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying concerning advance requests. An Ipsos poll of 3,500 people showed 85% support across Canada. If the minister does not know that, he is not staying on top of his file.
    As far as postponement is concerned, the minister has implemented the recommendation to the letter. Three years is too long. He knows that. However, he could have added another dimension to Bill C‑62. He had a year to do it. Will he introduce legislation on advance requests, yes or no?
    Bill C‑14 is bad legislation.
    The minister says that he worked carefully. People have been forced to go on hunger strikes to meet the reasonably foreseeable natural death criterion. Is that what he means by protecting vulnerable people?
    Mr. Speaker, what I can add to the conversation I just had with my colleague across the way is that we created expert panels to study several aspects of expanding medical assistance in dying. Experts conducted a study on advance requests. They found that it is extremely complex when we talk in the present about articulating a desire to seek medical assistance in dying, added to the fact that a person might submit a request 30 or 40 years ahead of time. Given the context, their situation, condition and wishes could change.
     This said, Quebec has already addressed the issue, and a bill has been introduced in the province. We are well aware of this, and we are starting a discussion with Quebec. Discussions will be held.
     We have a Criminal Code that applies across the country. Consequently, the question has to be approached the same way we dealt with the other aspects, meaning nationally. This is what we did when we prudently undertook consultations while taking the necessary precautions.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned about the comments that I have just heard from the Conservatives saying that the debate should just go on for as long as Conservatives would like. That could take months. Our deadline is March 17. We have nine sitting days, including today, before the deadline.
    I wanted to make sure, because some of my Conservative colleagues were saying that they are concerned about having, as a condition, the sole underlying medical condition being a mental disorder. They did not want to see that. The provinces and territories certainly agree. Ten of the provinces and territories have written to say that their health care system is simply not ready to put that into place. What would happen, would the minister say, if we end up missing that deadline, going on for months afterward? What type of confusion? What situation would we find ourselves in, in Canada, if we follow the desire of the Conservatives to simply talk this out for months?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his second contribution this morning, because it is very salient and very pointed. I would urge my Conservative colleagues to actually reconsider their presumed position with respect to this legislation and the need for passing it efficaciously, as soon as possible.
    As a candid response to his question, so that we are crystal clear, if we do not pass this legislation by March 17, it would be possible in this country for someone whose sole underlying condition is mental illness to avail themselves of MAID. That would occur in the riding of Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, in the province of Alberta, as well as in the province of New Brunswick, which the member for Tobique—Mactaquac represents. The ministers of health for New Brunswick and Alberta have both said to us unequivocally that their health care systems, their MAID assessors and providers, are not ready.
    I do not want a situation where we have that kind of lay of the land in terms of the criminal law in Canada. We have the power to prevent that from happening by voting in favour of this bill.

  (1040)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the minister and congratulate him on the quality of his French. I knew him when he arrived in 2015, and I have seen his progress, step by step. I would like to sincerely congratulate him on his French.
     That is where my congratulations end. It is never a victory when a time allocation motion is introduced in a debate on an issue as sensitive as medical assistance in dying. This topic should be free from partisanship, because there is no right or wrong position. There are only the positions with which we are at ease as legislators. Opposing opinions should always be respected. Some of our friends, family members and loved ones may take the exact opposite view, and they are right. That is what a non-partisan debate is. That is what a debate about personal quality of life is.
     As my colleague from Montcalm illustrated so well, the minister had a year to take action, but he did nothing. We realize that the Prime Minister decided to change justice ministers, as is his right and privilege, and we also realize that the predecessor to this Minister of Justice had a different approach.
    However, in the face of such a delicate issue, why act so quickly when we need to make room for every possible opinion? This is not a partisan issue, let us not make it one.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of the member for Louis‑Saint‑Laurent.
    I want to note two things.
    First, my colleague is absolutely right when he says that we must avoid partisanship when we are dealing with such a sensitive subject and where the consequences are so serious for Canadians.
    I might add that he and his colleagues sat on the special joint committee both the first and second time. So we have already had the opportunity to hear the Conservatives' views on the matter. We have reflected on those comments and indeed we introduced a bill that reflects the will of their caucus.
    I believe that we need to move forward with that expressed will and promote the adoption of this bill today in the House.

[English]

    It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.

[Translation]

    The question is on the motion.

[English]

    If a member participating in person wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division, or if a member of a recognized party participating in person wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.
    Mr. Speaker, I request a recorded vote.
    Call in the members.

  (1125)  

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 637)

YEAS

Members

Aldag
Ali
Anand
Anandasangaree
Angus
Arseneault
Arya
Ashton
Atwin
Bachrach
Badawey
Bains
Baker
Barron
Beech
Bibeau
Bittle
Blaikie
Blaney
Blois
Boissonnault
Boulerice
Bradford
Brière
Cannings
Carr
Casey
Chagger
Chahal
Champagne
Chatel
Chen
Chiang
Collins (Victoria)
Cormier
Coteau
Dabrusin
Damoff
Davies
Desjarlais
Dhaliwal
Dhillon
Diab
Drouin
Dubourg
Duclos
Duguid
Dzerowicz
Ehsassi
El-Khoury
Erskine-Smith
Fillmore
Fisher
Fonseca
Fortier
Fragiskatos
Fraser
Freeland
Fry
Gaheer
Gainey
Garrison
Gazan
Gerretsen
Gould
Green
Guilbeault
Hajdu
Hanley
Hardie
Hepfner
Holland
Housefather
Hughes
Hussen
Hutchings
Iacono
Idlout
Ien
Jaczek
Johns
Jowhari
Julian
Kayabaga
Kelloway
Khalid
Khera
Koutrakis
Kusmierczyk
Kwan
Lalonde
Lambropoulos
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Lattanzio
Lauzon
LeBlanc
Lebouthillier
Long
Longfield
Louis (Kitchener—Conestoga)
MacAulay (Cardigan)
MacDonald (Malpeque)
MacGregor
MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Maloney
Martinez Ferrada
Masse
Mathyssen
May (Cambridge)
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
McDonald (Avalon)
McGuinty
McKay
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McPherson
Mendès
Miao
Miller
Morrice
Morrissey
Murray
Naqvi
Ng
Noormohamed
O'Connell
Oliphant
O'Regan
Petitpas Taylor
Powlowski
Qualtrough
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rogers
Romanado
Rota
Sahota
Sajjan
Saks
Samson
Sarai
Scarpaleggia
Schiefke
Serré
Sgro
Shanahan
Sheehan
Sidhu (Brampton East)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Singh
Sorbara
Sousa
St-Onge
Sudds
Tassi
Taylor Roy
Thompson
Trudeau
Turnbull
Valdez
Van Bynen
van Koeverden
Vandal
Vandenbeld
Virani
Weiler
Yip
Zahid
Zarrillo
Zuberi

Total: -- 170


NAYS

Members

Aboultaif
Aitchison
Albas
Allison
Arnold
Baldinelli
Barlow
Barrett
Barsalou-Duval
Beaulieu
Bergeron
Berthold
Bérubé
Bezan
Blanchette-Joncas
Block
Bragdon
Brassard
Brock
Brunelle-Duceppe
Calkins
Caputo
Carrie
Chabot
Chambers
Champoux
Chong
Cooper
Dalton
Dancho
Davidson
DeBellefeuille
Deltell
Desbiens
Desilets
Doherty
Dowdall
Dreeshen
Duncan (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Ellis
Epp
Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster)
Falk (Provencher)
Fast
Ferreri
Findlay
Fortin
Gallant
Garon
Gaudreau
Généreux
Genuis
Gill
Gladu
Goodridge
Gourde
Gray
Hallan
Hoback
Jeneroux
Kelly
Khanna
Kitchen
Kmiec
Kram
Kramp-Neuman
Kurek
Kusie
Lantsman
Larouche
Lawrence
Lehoux
Lemire
Leslie
Lewis (Essex)
Lewis (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Lloyd
Lobb
Maguire
Majumdar
Martel
Mazier
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McLean
Melillo
Michaud
Moore
Morantz
Morrison
Motz
Muys
Nater
Normandin
Patzer
Paul-Hus
Pauzé
Perkins
Perron
Plamondon
Poilievre
Rayes
Redekopp
Reid
Rempel Garner
Richards
Roberts
Rood
Ruff
Savard-Tremblay
Scheer
Schmale
Seeback
Shields
Shipley
Simard
Sinclair-Desgagné
Small
Soroka
Steinley
Ste-Marie
Stewart
Strahl
Stubbs
Thériault
Therrien
Thomas
Tochor
Tolmie
Trudel
Uppal
Van Popta
Vecchio
Vidal
Vien
Viersen
Vignola
Villemure
Vis
Vuong
Wagantall
Warkentin
Waugh
Webber
Williams
Williamson
Zimmer

Total: -- 146


PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

Government Business No. 34—Proceedings on Bill C-62

[Government Orders]
    The House resumed from February 12 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today on the unceded lands of Tseshaht and Hupacasath on Vancouver Island in Nuu-chah-nulth territory to speak to Bill C-62, which is calling for the extension of the temporary exclusion of eligibility for medical assistance in dying for persons suffering solely from a mental illness by three years, until March 17, 2027.
    Clearly, without an intervention by Parliament, this expansion would come into effect on March 17, 2024, in just one month. New Democrats agree with the majority decision made by the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, also known as the AMAD committee, which I will refer to it as in my speech. It reported that Canada is not adequately prepared to deliver medical assistance in dying to individuals whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental disorder.
    The bill would allow more time to implement the necessary safeguards and address the capacity concerns that are expected to be the result of the expansion of medical assistance in dying for those with the sole underlying medical condition of a mental disorder. It would give medical practitioners more time to become familiar with available training and supports, while providing time for the public to become more aware of the robust safeguards and processes in place. I know this is a very sensitive and very personal matter to so many people around this country. Especially in my riding of Courtenay—Alberni, I have heard from many people about this.
    We also need to ensure that we have the understanding and compassion to respect the right of an individual's choice of dignity when they have deep, prolonged and ongoing suffering. I will speak to that. Suffering from mental illness is extremely serious, and it is just as real as suffering from a physical illness. In our health care system, we clearly do not have parity when it comes to mental and physical health, and I will speak to that as well.
    We must also affirm and protect the most vulnerable when we do any sort of decision-making on such a serious piece of legislation as expanding medical assistance in dying. This additional delay is necessary and needed right now to ensure that we have a health care system in place that can safely provide medical assistance in dying for those whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental disorder.
    We know how we got here. The Liberal government made an ill-advised decision and did a complete 180° by accepting the Senate's amendment to Bill C-7 in the 43rd Parliament. That is what got us here. The government changed the law before any kind of comprehensive review had been conducted, and we have been trying to play catch-up ever since. I am going to speak about the important work that needs to be done, and I want us to be thoughtful in our approach to expanding medical assistance in dying.
    As New Democrats, we take people's concerns and feedback very seriously. We are committed to helping find the best possible solution for Canadians in the policy of medical assistance in dying to ensure that it does what it was always intended to do. One of the biggest concerns New Democrats have with the expansion of medical assistance in dying is with the barriers that many Canadians face when they reach out for mental health treatment. Because of the Liberals, and the Conservatives before them, the chronic underfunding of our health care system has become even more apparent. It is now more than ever, as we see the disparity between mental and physical health and how people are taken care of.
    We heard the Prime Minister promise to implement a new mental health transfer of $4.5 billion over five years, but he has still not done that. Even with the bilateral agreements, the Liberals are falling far short, and that would not even be enough. Everyone should be able to access mental health supports when they need it, but under the Liberal government, and that of the Conservatives before it, this has not been the reality. It is the same with all provinces and territories.

  (1130)  

    New Democrats wholeheartedly support the delay in expanding medical assistance in dying for those who have a mental disorder as the sole underlying condition, but the Liberal government needs to ensure that proper consultation happens between now and the expansion date, or it would need to be extended again. It needs to ensure that people will be protected while respecting their individual choice.
    The Liberals cannot just delay the expansion either. They need to fund adequate supports and treatment options for people dealing with mental illness. Members have heard me say this repeatedly, but we need a pathway, a road map, to how we are going to achieve parity for mental and physical health and ensure people get the timely help they need when they need it.
     Seven of the provinces and all three territories have said that they are not ready and have signed a joint letter to that effect, including my home province of British Columbia. That was signed by the ministers of health in those provinces and territories. They are calling for an indefinite pause on the expansion for individuals whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental disorder. That is what those ministers identified.
    As New Democrats, we want to see a MAID regime where guardrails are in place to protect vulnerable populations while still allowing for personal bodily autonomy and end-of-life choices. We must make sure that people do not request medical assistance in dying because they do not have access to treatments, supports and services. This has to be absolute. The Liberals need to make sure everybody can access mental health supports. However, after nine years of carrying forward with the Conservative cuts to health care, this is where we are at right now right across the country. Help is out of reach for many people. This needs to change before medical assistance in dying can be expanded.
    We know that the housing, toxic drug and mental health crises that are happening are not being addressed. I see that I do not have a lot of time left, but I want to ensure I outline that the AMAD committee heard from plenty of witnesses who cautioned the committee on expanding MAID in cases of persons suffering solely from a mental illness. I want to share what a couple of those experts had to say.
     Professor Brian Mishara, who is with the Centre for Research and Intervention on Suicide, Ethical Issues and End-of-Life Practices at Université du Québec à Montréal, said, “The expert panel report on MAID and mental illness states that there are no specific criteria for knowing that a mental illness is irremediable”, and that there is absolutely no “evidence that anyone can reliably determine if an individual suffering from a mental illness will not improve.” He warned us that “any attempt at identifying who should have access to MAID will make large numbers of mistakes, and people who would have experienced improvements in their symptoms and no longer wish to die will die by [medical assistance in dying].”
    We heard from many experts. The CAMH raised similar concerns.
    Because I see that I only have a couple of minutes left here, I want to talk a bit about the system and the lack of access. We are talking about a crisis going on from coast to coast to coast, according to a poll done just a year ago. The Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction released a report talking about postpandemic findings. It cited that 35% of respondents reported moderate to severe mental health concerns.
    This is alarming. It should also be alarming to all parliamentarians that it found that fewer than one in three people with current mental health concerns accessed services. The report identified key barriers to accessing services as financial constraints and help not being readily available. We know that right now we are in a financial crisis, and I am sure those numbers have only gone up. It identified that one of the top stressors was between income and unemployment with mental health concerns.
    We need to create a system of parity with mental and physical health. The government has not delivered when it comes to a plan, a road map, on how we achieve parity with physical and mental health. I hope in this budget, it is going to release funding on top of the bilateral agreements directly to community-based organizations as a COVID emergency recovery response because, post-COVID, we know some people are struggling financially, but the biggest concern right now and the biggest epidemic post-COVID is in mental health. I hope the government is hearing that.
    I see that I have run out of time. I have a lot to say on this matter. I look forward to taking questions from my colleagues.

  (1135)  

    Mr. Speaker, in the process of debating this, I would draw attention to the case back in 2016 of E.F., a woman in Alberta. There is media coverage on it and it is worth a good read. The reason I bring it up is because E.F. did get access to medical assistance in dying. She had nothing but a mental condition but it was horrific.
     If this next step in medical assistance in dying is put on hold, would the member want to consider some mechanism by which a person like E.F. could get the relief from a life that simply was agonizing and not worth living?
    Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, we want to ensure that we have a system of care in place to ensure that E.F. can actually get access to supports if she is suffering. However, that is not in place anywhere in the country, not in all 10 provinces and three territories. We know that. We are falling far below our OECD partners. Provinces and territories spend between 5% and 7% of their health care budgets on mental health compared to France and Britain that are at 12% and 14% respectively.
    As New Democrats, we want to see a medical assistance in dying response where guardrails are in place to protect the most vulnerable. We want to ensure that safe and adequate delivery of medical assistance in dying is in place, but that there still is bodily autonomy and end-of-life choice. We need to have a system in place that the experts support, one that actually responds to medical assistance in dying, that ensures we have the training and that we have addressed all the recommendations of AMAD committee. We have not done that. I know the government is working toward that, but we are very far away from it.
    Mr. Speaker, the position of the government when it comes euthanasia is so disconnected from the reality and the concerns many Canadians have. The Liberals constantly want to have a conversation about further expansion. However, I hear concerns from constituents and from people across the country about the abuses under the existing system; about how people with disabilities have been pressured and told that they are selfish for not wanting to go down this road; about how, in the absence of proper support, life and dignity affirming support, we have individuals who are at risk of giving up. Instead of being affirmed in their pursuit of meaning and purpose, they are being told “Sure, go ahead and give up.” This is the reality in Canada.
    When I talk to legislators in other parts of the world, including legislators from the so-called progressive left, they are horrified by what is happening in Canada. Canada is presented as a counter-example of what can go wrong when we go down this road.
    Why are we not having more conversations about addressing the existing abuses in the system instead of this fanatical push by the government to always look for the next expansion. Why not stop and look at how we got here and how we can address these significant problems that have emerged in the current system?

  (1140)  

    Mr. Speaker, a lot of discussions needs to take place at the AMAD committee, to look at the existing legislation.
    However, right now, we are dealing with a timely situation, and I am going to speak to that. This is around the Liberal government's ill-advised decision to accept the Senate amendment to Bill C-7 in the 43rd Parliament. That is what has gotten us here today. This is why we are having to rush legislation, because there is not adequate support for people with the sole underlying medical condition of a mental disorder.
    The Liberals changed the law before any kind of comprehensive review had been conducted, and we have been trying to play catch-up ever since. The Liberals decided to support an amendment from the Senate, the unelected Senate, that was brought back to the House. We voted against it because of that. We did not believe that the supports were in place for people to make those decisions.
    We are working toward ensuring that we have parity between our mental and physical health care system, that we listen to the experts and that we do a full evaluation. This needs to take place. However, I appreciate the comments from my colleague in that there needs to be broader conversations about the existing legislation.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to know whether my colleague thinks that, one day, it will be possible to alleviate the suffering of people struggling with an irremediable mental disorder.
    I would also like to know whether he agrees that it would have been wiser for the government to implement the joint committee's leading recommendation regarding advance requests and to take advantage of the introduction of this bill to add that component.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has done incredible work at the health committee and the AMAD committee. I really appreciate him for that.
    I hope that some day we will have an opportunity so that those with the sole underlying medical condition of mental disorder will have the ability to make that decision. However, we are so far away from parity, given that consecutive Liberal and Conservative federal governments have not prioritized mental health. We are also far behind other countries, including U.K. and France, when it comes to delivering parity with our mental and physical health care systems, and that needs to be addressed.
    With respect to the member's other question, absolutely I support that. The AMAD committee needs to put its next focus and amount of work around advance directives.
    Mr. Speaker, I joined the latest edition of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, which was mandated to deal specifically with the question of the health system's readiness for an extension of MAID to cases of severe mental illness, out of a sense of duty as this is a deeply serious matter for Canadian society, one on which I received correspondence from a great many concerned constituents.
    At first, I humbly questioned my qualifications to sit on the committee. I am not a psychiatrist. I am not a medical doctor. I do not have expertise or experience in this area. However, in a democracy, not all is left to the experts. The people, through their elected representatives, set legal parameters in areas of public interest by way of legislation and regulations. In fact, that is what has been happening since 2016 on the issue of MAID.
     That said, it is important to carefully listen to and consult the experts out of respect for the authority of knowledge and experience. This is the opposite, I might add, of the new populism.
    I agree with the committee's recommendation that we should indefinitely postpone MAID where the sole underlying condition is mental illness, also known as MD-SUMC. The central issue in MD-SUMC is irremediability; that is the question of whether there is the possibility that a person with severe mental illness can be cured of their terrible suffering, a suffering not different from physical suffering.
    Under the law, for a person to be deemed eligible for MAID, the illness must be irremediable; grievous and irremediable. The problem when we move from somatic, that is physical, illness to psychiatric illness is that irremediability becomes more difficult to establish. In the case of psychiatric illness, an accurate prognosis is infinitely more difficult to produce.
    Because of the difficulty, in cases of mental illness, of offering a reasonably certain prognosis, the determination of irremediability will necessarily have to be based on a retrospective view; that is on an assessment of the extent of a patient's past treatments and whether the patient exhausted all treatment possibilities in a quest to be relieved of their suffering. The problem is that the MAID assessors will most likely not have been involved in past treatments, which makes it difficult to ascertain the quality of those treatments. When it comes to establishing irremediability in cases of mental illness, evidence has shown accuracy is poor. It is less than 50%, a coin toss.
    To quote Dr. Sonu Gaind, one of the experts who appeared before the committee, “Worldwide evidence shows we cannot predict irremediability in cases of mental illness, meaning that the primary safeguard underpinning MAID is already being bypassed, with evidence showing such predictions are wrong over half the time.”
    It should be pointed out that under our MAID law, clinical certainty about irremediability is not actually required. Here it is important to highlight the distinction between legal irremediability and irremediability in clinical medicine.
     In the MAID law, “grievous and irremediable” has a different meaning than in medicine. It is defined as incurability, “be in an advanced state of irreversible decline” and “enduring...physical or psychological suffering” that is intolerable to the person and cannot be relieved “under conditions the person considers acceptable.”
    In law, therefore, it is not necessary to establish irremediability with a degree of clinical certainty. Rather, both patient and assessor must come to the shared understanding based, among other things, on the assessor's analysis of the history of past treatments. There is an element of subjectivity on the part of both patient and assessor. Naturally, the assessor will bring their own philosophical biases, values and ethics to this subjective equation.
    As Dr. Gaind suggested to committee members, “Try those mental gymnastics on your constituents. Convince them it was okay that their loved ones with mental illness got MAID, not because of a clinical assessment based in medicine or science, but because of the ethics of the particular assessor.”
    An important issue in determining eligibility for MD-SUMC is being able to separate suicidal ideation from a considered request for MAID. It bears keeping in mind that suicide attempts are not always rash and impulsive, the product of a panicked state. This, in some ways, is a stereotype. Psychiatrists will say that some suicides are not frenetic but carefully planned in advance.
    Dr. Tarek Rajji, chair of the medical advisory committee at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, told the committee, “There is no clear way to separate suicidal ideation or a suicide plan from requests for MAID.”

  (1145)  

    To again quote, Dr. Gaind:
    We cannot distinguish suicidality caused by mental illness from motivations leading to psychiatric MAID requests, with overlapping characteristics suggesting there may be no distinction to make.
    In the Netherlands, an assessment by an independent physician is required for MAID, and in the case of psychiatric suffering, a third assessment by an independent psychiatrist, preferably one with specific expertise regarding the patient's disorder.
    The problem with Canada's law, as it stands, is that there is no requirement for one of the assessors of MAID eligibility to be a psychiatrist, yet psychiatric issues are exceedingly complex. Often a patient has more than one illness. It is said that 71% to 79% of psychiatric patients who died through MAID in the Netherlands had more than one psychiatric disorder.
    We humans are not self-directed, rational atoms exercising unencumbered clear-eyed autonomy. We are not as free as we think. We are born into families and communities, and influenced by the opportunities they offer, and alternatively, by the constraints they impose on us.
    I sometimes wonder if we are not in the process of turning personal autonomy into ideology. I say “wonder” because as a liberal, I have not been bestowed the gift of absolutism that has blessed ideologues.
    Requests for MAID can be influenced by, even driven by, extraneous factors like poverty and isolation, that is by psychosocial factors. According to Dr. Gaind, “those with mental illness...have higher rates of psychosocial suffering.”
    This all means that MAID assessors will be wrong over half the time when predicting irremediability, will wrongly believe they are filtering out suicidality and still, instead, provide death to marginalized suicidal Canadians who could have improved.
    Archibald Kaiser, Professor at the Schulich School of Law and Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University added that “The Supreme Court concluded in 1991 that people with mental illness have historically been the subjects of abuse, neglect and discrimination.”
    Dr. Gaind further underscored that “Suffering is cumulative, and life suffering unfortunately fuels much of the suffering of those with mental illness, even more so for marginalized populations.”
     There is, in fact, the possibility that gender-based marginalization can influence requests for MD-SUMC. We know that in countries that allow MAID for severe mental illness, the ratio of women to men who seek MD-SUMC is two to one.
    For their part, indigenous representatives have expressed serious reservations about expanding MAID to include mental illness. According to Professor Kaiser:
     In February 2021...many distinguished indigenous signatories wrote to Parliament that the consultation ... has not been adequate and “has not taken into account the existing health disparities...we face compared to non-Indigenous people.” They said, “our population is vulnerable to discrimination and coercion...and should be protected against unsolicited counsel.”
    We know there is systemic racism in the health care system. Ask the family of Joyce Echaquan. How would systemic racism influence the rate of acceptance of MAID requests of indigenous and other racialized peoples? That is a pertinent question.
    As Dr. Lisa Richardson, Strategic Lead, Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health, Women's College Hospital, told a Senate committee on February 3, 2021:
    In an environment where both systemic and interpersonal racism exists, I don’t trust that Indigenous people will be safe. I don’t trust that anti-Indigenous prejudice and bias will not affect the decision making and counselling about MAID for Indigenous people, no matter how much education is given.
    Indigenous communities, many of which have felt the scourge of high suicide rates, especially among youth, may have concerns about possible contagion effects of MD-SUMC on suicidality.
    Then, there is the basic question of the ability of the health care system in Canada, already stretched to the limit, to handle an expansion of MAID.
    According to Dr. Eleanor Gittens of the Canadian Psychological Association, as a country we have not yet established parity between available physical and mental care. To quote her, “Care and treatment of mental illness are not covered by medicare, nor is it readily accessible.”
    We do not really know how many people would request MD-SUMC, and thus whether we have enough qualified assessors. By some estimates, we would have well over 2,000 patients a year getting MD-SUMC with countless more requesting eligibility assessments. I know there is dispute around that number.

  (1150)  

    Just because there is a published Health Canada standard for MD-SUMC and a training module does not mean the system is ready. A building built on a soft foundation is not ready for occupancy, no matter the level of completion of its structure. There are today no safeguards preventing poverty, housing insecurity, loneliness, etc., that is psychosocial factors, from significantly fuelling MAID requests of those suffering from mental illness.
    I will quote Dr. Rajji: “The standards document itself, the one developed by the expert panel, states that these are not clinical guidelines, and this is what is missing to ensure quality.” According, again, to Dr. Gaind, “it is a legal fiction that determinations of the eligibility of MAID are based on objective clinical judgment. In fact, I regularly witness practitioners' values influencing the interpretation of the current MAID eligibility criteria and safeguards.”
    As per an article in the review Impact Ethics, “The few jurisdictions allowing MAiD for [sole] mental illness have safeguards Canada lacks, notably (unlike Canada) requirement of due care and no reasonable alternative, or treatment futility, prior to MAiD eligibility.”
    In Canada, a patient would be able to qualify for MD-SUMC even if they refuse treatment. Often a psychiatric patient will refuse additional treatment owing to treatment fatigue. While treatment fatigue has been studied in the context of HIV and type 1 diabetes, with the goal of developing strategies to help overcome it, treatment fatigue has not yet received attention in psychiatry. A better understanding of treatment fatigue could lead to alternatives to MAID, such as palliative or recovery-oriented treatments.
    I respect the Senate. I value the Senate. Senators bring more than just sober second thought; they bring expertise in fields crucial to good public policy making, but senators are not elected. They are not the voice of the people. It was never the government's intention to extend MAID to those suffering from mental illness.
    The government was running out of runway to meet the court-imposed deadline in the Truchon decision for amending the law to remove the requirement that death be foreseeable to qualify for MAID. It could not afford a back-and-forth game of procedural ping-pong with the Senate over its last-minute amendment to remove the mental illness exclusion from Bill C-7. It had to accept the Senate's amendment to get the bill across the finish line.
    In my view, we are not ready for MD-SUMC. We cannot ascertain irremediability with any acceptable degree of certainty and objectivity. We cannot sufficiently distinguish an unfettered request for MAID on the grounds of mental illness from suicidal ideation. We are not able to separate out psychosocial factors that might drive MD-SUMC. We have not properly consulted racialized communities to take account of their views, concerns and fears, notably those of indigenous communities, and we have not built proper safeguards into the law.
    We do not require the involvement of a psychiatrist in assessment nor require that a person have reasonably exhausted available treatments before making a request for MD-SUMC. The few other jurisdictions that allow MD-SUMC have this requirement.
    We have not studied and understood treatment fatigue such that we can develop strategies that can possibly lead a patient to other non-lethal treatment options, and finally, we have allowed an unelected body, the Senate, to drive this agenda.

  (1155)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's speech, but there is this framing of not being ready. We support further delay so that a Conservative government can forever protect Canadians by ensuring this expansion never happens, but it does not make sense to me that the member would identify obvious problems with this, and not just present problems or short-term problems, but structural problems, with allowing the medically facilitated killing of those with mental health challenges, and say that just means we are not ready.
    I think it is quite obvious that, after years of the government trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and trying to say that somehow we can have medically facilitated killing for those with mental health challenges while at the same time not increasing other kinds of risks and problems, the government has tried to figure out how to do this for years and has clearly concluded that it is not something that is desirable.
    Why not just admit that this was a terrible idea from the beginning rather than couch it in this framing of not being ready, but that maybe we will be soon?
    Mr. Speaker, I do not have a crystal ball. I do not have a monopoly on the truth. As I said in my speech, I am not blessed by absolutism. I am torn by this issue as much as I think anyone in this House is. Even if we hide behind the certainties we put up as political parties, we still question ourselves and we are still torn by this issue.
    I do not know if we will ever be ready. What I was trying to do in my speech was to point out some of the things we have not done to be ready. Maybe we will never be ready. I am not a psychiatrist. I do understand psychiatric suffering can be as severe as physical suffering, and I do feel for the people, especially John Scully, who I have heard from in testimony in a small working group. I feel for him and what he is living through. To be honest, I do not have the answer.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague participated in all three sessions on the issue. When Quebec tabled its report and when we voted on Bill C-7 in 2021, I was very reluctant to consider opening up MAID to mental disorders. However, I worked my way through the experts' report and I invite my colleague to read it again.
    My colleague says there is nothing in the legislation. However, it does not have to be in the legislation. The regulations can set out the “how to”. Recommendations 10 and 16 are important safeguards.
    Let us assume I am not questioning anything in my colleague's speech; the fact remains that, today, as I speak, there are people who are suffering irreversibly and intolerably.
    What solution does my colleague have for those people?

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, first, I want to congratulate my colleague on the thoughtfulness of his remarks. His speeches, his interventions, offer fresh perspectives. I learned a lot just from listening to him at meetings of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying or even in the House.
    It is complex. As I was saying earlier, I am torn. The problem is that this becomes very subjective at some point. We are giving a lot of power to a doctor or a nurse practitioner who may not have the necessary background in psychiatric illnesses.
    As I said in my speech, a person might present with one psychiatric illness, but roughly 80% have more than one. It is complicated enough to deal with psychiatric illness; when we add two or three more, it becomes even more complicated.
    I very much appreciate the interventions of my colleague. Like everyone else, we are doing everything we can on this file.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it sounds like we are in agreement around the importance of us not moving forward MAID legislation that includes those living with mental illnesses as the sole underlying condition.
    I worked in mental health and addictions prior to becoming a member of Parliament. As somebody who is in the governing party, what can the member share with those living day to day who are not getting access to the mental health supports they need when there was a promise of $4.5 billion in the last election to be transferred to those who need it most, those who do not have access to the housing they need and those who are not getting the money from a disability benefit actually in their bank accounts at a time when they need it most?
    I am wondering if the member can share what he would say to those who need the supports today around mental illness.
    Madam Speaker, I would tell them I would always vote for those kinds of supports, and I am very pleased we have passed Bill C-22 on creating a framework for an eventual disability benefit. It is excellent public policy and I am, quite frankly, hoping the next budget includes something more concrete on that around a figure of the kind of financial support people with disabilities can expect.
    Yes, there are many social problems, and this is one of the reasons I do not think we are really ready. We do not know how to extract those influences such as the inability to find housing, loneliness, drug addictions, etc. We do not have the ability to extract those motivators from what we could call, I suppose, for lack of better words, a more considered request for MAID. It is a big problem. As a society, we have many problems to deal with, and that is why I am here. I am trying to do my best, as the member is, to solve those problems.
    Madam Speaker, this has become an issue, because it was inserted in the legislation at Bill C-14 by the Senate. Does the hon. member have any knowledge of what attitude the Senate is going to take?
    We are operating under the gun here. We have to do something before March 17. Do we have any indication of whether the Senate will, once the House dispatches this matter, take it up quickly?
    Madam Speaker, I do not, because I am not in the Senate. Now that the Senate is on the other side of the street, it is a little harder to confer with the senators.
    I understand their position. They are generally for this extension. I would like to believe that they are also responsible, and they would not want to see a void open up after March 2024. Therefore, I expect and hope that they will do the responsible thing.

  (1205)  

    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his excellent speech and hard work on the MAID committee. He talked about the problem of irremediability. I think it would be an absolute tragedy if legislation we pass led to a situation where a MAID practitioner took the life of someone who would have actually gotten better had we given them some more time. How are we going to know? The person will be dead.
    I was troubled to hear the testimony of some people on the committee, some psychiatrists, who did not seem very worried about the problem of determining irremediability. They would still be willing to allow MAID even though they were not totally sure if the situation was irremediable.
    Could the member comment on the issue of what he heard at the committee and what he thought about it?
    Madam Speaker, in fact, I do not know how to answer that question. We have seen that there is a subjective element. There are some who believe they would make the right call. I guess that confidence is at the root of the perspective they bring to the issue.
    I am not a medical doctor, much less a psychiatrist, so again, I do not have a definitive answer for the member.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Kelowna—Lake Country.
     Once again, I rise in the House to speak about a sensitive topic, one that is fundamental in our lives, and that is medical assistance in dying. Personally, I am in favour of medical assistance in dying. I am not here to defend my personal opinions. I am here as a legislator who has to consider all the data that support giving the green light, under certain conditions, to medical assistance in dying or, conversely, the red light urging us to not go forward.
     I believe this is in no way a partisan issue. People can be on the left, they can be on the right, they can be sovereignists, or they can be federalists; that is not the point. It is a matter of how we, as human beings, feel about this issue. Regardless of where we come from or where we are on the political spectrum, we are first and foremost human beings. On that basis, we must make a choice for people who need medical assistance in dying, and we must make sure this is done right, within the proper rules.
     We are dealing with this situation because the debate began here, at the federal level, in 2015. However, in Quebec, the debate began long before that. It just so happens that I have participated, both at the provincial and federal levels, in the early stages of this legislation that we are discussing today.
     I would remind hon. members that the first province to have legislated on this issue did not do so overnight, quite the opposite. Only after six years of serious, thorough, scientific and medical debates and hearings did the Quebec government and the National Assembly vote for a law that would be the first step in medically assisted dying. I would like to emphasize the importance of that process. It was done over six years, under three different governments, under three different premiers. That proves this is not a partisan issue. As much as possible, we should always take this approach.
     I will always remember, during the final debate on the adoption of the first steps toward medical assistance in dying in Quebec, how one of the members was very much against the bill. I can see him now, rising in the National Assembly and telling members not to vote for it. He felt so strongly on the issue and was so against the bill that he was red in the face. Once he sat down and the speech was over, I applauded him. I did not applaud him because I agreed with him. I applauded him because we live in a democracy that allows him to express an opinion that differs from my own. That is the beauty of democracy. Despite the fact that the majority of his party and his government were about to vote in favour of the bill, he was against it, and he had the opportunity to say so with all of the passion that drove him. That is how we should debate medical assistance in dying.
     Let us not forget that this debate started at the federal level because of the Carter decision. Without going into detail, I will remind members that happened in 2015, which was an election year. Using his good judgment, the head of the Canadian government at the time did not move forward immediately because we were on the verge of an election campaign. At the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time today, this is not a partisan issue, while an election campaign by definition is the epitome of political partisanship. That is fine, that is what an election campaign is. That is why the prime minister and head of the Government of Canada at the time, the Right Hon. Stephen Harper, showed good judgment and decided to hold the debate after the election campaign.
     Canadians made their voice heard. They elected a new government. There was then a debate on the subject. That is when the first steps toward this bill on medical assistance in dying were taken. Some may have noticed that the bill, like all other bills, was not perfect. Nevertheless, it did lead to certain specific situations.
     Personally, I was for medical assistance in dying, but I did not vote in favour of the bill because I found it was poorly drafted. I remember the Hon. David Lametti who, at the time, was not the minister of justice. As we know, he became minister of justice later on. The Prime Minister removed him from that office, and he decided to serve elsewhere. I remember that Mr. Lametti said that he would vote against the bill because he found that it did not go far enough. The bill was passed, but other things happened, and today we find ourselves having a debate on mental health.

  (1210)  

    I would remind members that I am in favour of medical assistance in dying as long as the rules are well defined. I will give the example of Quebec. Actually, I am going to talk about Quebec's experience, because an example is something that should be followed. Instead, let us take inspiration from the experience of Quebec, which held a political debate on the issue of medical assistance in dying for six years before passing its first bill on the subject.
    With regard to MAID for people with mental illness, after holding hearings and consultations and thoroughly analyzing the issue, the Quebec National Assembly and the Government of Quebec decided not to move forward with MAID for people whose only underlying medical condition is a mental disorder. They felt that there was no consensus on this issue and that there was no scientific consensus. Some people were in favour of it, while others were against it.
    That is where we are at right now. That is why I think that we need to be careful as long as there is no strong scientific consensus. Personally, I am in favour of medical assistance in dying, but I think that it must be administered to those who want it within a very clear legal framework. In this case, the framework does not go far enough.
    I have a colleague from Nova Scotia, the member for Cumberland—Colchester, who is a physician. I listened carefully to what he had to say yesterday because he knows what he is talking about when it comes to his profession. He practised medicine for over a quarter of a century and continues to practise to this day. He cared for thousands of people in his community.
    He talked about the hardest parts of his practice. One example he shared involved a person showing up in the middle of a suicide crisis on a Saturday night and needing treatment. That is not a broken arm, it is not a growing cancer, it is not trying to get a pebble out of someone's eye. It is much more complicated than that, and it cannot be resolved immediately.
    That is why his perspective was so valuable.

  (1215)  

[English]

    He said he is ready to challenge anybody who is not in that kind of a situation and whether they would be comfortable with that.

[Translation]

     He said that, in his practice, he had always found these situations very difficult, and that he needed time to recover from that kind of meeting. Anyone who has spoken to doctors dealing with patients who have suicidal feelings will confirm it. Mental health problems are difficult to identify and to treat. I would again remind members of Quebec's experience. After thoroughly examining this issue, Quebec decided not to go forward with medical assistance in dying for people struggling with psychiatric illnesses.
     The issue of medical assistance in dying can never be separated from the issue of palliative care. Palliative care is an essential part of our health care system; we should always be thinking of doing more, because, unfortunately, we will never do enough in that area.
     Without going into my life story, I can say that, two years ago, I had a particularly challenging year, given that both my parents died. I remember May 2022, when my mother spent the last days of her life in the hospital. She was in a wing where people were receiving palliative care, one after another. Then there were rooms with people who had requested medical assistance in dying. For the last 15 days of my mother’s rich life, I was with her in the hospital and met people who had requested MAID. They all did so in full knowledge of the facts and with the support, assistance, guidance, and, above all, the presence of their families, in the same way that we were with my mother in the last days of her life.
     That is how we must look at the issue. Respecting the choices of individuals, insofar as the guidelines have been well established. That is true both for people who wish to receive medical assistance in dying and for those who wish to receive palliative care.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I appreciate many of the member's comments. One thing that stuck in my mind was when he made reference to the fact that the Province of Quebec took a number of years to design its legislation.
    It is important to demonstrate the contrast with the federal government back in 2015; the member made reference to the Supreme Court decision. We had a very short window to get the legislation passed. I personally do not believe, and I suspect that no one really believed, that the legislation at the time was absolute, in terms of being perfect. However, we needed to get it through.
    Could he reflect on the many discussions and debates inside and outside the chamber with Canadians as a whole, with respect to how important it was that, at least, we bring forward and get the legislation in, in order to meet court requirements?
    Madam Speaker, that is an interesting question. I was there in 2015, when I got elected for the first time. As I said earlier, the prime minister at that time made the right decision not to put the bill on the table just before the election because this is everything but a political issue; it is a personal issue. An election campaign is anything but straight.

[Translation]

    An election campaign is the epitome of political partisanship.

[English]

    It was good that we did not have the debate during the campaign; after that, yes, for sure. We had a time frame established by the Supreme Court and we had to act as fast as possible, and that was not exactly the picture-perfect time to do it.
     Based on the Quebec experience, we have to take our time to study an issue. The bill that has been adopted was not perfect. I voted against it because I saw many loopholes in the bill. I remember David Lametti; we voted against because it had not, in his mind, gone far enough to support. This is part of the debate, and there is no political-partisan agenda behind the debate. It is only a human agenda that we shall have.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, my colleague gave us a history lesson.
    He said that his party was not able to move forward because there was an election. I would point out to him that Quebec has had two elections in those six years. That did indeed delay the work, as he will agree. However, I do agree with him that Quebec's approach crosses party lines and is far more thorough.
    Some people complain about the delay associated with the Carter decision, but that is because this Parliament never took the opportunity to try to change the Criminal Code before there was a court order. It never had the courage to do that, and so we were then stuck with a court order. Mr. Lametti did not stand up solely because the bill did not go far enough. He stood up because it violated patients' constitutional rights. Bill C-7 corrected that.
    I would like my colleague to explain what he is advocating when it comes to advance requests for MAID. Does he think that the government, which had a year to introduce legislation, could have included that component in this bill?

  (1220)  

    Madam Speaker, for starters, yes, the work took place over a period of six years under three different governments. There were two elections during that time. That is exactly what I said earlier. This is not meant to be a partisan issue.
    It took years for the debate to come before the House. We know that, but we also know that it would not have been a good idea to start a debate on this issue, which is supposed to be non-partisan, on the eve of an election campaign. I think my colleague would agree, especially since, as we know, there was a lot of opposition on all sides regarding many issues at the time, and the people spoke.
    On the issue of prior consent, personally, I agree, as my colleague said.
    Madam Speaker, in terms of accessing MAID, we know that many people have shared their thoughts publicly, particularly through the media, about how desperate they feel and how they are not getting help from the social safety net. They need help with health care, housing and mental health therapies. Everyone knows we need to acknowledge that reality.
    Does my colleague think our country is making progress if it recognizes the need to shore up our social safety net and provide the right supports to people who need them? That way, they will not ask for MAID if they do not really need it.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question and the quality of her French.
    That is similar to what I was saying at the end of my answer. Palliative care must go hand in hand with the issue of MAID. They are not mutually exclusive. We must think about palliative care before we think about medical assistance in dying.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it is always a privilege to rise on behalf of the residents of Kelowna—Lake Country.
    We are confronted with a decision of profound significance: the proposed delayed expansion of medical assistance in dying to include individuals suffering solely from mental illness. The delay should be supported, and I will note at the same time that as the shadow minister for employment, future workforce development and disability inclusion, I am compelled to express my opposition to the expansion altogether.
    I want to draw attention to the recent findings of the report of the committee on MAID presented on January 30, 2024. The committee's report aligns with the long-standing concerns Conservatives have been voicing. It advocates pausing the expansion of assisted suicide to include those afflicted with mental illness. MAID is an irreversible outcome. The expansion, if unchecked, could tragically lead to the loss of lives that might have been saved through treatment and support. This is why we should not even be debating a delay but looking to abandon this piece of legislation.
    The Liberals continue to ignore mental health experts, advocates and opposition parties, and have not completely abandoned the concept of MAID for those with the sole underlying condition of mental illness. In 2023, the government introduced eleventh-hour legislation to put a temporary pause on expanding assisted suicide to those suffering with mental illness. This came only after significant backlash from experts across Canada who called on the government to delay the expansion of MAID. The government is not listening to people speaking out and saying they want it abandoned altogether.
    If the Liberal government moves ahead with the radical expansion of MAID to include those whose sole underlying condition is mental illness, it could lead to irreversible results. In 2023, the heads of psychiatry at all of Canada’s 17 medical schools called for a delay to the federal government’s MAID legislation that would have expanded eligibility to persons suffering solely from a mental illness. Many stated that it is impossible to determine that an individual’s mental illness will never respond to treatment.
    As the shadow minister responsible for persons with disabilities, I have also found widespread opposition to the expansion of MAID to persons with mental illness among advocates for persons with disabilities. More than 50 disability and human rights organizations, including several from my home province of British Columbia, wrote a joint letter to then minister of justice and to federal party leaders in December 2022, to express their total opposition to the MAID expansion. They cited discrimination, lack of supports and concerns for protecting vulnerable people.
    Many people have come out again, still opposing the Liberal government's legislation and lack of empathy, adding weight to the argument against the expansion and making it permanent for anyone suffering from mental illness. Disability and human rights organizations are clear that delaying the legislation is simply not good enough; we must completely halt the expansion of MAID for mental illness.
    My argument against expansion for MAID for those whose sole underlying condition is mental illness is rooted not only in expert opinion, as I have outlined. As I address the chamber today, I carry with me the voices of residents from Kelowna—Lake Country living with disabilities and mental illness who have reached out to me, having serious concerns about this. A striking example is a letter I received from a young woman in my community who fears the human impacts of this type of legislation. Her journey through the darkness of suicidal thoughts and battle with mental illness is an important reminder of what is at stake. She fears that availability of MAID might have led her down an irreversible path. This is a sobering testament to the potential dangers of this type of law. Her personal story is not just one of struggle but is also a clarion call for our society to be a source of support and hope.
    Just recently, a resident of Kelowna shared a distressing experience that deeply resonates with the gravity of our current dilemma. He told me that he sat with a friend who opted for MAID recently. He expressed that if we allow the expansion to persons with the sole underlying condition of mental illness, those people might not always be capable of making such grave decisions, and we risk opening a door to irreversible consequences. This story is a stark reminder of the weighty responsibility we bear. This is a call to action, urging us to rethink and reassess, and to prioritize the well-being and dignity of Canadians in our health care and mental health policies.

  (1225)  

    When battling mental health issues for years, many people often feel on the brink of giving up. The cost of living is so bad that people cannot even afford to live, but what they need is support and understanding, not an easy exit offered by the government. A policy to expand MAID to those whose sole underlying condition is mental illness is a betrayal.
    The commitment to help people was evident in Conservative private member’s bill, Bill C-314, which sought to amend the Criminal Code to provide that a mental illness is not a grievous and irremediable medical condition for which a person could receive medical assistance in dying. The bill was voted down, unfortunately, in October 2023, with 150 MPs voting in favour and 167 against. This shows that the Liberal government just wants to delay the issue until after the next election.
    After eight years of the Liberal government, many people are increasingly struggling with a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. Many local residents in Kelowna—Lake Country and Canadians across the country have to deal with the immense stress of not knowing how they will pay to house themselves or put food on the table every month. This is heightened by economic stresses and escalating mental health challenges. At such a time, expanding MAID to include mental illness as the sole condition is not only ill-advised but also literally life-ending.
    We have already seen concerning examples of not helping people with mental anguish who reach out, such as Veterans Affairs Canada's confirming that unprompted suggestions of MAID were offered by a Veterans Affairs caseworker to several veterans as a resolution for concerns such as PTSD. In addition, there has been testimony at the human resources committee by disabled persons considering MAID due to lack of living affordability, and reports of food banks being asked by clients for details on applying for MAID. These examples highlight the risk of MAID becoming a misguided solution for individuals in desperate need of compassion and support.
    With such a climate of anxiety, mental health challenges and increasing rates of addiction across the country, expanding MAID to include mental illness as the sole underlying condition could be a tragic course. I believe we should be focusing our efforts on improving affordability and quality of life, and on compassionately helping people. It should not be easier to get MAID than to access mental health and addiction supports.
    I, alongside my Conservative colleagues, will continue to stand with the many experts, doctors and persons with disabilities who oppose MAID expansion where mental illness is the sole underlying condition. They are expressing inherent risks and concerns related to protecting those who may be struggling and to protecting the most vulnerable. The proposed policy expansion of MAID for those with mental illness as the sole condition sends a troubling message that the government is willing to give up on some of the most vulnerable citizens. It is an admission of defeat, suggesting that we as a society are retreating from our moral obligation to provide comprehensive and compassionate care to those battling mental health challenges.
    Instead of passing legislation like my common-sense private member’s bill, Bill C-283, the end the revolving door act, which aims to provide mental health assessments and addiction treatment and recovery in federal penitentiaries, policies like the expansion of MAID to those with mental illness are really an irreversible path. We need to ensure that we support mental health systems and long-term solutions.
    As members of Parliament, we should not choose the easy path over the right one. This is not the Canada we aspire to be: a nation that prides itself on compassion and support. Our duty is not just to legislate but also to protect, support and give hope to Canadians, particularly the most vulnerable among us. It is a duty we must uphold with the utmost seriousness and commitment.

  (1230)  

    Madam Speaker, the member mentioned people in the disabilities community. I too have heard from the disabilities community about its opposition to MAID within that community. I wonder whether she could comment on what she has heard from people with disabilities regarding MAID and whether she thinks perhaps we need to have more safeguards for MAID for people with other forms of physical disabilities.
    Madam Speaker, persons with disabilities have been very vocal about the part of the legislation that we are talking about here today, specifically the expansion for persons with the sole underlying condition of mental illness. They also have concerns in general about other safeguards in order to protect the most vulnerable, people who cannot necessarily speak for themselves. It is a general concern that I hear from persons with disabilities.
    Madam Speaker, while the member and I do not agree on a lot of things, this is a case in which we do stand together in our concerns about proceeding with allowing those with mental disorders as a sole underlying condition access to medical assistance in dying.
    My question is this. Given that this is true for, I think, most of the Conservative members, why are the Conservatives not helping to advance this bill as quickly as possible? We are facing this deadline, and this will come into force if we do not take action. Why are Conservatives holding up this bill today?
    Madam Speaker, it is the government that sets the agenda and what is on the docket for the day. It is actually the government that decides what we are discussing every day. It is an honour for me to be here to speak on behalf of my community on a very important piece of legislation.
    Madam Speaker, my friend, the member for Kelowna—Lake Country, and I share many of the concerns expressed today. This is one of those issues on which I would beg everyone in this place not to seek partisan advantage.
    The divide we have here is really the most non-partisan thing of all: the structure of our Parliament, the Westminister system, whereby we still have the equivalent of the House of Lords; that is, the Senate. The Senate put in Bill C-14 that medical assistance in dying be available to those whose underlying medical condition is a mental health condition only. Everyone here, regardless of partisanship, is struggling to make sure Canadians do not seek access to medical assistance in dying if there is another option that allows them to continue to live. It is not partisan.
    I would like comments from my hon. friend.

  (1235)  

    Madam Speaker, for those who might be following this, when legislation comes back from the Senate to the House, if there are amendments, the government of the day can choose what it agrees with and wants to bring forward. The government chose to allow this, and that has created further deadlines.
     The government could have taken a stand against this at many stages along the way, but here we are, discussing simply a delay. The government has delayed it once already and is now looking at delaying it again, until after the next election. The government could have decided to not support this early on.
    Madam Speaker, I wonder about something that the member articulated a little in her previous answer. What would be the solution to this, moving forward? I think Parliament has heard the concerns of many Canadians. We have heard it at committee. It has been verbalized here.
    In her opinion, how could we solve this?
    Madam Speaker, we should not be talking about a delay. We should be talking about not expanding MAID at all to those suffering from mental illness as the sole underlying condition.
    It is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-62. The bill proposes to extend the temporary mental illness exclusion, so that the provision of medical assistance in dying, or MAID—
    There seems to be a telephone ringing. I am not sure if it is the member's telephone that may be ringing, but I would ask members, when they are taking the opportunity to speak, to ensure their telephones and earpieces are not on their desks, as they can cause problems for the interpreters.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, I think it is my assistant calling me, telling me it is time to speak. She is very efficient.
    As I was saying, the bill proposes to extend the temporary mental illness exclusion, so that the provision of medical assistance in dying, or MAID, on the basis of mental illness alone would remain prohibited until March 17, 2027. In my remarks today, I will be addressing some of the concerns that have been expressed about allowing MAID for mental illness and the importance of ensuring that our health care system is ready before legalizing this practice.
    As members know, Bill C-7 temporarily excluded MAID for mental illness until March 2023. Parliament extended the exclusion for an additional year after organizations such as the Association of Chairs of Psychiatry in Canada and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health expressed a need for additional time. The Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, or AMAD, also supported the extension.
    At the outset of my remarks, I want to emphasize that the government recognizes that mental suffering may be as severe as physical suffering. We know that not all individuals with a mental illness lack decision-making capacity. The extension of the temporary exclusion of eligibility for MAID is not based on these stigmatizing stereotypes.
    I also want to announce my profound sympathy for anyone in Canada who is intolerably suffering because of a health disorder. My thoughts are with them.
     While the federal government believes that MAID eligibility should be expanded to those whose sole condition is a mental illness, this process cannot be rushed. Over the past year, important progress has been made to prepare for the expansion, but provinces and territories are at varying stages of readiness. The federal government has listened to its partners and introduced this bill as a direct response to their concerns.
    A cautious, deliberate and rigorous framework is essential to ensure the safe provision of MAID where a mental illness grounds a request for MAID. Debate about the parameters of the MAID regime has been taking place since before the Supreme Court of Canada's 2015 decision in Carter, in which it held that the absolute prohibition on physician-assisted dying was unconstitutional. This is a sign of a healthy democracy.
    Most recently, the Special Joint Committee on MAID witnessed the diversity of views and expertise first-hand. Some witnesses who testified, such as Dr. Trudo Lemmens, chair in health law and policy at the University of Toronto, expressed concerns about permitting MAID where the sole underlying condition is a mental illness. Others, including the members of the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers, thought the country was ready for the current March 17, 2024 deadline.
    Still others supported expanding MAID for mental illness, or accepted that it would become legal but recommended a delay. This recommendation came from Dr. Jitender Sareen of the University of Manitoba on behalf of eight chairs of psychiatry departments in Canada. The chairs of psychiatry outlined several reasons, including concerns about a need for further safeguards and accepted definitions of irremediability in mental disorders, before moving forward.
    I would like to acknowledge the important contributions that have been made on this topic. While not everyone agrees, it is clear that we all care deeply about the well-being of those seeking MAID and the protection of the vulnerable.
    Let me now get into some of the specific concerns that have been raised. Members will recall that certain eligibility criteria need to be met to qualify for MAID. This includes having a grievous and irremediable medical condition, which requires that a person be in an advanced state of irreversible decline.
    Some doctors, such as Dr. Sonu Gaind, chief of psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, have said it is impossible to predict which patients with a mental illness will get better; in other words, we cannot determine whether their illness is irremediable. However, other experts, including members of the expert panel on MAID and mental illness, suggest that the evolution of the illness and the response to past interventions can be used to assess irremediability, as is done with some physical conditions such as chronic pain.
    Concerns have also been raised, by Dr. Sareen and others, that it is too difficult to distinguish between suicidality and a rational request for MAID when the request is based on a mental illness alone, because suicidality may be a symptom of the mental illness itself. Dr. Stefanie Green acknowledged that this can be complicated, but testified before the MAID committee that clinicians have a duty to assess every patient for suicidality. It is something that doctors do regularly in clinical practice. In addition, MAID assessments may involve suicide prevention efforts where warranted.

  (1240)  

    Another concern expressed by Dr. Tarek Rajji, the chair of the medical advisory committee at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, is that there was no consensus within the medical community about whether MAID should be available for persons whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness. However, others, including Dr. Green, note that the lack of consensus in the medical community is not unique to MAID.
    A last concern that I want to address is that individuals are requesting MAID due to a structural and systemic vulnerability, such as lack of income and social supports. I want to be clear that the law requires that the suffering be due to illness, disease or disability, not poverty or unmet needs.
    Our government is confident that the existing safeguards will ensure that only those who meet the eligibility criteria receive MAID. We are also determined to invest in social programs that can alleviate non-medical suffering and bolster social supports. Our MAID framework contains two sets of safeguards, one for requests where natural death is reasonably foreseeable and the other, more robust set for requests where natural death is not reasonably foreseeable.
    The second set of safeguards would apply to cases where a mental illness is the basis of a MAID request. These include a requirement for a doctor or nurse practitioner with expertise in the condition to be involved in the assessment, a longer assessment period of 90 days, a requirement that the patient has been informed of the means available to relieve their suffering and has been offered consultations with relevant professionals, and a requirement that both assessors and patient agree that the patient has given serious consideration to the reasonable and available means of relieving their suffering.
    In addition to these stringent safeguards, there is other guidance for doctors, nurse practitioners and regulators, including a model practice standard. Implementation of robust regulatory guidance and additional resources is ongoing, as is uptake of the nationally accredited bilingual MAID curriculum.
    We are confident that, with more time, we can achieve readiness to ensure the safe provision of MAID in circumstances in which a mental illness grounds the request for MAID. We have made important strides, but work remains to be done to prepare health care systems and for more doctors and nurse practitioners to benefit from the available training and supports.
    Our government thinks that three years is enough time to complete this work, so that our health care system is prepared when MAID for mental illness is permitted. In addition, we are proposing to add a requirement for a parliamentary review by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament, to start within two years of this bill's receiving royal assent.
    The committee will have six months to submit a report, including a statement of any recommended Criminal Code changes. This review will inform government action and ensure that they move forward only once the Canadian health care systems are ready.
    With the March 17, 2024 deadline fast approaching, I urge everyone to work together to see that this bill is adopted before that date.

  (1245)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, that is a rather accurate summary of what happened in committee. The government decided to include in legislation the committee's main recommendation on mental disorders. My colleague sat on the committee that produced the report tabled in February 2023, which recommended allowing advance requests.
    Why has his government not introduced a section on advance requests after a year of waiting? I think that would have been good for people who are currently suffering and who cannot make an advance request. Why is this not included in Bill C‑62?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I will start by saying how much I enjoyed working with the hon. member on the special joint committee, not just on this occasion but last year as well. He is well aware of this looming deadline. We need to focus on the issue at hand and get this bill passed. Any additional layers of discussion that we add to that could potentially impact our ability to get this bill through the House and through the Senate. It is important that we get this done before the March deadline, and I think we agree on that. I think he will agree with me, and in fact I know he agrees with me, that the process at the committee has been very positive and constructive.
    Uqaqtittiji, I wonder if the member could share with us what would happen if we missed the deadline. What kinds of challenges will be experienced by Canadians and the system if we do not get this passed before March 17?
    Madam Speaker, I really appreciate that question because it goes to the core of the reason we are moving this bill forward.
    If we do not get this bill through the House and if we do not get this bill through the other place, this law will take effect on March 17. That, then, triggers a situation where we have multiple jurisdictions that have made it very clear that they are not ready to proceed, but it will be the law of the land.
    A scenario could be created in which there is, I will not use the word “chaos”, but a situation which would be unsettled and inconsistent across the country. We cannot have that happen. When we are dealing with an issue that is so significant and so serious and that has permanent implications, we have to make sure that we are ready and that we have it right. That is why we have to get this bill passed.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, there is wisdom in life, in our decisions, but fear should never dictate our actions. I do not want use the word “chaos”, but I think we need to recognize all the work that has been done on this file.
    Today's bill adds a three-year delay to the inevitable question that arises when mental health comes into play. It seems to me that re-establishing the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying and giving it an extra year to do a more in-depth study might have been a better solution.
    This is just going to postpone suffering. Psychological suffering exists. Some people who have it talk about cancer of the mind. That is also a reality.
    That said, it is 2024. Much progress has been made, such as being able to make an advance request for MAID for certain illnesses.
    Why has the progress made at the special joint committee not been moving forward? Can my colleague tell us why—

  (1250)  

    The hon. parliamentary secretary.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, on the member's first point, she is right. Fear should never dictate and reason should, particularly when we are dealing with issues of such importance.
    This bill is not about delay; it is about getting it right. This issue is so important. If we do not have the system in place and the structural integrity to make sure that it is ready to go, we are not doing our jobs as parliamentarians. It is as simple as that.
    I sat on the special committee on both occasions. The work it has done has put us in a position where we can deal with this in a reasonable, rational and timely way. It was the committee that recommended, last year, that the special committee be put together again this year, which is again recommended. We do not want to be put in a position 12 months from now of having the same discussion and again being rushed.
    Postponing this for three years is rational and reasonable, but it does not mean the discussion does not continue in the interim.
    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this. Having been in this place for all the debates we have had, I have been trying to figure out the best way to explain to Canadians, if there is an argument here, why it is not between Liberals and Conservatives, or between Greens and NDP and Conservatives and the Bloc. It has actually been, from the very beginning, a struggle for Parliament to actually deal with an issue we have been kicking down the road for too long.
    I mentioned earlier in debate, as the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, the quiet and extraordinary courage of a single woman, Sue Rodriguez, who took her irremediable medical condition of suffering all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and was denied the opportunity for what is generally called death with dignity. She had the procedure illegally. Those who were with her at the time would have been subject to criminal penalty as well, including my friend Svend Robinson, who at the time was member of Parliament in a different party from a different place.
    It was a very fraught time, and the issue of medical assistance in dying kept coming back to me from constituents who were heartbroken that their parents or loved ones had to go through suffering. Quite often people would say to me they would not let a family pet go through this kind of suffering so why do we allow our moms and our dads to go through this when there is no prospect they are going to recover.
    This finally went back to the Supreme Court of Canada for a different decision that came out of the Carter case. The Carter case, back in 2015, said that refusing to allow someone the legal option to seek medical assistance from their doctor in a situation where their illness is terminal is really a violation of section 7 charter rights. I only mention this because that was also with a deadline. We have to take action on this; we cannot just leave the matter. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that this provision of the Criminal Code is actually a charter violation. That means one cannot let it just sit there anymore.
    It would take too much time, and my colleagues will be relieved to know I will not go through this chapter and verse, but it is a tough, tough issue for parliamentarians. At the time, as we started debating the first iteration of allowing for death with dignity, in Bill C-14, our first Minister of Justice to deal with this was the very honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould. She had to struggle with this. Our Minister of Health at the time, also very honourable, Jane Philpott, was struggling with this.
    It occurred to me as the debate went on that what we had in Canada on this issue was essentially a professional dispute. The lawyers in Canada wanted to make sure that the charter was respected. The doctors in Canada said they did not want to be asked to figure out what “irremediable” meant and were not exactly ready for that. Therefore, subsequent revisions kept happening because, after all, in our first attempt to get medical assistance in dying right, we did not allow for advance directives. Therefore, we had subsequent court cases where people who had terminal cancer could not access MAID because they decided they better ask for it now, which was maybe months before death would occur naturally and months before a doctor could say, “Okay, you're ready now. Nod.” One had to be able to physically sign; the day of, one had to confirm one's procedure.
    Again, I better not go back through all of this, but essentially the professional views of doctors pleading with parliamentarians outweighed the lawyers dealing with parliamentarians to say that we were probably still going to have charter violations, but it is better that we listen to the doctors and that they are ready. All of this ended up taking us back to fixing medical assistance in dying again to try to make it more humane, to try to respond to the concerns of Canadians from coast to coast that they wanted to be able to access an advance directive in a situation that fit the MAID template. This brought us to Bill C-7.
    To some of the comments that were made in this place earlier today, the government and Parliament were under a deadline that was court imposed, not politically imposed, to oblige ourselves, as parliamentarians, to meet what the Supreme Court of Canada said the charter required us to do. We had a very tight timeline, and then the Senate did something I do not think anyone in the House expected.

  (1255)  

    Again, we had a professional dispute going on here. Doctors were saying they were not ready to extend this to people whose sole irremediable condition is mental illness. Public health professionals in addiction and mental health were saying they were not ready. However, with strong pressure and strong professional advice from the psychiatric community, the Senate decided we should extend MAID to those with an underlying condition that is only, and I do not say “only” as if it is a marginal or trivial matter, a crushingly painful and life-ending threat from mental illness.
    We are walking this fine line. The line is even finer when we start realizing who is more likely to not be able to access mental health supports; they are the marginalized and the poor. Who is more likely to not be able to imagine continuing on in life with a crushing mental illness? It is again the marginalized communities. The disability community spoke with a loud voice saying not to extend MAID as they were worried enough that it was a slippery slope when Bill C-14 first came in, and now Bill C-7.
    Here we are again with a court-imposed deadline. Let us be clear to Canadians watching today. Certainly, the provinces and many doctors and mental health professionals have spoken with one voice. If we do not act quickly to pass this legislation and if the Senate does not act quickly to get it to royal assent come March 17, then as a matter of reality, we are up against March 17, and medical assistance in dying would become available to people where mental illness is the sole underlying condition.
    Is it irremediable? We are told by the experts that no one really knows how to answer that question. Yes, some of the psychiatric community says the safeguards are there and if three psychiatrists say that it is irremediable, then that is enough. However, we are all asking where the mental health supports are, particularly for those who are marginalized. Where is the access?
    This is one that particularly perturbs me. I have had many people come to me from a community that has experience with using psilocybin, conventionally known as magic mushrooms, as a way to alleviate a mental health condition, which might otherwise be irremediable, with remarkable results. We know that Health Canada is currently accelerating trials on psilocybin. It strikes me as beyond a catch-22 that the authorities would say to those people and to their doctors, who think psilocybin could help them, when the alternative is that they are more likely to commit suicide, or if we do not act by March 17, they will have access to legal medical assistance in dying, and it would be too dangerous to let them try psilocybin, but the alternative is death. It seems to me that any medical risks from psilocybin pale in comparison to the irreversible reality of death. How can we let this happen? We cannot.
    I think we need to discuss another thing in this place, which is societal assistance in living. We know what medical assistance in dying looks like, but what does societal assistance in living look like? It means ending poverty and bringing in a guaranteed livable income for all. It means access to mental health services in this country. It means a compassionate and caring approach that says to every Canadian, whether in the disability community, the indigenous communities or the youth who are struggling with addictions, that we hear them and will not fail them. That means, no matter how members feel about it, we have to pass this legislation expeditiously.

  (1300)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, as we are debating this measure today, a huge scandal is unfolding.
    We learned from the Auditor General yesterday that there is evidence of corruption and wasteful spending. That is why we are announcing that we want the RCMP to expand its investigation in order to find the truth and shed light on the possibility of criminal activity in the arrive scam scandal. I have letters to that effect.

[English]

    I am asking the RCMP to expand its investigation into the arrive scam affair, and I am tabling this letter—
    I thought the hon. member was rising on questions and comments, but his intervention does not relate to the debate.
    Madam Speaker, I am rising on a point of order.
    The arrive scam scandal has exploded into public consciousness after the Auditor General revealed evidence that senior government officials got gifts, such as fancy whiskies, in order to give out contracts. I would like to table in the House of Commons a letter to the RCMP commissioner asking for the investigation into arrive scam to be expanded.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): Questions and comments, the hon. member for Châteauguay—Lacolle.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands

[English]

    Order. I cannot hear what the hon. member is saying. If members want to have conversations, I would ask them to please take them out into the lobby or outside the chamber.
    The hon. member for Châteauguay—Lacolle.
    Madam Speaker, I greatly appreciated the comments, just as I have all the discussions in this debate today.
    Going back to 2015, I too sat on the first joint committee to study medical assistance in dying. It was a difficult time for me as a new member. As a practising Catholic, I was profoundly touched by the issue, but I was able to understand, through expert testimony, that it is important for people to have choices.
    I would ask my hon. colleague, since I know she is also a person of faith, to talk about that. Even though we may personally have very strong values, is this not something on which Canadians deserve to have a choice?
    Madam Speaker, I must say, I was very disappointed that the hon. leader of the official opposition was not rising to ask me a question. It would have been a first, and I was so looking forward to my response to him.
    The hon. member for Châteauguay—Lacolle has asked me a very important question. I am a person of faith. I struggled with this. My constituents convinced me. I spent a lot of time talking to people in Saanich—Gulf Islands, who begged me to support legalizing, removing criminal sanctions for, medical assistance in dying. My view is very personal and a matter of conscience; I do not expect others to agree with me, when they passionately and firmly believe otherwise. I believe all life is sacred, of course. I believe that taking a life, including one's own life, is also a profound matter of deep moral conflict. However, I have no doubt at all that the Christian impulse to compassion is not to allow people to suffer needlessly.
    Medical science is now allowing us to extend our lives beyond what my grandparents and their peer groups would have experienced. As we extend our—

  (1305)  

    I have to allow for other questions and comments; I am sure the hon. member can continue to elaborate.
    The hon. member for Montcalm.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am sure my colleague's intention is not to exploit the pain of people who have been enduring irremediable suffering for decades. However, she is repeating an argument that we have heard often in this debate and that I feel is something completely separate.
     The issue of access to primary mental health care has nothing to do with the decision we must make on whether to expand medical assistance in dying since, with regard to access to care, these people would not qualify under the criteria and guidelines of the expert report.
     I do want us to advocate for better care. I wholeheartedly agree with that, but that is another debate. However, there are people who have been receiving care for decades and who are suffering, and the government wants to tell them to keep suffering for three years.
    Madam Speaker, I believe access to care really is a key issue. I agree that having a continuum of suffering is unacceptable.
     I am not against MAID eligibility for people who are suffering due to a disease and who have shown that their suffering is real. We must act. However, we do not have to act immediately, on March 17.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, can the member share a bit more around the decision to use time allocation? Why is it important that we get this legislation put through? What are the impacts on people in our communities if we do not?
    Madam Speaker, it is not an easy choice. I was in this place in the Harper years, when time allocation started to be used on every single bill. In those days, the Liberals were against it, as I was. Things change. Whoever is in power thinks that the tools that were used by the last government, which they used to decry, are okay if they are efficient for getting things done, because might makes right. However, it is and always will be wrong, whether the Conservatives or the Liberals use it.
    This time, we are up against it. We have no choice. We are responsible grown-ups. We have to get this bill through so that we do not have a default reality that none of us would vote for.
    Madam Speaker, the decisions made in this place have a direct impact on the lives of Canadians. That impact can be no greater than when it is a matter of life or death, and this is exactly the case with this piece of legislation. As members of Parliament, we have a duty to serve in the best interests of Canadians; this duty must extend to the protection of the most vulnerable in society.
    I should note that I will be splitting my time with the member for Portage—Lisgar.
    The expansion of medically assisted death to those suffering from mental illness is dangerous and, simply, reckless. It is inevitable that the expansion of MAID to those suffering solely from a mental illness would result in the deaths of Canadians who could have gotten better. This is not to say that those with mental illness should be left alone to suffer. Recovery is possible, and we cannot give up on these individuals and their loved ones. Canadians suffering from mental illness need and deserve support and treatment. They may feel that their situation is hopeless, but the antidote is hope, not death. They deserve government policy and a health care system that are compassionate and responsive to their needs. Where there are gaps or shortfalls in our care system, we should prioritize working alongside our provincial partners to address them. That, not expanding MAID, should be the priority.
    The Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying heard loud and clear from the mental health experts and advocates that the planned expansion of MAID was dangerous. The current Liberal government has already had to introduce eleventh-hour legislation to delay the expansion of MAID by one year from the date that it had arbitrarily set. We find ourselves, ironically, now in the same position as we were in last year. Bill C-62, once again, would only offer a temporary delay in the expansion of MAID to persons suffering from mental illness. The risks and dangers that exist today would continue to exist in three years. However, the Liberal government is intent on its expansion.
    It is truly frightening to see that the Liberal government wants to continue to expand the access to MAID, despite clear concerns about safeguards of vulnerable people. The Liberals' careless approach was already evident when the Liberal government decided not to appeal the Truchon ruling and, instead, introduced legislation that went much further than the ruling had required.
    What we have seen repeatedly from the current Liberal government is the willingness to offer MAID to more and more Canadians, without prioritizing supports or treatment. This continues to be the case with those in the end stages of life. Through pain management and psychological, emotional and practical supports, palliative and hospice care provides relief from pain, stress and symptoms of serious illness. Palliative care has proven to improve the quality of life not only for the patient but also for their family. However, access to this is not universal here in Canada.
    The government's own report on the state of palliative care in Canada, released this past December, confirms that access to palliative care is indeed not universal. We do not have the necessary safeguards in place to protect vulnerable Canadians when access to MAID is more universal than access to palliative care is. When Canadians suffering from serious illness do not have access to appropriate care, they can be left feeling hopeless. Personal autonomy is not increased when a person feels as though they have no other choice.
    When the current Liberal government removed the “reasonably foreseeable death” clause from the MAID framework, it opened up to persons with disabilities who are not close to death. Disability advocates raised alarm bells with this decision, and the news stories that have emerged in recent years have underscored the risks and the danger in that decision. Reports showing that poverty, not pain, is driving Canadians with disabilities to consider assisted death are truly heartbreaking.
     For persons with disabilities, the pressures of the cost of living crisis are compounded. Their basic living costs are generally much more significant. As the prices go up on everything, their costs are even greater. It is unacceptable that there are persons with disabilities turning to MAID because of their cost of living situation.

  (1310)  

    This NDP-Liberal government's inflationary spending and taxes are fuelling the affordability crisis in this country, and what is even more shameful is that, despite the pain and suffering it is causing Canadians, there has been no course correction for this costly coalition. It has continued to mismanage tax dollars. It is intent on quadrupling the carbon tax, which is increasing the cost of just about everything.
    Let us not forget that not a single disability payment has gone out to those who want it and have been asking for it. Bill C-22 was sped through the parliamentary process, but those who are desperate for financial assistance are still waiting.
    The affordability crisis is continuing to surge across the country, and it is further putting persons with disabilities in a vulnerable position. Medically assisted death should not be more readily available to persons with disabilities than the supports and accommodations they need to live a full, healthy and dignified life.
    Repeated reports that Canadians are being offered medically assisted death without first requesting it is also very alarming. It suggests that safeguards have not been put in place to ensure that vulnerable people are not being pressured or coerced into seeking medically assisted death. No person should feel that the health care system, the infrastructure that is meant to provide care and support, sees no value in their lives.
    There are serious concerns with the existing MAID framework and the framework's ability to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. These are concerns that are not being addressed by the Liberal government and that ultimately should be the priority of the government on an issue such as medically assisted death. When the risks and concerns that exist with the current framework are already proven to be warranted, we should certainly heed the clear warnings against its expansion.
     Experts have said that it is impossible to predict in any legitimate way that mental illness is irremediable. This means that individuals suffering solely from mental illness can recover and can improve. Their mental health state is not destitute nor without hope. If medical assistance in dying is offered to persons suffering solely from mental illness, it is inevitable that vulnerable Canadians will die who could have gotten better.
    Experts have also made it clear that it is difficult for clinicians to distinguish between a rational MAID request and one motivated by suicidal thoughts. Persons with mental illness are already disproportionately affected by suicide and suicidal ideation. To extend access to medically assisted death to this group of individuals contradicts and undermines suicide prevention efforts. Every single person's life has value and purpose. It is not acceptable to have government policies in place that devalue the life of a person, and the Liberal government's intention to expand access to MAID fails individuals suffering from mental illness in this country.
    Whether it happens in March of this year or in three years, the expansion of MAID will still be dangerous and reckless. The delayed expansion of MAID will ultimately still fail vulnerable Canadians. Bill C-62 does not go far enough to protect those suffering with mental illness. The Prime Minister must immediately and permanently halt the expansion of medical assistance in dying to persons with mental illness. We cannot give up on an individual who is suffering. They deserve support and treatment, not death.
    Common-sense Conservatives know that recovery is possible for persons suffering from mental illness. We do not support policies that abandon people when they are in their most vulnerable state. Death is not a treatment for suffering. We will stand with them and their loved ones. Above all else, when we consider medically assisted death, we must be gripped by a resolve to protect the most vulnerable because, in matters of life and death, there is simply no room for error.

  (1315)  

    Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech, and I realized there was a lot of personal input and a lot of regard for the vulnerable.
    Does she not agree, as I had to come to accept that, regardless of my personal feelings, beliefs, values or the choices I would make for myself, and given the safeguards that were put in place with successive legislation, Canadians are deserving of having that choice for themselves?
    Madam Speaker, in my experience with social work, being in a hospital setting and having the opportunity to be with patients in the most difficult times, such as their end of life, or during palliative and hospice care, as difficult and as hard as those situations are, the opportunity for family reconciliation is amazing. The fact that we would just rob Canadians of allowing their families to reconcile is just a shame.
    There are accounts of Canadians being coerced and being offered MAID when there are not proper supports, such as psychiatrists or psychologists, there to help them. It is absolutely unacceptable.

  (1320)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, we have been debating this bill for several days, or several years, even. Sometimes, I get the impression that people are not seeking out the most up-to-date information so we can have an enlightened debate.
     Earlier, I heard some stereotypes, perceptions and impressions that have no place in this debate. I would like to ask if my hon. colleague is aware that this is not about giving or offering medical assistance in dying to someone who is in a state of distress and contemplating suicide. She talked about this a lot in her speech, but this would not happen.
     I wonder if she is aware of this and if she has read the report. Has she really done enough research to debate this issue in an intellectually rigorous and consistent manner?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I just want to mention Kathrin Mentler. She is 37 and, as described in an article, she:
lives with chronic depression and suicidality, both of which she says were exacerbated by a traumatic event early this year....
    Ms. Mentler says a clinician told her there would be long waits to see a psychiatrist and that the health care system is “broken”. That was followed by a jarring question: “Have you considered MAID?”
    I will listen to the Canadians who have been coerced, who have had it suggested to them that their life is devalued and that they are not wanted, and who have been offered MAID. It does happen, and I would suggest all members in the House do their research on all sides of the subject.
    Madam Speaker, I did not realize until the member's speech today that she was a social worker prior to becoming a member of Parliament. I worked in mental health and addictions prior to become a member of Parliament as well.
    Can the member share her reflections on what is at the root of this discussion, which is the importance of those most vulnerable in our communities accessing the supports they need and deserve? Can she reflect on the importance of us having the mental health transfers that were promised in the last election, as well as housing and wraparound supports? What are her reflections now that she is in this position as a member of Parliament?
    Madam Speaker, I think society is going to a place where we are devaluing people. It is easier for somebody to suggest medical assistance in dying than to actually take the time to help. Sure, we can have a conversation on what the municipal and provincial roles in that are and the wraparound services. However, this comes down to treating humans with dignity and value, and giving them a hand up. It is not suggesting that their life is not really worth it, that everything is broken, and to just book them in at 2:00 p.m. on Friday to end it all. That is disgusting, and society needs to do better.
    Madam Speaker, before I give my speech on this very important topic, I would like to quickly comment on the horrific incident we faced in southern Manitoba over the weekend with the tragic loss of life of two young women and three children. As a father, it is tough to fathom the loss of a child and the impacts it would have on that family's loved ones and friends. It would impact everyone in their lives and, frankly, the broader community.
    My heart goes out to those of Carman and the surrounding area, and to the friends, families and loved ones of the victims of this horrific incident. It is devastating news for a small community like that, where folks know their neighbours and look out for each other, so I pray for strength during a very dark and incredibly difficult time for our community.
    To the issue at hand, we are more than a month away from the Liberal government implementing medical assistance in dying for those who suffer from a mental illness. I believe this is heartless, reckless and immoral. Every Canadian has worth, and I, for one, will never give up on those who need help.
    Never have I seen a government mismanage an issue as critical as this, and while it may be unpleasant for my Liberal colleagues to hear, I believe they must be held to account. Due to the incredibly serious nature of this issue, there is a lot to be answered for. How could the Prime Minister let this happen and let it get to this point? How could the government be so irresponsible and negligent?
    From day one, our Conservative team in Parliament has been sounding the alarm bell, but we were ignored, and we now find ourselves in an emergency. I believe it is ludicrous that it took the outcry of countless medical professionals to get the Liberals to reverse course on this matter. Witness after witness testified to the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying about the dangers of pressing ahead with this plan.
    Why did the Prime Minister accept the last-minute amendments put forward by the Senate that dramatically changed the legislative framework for MAID? There was no parliamentary study. There was no consultation with experts or affected groups and no evidence that MAID for mental illness could be implemented safely and appropriately. When the Liberals' original bill, Bill C-7, was put before MPs, at no time did it contain any language about creating a pathway for MAID for those with mental illnesses. In fact, it explicitly ruled that out in its entirety.
    The original proposed amendment to the Criminal Code specified that “persons whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness are not eligible for medical assistance in dying”. The then Minister of Justice said, “there is no consensus among experts on whether and how to proceed with MAID on the basis of mental illness alone.” The minister then did a 180° and became a proponent of this disastrous course. Due to his actions, and the Prime Minister's rubber-stamping of the those Senate amendments, we are where we are today.
    This is now the second time the Liberals have had to delay the implementation of their reckless legislation. There will never be a consensus from mental health experts that the government should implement MAID for those who are suffering from a mental illness, and if the Liberals will not listen to me, I implore them to listen to their own expert panel on MAID and mental illness, when it said it is implausible to determine whether a mental disorder is incurable.
     The panel's report said, “There is limited knowledge about the long-term prognosis for many conditions, and it is difficult, if not impossible, for clinicians to make accurate predictions about the future for an individual patient.” That was echoed by the heads of psychiatry departments of all 17 medical schools, who called on the Liberals to stop this plan from being implemented on March 17.
    I completely agree with these experts, but not only should we pause this law from being implemented, we need to permanently end it once and for all. Let me be perfectly clear. Instead of delaying, the government needs to introduce a bill to ensure that it never happens.
    When I ran to become a member of Parliament, this was a key plank of my platform. I pledged to do everything I could to stop the Liberals from ever implementing this dangerous idea, and the sad reality is that the Prime Minister

  (1325)  

    May I interrupt the hon. member? There is a lot of noise, and I am not sure if the noise is coming from individuals in the hall outside. I will ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to go check that out.
    I know people are probably filing in, but it is getting a little loud, and we want to make sure we hear what the hon. member has to contribute.
    The hon. member for Portage—Lisgar.
    Madam Speaker, as I said, the sad reality is that the Prime Minister only wants to delay this implementation. Even the Liberal minister in charge of mental health said last week that her government was not debating if but when this law should proceed. My answer is never. It should under no circumstances proceed.
     Instead of being in a position where the Liberals keep introducing legislation to postpone this terrible policy, it will take a new Conservative government to resolve this issue once and for all.
    I want to remind all MPs in the House that we could have dealt with this issue not too long ago. My Conservative colleague, the member for Abbotsford, introduced a private member's bill that would have stopped this from ever happening. Almost everything we are discussing today would have been dealt with by that bill. Sure enough, the Prime Minister and almost every Liberal MP voted against it.
    As for my colleagues, who seem unconcerned about the expansion of MAID, let me try to persuade them otherwise. There is no reasonable way to establish a legal framework to identify which mental illnesses are incurable. Every person is different and every circumstance is unique. There are variables such as people's economic situation, their support system and where they live that have an impact.
     Unfortunately, in rural Canada, access to mental health and addictions services are often abysmal. If people are fortunate enough to live in a community that does have access to mental health services, there is a good chance they will have a lengthy wait time ahead of them. If people make the very difficult decision to seek help and go looking for it, I am embarrassed to say that it can take days, if not weeks, for them to get that help.
    It is understandable how people with a mental illness, who have lost all hope, can think this way because they cannot access the treatment and support they need. We all know someone in our lives who has struggled. We also know that this does not define the person. Due to the stigma slowly receding, more and more people are finally seeking the help they need.
    The other good news is that mental health research and advances have come a long way in helping treat those with a mental illness. Sometimes it can take years of treatment, even a lifetime's worth, but with the right supports and help, people can regain control of their lives. I am raising this because, in accordance with the law, there is a prerequisite that someone must suffer from a grievous and incurable medical condition to be eligible for MAID.
     On the first part, there is no doubt that people suffering from mental illness are in a grievous condition at times. If they cannot get the help they need, it can quickly get out of control. As to the second part, it is no wonder why people think their mental illness is incurable. If they cannot access mental health supports, services and treatments, it must feel like they will never get better.
    The Liberals love to talk about compassion, so as I wrap up my comments, let me tell the House the compassionate thing to do.
     First, we need to permanently suspend, not delay, MAID for those whose sole underlying condition is mental illness.
     Second, we need to better our services for those who are most vulnerable in our society. Unfortunately, the Liberal government has yet to deliver on its campaign promise of implementing a mental health transfer for the provinces. Instead of improving access to mental health services, all people are hearing is that the government is making it easier for them to choose death.
     Finally, we need the Liberals to understand that there is a cost-of-living crisis. Far too often, we have seen them ignore the needs of struggling Canadians. There have even been instances of people coming forward to say that they feel MAID is their only choice because they cannot afford to live any more.
     In St. Catharines, a man said that he wanted to start the process of applying for MAID, not because he wants to die but because social supports are failing him and he fears he may have no other choice. The CEO of the Mississauga food bank has said that people are coming into her facility asking not for food but for help to end their lives, not because they are sick but because they cannot afford to eat.
    I will proudly continue to fight for the most vulnerable in our society and for common sense. Today, that means we are calling for the suspension of MAID for those suffering with mental illness.

  (1330)  

    Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech, as I did with the previous speaker. I am curious, because there seems to be an introduction of partisan ideology in this discussion, which is not warranted. In fact, it was completely refuted by an earlier Conservative speaker, who I greatly appreciate, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.
    I will ask my colleague the same question that I have asked others. Regardless of our personal beliefs, values and how much we may not like the idea of medical assistance in dying, can we not accord other Canadians the same rights, the same choices and, indeed, how those choices will help those people have agency in their own lives? Can we not give them that same choice?
    Madam Speaker, I believe the stories of folks who are struggling to such a point that they are even considering this. The fact that we are looking at making this an available option instead of treatment, instead of getting them the services they need, is so disappointing.
    To the second part of your question, this started as medical assistance in dying. A Supreme Court decision forced Parliament to make a decision to set up a framework. We seem to have evolved to medical assistance in suicide. From my personal perspective, I want to fight for those who are facing real challenges and give them the hope they need so they can continue to live and improve their quality of life, not end it.

  (1335)  

    I want to remind the member that he is to address all questions and comments through the Chair, not directly to the members.

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Lac‑Saint‑Jean.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to invite my colleagues in the Conservative Party and its Quebec caucus to take inspiration from what happened in Quebec during the debate on medical assistance in dying. We discussed it calmly and in a non-partisan manner. We looked at the data and let the science guide us.
     In his speech, my colleague insinuated that Quebeckers and Canadians could request medical assistance in dying because they were hungry or because they could not make ends meet. Unfortunately, that is mere demagogy. My colleagues are using misinformation, in other words, inaccurate information, to mislead Canadians and Quebeckers, perhaps at the prompting of the religious right, which I strongly suspect controls the Conservative caucus.
     I will simply ask my colleague whether he spoke to his fellow caucus members from Quebec to determine what exactly Quebec thinks about medical assistance in dying.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the important part to deal with here is that we are worried, and have been for some time, about the framework and those restrictions and what this slippery slope could lead to. It is about having a robust framework to ensure that those individuals cannot be taken advantage of or use the system in an unfortunate way.
     This is the Parliament of Canada. We are dealing with the federal Criminal Code that impacts all provinces. When provinces have come forward and said that they are not ready to implement such a system or when so many stakeholders say that they are opposed to this, I will listen to the people across the country, whatever province they are from.
    Madam Speaker, once again, while I agree this time with the Conservatives that extending medical assistance in dying to those who have mental disorders as the sole underlying condition is very problematic and should not happen, I cannot understand the Conservatives not supporting moving quickly with the bill we have in front of us, because we face a deadline for when this will come into effect if we do not act.
    Madam Speaker, I agree with that. I cannot believe that it has come to this. We have heard testimony for months and years now about how this amendment that the government, for some reason, accepted from the Senate would be problematic. For some reason, the Liberal government has decided to dilly-dally to a point in which we have emergency legislation, days away from this coming into force. I put this squarely at the feet of the Liberal government.
    Madam Speaker, I am not too sure if the member actually understood the question that was just posed to him. It points out a major issue within the Conservative Party. The Conservatives have said that they do not support it, yet they did not vote in favour of the motion that ultimately, by it passage, will guarantee that this motion is able to pass Bill C-62.
    What is the essence of Bill C-62? It is to provide a three-year waiting period, so the concern that he has does not take effect come March 17 this year. If this legislation does not pass, what the Conservatives are complaining about will actually turn into a reality. One would think that they would understand that. I can appreciate that a majority, in listening to the discussion, is of the same opinion as the member across the way. If they support what they say, then they should support Bill C-62. If they do not vote for Bill C-62 and the bill does not pass, there will be no three-year extension.
    I am very disappointed in the manner in which this issue is being debated. It is a very serious issue. I remind members that the reason we have the debate today is because of a Supreme Court of Canada decision back in 2015, which the then prime minister Stephen Harper did not act upon. That was back in early 2015.
    After the 2015 general election, when we assumed office in November 2015, one of the first things we did was look at the legislative agenda. We did some positive things, but one of the things we had to deal with was the Supreme Court of Canada decision, which the Conservatives actually ignored. That meant we had to bring in MAID legislation. It was not an option.
    Is there a member of the Conservative Party today who would stand up and say that there was an actual option, that we did not have to respect the Charter of Rights, the rights that are guaranteed to Canadians from coast to coast to coast?
    If one reflects on the debates that took place back then, it is quite the opposite with respect to what we are witnessing today. Back then—

  (1340)  

    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With closure having been moved on this, the member has spoken for 70 minutes. He is taking up time. He is suppressing other members from having the opportunity and instead playing politics on a matter that is literally life and death. He should be ashamed.
    That is not a point of order. I would ask members that when they raise points of order to please ensure it is a point of order.
    The hon. member has only been speaking for four minutes at this point. He still has 16 minutes and hon. members will have 10 minutes for questions and comments. I would ask members to please wait to ask questions or to make comments.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.
    Madam Speaker, members of the Conservative Party might not like what I have to say, but it is the truth, and sometimes the truth hurts. If we go back to the original debates in May, we would find a great deal more compassion being expressed on the floor of the House of Commons, on all sides. Whether they were Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats or any others, members demonstrated very clearly the difficulty of what Parliament had to do in bringing in MAID to respect the Supreme Court of Canada decision. Today during the debate, we witnessed the leader of the Conservative Party standing on a point of order on something completely irrelevant to the debate, to attempt to table a document. Why did he? He just could not wait until question period, I guess, which begins after statements by members that start in about 15 or 20 minutes.
    We should listen to what some of the Conservative speeches have been about. Some Conservatives, the last couple in particular, have stood in their places and given a false impression that the legislation would be like suicide on demand. The member for Battlefords—Lloydminster said that today someone feeling depressed due to mental health issues could go to a doctor and book an appointment to commit suicide, with the government's support, on Friday. Members of the Conservative Party are spreading misinformation on such a sensitive issue. These are very difficult things that Canadians have to deal with every day.
    Yesterday the member for Cumberland—Colchester referred to 12,000 or 13,000 people being killed in a very ad lib fashion, implying that the legislation just allows people to be killed. From my perspective, the decision to access MAID is not easy; it is a very difficult one. Family members and individuals are experiencing some very difficult times in dealing with a real-life situation. Conservatives, yesterday and today, are virtually making a mockery of it and spreading misinformation on such an important issue. What happened to the compassion of 2015-16 and even 2017? At that time, there seemed to be a sense in the chamber that, yes, at times there are going to be disagreements if members feel very passionate about an issue, as they should, but there was also a much higher sense of co-operation as members shared the experiences they were being told about by their constituents.
    The member for Portage—Lisgar said that people are going to food banks and are thinking of committing suicide because of the cost of living. There are a number of things that come to my mind that speak to the manner in which individuals across the way make those types of stupid statements. That is, quite frankly, what they are; they are not legitimate contributions, such as discussion about supports and services would be, to the debate on such an important issue that the House is having to address.

  (1345)  

    In the debates taking place in 2015-16, we heard a great deal about issues like hospice and palliative care. We wanted to ensure that MAID legislation would not in any way be utilized as a direct result of not having proper services and systems in place to provide assurances to those individuals who were feeling so compelled to actually access MAID. Those are the types of things that I think really contributed a great deal back then.
    Today, in contrast, Conservatives will say, “What about the $4.5 billion that the Liberal Party made a commitment to?” Members are right in that there was a substantial commitment by the government to deal with the issue of mental health, and the commitment was significant: several billions of dollars over five years. It is one of the reasons that the health care agreements we have put into place, which were highlighted last year, of just under $200 billion over 10 years, are to support health care not only today but also in future generations that will benefit by that sort of investment. Furthermore, the Minister of Health is working with provinces, coming up with agreements that deal with things like mental health and services. We recognize how important it is to ensure that these services are being supported.
    Unlike a number of members from the Conservative Party, and I do not want to label them all, at least not at this point, this is a government that has continued to work with, in particular, provincial jurisdictions and other stakeholders in different forums in order to provide assurances that the people who are accessing MAID are, in fact, being informed in a very tangible way of the types of services available. In no way whatsoever is it as simple as their just saying, “I want this and I will get it”, and then two days later receiving it. We can look at the amount of public attention and debate that has taken place on issues such as palliative and hospice care since the MAID introduction, which I believe have been greatly enhanced.
    I would like to think that provinces, which are ultimately responsible for the public administration of health care services, have taken note and understand that they too have a responsibility because they are the ones delivering the services that Canadians expect. The federal government has recognized that by supporting things such as the encouragement of long-term care standards and by providing substantial finances to ensure that provinces are better able to meet the demands on health care services. With respect to what I said earlier in regard to mental health, there are serious commitments that we continue to live up to and work on with other jurisdictions.

  (1350)  

    I have confidence, as I indicated yesterday, in the health care professionals, the social workers and the other individuals who have the expertise and confidence in the individual who feels that MAID might be the avenue for them to pursue. There is a great deal of effort put into every situation, and I have confidence in the system.
    Members can correct me if I am wrong, but I cannot recall one province or premier in Canada that has clearly said that MAID is not working. The provinces are asking for the three-year extension in one aspect of MAID: where mental health is the sole reason for the request. The issue of the sole underlying medical condition being a mental illness was added to the original MAID legislation, then brought in as a form of legislation and allowed a period for provinces and jurisdictions to have time to get what is necessary in place so Canadians could be served.
    We then found that the provinces required more time. There were a number of provincial governments not saying to get rid of MAID, but rather saying that they needed more time for the implementation of that aspect of it. That is in essence why we have the legislation that we have before us today.
    However, if we listen to members of the Conservative Party, we will find that they give no indication of supporting Bill C-62. It will be interesting to see how they actually vote. Logically, I would think they would vote in favour of the bill. If they do not vote in favour of Bill C-62, and, for whatever reasons, the legislation were not to pass, ultimately the criterion of sole underlying medical condition of mental illness would take effect on March 17 of this year. Therefore, it is important that members, no matter what side of the debate they happen to be on, would be in favour of the legislation because it is a direct response to what is being asked of the Government of Canada by our partners that are ultimately responsible for administering the legislation.
    Members opposite will often try to say that it is up to the government. It is important to highlight what I mentioned at the very beginning: The reason we have MAID legislation today is that in 2015, the Carter decision by the Supreme Court in essence said we had to bring it in. There was no choice, if, of course, we respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I will repeat what I said yesterday: There was a great deal of consultation, literally hundreds of hours of different types of meetings, including standing committees, chamber debate, outside meetings in ridings, canvassing and petitions. Even though there were all sorts of mechanisms to provide input, at the end of the day, I believe that the legislation met a threshold to, in good part, deal with the concerns of the Supreme Court of Canada and to respect the Charter of Rights.

  (1355)  

    That was followed by a decision in appeal court in Quebec giving us another obligation to improve the legislation and that is exactly what we did.
    We continue today to look for ways to improve the legislation. I believe it is a reflection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If members of the Conservative caucus are saying that they do not support the MAID legislation, then I would question whether they actually support the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
    I would further add that the leader of the Conservative Party's general attitude—
    We have time for a 15-second question.
    The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, during the speech, we heard some things that ought to be corrected.
    The member alleged that some members on this side of the House were spreading disinformation, which is completely false. I will prove it—

  (1400)  

    We are out of time.
    The member can resume his question after oral question period.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Health Care

    Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, the only clinic offering surgical abortions in New Brunswick closed its doors. Clinic 554 was the only place to access the procedure in the capital region, as well as the only place offering gender-affirming health care.
    Patients seeking abortions are now forced to drive to hospitals in Moncton or Bathurst. Not everyone has the luxury of time or transportation to travel cross-province. This creates disproportionate barriers for the most vulnerable people in our communities to accessing the essential care they need.
    The right to reproductive choice is legally protected for all Canadians, but the Government of New Brunswick refuses to cover clinic-based abortions by medicare. Clinic 554 was also one of the few places where trans and gender-diverse New Brunswickers were able to access the information and health care they need. They now have nowhere left to turn.
    This is unacceptable, especially since Fredericton is one of the most gender-diverse communities in Canada. Premier Higgs has demonstrated blatant disregard for trans and gender-diverse New Brunswickers, and now he has succeeded in removing their lifeline to gender-affirming care. This is unacceptable.
    I am calling on the provincial government to take the necessary steps to protect reproductive choice and ensure everyone in New Brunswick has the health care they need.

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the NDP-Liberal government has turned its back on rural Canadians and northern Ontario. Hard-working folks from Thunder Bay to Kapuskasing, to North Bay, Sudbury and the Soo want to own a home. They want the dignity of a good-paying job and affordable gas and food, but after eight years of the Prime Minister, we know he is not worth the cost because the results are worse than ever.
    Housing costs have doubled, and the NDP-Liberal coalition is planning to quadruple the carbon tax on gas, groceries and home heating. The government has continually gone after hunters and sport shooters in Timmins instead of gun smugglers and gangsters in Toronto.
    There is good news. Common-sense Conservatives will axe the tax. Conservatives will build homes, not bureaucracy. Conservatives will end inflationary deficits to lower interest rates and fix the budget. Conservatives will stop crime by bringing home jail, not bail, for violent offenders.
    Cleaning up the Liberal-NDP mess will take a lot of work, but a new Conservative government will work just as hard as the good people of northern Ontario and we will bring it home.

[Translation]

Women and Gender Equality

    Mr. Speaker, under our government, women have options. They have more options, in fact. That is essential. Thanks to the Liberals' strategies, women like the ones in my riding, Hamilton Mountain, can choose to grow their family because they know they have access to our support measures such as maternity leave. They can also choose to return to work thanks to our affordable child care benefit policy.
     Under the Conservatives, they would no longer have these options. The Conservatives want to abolish the Canada child benefit, a measure that has lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. The Conservatives also want to reopen the abortion debate and attack the rights of gender-diverse people. They want to take away women's rights at every turn, whereas we are giving women options.

Agriculture and Agri‑Food

    Mr. Speaker, today is agriculture and agri-food day, so let us give a hearty thanks to those who work in the sector. Our farmers get up every single day of the week to care for their animals and crops. They rarely take vacation and, when they do, they make sure it has as little impact as possible on the business and that someone is looking after the farm for them.
     Faced with a chronic labour shortage, our processors are holding down the fort. Despite demanding requirements and endless paperwork, they continue to provide high-quality products. The federal government refuses to extend the deadline for repaying CEBA loans, so our producers are being forced to use support from the Quebec government to pay back the money, which means they end up with no assistance at all. At a time when our processors could use a hand to modernize their operations, the federal government is nowhere to be found.
     Let us celebrate agriculture and agri-food, and let us create the conditions these people need to live with dignity every day while pursuing their noble calling of feeding us all.

[English]

Mental Health

    Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak about perinatal mental health. The perinatal period begins at conception and ends a year after childbirth. Twenty per cent of women will experience depression during this period. Children of perinatally depressed mothers are at increased risk of anxiety, depression, ADHD and autism.

[Translation]

    Longitudinal studies have found a 70% increase in the odds of depression among adolescent and adult offspring of mothers who had perinatal depression. In 2022, more than five million Canadians 15 and up met the diagnostic criteria for a mood, anxiety or substance use disorder. Imagine how much lower this number would be if we could ensure timely access to perinatal mental health services.

  (1405)  

[English]

    I am proud to be part of a government that began the work last year by investing $857,000 to develop national clinician guidelines for perinatal mood disorders, and I look forward to seeing what more we can do.

Canada's Agriculture Day

    Mr. Speaker, today is Canada's Agriculture Day. It is a time to celebrate our farmers, ranchers and producers. Canadian agriculture and agri-food play a critical role in Canada's economic prosperity, producing local quality food for families in Canada and around the world.
    It is also important to note the fact that Canadian farmers set the world standard in sustainability and stewardship. In fact, a tonne of Canadian wheat can travel around the world 3.5 times before it has the same carbon footprint as wheat grown in Europe. This is an incredible achievement, one which should be applauded, and our farmers should be rewarded for their innovation. Instead, farmers are being punished with higher carbon taxes and regulations that are based on activism and not science.
    As Conservatives know now more than ever, our farm families need advocates, people who will celebrate their accomplishments. I encourage everyone to learn more about where their food comes from and thank those farmers who put quality local food on our tables every day. I wish everyone a happy Canada's Agriculture Day.

[Translation]

Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week

    Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week, it is important to remember that, in recent years, and in many countries, women's right to make their own choices has been threatened, ground down or taken away entirely.
     Feeling safe, free to choose and self-fulfilled should be a given. In 2024, women and girls continue to be victims of sexual and other forms of violence, and they are judged and discouraged from speaking out.
     Our government continues to work very hard in Canada and in many other countries to ensure gender equality, which is based on respect for and the promotion of human sexual and reproductive rights.

[English]

Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House to recognize Sexual and Reproductive Health Week. Under our Liberal government's leadership, a woman now has more opportunities to chart her own path in life.
    We have improved access to family planning services and contraception. We have extended parental leave to 18 months, providing families with income supports and improving flexibility. We have delivered on a $10-a-day child care plan, allowing women to not have to make the difficult choice between career and family.
    We have also increased the amount families receive in the Canada child benefit and have indexed it to inflation so that families can be well supported into the future. We have been at the forefront of advocating for gender equality and reproductive rights around the world, while the Conservative Party of Canada has spent the last several years bringing forward bills that would limit the choices that women have.
    As we recognize this week, let us celebrate the progress that we have made but let us be vigilant and remind each other not to let our guard down because what is happening in the U.S. could happen here too. I vow to all Canadians that we will not let it happen on—
    The hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain.

Carbon Tax

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians have had it with the NDP-Liberal government that continues to bankrupt this country with each passing day. After eight years of irresponsible leadership, the Prime Minister, who wasted over $60 billion on his arrive scam app, is now asking Canadians for even more of their hard-earned money through the carbon tax, which is set to increase a whopping 23% this coming April.
    This quadrupling of the carbon tax will increase prices on everything from food to fuel to home heating, and Canadians are tired of being left out in the cold. Due to the current cost of living crisis, many Canadians have been left wondering how they are going to put food on the table, especially given that the average family of four will pay $700 more for groceries in 2024 than they did last year. It is simple: when we tax the farmer who grows the food and we tax the trucker who ships the food, we are taxing the Canadian who buys the food.
    The Liberals need to pass Bill C-234 in its original form, and support the farmers and families who deserve better than a Prime Minister who is simply not worth the cost.

  (1410)  

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, women across Canada inspire us all. They know what is best for them and their families. That is why, because of our Liberal policy, women in Brampton and across Canada have the choice to raise a family, go back to work or start a new business knowing they have the affordable child care support they need.
    It is essential for parents to have access to well-funded and accessible day care centres. However, the other side of the House called the national child care plan a “slush fund” and would cut investment in child care, taking this choice away from women and placing a financial strain on Canadian families from coast to coast to coast.
    Women in Canada should not have to choose between a family and a career. I am proud of the investments our government has made to allow women to have a choice. Let us continue to break barriers for women in Canada and around the world. When we empower women, we empower everyone.

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, after eight years of this NDP-Liberal government, Canadians are struggling to make ends meet, yet somehow the Prime Minister found over $60 million for his arrive scam app. With inflation eating away at earnings and with families having to cut back on gas, heat and groceries, the Prime Minister wants to increase the carbon tax by another 23% on April 1. It is all part of the Liberal-NDP plan to quadruple the tax on the backs of hard-working Canadians.
    In my riding, the Lacombe Legion paid an extra $2,000 last year just for the carbon tax. This money, which should have been used to improve the lives of veterans and honour the memory of our fallen, has instead been funnelled to the government so it can pay off its friends at arrive scam. It is time to admit that the Prime Minister is just not worth the cost. Conservatives would axe the tax, build the homes, fix the budget and stop the crime.

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Auditor General released her report on the arrive scam scandal. This damning report shows that the Prime Minister is not worth the cost or the corruption. This app should have only cost $80,000, but it ended up costing taxpayers $60 million. To make matters worse, $12 million went to Liberal consultants who did not even work on the app. In addition, this app sent more than 10,000 Canadians unjustifiably into quarantine. Arrive scam reeks of corruption that goes straight to the top, but in the ethics committee today, it was verified that even emails that were deleted to cover up corruption can be accessed with authorization.
    It is time for answers. That is why Conservatives are calling on the RCMP to expand its investigation into arrive scam so that those involved can face charges. The question is now this: Will the Prime Minister comply, or is he implicated?

[Translation]

Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week

    Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week, I would like to raise awareness among Canadians of the importance of understanding that their sexual health is merely an aspect of their general health.
     We must also continue to defend women's family planning and reproductive rights. As a mother, I can tell you that having a child is the greatest miracle in the world. However, every family should be able to choose when to make these precious additions to their family, and we want every child to be born into a family that is prepared to cherish them.
     Sexual and reproductive health also requires that we educate our youth. Awareness of sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy and the notion of consent is essential if they are to be responsible and careful.
     I would like to thank the organizations that fight the stigmatization and discrimination that often surround sexual and reproductive health, and that come to the aid of those who need help.

[English]

Canada's Agriculture Day

    Mr. Speaker, there are some incredible challenges facing Canadian farmers: changing markets and price fluctuations in commodities; rising debt levels; and climate change-driven extreme weather events. Despite these challenges, farmers in Canada continue to confront and to overcome adversity while showcasing the innovative ways they are leading us into the 21st century with advances in food production.
    Farmers are certainly not fans of the “Ottawa knows best” approach. Instead, as New Democrats, we want to partner with our farmers to help them build their resilience against climate change and confront the corporate greed that is driving up their input costs to unsustainable levels. To help our farmers, we need a government that is ready for action on a sustainable agriculture strategy, a critical input strategy and a mandatory grocery code of conduct.
     Today is Canada's Agriculture Day. On behalf of the NDP caucus, I hope we can all take a moment to celebrate both the hard-working Canadian farmers who grow the food we love and the essential contributions of agriculture to our nation's prosperity and well-being.

  (1415)  

[Translation]

Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament

    Mr. Speaker, in hockey, there is an event that shines so brightly, a tournament where young hopefuls take to the ice with all their hopes and dreams: the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament.
     Every year, this emblematic competition brings together teams from around the world, offering young players a unique opportunity to see how they measure up to elite players in their age group.
     Behind every pass and every shot are the unsung heroes: volunteers, parents and organizers. Their invaluable dedication is what drives this tournament year after year. Let us thank them for their invaluable contribution.
     I would also like to thank the organizing committee and its general manager, Patrick Dom, and I hope the players will have fun and create friendships and lifelong memories.

[English]

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal-NDP government's arrive scam app is not worth the cost or the corruption. The Auditor General has now confirmed that what should have cost taxpayers $80,000 ended up costing at least $60 million, with $12 million of that going to well-connected consultants who did no work on the app.
     The final true cost may never be known because the government's record-keeping was so outrageously poor that the Auditor General said it was impossible to calculate all the costs associated with this boondoggle. What did this colossal waste of tax dollars result in? At least 10,000 Canadians were erroneously sent into quarantine. The Prime Minister's arrive scam app is not worth the cost or the corruption.
     Conservatives are calling on the RCMP to expand its investigation into this scandal based on the revelations in the Auditor General's report. Will the Prime Minister join us, or will the costly coalition continue to cover up this corruption?

Canada's Agriculture Day

    Mr. Speaker, today is Canada's Agriculture Day. Today and every day, we recognize our farmers and farm families' invaluable contributions and the resilience of our agricultural sector from coast to coast to coast.
    Our Liberal government is committed to supporting the hard-working Canadians who feed our country, strengthen our rural communities and drive our local economies. Since 2015, we have made critical investments to help farmers adapt to climate change and adopt sustainable practices. While Conservatives were cutting the agricultural budget, we increased it by 25%. Business risk management programs are more attractive and foster resilience and innovation in the face of environmental challenges. At the same time, agricultural exports have surged from $56 billion to over $92 billion, showcasing Canada's reputation as a trusted global supplier.

[Translation]

    Today, I invite my colleagues to celebrate our farmers' contributions and their dedication to feeding our country. From the potato farmer on Prince Edward Island to the blueberry farmer in British Columbia, we thank them.

Oral Questions

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and his arrive scam app are not worth the cost or the corruption. Following the Auditor General's revelations yesterday about corruption and waste, I wrote to the RCMP and asked it to expand the criminal investigation into the arrive scam scandal.
    The Prime Minister has a history of blocking criminal investigations. Will he allow the RCMP to investigate him and his arrive scam?
    Mr. Speaker, the COVID‑19 pandemic was a once-in-a-generation, even once-in-a-century occurrence. Everything we did and every decision we made was designed to protect Canadians. Of course, we all expect public servants and others to follow the rules. We expect the RCMP and the authorities to do their job.
    However, it is worth remembering that our government is the one concerned about security at our borders. The Conservative Party continues to vote against help for the CBSA, against help to secure our borders.

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, corruption will not protect our borders.
    Yesterday's revelations are as follows: first, the business that benefited wrote the contract; second, two people working from their home basement got a $20‑million contract for an app that should have cost $80,000; and lastly, top Liberal government officials got whisky in exchange for giving out those contracts.
    Will the Prime Minister respect the independence of the criminal investigation?
    Mr. Speaker, of course, we will always encourage the authorities and let them do their job, and they will do it. We also know that the public service must follow certain rules and, if those rules were not followed, then there will be consequences.
    We welcome the Auditor General's report with open arms. It is important for us to ensure that we are managing investments properly, even at a time when we were investing to protect Canadians from the pandemic of the century. We must ensure that all of the rules were followed.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and his arrive scam are not worth the cost or the corruption. After yesterday's Auditor General's revelations of corruption, waste and mismanagement, I have written to the RCMP, asking it to expand its criminal investigation into the Prime Minister's arrive scam. He has a track record of blocking criminal investigations. He tried to protect SNC-Lavalin from prosecution. He blocked the RCMP from investigating his illegal vacation to billionaire island. Will he stay out of the way, or will he again try to block the RCMP's criminal investigation into arrive scam?
    Mr. Speaker, the COVID-19 pandemic was a once-in-a-generation or even a once-in-a-century occurrence in which every decision we took was designed to protect Canadians' lives. At the same time, even in a situation like that, there are rules that need to be followed, and we expect, and all Canadians expect, public servants to follow those rules. We will, of course, encourage the RCMP to do its work, but it does not take politicians, not even leaders of the opposition, to tell the RCMP to do its job. It does its job, and it does it well.
    Mr. Speaker, it does its job unless the Prime Minister blocks it from doing its job, like he did in his criminal offence where he committed the crime of accepting a gift from someone who was seeking a government contract from him. He blocked the RCMP from investigating him.
    COVID-19 is something the Prime Minister saw a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fill the pockets of his friends, whether it was the WE scandal, in which his family received a half million dollars, whether it was Frank Baylis or, now, the arrive scam. Will he stay out of the way and let the police investigate him and his corrupt government in the arrive scam?
    Mr. Speaker, even a few years after the pandemic, we see the Conservative leader revert to type. While we were focusing on protecting Canadians in every possible way we could, they were peddling conspiracy theories about vaccinations and what have you.
    While he continues to make personal attacks, we are going to continue to make sure that we are delivering for Canadians. Yes, we will make sure that all the rules are followed, and there are consequences for people who broke the laws or broke the rules. However, we will continue to be there for Canadians while he plays partisan games.
    Mr. Speaker, it is more proof that the Prime Minister is not worth the cost or the corruption.
    He is calling the Auditor General a conspiracy theorist, now that she has revealed that his arrive scam app went from $80,000 to at least $60 million and counting, that two insiders working from their home basement got $20 million from the Prime Minister, and that top Liberal government officials accepted high-end whiskies and dinners in exchange for contracts that they let the contractors write for themselves.
    Once again, will he stay out of the way and let the police investigate his government, or will he try to block it again?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, I do not think the official Leader of the Opposition needs to work on his French; I think he just needs to work on his listening skills, because in French, two answers ago, I complimented and thanked the Auditor General for her work in ensuring that rules are followed and processes have consequences if they are misdone. This is a fact, and we know that even during a pandemic we need to be stepping up to protect people within the rules. That is why there will be consequences for anyone who broke those rules or those laws, while we continue to do everything we need to do to deliver for Canadians, to support people in their daily lives and to build a better future for all Canadians.

[Translation]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Montcalm proposed something in the context of medical assistance in dying that would allow us to postpone the final decision on the issue of mental health in general, while accommodating patients, or future patients, with respect to advance requests and respecting the will of Quebec.
    In that context, the motion could be fast-tracked to complete the process by March 17. Will the Prime Minister vote in favour of the amendment proposed by the member for Montcalm?
    Mr. Speaker, we all know that medical assistance in dying is a difficult, deeply personal choice that families and individuals are confronted with at extremely difficult moments in their lives.
    We know that, as a government and a Parliament, we have a responsibility to ensure that vulnerable people are protected, but also to respect the choices and rights of people who want to use MAID.
    We will keep having these conversations, including with the Government of Quebec, to find the right path to take for everyone.
    Mr. Speaker, that vote will be held right here in Parliament. Maybe he should talk to us a little.
    This is an opportunity to help him avoid problems with the conservative religious right and maybe even some small segments of his own caucus. This is an opportunity to show that members of Parliament can agree on important issues and respect choices that are, as he said, difficult and personal, without an agreement that is unlikely to last long.
    Does he not see an opportunity to do the right thing, the compassionate thing, by voting for the humane solution?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Bloc Québécois for its compassionate and thoughtful contribution to this debate. These are the kinds of conversations we need to keep having in this Parliament. How are we going to properly protect Canadians? How are we going to protect everyone's choices and rights?
    We will keep looking at their proposals. We will keep working with the provinces involved. We will keep making sure that the well-being of all Canadians is at the heart of everything we do with respect to this extremely complex and difficult issue.

[English]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal-appointed housing advocate gave the Liberal government a failing grade today. She has said, “Homeless encampments are a physical manifestation of exactly how broken our housing and homelessness system is across the country.” She has also described it as a “life and death crisis”.
    While the Prime Minister says he could and should have done more to build housing, this shows how out of touch he is. Will the Prime Minister take this crisis seriously, follow the recommendations and ensure people have a safe place to call home?
    Mr. Speaker, I very much welcome the interest and the efforts of the New Democratic Party to support us in everything we are doing in delivering on housing.
    We recently signed housing accelerator agreements with Quebec, Nunavut and cities across the country to unlock over 500,000 new homes. We introduced a suite of new measures to unlock the construction of over 600,000 new apartments. We cracked down on short-term rentals to unlock up to 30,000 more apartments. We introduced a mortgage charter.
    We are continuing to step up on measures that counter homelessness, which is something that far too many Canadians are experiencing during these difficult times. We will keep being there for people.
    Mr. Speaker, that does not sound like a Prime Minister who just heard that the housing advocate gave a failing grade to their government.

[Translation]

     The federal housing advocate says that homeless encampments are a manifestation of how broken our housing system is.
    She describes it as a “life and death crisis”. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is simply saying that he could have and should have done more.
    Will the Prime Minister stop listening only to the advice of real estate giants and help the people facing this serious crisis?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, we will continue to listen to community organizations and municipal and provincial partners. We will continue to work hand in hand.
    We have signed agreements to speed up housing construction with Quebec, Nunavut and cities across the country to make it possible to build over 500,000 houses. We have taken a series of measures to build over 600,000 apartments. We have taken measures to crack down on short-term rentals.
    We are investing to fight homelessness and to help people in vulnerable positions. We still have work to do.

[English]

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, after eight years of this NDP-Liberal Prime Minister, we know that corruption is a feature and not a bug. SNC-Lavalin, WE Charity and now the Prime Minister's arrive scam app cost millions that Canadians will not get back. The grift and the mismanagement run so deep that the auditors could not even figure out how much got shipped off to Liberal insiders.
    After what we learned yesterday, will the Prime Minister join us in calling for the RCMP to get to the bottom of all of it, every single dollar?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we want to thank the Auditor General again, as we did yesterday. We welcome all of the recommendations resulting from her audit of the ArriveCAN app.
    As our colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, also said yesterday, some of the report's recommendations have already been implemented, including the introduction of new measures to ensure that tasks and deliverables are clearly defined in professional services contracts.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the call is coming from inside the House. They want Canadians to believe that they unknowingly got robbed blind by their own Liberal insiders and that they are going to get to the bottom of the Prime Minister's arrive scam app, which, by the way, did not work; we did not need it, and 75% of contractors did no work on it but had time to buy the government whisky.
    He is not worth the cost and he is not worth the corruption. Canadians want their $60 million back.
    No one trusts them to investigate themselves, so will the Prime Minister stand up, right here, right now, and call in the Mounties?
    Mr. Speaker, as we said yesterday, we again thank the Auditor General for her recommendations on the review of the ArriveCAN application. Some of the report's recommendations have already been implemented, including the introduction of new measures to ensure that tasks and deliverables are clearly defined in professional services contracts. Our departments take very seriously their duty to optimize resources.
    Mr. Speaker, the arrive scam app is just like the Prime Minister, not worth the cost and not worth the corruption. The investigation and damning report issued by the Auditor General on ArriveCAN shocked even her. Really, after eight years of this NDP-Liberal government, no one should be shocked by the level of incompetence and wasteful spending that Canadians have seen from this Prime Minister.
    A reasonable-thinking person could conclude from the report that the arrive scam app issue has reached the level of criminality.
    Will the Prime Minister join Conservatives and call on the RCMP to expand an investigation into the arrive scam app, based on the revelations in the Auditor General's report?
    Mr. Speaker, as we have said in the House time and time again, any misconduct in the procurement process is unacceptable. We accept that the president of the CBSA has initiated internal audits and has issued some initial reports.
    She has also referred some of the concerning reports to the RCMP, but members opposite should know that it is not politicians who direct the RCMP; it is the RCMP that does this work. The RCMP will set the mandate for wherever the case may lead, and we will accept that work.
    Mr. Speaker, the question was a simple one really, but after eight years of this NDP-Liberal government, who in this place or across Canada expects a proper response from a Prime Minister who is not worth the cost and not worth the corruption?
    The AG's report causes a reasonable person to conclude that what happened with the arrive scam app has reached a level of criminality that must be investigated, so I am going to ask again.
    Will the Prime Minister join Conservatives and call on the RCMP to expand an investigation into the arrive scam app, based on the revelations that were contained in the Auditor General's report?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, obviously we accept the Auditor General's report. We thank her for this work. There are obviously some concerning allegations being initiated. This is precisely why the CBSA initiated the audit. This is precisely why it then referred the materials to the RCMP.
    It does not matter how many times the Conservatives say it, but politicians do not direct police investigations. It is the RCMP that will do this work, and we trust that it will follow the evidence. Again, procurement with any misconduct will come with consequences.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Auditor General of Canada confirmed what everyone was expecting, and that is the worst. The ArriveCAN app was supposed to cost $80,000 but instead cost $60 million. She cannot even be sure that it did cost $60 million. It may be worse than that. The record-keeping was so abysmal and there is so much information missing that she cannot even confirm the exact cost.
    Now Canadians need to know what the problem was. Was it gross incompetence or corruption? Will the government ask the RCMP to investigate further, as the Leader of the Opposition has asked?
    Mr. Speaker, we do know several things. First, the RCMP works independently. As the Prime Minister said a few moments ago, we have confidence in its ability to do its work.
    Second, the Auditor General did describe some shocking behaviour by the public service that was both inappropriate and unwelcome, despite the urgent need to act in the context of a pandemic that was hurting millions of Canadians.
    The recommendations have been heard loud and clear. Several have already been implemented, and others will be put in place in the coming weeks.
    Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that if someone wants to be clear, then a simple yes or no answer would do.
    We even learned yesterday that, of the $60 million, GC Strategies received $20 million, and that there was not even any paperwork to confirm whether anything was requested or ordered. What is more, GC Strategies got to insert clauses into its own contract. That is unbelievable.
    If the government has nothing to hide, then it should say that, yes, an RCMP investigation is needed and that, yes, it recommends that the RCMP investigate further. Will the government do that, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, in a free democracy, it is not up to the government or governments to dictate to the police how they should do their job. That is not how things work in a democracy like the one in which we are lucky enough to live.
    However, in a democracy like Canada, public servants have responsibilities that they must live up to. The Auditor General did note serious flaws in the collection, sharing and storage of important information needed to get the job done.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, medical assistance in dying is about freedom of choice.
    The role of the state is not to decide for the person who is suffering; it is to guarantee the conditions under which people can make a free and informed choice. If someone does not want medical assistance in dying, they can simply not ask for it.
    The National Assembly is unanimous: Quebec is ready. It has its own legislation.
    Will the federal government amend the Criminal Code to allow for advance requests for people who are suffering?
     Mr. Speaker, I have tremendous respect for the crucial work that Quebec has done on advance requests.
    Canada has one Criminal Code, and for good reason. Canadians deserve consistent standards and clarity about what is criminal. There is no quick way to safely allow an exception for Quebec on this issue.
    The conversation does not end here, though. We are committed to working with Quebec to determine the next steps.
    Mr. Speaker, Quebec would not have to ask for an exemption if Ottawa had implemented the majority recommendations on advance requests issued a year ago by the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying.
    Quebec is ready today, and patients should not have to suffer because of the government's inaction. If it does not want to condemn people to suffer needlessly, the federal government has two choices. It must either offer this exemption to the Criminal Code immediately or introduce a bill on advance requests.
    Will the minister make the humane, compassionate choice?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, medical assistance in dying is a deeply personal and complex choice. There is always a balance to be struck between an individual's autonomy and dignity, and the protection of the vulnerable.
    We have taken a cautious approach from the beginning. We owe it to Canadians and Quebeckers to treat these issues thoughtfully and to proceed with caution.

Small Business

    Mr. Speaker, let us recap the situation with the Canada emergency business account.
    According to current numbers from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, nearly 150,000 businesses were unable to pay back their loan and nearly 200,000 others had to go into debt to do so. In addition to all that, roughly 50,000 business owners are still looking for refinancing.
    The federal government has the means to properly assess the situation and ensure the fewest bankruptcies possible. Specifically, it should look at the SME files on a case-by-case basis and show some flexibility. That is what we have been calling for from day one.
    Why is it still refusing to do so?
    Mr. Speaker, nearly 80% of small businesses paid back their Canada emergency business account loan and were able to take advantage of the refundable portion of the loan.
    This being Black History Month, I would like to mention the Black entrepreneurship program. It is an historic investment of $266 million that, so far, has helped support more than 9,000 Black business owners across Canada. Nearly $50 million in loans have been approved.

[English]

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, the $60-million arrive scam app is just like the Prime Minister after eight years: not worth the cost, not worth the corruption.
     What did Canadians receive for their hard-earned tax dollars? They received an app that was 750 times over budget, required 177 updates, forced 10,000 people into quarantine by error and caused chaos at our borders, ruining any chance of a tourism recovery.
    Will the Prime Minister join us and call on the RCMP to expand its investigation based on yesterday's shocking report from the Auditor General?
    Mr. Speaker, any misconduct during a procurement process is completely unacceptable. This is precisely why, when the CBSA learned of the irregularities, it immediately initiated an internal audit. Based on some of that work, it referred some of these elements to the RCMP.
    It is unfortunate when situations such as this occur, but the fact is that the CBSA has been following the process to ensure that something like this can never happen again and that any wrongdoing comes with consequences.
    Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the headline of the Auditor General's report on the disastrous Liberal arrive scam app says it best: “Glaring disregard for basic management and contracting practices”.
    This report is a metaphor for eight years of Liberal mismanagement, incompetence and disregard for hard-working Canadians. The app is just like the Prime Minister after eight years: not worth the cost, not worth the corruption.
    Again, I will ask this: Will the Prime Minister join us and call on the RCMP to expand its investigation based on the revelations of yesterday's shocking Auditor General's report?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said before, it is not politicians who direct investigations with the RCMP, but the RCMP that will determine the scope as the evidence permits.
    It is important to know that any wrongdoing and misconduct in procurement will come with consequences. We have confidence that the CBSA is completing this work. It is doing initial audits, and the RCMP is looking into the matter where necessary.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will try to keep this simple.
    Imagine for a moment that an emergency contract is awarded to repair the roof of an official residence, the Farm, because it is leaking. The contractor who is hired says that the repair will cost $20,000. The contractor begins the work and sends an initial bill for $500,000 without any explanation.
    Would anyone pay the bill without asking any questions, even though the roof is still leaking?
    That is what happened with the Prime Minister's ArriveCAN app. The Auditor General and the ombudsman both saw it, but no one in the government saw it? That is hard to believe.
    Will the government agree to our request for an investigation and let the RCMP do its job?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, as we already said several times yesterday and again today, we thank the Auditor General for her report.
    We are taking note of the shocking findings she clearly outlined in her report. We recognize that all of this was done under emergency conditions, but that is no excuse for failing to follow the procedures for collecting necessary information.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said earlier that he welcomed the Auditor General's recommendations with open arms; meanwhile, contractors were treated to an open bar. The Prime Minister's ArriveCAN app forced 10,000 Canadians to quarantine because of an error. It was supposed to cost $80,000. The bill is now $60 million. Families waiting in line at food banks deserve better answers.
    Will the Prime Minister, who is not worth the cost, commit to paying back the money he wasted on his ArriveCAN app? He should be giving it to families who paid for the work that was never done.
    Mr. Speaker, I am sure my colleague can grasp, now that we have said it several times, that we thank the Auditor General for her report and we acknowledge the significant shortcomings she noted in her report. Many of her recommendations have already been implemented. Others will be implemented in the coming weeks. All of this was put in place under emergency circumstances, when the lives and jobs of millions of Canadians across the country had to be protected. Unfortunately, it was not done with the high standards expected of public servants.

[English]

Indigenous Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court's decision affirmed what we already know: Indigenous peoples have the right to make decisions about their own children, youth and families. The federal government must ensure that indigenous children receive the care they need without delay. Indigenous Services plans to sunset over $7 billion in programs, such as Jordan's principle and the Inuit child first initiative.
    Will the minister commit to reversing her decision to make these cuts and invest in the programs indigenous children and youth need?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for her accurate statement of the law. It was a big victory, not only for indigenous people but also for Canada, on Friday. Not only does the case say that indigenous self-determination is available for indigenous youth, but it also interweaves, like a braid, indigenous laws, UNDRIP and the notion of legislative reconciliation in this House. I think everyone in the House would be better served if they were able to read this case and reflect on it.

Domestic Violence

    Mr. Speaker, last Sunday, the community of Carman, Manitoba, witnessed a tragedy when a mother, her three children and her niece were murdered, with her husband as the main suspect. This reminds us that we desperately need shelters and safe housing for women and families, as well as mental health supports to prevent femicide. However, the government has defunded women's shelters, while mental health needs continue to go unmet.
    Will the minister increase support for shelters and mental health services to stop violence against women and children?
    Mr. Speaker, the scale of the tragedy that took place is not lost on us, and we endeavour to continue to do our part to see that justice is done. However, it is important that, as we go forward, we continue to invest in the projects that are going to provide people with the safety and security of living in a home that prevents this kind of incident from happening.
    Our programs provide support to shelters and transitional housing, particularly for women fleeing violence. We are going to look for additional opportunities and make the investments necessary to continue to build out the network of homes that will help prevent these kinds of tragedies in the future.

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, affordable day care is so important. It is essential to provide women with the freedom to choose whether they stay home to raise their kids or pursue their careers, in most cases, balancing both.
    Women in my riding tell me they have trouble finding spots in day care. Can the Minister of Families update the House on exactly what discussions she has had with provinces to ensure the success of $10-a-day day care?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Canada-wide system is making life more affordable for Canadian families by delivering on $10-a-day child care, now in seven provinces or territories, and 50% reduction across the country. As fees have reduced, of course, demand has increased for these spots. We have seen an increase in the number of spots available, with 82,000 new spaces announced by the provinces and territories. The provinces and territories signed on to help build this system together, and we will work with them to hold them to account to do so.

Carbon Pricing

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister found over $60 million for his arrive scam app, but he continues to want to increase the carbon tax by 23% on April 1. Now, we have heard the far left NDP Alberta leadership candidate weigh in: “Nobody is on board with what [the Prime Minister] did with the federal carbon tax. He absolutely broke trust and broke confidence”.
    After eight years of failure, how can he continue to raise the carbon tax on Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer has reiterated many times, eight out of 10 Canadians get more back from carbon pricing than what they pay. Carbon pricing works. It helps to reduce pollution in Canada, something that the Conservative Party campaigned on during the 2021 election campaign. The difference between them and us is that, on this side of the House, we are serious about fighting climate change and working with Canadians to help them face affordability issues.
    Mr. Speaker, I have more. An Alberta leadership candidate said, “There's no way people can be on board with the federal plan when even the prime minister isn’t on board, when he’s playing games with it” and that the federal carbon levy is “dead”. Another candidate said we must move away from a consumer carbon tax.
    When he loses the support of the far left Alberta NDP, the minister must know he has a problem. Will he cancel his carbon tax before April 1, once and for all?
    Mr. Speaker, since we are talking about Alberta, I wonder if the Conservative Party of Canada and its leader support the freeze that the provincial government has put on 30 billion dollars' worth of investment. Thousands of jobs are at risk in Alberta because of the reckless decision of the premier to freeze renewable energy development, the fastest sector for energy development in this country.
    What does the Conservative Party have to say about that? Conservatives say nothing, because they do not care about economic development. They do not care about fighting climate change, and they do not care about helping Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister wasted more than $60 million on his ArriveCAN scam app, and he is going to make Canadians pay more by quadrupling the carbon tax. It is going up 23% on April 1. After eight years of the Liberal-NDP government, it is no surprise, but this Prime Minister is not worth the cost.
    Why do Canadians have to foot the bill for the government's corrupt spending?
    Mr. Speaker, right now in Canada, we have a province, Alberta, that has to talk about rationing water next summer because of climate impacts. We have atmospheric rivers in British Columbia that are affecting thousands of people and ski resorts that have to close down. We are seeing the costs of climate change that have not doubled or tripled but increased by 10 times over the last decade.
    What is the answer of the Conservative Party of Canada? It is to make pollution free again and let the biggest, most profitable and polluting countries off the hook.
    Not on this side of the House, where we will fight—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Colleagues, it is important, once again, to remind ourselves that when we take the floor, we are expected to listen to the questions and the answers. I ask all members to please restrain themselves, to follow the leadership of their whips and respect members who have the floor.
    The hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton.
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians have been forced to pay through the nose for everything after eight years of the Liberal-NDP government. Not only did the government give contractors $20 million for doing no work on the arrive scam app, but the Auditor General also said that the $80,000 app cost over $60 million of taxpayer money. Now the government is increasing the carbon tax on April 1.
    Why should Canadians have to foot the bill for the government's corrupt overspending?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, in the last election campaign, all of the colleagues on the other side of the House went around their neighbourhoods in Sarnia—Lambton and elsewhere, and around their ridings. They had nice glossy brochures with Mr. O'Toole on the cover. He had a nice black T-shirt on. What was in there? It was a price on pollution. All of these members went around their neighbourhoods committing to put a price on pollution as part of a plan to fight climate change. Why did we believe Conservatives then and why should we believe them now?

[Translation]

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are not going to get out from under the ArriveCAN scandal that quickly. For a simple application that was supposed to cost $80,000, the Liberals spent $60 million, $20 million of which was paid to GC Strategies, a company that ultimately did not provide any services.
    Worse yet, the Auditor General reported that this scheme was done with the complicity of government employees. Yesterday, the three ministers involved passed the buck, but Quebeckers deserve to know who is responsible. When will there be accountability for ArriveCAN?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank our colleague for raising this issue. She has already heard the answer several times. We thank the Auditor General for her work and we recognize the significant problems she noted. We know that all of this occurred during a time of crisis. That is no excuse for the lack of information or the lack of record-keeping and sharing of that information. Fortunately, many of the recommendations she made have already been put in place.
    Mr. Speaker, Quebeckers do not understand how it is possible to overspend by 75,000% without a minister noticing. All the rules were broken, and a handful of people pocketed $60 million of taxpayers' money.
    People try to pin everything on the pandemic, but it is not responsible for such utter incompetence with respect to basic project management rules. If the government could throw away $60 million just like that, how many more contracts is it turning a blind eye to?
    Mr. Speaker, at the height of the pandemic, hundreds of people were dying of COVID‑19 and billions of dollars a week were at stake. We had to figure out how to move billions of dollars' worth of goods back and forth across the border. We had to move essential medical drugs, food, and equipment that was crucial to businesses in Quebec and Canada. We had to act fast.
    Nevertheless, the lack of information, lack of information gathering and lack of rigour on the part of some public service employees are completely unacceptable.

[English]

Carbon Pricing

    Mr. Speaker, I wonder why the Prime Minister's priority is higher taxes and not food affordability. He can find $60 million for his ArriveCAN app, but he needs to quadruple the carbon tax on farmers and food. We are hearing the plea from Canadian families who want to axe the tax to make food affordable. I was in Sudbury this week meeting with organizers of food banks that are at a breaking point as demand has doubled and is rising. There is a common-sense Conservative bill, Bill C-234, which would give a carbon tax carve-out for farmers and lower the price of food. This Prime Minister is not worth the cost. Will he cancel his plans to increase the carbon tax on April 1 so Canadians can feed themselves?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am glad the Conservatives are finally asking a question about the economy because it gives me the chance to share some good news. In January, thanks to the hard work of Canadians, Canada created 37,000 new jobs; wages in Canada have been outpacing inflation for the past 12 months; and unemployment fell to 5.7%, lower than it was at any time that Stephen Harper was prime minister. The only thing Conservatives know how to do is kill jobs.
    Mr. Speaker, here is a number that most Canadians care about: two million Canadians are going to a food bank every single month. However, today is Canada's Agriculture Day, and how do the Liberals celebrate? By increasing the carbon tax by 23% on April 1, but it gets worse. We now know that the amendments to Bill C-234, pushed through by Liberal-appointed senators, would increase costs on farmers by $200 million. This Conservative common-sense bill in its original form would save farmers a billion dollars by 2030.
    For Canada's Agriculture Day, will the Prime Minister celebrate with me and axe this tax on farmers to make food more affordable?
    Mr. Speaker, being a farmer on Canada's Agriculture Day and being part of a government that has an environmental plan make me very proud. It is so important, and farmers understand, that we have to take care of the land, and we must have an environmental plan. As far as the price on food goes, in the agriculture committee, Tyler McCann of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute indicated to the committee members that there was no data to support the idea that carbon pricing is resulting in an increase in food prices.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister wasted $60 million on his corrupt ArriveCAN app. Now he is asking Canadians for even more money through the carbon tax, which the Bloc wants to radically increase.
    After eight years under this government, everything is more expensive. Worse still, the Bloc is supporting Liberal policies.
    Can the Prime Minister confirm that he will scrap the carbon tax in order to give Canadians a little more breathing room?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my hon. colleague that, the last time I checked, the St. Lawrence fjord was still part of Quebec. The Quebec system applies in Quebec, not the federal system.
    Quebec's cap-and-trade system was established long before the federal carbon pricing system. Quebec's system works very well to help reduce emissions. It was not the Bloc Québécois or the federal government that put it in place, but rather the Quebec government. A number of Conservative Party members voted in favour of the Quebec system.
    He should direct his questions to them. They sit on the same side of the House as he does.

[English]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, we know that sexual and reproductive health care encompasses mental health care, which is always important, but especially so for women during their reproductive lives. Knowing what an exciting, but also stressful, time it can be for a new mother and how a mother's well-being affects not only her but also her newborn and other family members, could the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health explain how our government is supporting women who choose motherhood by addressing perinatal mental health?
    Mr. Speaker, we all know the member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill to be a strong advocate for women's health. My message to new parents who might be struggling is this: They do not have to carry this burden alone. I want to thank the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative and all of our partners working to develop national standards for a perinatal mental health strategy. We are supporting families by creating guidance materials and advice for health care professionals and individuals who may face poor mental health during the perinatal period. We are with them and will do everything we can to ensure families have access to quality mental health care when they need it and where they need it.

  (1505)  

Carbon Pricing

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is not worth the cost of the suffering he is causing. The Payne family operates Asphodel Sheep Company. They were recognized as farm family of the year in Peterborough County. The carbon tax is set to increase by 23% on April 1, and it is truly hurting them. The kids do not know what is going to happen to their family farm.
     Katie, who is 15; Jolene, who is 13; and Lucy, who is nine, asked me to ask the Prime Minister this: Why is the Canadian government making it so difficult for the agriculture industry to do its job of feeding the country?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to read a quote from Glenn Wright, who is the former vice-president of the National Farmers Union:
    Farmers will be among the hardest hit if we don’t act fast to slash greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize the climate. For this reason—to protect farmers—the NFU supports pollution pricing; it is an important policy tool to reduce the harmful emissions fueling the climate crisis and threatening farms and food supplies.

Government Priorities

     Mr. Speaker, we had devastating news today out of Bay of Quinte. Cascades, a company that has been operating a plant that has been in existence in Quinte West for 100 years, is closing its doors and axing 230 jobs because of high inflation and interest rates under eight years of the Liberal-NDP government.
    Now, Canadians who already face high costs to eat and heat their homes have to worry about a paycheque. People in Belleville who are still reeling from a major overdose epidemic now have to worry about unemployment.
    When will the government fix the budget, cut inflation and cut interest rates, so companies do not have to close and employees do not have to lose their jobs?
    Mr. Speaker, the most important thing to every Canadian family is having a job, and every time someone loses their job, it is a disaster for that family. That is why we were so glad to see the strong job recovery across Canada, 1.1 million more jobs since before COVID. It is also why we have support in place, like early learning and child care, and like a social safety net, that the Conservatives would cut.
    Mr. Speaker, that tone-deaf answer will give little comfort to the residents of Quinte West who have just lost their jobs.
    Let us look at the reality of what is happening in Canada right now. Over the last four months, TD has slashed 3,000 jobs; Canadian Tire has slashed 3% of its workforce; Enbridge has slashed 650 jobs; Rona has slashed 300 jobs; and Manulife has slashed 250 jobs. After eight years of this high-spending Liberal-NDP government, the only job Canadians want to see slashed is that of the Prime Minister.
    When will the government fix the budget, cut inflation and cut interest rates so Canadians can keep their jobs?
    Mr. Speaker, we will take no lessons from the Conservatives when it comes to supporting the most vulnerable among us. Since we have formed government, 2.3 million Canadians are out of poverty. Poverty in Canada was at 14.5% when the Conservatives left office. Today, it is down to 7.4%.
    We know there is a lot more work to do. That is why we are pointing out to Canadians that all the Conservatives want is to cut the programs the most vulnerable need the most.

Women and Gender Equality

    Mr. Speaker, with the high cost of living, it is a struggle for many women to buy menstrual products. This government recognizes this problem and recently launched the menstrual equity fund pilot to provide free menstrual products to those who need them most through Food Banks Canada.
    During this Sexual and Reproductive Health Week, can the minister provide an update on the progress of the pilot in my province and throughout Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her advocacy and hard work, and for the chance to give an update on this. Menstrual products are a basic need, but not everyone has access to them. Since launching the menstrual equity fund pilot last September, almost 400 locations, including 14 in that member's province of Nova Scotia, have helped pull more than a million Canadians out of period poverty. That is 35 million products out the door in six months.
    We are providing real solutions to real challenges: menstrual products for those who need them, when they need them, period.

  (1510)  

[Translation]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, in a three-bedroom apartment near the Verdun metro station, there is a leak in the bathroom, the balconies are about to fall off the building, the ceilings are full of holes and there is mould everywhere. That is where Isabelle Gagnon and Maxime Pilon live with their new baby. That is the result of decades of Conservative and Liberal cuts to social housing. Rather than proposing solutions, the Conservative leader would rather insult mayors in Quebec, and the Liberals are dragging their feet on the housing crisis.
    Why are the Liberals abandoning people like Ms. Gagnon and Mr. Pilon?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his concern for the quality of accommodations that families are living through in this country. He is right to point out that, for several decades, governments, both Liberal and Conservative, failed to invest in affordable housing, but that changed with the introduction of the national housing strategy in 2017.
    We have been investing to help build or retrofit several hundred thousand homes that people are living in today. In the fall economic statement, we have recapitalized the affordable housing fund with an addition billion dollars and another $300 million toward co-operative housing. We are going to continue to make the investments necessary to ensure that every Canadian has a roof over their head.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, as Netanyahu bombed Rafah, the supposed safe zone, over 75 Palestinians were killed overnight. We are witnessing a crime of unproportionate horror in Gaza every day. Children are left orphaned as entire families are wiped out in this onslaught. Meanwhile, the Liberals continue to arm Netanyahu with over 28 million dollars' worth of military exports since October alone.
    How many more Palestinian children have to be killed before the government ends arms exports to Israel?
    What is happening in Gaza is a complete tragedy. Netanyahu's military operation in Rafah is devastating Palestinians and others who are seeking shelter. Gazans have nowhere else to go, and as the minister said, asking them to move again is totally unacceptable.
    This violence must stop. We must have a sustainable peace. Hostages must be returned, and we must find a way forward to get humanitarian assistance to the people who need it the most.
    Mr. Speaker, I am seeking unanimous consent. I move that the House express its solidarity with the parishioners of—
    Some hon. members: No.
    I am afraid the hon. member, even before asking his question, is soliciting noes in the House.
     Once again, I encourage all members to please try to negotiate their requests for unanimous consent so we can make sure we use our time most efficiently.
    Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move that the House condemns Russia's illegal—
    Some hon. members: No.
    The hon. member does not have unanimous consent.
    Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties—
    Some hon. members: No.
    There is no consent.
    I see we are going to be playing this game again today.
    Mr. Speaker, during question period, I was reflecting on a unanimous consent motion that I would like to bring—
    Some hon. members: No.
    The hon. member does not have unanimous consent.
    Mr. Speaker, I move that given, after eight years of the Prime Minister, housing costs have doubled, that the CMHC itself admits that housing starts have—
    Some hon. members: No.
    The hon. member is also soliciting noes in seeking unanimous consent.

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, whose members were told yesterday by the chair of that group that we are all in support of our Ukrainian allies, I move that the House call upon the government to support—
    Some hon. members: No.
    Unfortunately, the hon. member does not have consent.
    Mr. Speaker, given that the Auditor General revealed that GC Strategies—
    Some hon. members: No.
    Unfortunately, the hon. member for Regina—Lewvan does not have consent.
    It is really important to again remind members, as well as Canadians watching at home, that requesting unanimous consent is a very important tool for members of Parliament and for Parliament itself to consider issues that are timely and cannot be considered through the normal process.
    Normally, the process is that members consult with the leadership teams of all officially recognized parties, and the independents, to negotiate ahead of time to save time for members to present their points of order. I am happy to recognize members on points of order, but it would be respectful to other members in the House if members were to make serious efforts at seeking unanimous consent.
    I recongnize the hon. member, a former chair and current House officer, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, who is rising on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, the Blessed Sacrament church in Regina was subject to arson and vandalism, and I believe you will find unanimous consent for the House recognizing the right of Canadians to gather to worship or celebrate their faith—
    Some hon. members: No.
    I regret interrupting the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, but there is clearly no unanimous consent.
    The hon. member for South Shore—St. Margarets is rising on a point of order. I hope the hon. member has done the honourable thing and has consulted other members before seeking unanimous consent.
    Mr. Speaker, today the Minister of Fisheries threw 300 elver harvesters out of work. I am sure you will find unanimous consent in the House to condemn the government for that.
    Some hon. members: No.
    Unfortunately, there is no unanimous consent.
    Members are really using up the time that is valuable to those who have other business in the House.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Government Business No. 34—Proceedings on Bill C-62

    The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.
    We will begin where we left off. The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader had just finished his speech, and we were beginning questions and comments.

[Translation]

    I apologize for speaking English. I invite my hon. colleague, the member for Louis‑Saint‑Laurent, who is well known for his mastery of the language of Molière to come back to the question that he started asking earlier before he was interrupted.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure for me to answer your invitation to ask a question.
    During his speech, the member related an issue with the fact that he considered that, on this side, we sometimes say something that is not true. Unfortunately, that is not a fact.

[Translation]

    An October 8, 2022, Global News report stated, and I quote:

[English]

    How poverty, not pain, is driving Canadians with disabilities to consider medically-assisted death.

[Translation]

    An article in the May 9, 2023, edition of the National Post was entitled:

[English]

    Canada shouldn't deny assisted suicide if social conditions made life intolerable: bioethicists.
    There is also a CBC News article from June 22, 2023, entitled “Quadriplegic Ontario woman considers medically assisted dying because of long ODSP wait times”.
    This is proof, without a shadow of a doubt, that, yes, unfortunately, in this country, there are people who have had difficulties with their social life and decided to knock at the door of MAID. I am quite sure that, in the minds of everybody here in the House, MAID was not made for that purpose. That is exactly what our colleagues said during their speeches. Does the member recognize that, yes, unfortunately, sometimes MAID could be used for a purpose that was not intended?

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is really important that we do not try to trivialize the important issue of MAID.
    I have witnessed Conservatives, many different Conservatives, standing to talk about MAID as something that someone could just go to the doctor today and say, “Jeez, I would like to be able to commit suicide. Can I have an appointment on Friday?” It may not have been in those exact words, but that is very close to what Conservative members have implied in the chamber today, and they have implied it previously.
    It does a great disservice to the issue at hand. I would suggest that this whole “suicide on demand” the Conservative members want to classify it as is not contributing positively to the debate. I would ask Conservative members, in particular, to take the debate more seriously, and let us not go to the extreme. I have more confidence in health care professionals, social workers, family members or the individuals who are thoroughly consulted well before any sort of a decision is made.

Points of Order

Alleged Inadmissibility of Amendment to Motion, Government Business No. 34  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your accommodating the timing of this. I apologize to the members who are involved in debate, but because the matter is currently under consideration by the House, I think giving the Speaker as much time as possible to consider it would be appropriate.
    I am rising to ask that you rule the amendment made to the motion, Government Business No. 34, out of order, since according to Bosc and Gagnon, at page 541, it introduces a new proposition which should properly be the subject of a separate substantive motion.
    The main motion proposes two things in relation to Bill C-62. Part (a) would establish committee meetings on the subject matter of Bill C-62. It proposes one hour to hear from a minister and two hours to hear from other witnesses.
    Part (b) deals specifically with the time and management for each stage of the bill. Part (b)(i) would order the consideration by the House of a second reading stage and provides for the number of the speakers, length of speeches, length of debate and deferral of the vote at second reading. It would also restrict the moving of dilatory motions to that of a minister of the Crown. Part b(ii) would deem that Bill C-62 be referred to a committee of the whole and be deemed reported back without amendments, and it would order the consideration of third reading on Thursday, February 15, 2024.
    Nowhere does the motion deal with the substance or the text of Bill C-62; it is a programming motion dealing with process, not substance. While this can and has been done by unanimous consent, it cannot be done by way of an amendment. The consequence of an amendment to allow for the expansion of the scope of Bill C-62 and, at the same time, proposing to amend the text of Bill C-62, is that it would, if accepted, expand the scope of the motion.
    The process to expand the scope of the bill outside of unanimous consent is to adopt a stand-alone motion after the proper notice and procedures were followed. Page 756 of Bosc and Gagnon describes that procedure as follows:
    Once a bill has been referred to a committee, the House may instruct the committee by way of a motion authorizing what would otherwise be beyond its powers, such as...expanding or narrowing the scope or application of a bill. A committee that so wishes may also seek an instruction from the House.
    Alternatively, a separate, stand-alone bill would suffice to introduce the concept of the subject material that is under the amendment for MAID. It is not in order to accomplish this by way of a simple amendment to a programming motion dealing with the management of House time on a government bill.
    If you were to review the types of amendments to programming motions, and I am not talking about unanimous consent motions, they all deal with the management of House and committee time, altering the numbers of days, hours of meetings, witnesses, etc. As recently as December 4, 2023, the House disposed of an amendment that dealt with the minister's appearing as a witness and the deletion of parts of the bill dealing with time allocation. This was also the case for the programming motions for Bill C-56, Bill C-31 and Bill C-12.
    Unless the main motion strays from the management of time and routine procedural issues and touches on the actual text of the bill, an amendment that attempts to amend the bill is out of order. For example, on May 9, 2023, the House adopted a programming motion for Bill C-21, the firearms act. Part (a) of the main motion then stated that:
it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, that during its consideration of the bill, the committee be granted the power to expand its scope, including that it applies to all proceedings that have taken place prior to the adoption of this order...
    The motion went on at some length, instructing the committee to consider a number of amendments to the act. This in turn allowed the Conservative Party to propose an amendment to the programming motion and offer its own amendments to the bill itself, which addressed illegal guns used by criminals and street gangs and brought in measures to crack down on border smuggling and to stop the flow of illegal guns to criminals and gangs in Canada, to name just a few.
    The point is that if the main motion does not address the text of the bill, an amendment cannot introduce the new proposition of amending the text of the bill to the programming motion, which should properly be the subject of a separate substantive motion.

  (1525)  

    I thank the hon. member for the intervention. We will look at that with the Table and come back with an answer as soon as possible.

Government Business No. 34—Proceedings on Bill C-62

[Government Orders]
     The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member whether he could speak more specifically to the work of the special committee and how important it was for us to be non-partisan in approach. Medical assistance in dying is such an important and deeply personal issue. It was really the work of the committee that helped us arrive at the decision.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the member emphasized how this is a deeply personal issue, to use her words. That is why, at the beginning of my comments earlier today before question period, I tried to amplify why it is so important that the House reflect on what brought us here today.
    I reflect on the debates that took place in early 2016, which were conducted in more of a non-partisan approach where members of all political parties talked about what is a very important issue. Nothing has changed in the sense of the importance of the issue. We are talking about an issue of death, and we see that Conservatives are putting a twist on it in an attempt to politicize the issue to the degree that there is some silliness as to what is being implied.
    I like to think that anyone who is even entertaining the idea of accessing MAID takes it very seriously. That is the reason why, in good part, I believe that every member of the House, party politics aside, should be looking at what the Supreme Court of Canada right back to 2015, and the Charter of Rights, said our responsibility is as legislators: to come forward with good, sound public policy. I believe that over the years, including today with Bill C-62, we have been addressing a very important issue and that the three-year extension is needed because of the response we are getting from stakeholders, in particular our provinces.
    Mr. Speaker, following up on the question from the member for Fredericton, I was a member of that special joint committee, and I agree with her that its work was quite important. I think that every member, both from the House and the Senate, approached the subject matter with the responsibility and gravitas it demanded. However, I will put an asterisk beside that because the committee, in its last iteration, was afforded only three meetings of three hours each with witnesses. Unfortunately, there were a lot of witnesses we could have heard from. We did not even have time to go over the briefs that were submitted because there were so many of them and there simply was not time to translate them into both official languages.
    This is mainly a comment for the parliamentary secretary to respond to: I am glad to see that we actually have a legislative requirement built into Bill C-62 that the special joint committee would be reconvened. I hope it would be done with plenty of runway to give this particular subject the time it deserves, which I frankly would say most Canadians expect.

  (1530)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would pick up on the point that we have an infrastructure, and part of that infrastructure in Parliament is the special committees.
    I am an optimist in the sense that I hope we will see the special committee, at some point in time in the future, continue to do a lot of the fine work it has already done to date. Hopefully it would be of a depoliticized nature, where members, no matter where they are from, the Senate or the chamber, and from any political party, would be able to entertain a very healthy discussion. I believe, in the long run, given the very nature and importance of the legislation, that this is by far the best way to go. It is because of the deadline of March 17 that we are having to push it through as quickly as we are today.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am listening carefully to the hon. member for Winnipeg North and putting myself in his shoes. There have been procedural delays for months. I picture the hon. member for Winnipeg North a few months ago, demonstrating leadership by making a fuss in the Liberal lobby. I imagine him doing everything in his power to avoid having to impose this kind of last-minute closure motion again, preventing members from getting a chance to be heard.
     My question is as follows. What has he been doing for the last six months? Why is his government again waiting until the last minute to introduce this other bill? Where is the Liberal leadership on this issue?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, a combination of many different factors has ultimately brought us to the point where we are today. One of those factors is that just last week I stood in my place and made the suggestion that we sit until midnight; however, I required unanimous consent, and there were some in the chamber who did not support the idea of sitting extra hours later into the evening so we could have had more debate on the issue. It is not our lack of desire to see additional debate.
    Historically, in the last six years, we have had a great deal of debate inside the chamber and outside the chamber in communities across the country. I suspect we are going to continue to have more, as was pointed out in the previous question in regard to the special committee and the need to have it reconvene. I truly believe that this is going to be an ongoing debate, keeping in mind that the legislation first came in not that long ago, in 2016. It took a number of years before the Province of Quebec was able to bring in legislation, whereas we had a Supreme Court decision timeline we had to work against. I suspect that is one of the reasons we needed to make some of the amendments we have made today.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to add my voice to this important conversation and an even bigger privilege to split my time with my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac.
    As parliamentarians, issues we debate in this place are often framed as life and death, but no issue we have discussed has ever come so truly close to verging on life and death as the one in front of us today, which is medical assistance in dying, or MAID, specifically elective MAID for the sole purpose of mental illness.
    It is not the first time we have discussed MAID, or MAID for mental illness, in the House, and I have a feeling it probably will not be the last. This is because the Liberal government has treated MAID not as a sober rational conversation it deserves to be or as a collaborative understanding discussion, but rather as a political football, a hatchet job that highlights its deep commitment to breaking consensus in the country on an issue it has so sorely misjudged.
    As a result of that carelessness, or whatever else it may be, we find ourselves here again in a debate for a proposal that should have been done away with a long time ago. Rather than attempt to discuss this legislation with nuance and care, we have what we have today. We know we cannot simplify an issue as fundamental as the state's ability to allow the taking of a life. We know there is much more to be considered.
    In the process, the government replaced medical doctors with spin doctors, expert recommendations with partisan ideology and reason with dogmatism. We have heard from those on the front line, including 80% of Ontario psychiatrists, who are opposed to this expansion. Seven out of 10 provincial health ministers, plus all three territorial health ministers, support the indefinite pause on the expansion of MAID. We have heard from advocates, those directly impacted by MAID for mental illness, who agree that this proposal minimizes the value of their lives and the inherent dignity possessed by every single human being.
    MAID for the sole purpose of mental illness speaks to the government's lack of respect for that dignity and it speaks to its missing belief in the ability of those facing difficulties and their ability to actually get better. Worse, it speaks to a perverse ideology void of ethical guardrails, which is so far from consensus that has so long been unbroken by the understanding that a role exists for government to exhaust all avenues to help people.
    It is now prevalent to, rather than propose treatment and therapy to help those in tough circumstances, propose state-sanctioned death. We have a duty, as leaders, as parliamentarians, to safeguard the lives of Canadians, to give them a helping hand, to help them recover and to help them get better.
    We believe in overcoming adversity, seeking help, in a system that works for those who badly need it. We believe it is possible, and the reason we believe it is possible is because it is possible. The success of early intervention, treatment and support has helped countless Canadians live fulsome, productive and meaningful lives. That is not just my philosophy as a parliamentarian; it is the core to what I think our national identity is. The alternative is what I describe as an entirely nihilist state, uninterested in the preservation of its own people.
    Our country was formed by people who came from all over the world to seek a better life through hope, hard work and sacrifices. Our lives have been revolutionalized by the brave Canadians who never gave up and for a country that never gave up on them. Our story is defined by confronting whatever difficult obstacles might lie ahead, and not being intimidated by them but by surmounting them. It is not just a discussion about this legislation; it is a fundamental debate about who we are as Canadians and who we want to be and the powers we have as a Parliament.
    I want to be clear that I do not want to minimize or deny the intense personal and lived experiences many Canadians have with mental health, many in the House, many who are close to people in the House. I know it is a deeply personal one for anyone who has been faced with that challenge.

  (1535)  

    However, I do want to put on record that the lives of those suffering are not any less worthy of help, support or love. I think that is what this eventual plan says, even with a pause. Expansion activists have tried to reassure Canadians that MAID is not suicide, that it would be distinguishable from suicide, yet when expanded to those who are seeking death for the sole purpose of mental health, evidence points to MAID becoming indistinguishable from suicide.
    Therefore, despite the ideological pursuit of what I call the government's nihilism and the inability for it to manage its own legislation, it will not be able to escape the very real legacy that it has ushered in, a legacy that will become even more apparent as Canadians see more headlines of assisted suicide being offered to those in the Canadian Forces or to marginalized Canadians seeking an escape from suffering or poverty.
    Simply put, people can get better. Recovery is possible. Whereas outcomes might be forgone in physical health, there is no clear evidence that says someone cannot overcome struggles with mental health, and that alone should be enough. I cannot stress enough that we have no way of knowing that it is not possible to get better.
    Our methods are not advanced enough. The research says so. Only 47% of predictions about final outcomes are correct. Therefore, when a doctor diagnoses a lifelong mental illness, there is only a 47% change that he or she will be correct. That is like flipping a coin, only the odds are worse. Are we really willing to put something so substantial down to a game of chance?
    This difficulty is compounded by the very fact that it is impossible for doctors to see mental health in the way that they can see things like terminal cancer. It does not show up in a scan or in a test. While it is not the subject here, I have to ask this. How fair is it to put doctors in a position where they cannot make a decision with 100% of the evidence or that the evidence before them, accounts of either the patient or the patient's family, is not what it appears to be? How can someone have the peace of mind that the best outcome has been decided?
    We cannot let ideology blind us from the red flags that we are confronting at every step in this process. In the absence of certainty, it is fundamentally wrong for the state to do what I believe amounts to playing games with human lives. While I support the pause, not because its well argued, well planned or even well considered, because it is necessary, I do not think it is enough.
    A pause, more consultation and more studies mean little if we refuse to listen to the facts and insights that they bring. No amount of additional testimony will change the fact that there have been significant doubts raised about the morality and ethics of implementing MAID for mental illness.
    We cannot unhear those words that were spoken in committee. We cannot unread the words that we have seen plastered in the newspapers. We cannot ignore the accounts of those who are rightfully more than just skeptical.
    I want those who side with the government to think about what the proposal, not the pause, actually means for the most vulnerable. It is unconscionable to me. I cannot understand the different perspective when mental health is the only condition that would allow someone to seek an end, a government-sanctioned end, to their lives.
    There is only one pause worth doing. There is only one pause that is safe. There is only one pause that protects the innocent, the truly ill and the most vulnerable, and that is a forever pause. Anything less than that is a failure of this place.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am a bit surprised in how the Conservatives are approaching the debate. They have made it very clear that they do not support the expansion of MAID with regard to mental health. However, it will automatically take effect come March 17, unless this legislation passes. They seem to want to prevent the legislation from passing, especially if we take a look at the vote.
    Does the Conservative Party want this legislation to pass and, if so, will they support it?
    Mr. Speaker, we are going to take every single opportunity to put on the record in this House that these Liberals have broken what is a long-formed consensus in this country, that MAID, for the sole purpose of mental illness, is a no go. We are going to continue to speak about that so that Canadians know where they stand.
    I know that they have brought legislation forward, but it is not our responsibility to clean up the mess that has made us stand here at the eleventh hour because they screwed up their schedule and their legislation.

  (1545)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, medical assistance in dying and mental health are obviously not simple issues. What is surprising, however, is that some people experience intolerable suffering. An expert report found that these people are not eligible. For example, people who are suicidal are not eligible if they are newly diagnosed and being monitored but refuse treatment and their requests are based on systemic vulnerabilities. Help and support are available to these people. Just because someone requests medical assistance in dying does not mean that they will receive it.
     The Conservatives' conception of medical assistance in dying is flawed. There are people suffering right now who need their support.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I think it is clear from the evidence of those who have raised concerns about this issue that there is not enough evidence to say that somebody cannot get better. It is not the job of a parliamentarian to encourage that, to make it a priority in this country or even make it allowed in this country.
    We need to make sure that we expand a system in which people can actually get help, and that a utilitarian vision of this world is not the thing that we strive for to make sure there is room in the system or that people can just do what they want. We actually have to try with people. We have to try and help them recover and get better. Offering them this tool, I think, is an abdication of our fundamental responsibility as leaders and as parliamentarians.
    Mr. Speaker, I agree with many points my hon. colleague made in her speech. It is why I voted against the Senate amendment to Bill C-7 in the previous Parliament. It is why I voted for the member for Abbotsford's bill, Bill C-314. It is why I agree with the recommendation that came out of the special joint committee.
    There is more than enough blame to be assigned to the Liberals, but we are dealing with a March 17 deadline. This is a time the House collectively has to stand up and get this bill through because we also have the Senate to deal with.
    Why, with that context upon us right now, did the Conservatives vote the way they did this morning when it is imperative that this bill get passed before March 17?
    We do not yet know what is actually going to happen in the Senate. We can only really say for certain what is going to happen in the House, but this is a critically important bill to pass before March 17.
    Mr. Speaker, we are not going to limit this debate in this House because the Liberals cannot manage their agenda or their legislation, or the fact that they have screwed this up. We are going to continue to have a productive conversation about this and make sure that Canadians know that there are members in this House who want to see this go forward and want to see this go forward quickly.
    Mr. Speaker, I always consider it an honour to rise in the people's House to speak in regard to matters of great importance and consequence for the nation of Canada. I rise with mixed emotions today as, obviously, many Canadians have been grappling and dealing with this issue and have been considering and discussing the issue for years and months. Even more recently, with the expansion of MAID, which has been happening at an unbelievably rapid rate, more Canadians are growing more concerned. Therefore, today, I hope to add my voice to the calls for absolutely increasing the implementation of safeguards and for putting in place the safeguards necessary to prevent this absolute augmentation in access to MAID by more and more vulnerable Canadians.
    Canada has historically been known as a nation of great hope, where the dreams and aspirations of individuals could be fulfilled, for them and their families. We have had a great reputation on the world stage for many years as a peaceful people and a hopeful people, but disturbingly, we are hearing more voices, not only within our own country but also internationally, raising the alarm bells at the direction our nation has taken, especially as it pertains to it becoming more available to more Canadians who are at high risk to be able to access MAID and to make a decision of such finality in times of great vulnerability.
    It has been said, and I have said it in the House before, in regard to this debate, that the character of a nation is revealed in how it treats its most vulnerable. Those battling with mental illness and having bouts of anxiety, depression, fear and despair are definitely among our most vulnerable. It would behoove the House and the current government to ensure every safeguard possible is put in place to provide a pathway of hope that would foster and encourage life, even in the midst of uncertainty, in the midst of overwhelming odds and in the midst of some huge obstacles that come across a person's pathway. The last thing we should be doing in the House is expediting and making it easier for more Canadians to access MAID.
    It is troubling, not just for many members on this side of the House; we have heard testimony at committee from many reputable organizations whose representatives are speaking out with grave concerns at the direction this country is going. I want to add a few quotes into the record as it relates to this.
     There are a couple here from the Society of Canadian Psychiatry. It states, “it is impossible to predict in any legitimate way that mental illness in individual cases is irremediable. A significant number of individuals receiving MAID for sole mental illness would have improved and recovered.”
     This is another quote from the Society of Canadian Psychiatry: “Evidence shows that individuals with suicidal ideation symptomatic of mental illness cannot be differentiated or identified as distinct from those seeking MAID for sole mental illness. Suicidal individuals who could benefit from suicide prevention will receive psychiatric MAID instead.” This again is not coming from a partisan perspective. This is coming from the Society of Canadian Psychiatry.
    We are fostering a culture that encourages giving up in the face of grave adversity, when Canadians historically have been the types who have faced great challenges, have overcome huge obstacles, have come through adversity, have come out the other side and have become stellar examples of what it is to overcome great challenges in life. I want that to be our continued reputation, not easy access to a decision that has such finality and such a dire consequence.
    Another quote from the Society of Canadian Psychiatry says, “the political process leading to the planned expansion of MAID for mental illness has not followed a robust and fulsome process, has not reflected the range of opinions and evidence-based concerns on the issue, and has been selectively guided by expansion activists.”

  (1550)  

    Those are huge statements of fact. If they are to be considered, they should give direction, and clear direction, to this House, on how we should proceed going from here.
    This time I will quote from what would not be known as a far right extreme voice. I am quoting from a Washington Post article that reads, “empowering a mentally ill person to invoke a physician’s aid in ending his or her suffering — by ending life itself — inverts the most basic goal of psychiatry, which is to prevent suicide rather than to facilitate it”.
    Dr. Madeline Li, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University Health Network, told the BBC, “Making death too ready a solution disadvantages the most vulnerable people, and actually lets society off the hook”, and she went on to say, “I don't think death should be society's solution for its own failures”. These are professionals at the top of their professions, speaking to the grave direction that we are heading in as a country, as it relates to medical assistance in dying.
    Of those who advocate for the most vulnerable among us here in Canada, the CEO and the executive vice-president for Inclusion Canada said, “MAiD for people with disabilities who are not terminally ill is a discriminatory disaster”.
     Again, these are the chief advocates for the most vulnerable among us. We should listen to their voices as we consider this and bring to the House the voices of the many concerned Canadians who have risen up, written my office, made phone calls and contacted colleagues, I am sure, on numerous occasions to say that this is not the direction that they would have ever anticipated Canada to go, and this is not the direction that we should go.
    In closing, I am drawn to a story of a gentleman I got to know, a dear friend of mine. I share this story with his permission. Robert McCoy is a gentleman from my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac who had a huge challenge in his life. He is a young man with a young family, who began to lose sight in one of his eyes. It quickly spread to his other eye, and he became completely blind. He did not know how he would provide for his family since he had worked in the woods and was a skidder operator. He was not sure how he could make provisions for his family. It seemed overwhelming. He spoke about this publicly as part of his story. He told me he was so desperate in those times that he seriously considered taking his own life. He even planned it out. He thought maybe if he could somehow step inadvertently in front of a truck or a vehicle, because he was blind, that his family and other people would think it was an accident, and they may be able to at least continue on the insurance and make ends meet. It was a very low point, but he told me that in his desperation, he cried out. Yes, faith was important to him, but he felt like he heard at that moment a very clarion voice inside that said, “You will survive”.
    That one moment became enough for him, along with the encouragement of his wife and family, to start over again. A woods worker put himself through learning how to live with blindness, went to university and got a degree. He now has a Master of Sociology and is a professor at St. Thomas University in Fredericton.
    I am glad to say that Robert McCoy is doing very well; I spoke to him today. I am glad that during that time he did not have ready access to voices who would encourage him to go down this particular path as a potential solution to his problem. I am glad he chose the pathway of hope, of recovery and of overcoming obstacles. As parliamentarians, we should be doing everything we can to foster a culture of life and hope, rather than a culture of death and despair. I hope we make the right decision at this time.

  (1555)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member is a great speaker in the House. I certainly enjoyed the story about one of my constituents. That was really great, and I agree. I am an advocate for mental health access. Actually, I did vote against the previous bill as well in the previous Parliament.
     I really want to highlight that it is so important to create the clear distinction between suicidal ideation, what happens when someone is dealing with depression and wants to take their life, and medical assistance in dying. It is really important to have that distinction made.
    I wonder if the member could comment on that.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is from a neighbouring riding of Fredericton, and it is always good to have good debate and discussion with her.
    I want to assure her that the concerns we are hearing are that this pathway is being opened up and people do perceive that when someone is struggling in a season of difficulty, they may want to access, through the avenue of MAID, medical assistance in dying, for the sole purpose of mental illness.
    We have to close that door. Obviously, I am glad our position is to make sure that door is closed completely and with finality, so that that access point is no longer available. Without those safeguards in place, I am afraid that more Canadians would choose that route as an avenue of coping with such devastating circumstances in their lives.
    I will conclude with this point. I want to give honour to a colleague in the House, the member for Cariboo—Prince George, who fought very hard to get 988 established, to bring in a suicide crisis hotline in this country. To tell of the need for this kind of hope to be offered to Canadians, right now, the stats are upwards of 1,500 contacts a day, of people utilizing and calling or texting 988. That tells us there is a cry for hope in Canada. People want options, and the last option they should ever be given is to access MAID.

  (1600)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I sympathize with my colleague’s story about one of his constituents. However, using specific cases to try to advance ideological views is not how we move forward in a debate. Since this morning, I have been hearing the Conservatives talk about medical assistance in dying as if the process were like renting a movie on Netflix. This is not how it works.
     Legislators are expected to stand back a bit and place the public good before their personal ideology. I know people who have sought medical assistance in dying. It is a medical procedure like many others that must be weighed. I would advise my colleague to place the common good before his ideological interests. Perhaps we would all grow if we worked this way.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for sharing his thoughts. However, I will take exception to where he is taking that thought.
    We cannot expect any parliamentarian who enters the House to separate what informs their decision-making process and the values they hold dear when it comes to debates in the House. If this is indeed the people's House, the House of Commons that represents the voices of the common people, no voice, world view, value set or concept should be dismissed out of hand. They should be welcomed and embraced. We should have wholesome discussions on these matters, especially a matter pertaining to life and death. No, I will not separate my values nor my world view from that discussion. They help inform the discussion.
    Mr. Speaker, in his speech, the member for Tobique—Mactaquac evoked the disability community, along with his concerns for their well-being when it comes to expanding medical assistance in dying for mental health.
    The House could be pressing the Liberal government to actually address the legislated poverty that people with disabilities are facing. We could all be pressing to fund the Canada disability benefit. If the member claims to be concerned about the lives of people with disabilities, as I am sure he truthfully is, is he going to, and how will he, continue to press the government to fund the Canada disability benefit and end legislated poverty for people with disabilities?
    Mr. Speaker, I quoted the CEO, Krista Carr of Inclusion Canada. They are raising alarm bells on this matter and this issue at this point. If we do not get this right, we will never get to the other access points.
    It is absolutely critical that what we do in the House is the most fundamental basic thing, which is to make sure they have access to recovery and to hope. If we do not start there, we will never get to the other very important issues that need to be discussed and debated. Let us start with the fact that they need to make sure we are doing everything, as the people's representatives, to ensure their access to hope and to life.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate being recognized to speak to a very sensitive and emotional issue.

[Translation]

    Today, I am pleased to be speaking to Bill C-62. This bill proposes extending the temporary exclusion from MAID for people whose sole underlying medical condition is mental illness.
    We are proposing that the exclusion be extended by three years. To understand why an extension of this exclusion is so important right now, we need to look at how we got to this point in the legislative process.

  (1605)  

[English]

    As members know, former Bill C-7 was enacted in response to the Quebec Superior Court Truchon ruling. The ruling found that the original MAID legislation, which required a person's natural death to be reasonably foreseeable, contravened the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
    The former Bill C-7 received royal assent and became law on March 17, 2021. This law included a temporary two-year exclusion of eligibility for individuals suffering solely from mental illness, which meant that such persons would become eligible to receive MAID starting March 17, 2023, if they met all other eligibility criteria. The intent of this two-year delay was to allow an expert panel to undertake an independent review and to provide recommendations respecting any protocols, guidance and safeguards that should apply to requests for MAID by persons with a mental illness.
    I will be sharing my time with the member for Richmond Hill.
    On May 13, 2022, the “Final Report of the Expert Panel on MAiD and Mental Illness” was tabled in Parliament and released publicly. The expert panel noted that MAID clinicians are already assessing very complex cases and concluded that certain assessment challenges, such as determining incurability or assessing decision-making capacity, are not unique to MAID requests from persons with a mental disorder, nor are they applicable to every requester who has a mental disorder. The expert panel also concluded that the existing MAID eligibility criteria and safeguards in the legislation provide an adequate structure for MAID where a mental disorder is the sole underlying medical condition, as long as they are interpreted and applied appropriately.
    The expert panel's recommendations provide guidance to support complex MAID assessments. In its final report, the expert panel made 19 recommendations, laying out a broad set of principles that could structure the practice of MAID not only for persons with a mental disorder but also for those with other conditions where concerns may arise related to incurability, irreversibility, decision-making capacity, suicidality and/or the impact of structural vulnerability, regardless of the person's diagnosis.

[Translation]

    The government supports the insights and general advice emerging from the panel's work. Let me take a few minutes to highlight some of the key achievements.

[English]

    The expert panel report recommended the development of national practice standards on MAID for mental disorders and other complex cases. Practice standards help regulatory bodies evaluate the appropriateness of the clinical decisions of health professionals who assess and provide MAID. They also provide clarity to MAID clinicians regarding their professional obligations. In March 2023, a model practice standard for MAID was released along with a companion document of advice to the profession, which provides a series of questions and answers that elaborate upon specific clinical questions raised by the model standard.

[Translation]

    That is not all we have done to help prepare a safe approach to providing medical assistance in dying across Canada.
    We are providing $4.9 million to the Canadian Association of MAiD Assessors and Providers to develop and deliver an accredited, Canadian-made curriculum to support practitioners. This consists of seven training modules that address various topics related to the assessment and provision of MAID, including guidance in how to assess capacity and vulnerability, how to navigate more complex cases and how to assess MAID requests with mental illness as the sole underlying condition. The MAID curriculum was launched in August 2023. Over 1,100 clinicians have registered for it.
    From when MAID legislation was enacted in 2016 to the end of 2022, over 44,000 Canadians received MAID. The vast majority of these individuals were at the end of their life. In fact, numbers from 2022 show that 96.5% of individuals accessing MAID were terminally ill, and two-thirds had a cancer diagnosis. Many more requested MAID but were ruled ineligible based on the strict eligibility criteria and safeguards, withdrew their requests or died before receiving MAID. This is not unexpected.
    The government recognizes that public reporting is critical to ensuring transparency and public trust in the legislation. Both the original MAID legislation of 2016 and the amended law passed in 2021 set out obligations for the collection of data and public reporting on important aspects of MAID. As of January 1, 2023, we have expanded our collection of information on MAID.

  (1610)  

    I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the achievements of the provinces and territories, as well as key partners in the system, such as health care professionals, who are working to safely implement MAID within their health care systems.

[English]

    We have come a long way, but we have heard clearly that there is more work to be done. More preparations are required within the provincial and territorial health care systems to support the wraparound activities that may be necessary for the management and assessment of MAID requests where mental illness is the driver.

[Translation]

    We also know that some Canadians and members of the medical community are concerned about expanding eligibility for MAID to people suffering solely from mental disorders.

[English]

    We will continue the work with the provinces, territories and key health system partners to support the safe implementation and delivery of Canada's framework for MAID, while protecting those who may be vulnerable. The expert panel also recommended consultations with first nations, Inuit and Métis people. We recognize the importance of meaningful engagement and ongoing dialogue with indigenous peoples to support the culturally safe implementation of MAID.
    Working in partnership with indigenous communities, we have developed an extensive plan for indigenous engagement. Our approach involves both indigenous-led community engagement and federally supported activities, such as an online tool, which has already been launched, and knowledge-exchange round tables, which will be taking place this February to April. We are working closely with indigenous partners to design a process with them at their pace.
    I recognize that there is a lot of hard work being done in order to show that MAID is accessible to people who need it, with appropriate safeguards in place. However, we need to make sure that we do not rush into that decision. This is why it is really important that we extend the application of this particular bill, as it relates to people with mental disorders, by at least three years; as a result, all provinces and territories can have the appropriate training and assessment tools ready.
    A year ago, we extended the exclusion period for one year, until this March. As we approach that date, we have heard unanimously from all provinces and territories that their health care systems are at various stages of readiness, and there is more to be done.

[Translation]

    The decisions we are making about MAID are not easy to make, nor should they be.

[English]

    These are life-and-death decisions and we must get this right.

[Translation]

    In Bill C‑62, the government has put forward a three-year extension of the exclusion from eligibility for MAID for people suffering solely from mental illness.

[English]

    I urge all members of this House to support Bill C-62.
    Mr. Speaker, I would begin by reminding my colleague across the way that the provinces and territories sent a letter to the then minister of justice asking for an indefinite pause on MAID for the mentally ill, not just a three-year extension. I would also remind him that the large majority of Canadians oppose the expansion of MAID to the mentally ill. Similarly, a large number of mental health professionals across our country oppose the expansion.
    Given all those circumstances, why does the member support a three-year extension rather than an indefinite pause on this policy?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his remarks and question. I want to remind the member that, back in 2016, when the first MAID legislation came, I was serving at the provincial level. In fact, I was the attorney general for the Province of Ontario. I had the opportunity to work closely with the federal government, along with the provincial minister of health at that time, on the appropriate and proper implementation of the MAID legislation that was passed by this House. This was hard work that required a lot of appropriate training, curriculum, readiness and safeguards to ensure that MAID was practised in the province according to the law.
    That is the path forward as we look at people with mental disorders. We need to make sure that provinces and territories are ready, as they are asking for time. We are confident that, if we provide an extension for three years, they will have the appropriate tools, curriculum and training necessary in order to deliver this service in the most appropriate manner.

  (1615)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech, and especially the bits in French.
     However, I am still amazed to learn that during the course of this debate, which is not that old, the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying agreed on recommendations. These recommendations are found in the Bloc Québécois amendment we are debating today. I believe this amendment is very simple. It mentions that the bill “take into account provincial medical assistance in dying frameworks for advance requests from persons who have an illness that could deprive them of the capacity to consent to care”. I think this is just common sense.
     Can we not vote on this amendment first and then make some progress so that people who need it can have access to medical assistance in dying in a free and informed manner?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

[English]

    Partnership with provinces, including Quebec, is extremely important in order for the legislation around MAID to be applied properly. As we know, delivery of health care is a provincial responsibility. It is really important that our provinces have all the tools and the time necessary to administer MAID in an appropriate manner.
     That is why the work that is happening around setting of curriculum, training and the tools that regulatory bodies need to ensure that the training and curriculum is being met, as well as that the safeguards are being complied with, is important. This is also why the three-year extension under Bill C-62 is absolutely necessary.
    Mr. Speaker, as the parliamentary secretary well knows, we really only have two sitting weeks left for this bill to reach the Governor General's desk. We are already pretty much halfway through one of those two. I think that the House of Commons is going to do its duty and pass the bill this week, but there are reports in the media of senators openly defying the intent of this bill and threatening to block it.
    What steps is the government taking to ensure that the Senate does not thwart the will of the democratically elected House and that it makes sure the bill reaches the Governor General's desk in time?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for his question and the members of this House for the hard work they are doing to ensure that this particular piece of legislation passes through this place as quickly as possible, so it can get to the Senate and become law by March 17.
    I am confident that the Senate will fulfill its responsibility appropriately and will pass this legislation. I know the minister, along with the Attorney General, will be speaking to the senators and answering their questions. I hope this will satisfy them in terms of the validity of the bill and the need to pass it by March 17.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with a sense of profound responsibility and pride that I address the House today regarding the government's proposed bill, Bill C-62, aimed at extending the temporary suspension of eligibility for medical assistance in dying, MAID, for individuals suffering exclusively from mental illness, for an additional three years. This discussion is not just about policy but about the very essence of compassion, dignity and the complexity of human suffering.
    The concept of MAID resonates deeply within the Canadian societal fabric, touching upon the core values of autonomy and the right to end intolerable suffering. In Richmond Hill, as in communities across our nation, I have engaged with constituents, health care professionals and advocacy groups. These conversations have revealed a spectrum of beliefs and underscored the critical importance of adopting this issue with sensitivity, respect and an unwavering commitment to the well-being of all Canadians.
    Since MAID was introduced, our office organized three community council meetings to deeply engage on this topic. We also partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association, among many other professional associations, to enhance the dialogue with our constituents. Following the special joint committee's report, we convened our latest community council to gather our constituents' views and insights. Their response was clear and united in support of the delay. This active involvement with our community underlines the importance of careful reflection and thorough examination in addressing this issue.
    The proposed extension under Bill C-62 is not merely a procedural delay. It is a crucial break that would let us look more closely into how mental illnesses and the final choice to end a life interact with each other. Mental health issues are complex and different for everyone, making it hard to fit them into our usual ideas about illness that leads to death. We need to look at each situation individually, taking the person's pain seriously while making sure there are strong protections in place to prevent hasty choices.
    Our government acknowledges the importance of the data and reporting in relation to MAID, so much so that the original 2016 legislation obligated the Minister of Health to collect and report annually on MAID assessment and delivery. The formal monitoring system is important to inform our understanding of who applies for MAID in Canada, the medical conditions prompting requests, and trends in MAID activity since the 2016 legislation. As such, we have been working in collaboration with the provinces and territories and with health care professionals to establish a robust monitoring system. It is important to emphasize that this is a significant collaborative commitment.
    As members know, on March 17, 2021, revised federal legislation was passed, expanding MAID eligibility to persons whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable, providing they meet the remaining eligibility criteria.
    Since the passing of the new legislation, the vast majority of MAID deaths, that is 96.5%, involved individuals whose death was reasonably foreseeable. Of course, two-thirds had a cancer diagnosis. In 2022, just 3.5% of total MAID deaths, which is 463 deaths, were attributed to individuals whose death was not reasonably foreseeable, representing less than 0.2% of all deaths in Canada. Of those 463 deaths, nearly 50% reported that the main underlying medical condition was neurological, such as ALS or Parkinson’s disease, while the remaining cases involved a variety of other complex conditions, including multiple comorbidities, cardiovascular disease, organ failure and respiratory illnesses.
    Although the current sample is small, 2022 data also shows that where death was not reasonably foreseeable, 64% of individuals were approved for MAID, compared to 83% of individuals in cases where death was foreseeable. Each MAID request where the person’s natural death is not reasonably foreseeable is complex and unique, and early indications show that approvals for MAID in this stream are much lower than when the person’s death is reasonably foreseeable.

  (1620)  

    The decision-making process for MAID, especially in the context of mental illness, is fraught with complexity. It necessitates a meticulous evaluation of the individual's condition, an exploration of all viable treatment options and a profound understanding of the person's lived experience. This process is not undertaken lightly. It is grounded in empathy, clinical expertise and a rigorous adherence to ethical standards.
    I also previously engaged in discussions on this matter in 2016 and again in February 2023. Today marks my third address to the House on this subject, which holds personal significance for me and, undoubtedly, affects numerous households in Richmond Hill and beyond.
    I wish to highlight the government's consistent commitment to thorough and collaborative investigation, in concert with provincial, territorial and societal stakeholders, to ensure that MAID is administered with rigorous safeguards to protect the vulnerable while respecting the rights and dignities of applicants.
    In pursuit of these objectives, the government enacted Bill C-39 last year, extending the moratorium on MAID for those with mental disorders as their sole medical condition until March of this year. This extension was pivotal in facilitating the safe provision of MAID, allowing for the broader dissemination and adoption of essential resources among medical and nursing professionals and ensuring the readiness of our health care infrastructure.
    Moreover, this period provided the government with a crucial window to review the conclusive report by the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying. The one-year extension has proven invaluable, enabling the special joint committee to conduct a review in October 2023 concerning Canada's preparedness to accommodate MAID requests for mental disorders.
    On January 29, 2024, the committee tabled its third report, which outlined recommendations regarding Canada's readiness for the safe execution of MAID under these circumstances. Following the committee's recommendations, the government, via Bill C-62, seeks to extend the pause on MAID for those with only a mental disorder until March 17, 2027. This aims to give our health care system enough time to prepare for MAID under these conditions.
    We have held detailed talks with health care experts and the public, which showed a clear need for more time to maintain the integrity of this process. This time would also help in creating and sharing specialized training for health care workers, developing detailed policies and encouraging discussions on this important matter. The goal is to create a system that acknowledges mental illness complexities, protects those at risk, respects individual rights and dignity, as well as the Constitution, and ensures the proper safeguards.
    In conclusion, we know that the MAID regime has provided relief from suffering for thousands of Canadians so far, the vast majority of whom are already at the end of life, and that individuals living with intolerable suffering will continue to explore MAID as an option in the future.
    We have made a commitment to transparency and accountability across all levels of government to support public confidence in the MAID regime. I am also confident that we are honouring that commitment by providing Canadians with accurate and reliable information on MAID as it continues to evolve in this country.
    As I stand before you, Mr. Speaker, acknowledging the profound impact of this issue on myself, the constituents of Richmond Hill and countless other Canadians, I am confident that this bill would facilitate the careful and considered approach required to address this sensitive matter appropriately.

  (1625)  

    Mr. Speaker, on the situation we find ourselves in this week, and last year with Bill C-39, we can draw a direct line back to the Senate amendment that was placed on Bill C-7. The government did a complete 180. It came out with a charter statement explaining why it was excluding mental disorders, and it then went and accepted the Senate amendment.
    Bill C-39 last year had to punt the ball down the road by a year. Now we have Bill C-62 trying to do that by another three years. It feels like everything we have been doing has been trying to play catch-up to that change in the law. The law was changed before we had done the work.
    Does my hon. colleague regret voting for that Senate amendment, given all he knows now and all of the catch-up we have been trying to do on this very important and sensitive issue?
    Mr. Speaker, through you, I would like to thank my colleague across, not only for the work he has done as part of the special committee, but also for the point of view he is raising.
    We have to remember that, at that time, we were looking at the bill from a constitutional aspect as well, so when we looked at it we addressed many issues. We put the policies, the procedures, the constitutional concept of it and the rights of Canadians into perspective. I believe that was the right decision to make.
    However, since then we have had the opportunity to look at the next phase, which is the implementation and the rollout of that. As we started to address working with the provinces and the professionals, we realized there was a lot more opportunity for collaboration as far as readiness and safeguards are concerned, and that we needed more time. We were hoping that one year would give us that, but once again it became clear that we needed more time. Therefore, the extension we are talking about is finding that fine balance between making sure that all Canadians can exercise their constitutional right and making sure we have the safeguards in place to ensure that no missteps are taken.

  (1630)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the constitutional right to MAID is that the member across referred to.
    He wants more time to discover this legislation. The difficulty of course is the concept of irremediability. The Liberal government can take the next thousand years to consider this legislation, but it is clear from experts across this country that the issue of irremediability with respect to mental illness is not going to be resolved. How is he going to resolve that with the voters who are going to send him packing in the next election?
    Mr. Speaker, let me address the last part first. I have had the honour and privilege of representing Richmond Hill over the last three terms and am counting on people and my hard work to be able to be re-elected so that I can come back here to continue representing them. Let us leave it at that.
    What is key is that the issue of irremediability is a very complex issue, and it takes time to understand each case. We need to make sure all the safeguards are put into place to ensure that we do not cause any undue risk and harm.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a bill that is very sensitive for many different reasons. This bill affects us all for one reason or another. There is a motion calling for a distinction between neurodegenerative disease and mental illness.
    I wonder if my colleague could tell us what he thinks about the possibility of moving faster on legislation that covers neurodegenerative disease so that people with Alzheimer's can decide, while they are still lucid, if and when they want to end things, because it is still a choice.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have had the pleasure of working with my colleague on a number of committees, and I thank her for her point of view.
    The point is that it is those complexities that have necessitated, now that we are at the point of rolling out this legislation, that we really take a step back and look at the spectrum of diseases and the challenges that exist to be able to ensure that the right safeguards are in place. Yes, all of those need to be taken into account.
     I am hoping that, over the next three years, working in collaboration with the provinces and with professionals, as well as with those with lived experience, we will be able to answer some of those key questions.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my speaking time with the hon. member for Shefford.
     I rise today to speak about a topic I am passionate about. I am a social worker. I spent my career supporting seniors who wished to live at home, as well as seniors living in long-term care centres. I could say that I will be giving a speech, but it is more like a first-hand account, because this morning, quite frankly, I could not believe my ears. I could not believe the outrageous remarks I was hearing on the issue of medical assistance in dying.
     I would like to remind the House that the Bloc Québécois has a humanist vision of medical assistance in dying. Our focus is on the importance of the individual's right to dignity, to free and informed consent and, most of all, to self-determination. That means that I am the best person to decide what will happen to me, because I am making a free and informed choice.
     I want to tell the House a story, but I should mention that it is not a very pleasant one. As I said, I am a social worker, and I have kept up my membership in my professional association, because I think that is very important. Today, I am addressing my colleagues as both a member of Parliament and a social worker.
     I worked with an elderly lady in a long-term care home. She had multiple sclerosis. She had been living there for years. Slowly, little by little, she lost her autonomy, until all she could do was move her head, swallow, and move two fingers. It was just enough to operate her wheelchair. She asked for medical assistance in dying.
     As a social worker, it was my job to professionally assess whether her request was free and informed and whether she was asking for care in a free and informed way. I did my duty. I went to university, so I have clinical knowledge that enabled me to examine her condition, professionally evaluate her and use my clinical judgment to assess the request from this woman who had been suffering for years, confined to her bed.
     Imagine what it is like for someone who has to stay in bed all day long, having people turn them over so they do not get bedsores. Imagine what it feels like for someone who can no longer go to the bathroom, who is incontinent, who can no longer scratch their own forehead and has to ring for an attendant to come scratch it for them because it is itchy.
     The woman I am talking about made a request for medical assistance in dying. Her request was denied because the members of the multidisciplinary team concluded that this person was not in a condition to make a truly free decision, that she was depressed and that it was not the right time for her to take that step.
     When I hear our Conservative friends say all someone has to do is ask and they will get an injection the next day and die, I can tell my colleagues that, as a health professional and a social worker, it is tough to listen to that. As a member of Parliament, I am ashamed, because it is bad to spread misinformation. Just because someone asks for medical assistance in dying does not mean they will get it. There are tons of people around these patients who assess their state of mind and their disease. Together, they decide whether that person can request medical assistance in dying and receive it. We live in a democratic country. People can submit requests. That does not mean anything goes and requests will automatically be granted. This morning, I decided I had better listen to the speeches from my office, because I would have had trouble facing the members who were saying outrageous things.
     The same goes for people with disabilities. It seems like some members believe that people with disabilities are not smart, that they cannot make decisions and that they need to be guided. I am sorry, maybe I am getting emotional, but I have profound respect for human beings, and human beings are capable of making decisions about themselves.
     I want to reiterate that just because someone requests MAID does not mean they will receive it. The professionals surrounding these people are not naive. They are educated people: doctors, nurses, social workers and occupational therapists. Care providers are professionals.
     MAID is a lengthy process in Quebec. Sometimes, people make the request too late. They lose their ability to consent again to the process, and they miss their chance. They suffer because they lost the cognitive capacity to consent one more time to medical assistance in dying.

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     We agree that today we are discussing a very sensitive and complex issue. There are some members in the House who are really lowering the level of the discussion and debate. Frankly, I feel sick about this, and I repeat that I am ashamed of what I heard this morning.
     The Bloc Québécois’s proposal is balanced. We know that Quebec passed a law and wants to allow people to make advance requests. What does that mean? If the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie received a diagnosis of early dementia or Alzheimer’s around the age of 45, he could decide that he did not want to die in a long-term care home, hunched over and completely dependent on others. He would then decide to draft his advance requests and trust those around him so that he could receive medical assistance in dying when all the criteria he described were met. In Quebec we are ready to do that.
     Furthermore, the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, which analyzed the issue for a year, reached the same conclusion, namely that it makes sense. A person who is mentally sound, who has been assessed and wants to make their advance request should be able to do so and, above all, to obtain it.
     The bill we have here is very timid. It lacks ambition and political courage. We are abandoning people who, at this very moment, would like to use advance requests because they are suffering from a form of dementia, a kind of incurable neurocognitive disease. They see the end coming, and it is terrible, because it comes with atrocious suffering and complete loss of autonomy.
    If I received a diagnosis of early onset dementia and no longer recognized my children and my grandchildren, if I was aggressive, if I defecated in my underwear and did not stop walking all day long because I kept wandering and had no life left, I would want my children to say that I met all the requirements and to ask that they let me go because I would be ready and those were my wishes. In Quebec, this has been recognized. Unfortunately, because this government will not listen to Quebec, it will not allow practitioners, doctors, nurses and social workers to do their work. They could face legal action launched by the family or by a third party. What is going to happen? People in Quebec are really going to suffer because here, in the House, people lack courage and do not want to support the one province that is ready to move to another level. When it comes to advance requests, we are ready.
    We in the Bloc Québécois nonetheless agreed that we had not necessarily fully explored the issue of mental disorders and that we needed an extra year to reflect and lay the groundwork. However, three years is too long. Society is moving ahead faster than legislators. Members of the House need to understand they are abandoning people who will suffer.
     My grandmother was religious. At age 91, she was suffering terribly and was about to die. She refused morphine because, in her religion, those who suffer go to heaven. She refused care, and she suffered. It was a choice. We respected her choice to suffer so she could go straight to heaven, even though we knew full well she would. She believed she had to suffer. We respected that. She refused all morphine injections. Today, we have made progress. People have the right to choose how they want to leave this earth. I repeat, just because people ask for medical assistance in dying does not mean they will receive it.
     Today, I am making a plea from my heart. For everyone who will need it, let us listen to the consensus of Quebec society. Let us listen to Quebeckers, who are saying that Canada can take the time to reflect, but that Quebec is ready and wants permission to do it properly and legally.

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    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her plea from the heart, her speech. She mentioned me at one point. I hope I do not receive that diagnosis anytime soon. I generally agree with her on this issue.
     I did not follow all the formalities and procedures surrounding this matter. That said, I agree that there is consensus in Quebec concerning advance requests with defined criteria, loved ones who can care for the patient and health professionals who can provide support.
     I quite agree with my colleague that the federal government should show some openness, sit down and talk with Quebec to find a solution, maybe even a reasonable accommodation, so we can respect the consensus of Quebec society, which seems to be heading in the same direction in this matter.

  (1645)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear from my colleague who understands the consensus in Quebec. Now, I will ask him to convince his political party to support the Bloc Québécois amendment, which proposes amending the Criminal Code so that service providers cannot be prosecuted for providing MAID to people who made advance requests and obtained that service. I encourage him to speak up and to be a leader in his party to convince his colleagues.
    Just because the other health ministers from the other provinces and territories are not ready does not mean that Quebec is obligated to move as slowly as them. Quebec is ready to help people who are suffering who want MAID and who request it.
    I will say it again. I do not know if there are any anglophone MPs here who are wearing their earpieces, but just because a person requests medical assistance in dying does not mean that they will get it.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I find aspects of the debate we have had here today to be very troubling because there are increasing examples, and I hear of them in my constituency office and from reports in the media, but the member suggests that somehow the debate is settled. Therefore, anybody who would raise valid questions is somehow not entitled to ask those questions. That is simply not how our democracy works. It is troubling that that would be the trend some members of the Bloc Québécois, and even some Liberals today, are following when we have heard a host of very concerning things.
     Even at the special committee, which has been referenced, Quebec's college of physicians suggested that infants could be euthanized if they were born with a disability. There are concerns about members of the military, veterans, who have been offered MAID instead of treatment. There is a whole host of questions that need to be answered. It is time to give hope in this country and not simply the opportunity for somebody to end their life in the most final way imaginable.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will stay calm because I am not allowed to say what is on my mind. It would be unparliamentary.
    I want to say something about the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying. There was unanimous consensus on recommendation 21, which I will read, “That the Government of Canada amend the Criminal Code to allow for advance requests following a diagnosis of a serious and incurable medical condition[,] disease, or disorder leading to incapacity.” This is not coming from me. This comes from a joint committee made up of MPs from every party in the House and several senators. That was said in February 2023.
    I was a social worker in Quebec. Children have never, ever been euthanized in Quebec. That is not what we are talking about.
    I think that the member did not listen to my speech. What I said was that not everyone who asks for medical assistance in dying gets it, and those who do have to go through a thorough and professional clinical process first.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Salaberry—Suroît is a tough act to follow. This is not easy, because we all have someone in mind when we talk about this. We have all lost loved ones over the past few months and years. We all have gone through different experiences. Some people request medical assistance in dying, others do not, but one thing is certain: this is a very sensitive topic. It is with great humility and sensitivity that I rise today to speak to Bill C-62, an act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), no. 2, something we have been talking about for a long time.
    We must act by considering the fact that, currently, the Government of Quebec's Bill 11 does not include non-neurocognitive mental disorders as being eligible for medical assistance in dying and that Quebec wants to fill the administrative void surrounding the federal government's position on the subject of mental disorders relative to neurocognitive disorders. Therefore, I am not here to repeat my whip's testimony. I am here to provide some background and talk about Quebec's specificities. I will close by going into more detail about the Bloc's position.
    First, in 2014, Quebec passed the Act Respecting End-of-Life care after five years of consultations and of working together across party lines. I want to emphasize that the work was non-partisan. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruling in Carter indicated that some provisions of the Criminal Code that prohibited medical assistance in dying contravened the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In 2016, the Liberal government passed Bill C-14, in response to Carter. In 2019, the Quebec Superior Court ruled in favour of Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, who claimed that excluding people whose death was not reasonably foreseeable from eligibility for medical assistance in dying was discriminatory. As a result, the court ordered that federal and provincial laws be amended before December 18, 2020.
    In 2021, after a pandemic-related delay, Parliament passed Bill C‑7, which created two pathways to medical assistance in dying: One for those whose death is reasonably foreseeable and one for those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable. Quebec simply chose to drop the end-of-life criterion. Bill C‑7 required that an expert panel be created to review MAID and mental illness. The Expert Panel on MAID and Mental Illness was formed in August 2021 and produced a final report containing 19 recommendations. Recognizing that the legislation was flawed and that issues related to medical assistance in dying remained unresolved, Bill C-7 created the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, composed of members of the Senate and members of the House of Commons, which had a five-part mandate.
    The joint committee tabled an interim report on June 22, 2022. There was not much time between the tabling of the joint committee's report, which was initially expected in 2022, and the March 17, 2023, deadline for excluding people from MAID for mental illness, so members postponed eligibility for one year to allow the committee to finish its work. The goal was to give the professions involved more time to develop standards of practice. At last, in February 2024, the joint committee produced its final report. The report contains only one recommendation. Bill C‑62 implements the report's recommendation by postponing eligibility for MAID MD-SUMC, for mental disorders, for three years and by forcing the creation of a joint committee one year before the report.
    Sections 241.1 to 241.4 of the Criminal Code govern medical assistance in dying in Canada. What is more, under the law, the government is required to oversee the use of medical assistance in dying via the Regulations for the Monitoring of Medical Assistance in Dying. I am providing all of this background to illustrate that the government could have and should have taken action a long time ago.
    Second, in Quebec, medical assistance in dying is governed by the Act Respecting End-of-Life Care. The activities surrounding medical assistance in dying are supervised by the select committee on end-of-life care. In June 2023, the National Assembly of Quebec passed Bill 11 to expand access to medical assistance in dying in Quebec and harmonize Quebec's legislation with the Criminal Code. There are some notable changes to Quebec's legislation. Minister Sonia Bélanger and her colleagues Roberge and Jolin‑Barette held a press conference on February 7 calling on the government to include a provision in the Criminal Code that would allow Quebec to move forward with advance requests, because, even though Quebec's legislation allows it, the Criminal Code does not.

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    Although doctors who choose to go ahead with advance requests are unlikely to be prosecuted by Quebec's attorney general, the risk of a civil lawsuit is still there, and that will make many doctors think twice about granting advance requests. Quebec's National Assembly has passed a unanimous motion demanding that the federal government legislate on the issue.
    Third, the Bloc Québécois will vote for the bill on the condition that the postponement is for one year, not three. The Bloc Québécois believes that eligibility for people suffering from mental disorders must be postponed so that Quebec, the provinces and professional bodies can create a framework for their MAID practices. However, it should not be postponed indefinitely. The Bloc Québécois believes that postponing eligibility by three years will prolong the suffering of individuals who could be eligible for MAID and is contrary to their rights as guaranteed by the charters. The Bloc Québécois wishes to point out that the report of the Expert Panel on MAID and Mental Illness, as well as the Collège des médecins du Québec, emphasized that the safeguards—namely irremediability, severe physical or mental suffering, and free and informed consent—currently provided for in the Criminal Code are sufficient to allow access to MAID where mental disorder is the only underlying condition.
    In our supplementary opinion attached to the report of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, the Bloc Québécois points out that, even though preparations on the ground for medical assistance in dying when a mental disorder is the sole underlying medical condition are not yet complete across Canada, this does not change the fact that several professional associations, including the Collège des médecins du Québec and the Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec, would still like it to be made available in the future.
    The Bloc Québécois also acknowledges the requests made by several provinces to postpone eligibility. It should be noted that many countries have adopted policies on medical assistance in dying specifically for mental disorders.
    The Bloc Québécois deplores the government's failure to be proactive and the Conservatives' obstruction on the issue of medical assistance in dying when a mental disorder is the sole underlying medical condition and on the issue of advance requests. We fear for the patients who will have to turn to the courts to assert their rights while also bearing the burden of their illness.
    Finally, the Bloc Québécois