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I write to you today regarding Bill C-14, the recently tabled Government legislation regarding medical assisted death. This letter serves to outline some of my own opinions as well as to inform residents of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound of what my vote on this legislation will be based on. I understand that this is a very sensitive topic. It is my hope that we can have a respectful dialogue on this legislation both in Parliament and in the public.
As you may know, this legislation comes in response to a Supreme Court of Canada decision on February 6th, 2015 that stated that Canadian laws prohibiting physician-assisted death were unconstitutional. The Government introduced Bill C-14 on April 14th, 2016 in response to this ruling. The legislation was based on the report of a House of Commons Special Joint Committee on this topic which was tabled on February 25th, 2016. The legislation is before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Having provided some background information on the reasoning for and status of the legislation, I would now like to explain what factors will be influencing whether I vote for or against Bill C-14. First and foremost, my vote will be largely based on what my constituents tell me. I was elected to represent the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound and I will do just that. The expressed majority wish of residents of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound will be paramount.
Second, there must be safeguards for vulnerable persons, such as young children as well as those who are not in the appropriate mental state to make this very personal decision. I have read the legislation and it would appear as though there are some safeguards in place to ensure that those who receive physician-assisted death are aware of and have fully consented to the procedure. However, at this time I am not comfortable that enough safeguards are in place to protect the vulnerable. I would like to hear a more extensive explanation from the Government on how exactly the legislation will translate to the creation of the regulatory framework, specifically on this issue. I will also vote with my own conscience. I cannot and will not support something that is not in the best interest of Canadians and in particular the best interest of vulnerable Canadians.
Finally, freedom of conscience is a fundamental right in Canada and extends to those who work in healthcare. Unfortunately, I am not yet convinced that this legislation takes specific action to ensure that healthcare professionals are not forced to administer treatment that they do not feel comfortable with. It is absolutely imperative that the rights of our nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals are protected and that they are not forced into something that they do not believe in. Again, I would like to hear from the Government about what measures, if any, in the current legislation protect the rights of healthcare professionals and how the regulatory framework will be shaped to ensure these safeguards are in place.
As Bill C-14 moves through the legislative process I am looking forward to a lengthy and respectful debate in the House of Commons, at committee, in the Senate and in the public. I was very disappointed that on Wednesday, May 4th, the Government shut down debate on Bill C-14 after only two and a half days (roughly 21 hours of actual debate). There are still a number of Members who would like to speak to this bill and have not had the chance to do so. This is one of the biggest moral and ‘conscious-based’ issues to come before Parliament in years. There is an understanding that sometimes the Government may limit debate on urgent matters (ex. back to work legislation) but to limit debate on legislation that quite literally deals with matters of life and death is simply unacceptable.
I encourage your readers to share their thoughts with me so that I may feel confident when I vote on this legislation that I am accurately representing the views of my constituents.
Larry Miller, MP
Canadian Community News, and thereby its subsidiaries, does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. All comments must be signed and are published at the discretion of the editor
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Sunday, May 08, 2016