Canadian MP introduces protection of conscience bill

Bill C-268 (2016)  Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act

Sean Murphy*

Conservative Member of Parliament Kelly Block has introduced a bill that would make it a crime to coerce medical or nurse practitioners or other health professionals to take part, directly or indirectly, in “medical assistance in dying.” The preamble of the bill makes clear that it is intended as a protection of conscience measure.

The text of the bill is much the same as a bill proposed by MP Mark Warawa in 2016.

“Medical assistance in dying” means euthanasia and assisted suicide provided by physicians or nurse practitioners. Since it is considered medical treatment in Canada, it falls within provincial jurisdiction over health care. Similarly, provinces have primary jurisdiction over human rights like freedom of conscience. Thus, the federal government has been easily able to refuse amendments like this on the grounds that they unconstitutionally trespass on provincial jursidiction.

The federal government has constitutional jursidiction in criminal law and could make it a crime to compel someone to be a party to homicide and suicide. Since “medical assistance in dying” is non-culpable homicide and non-cuplpable assisted suicide, such a law would provide protection for health care professionals unwilling to be parties to killing their patients or helping them commit suicide, without intruding upon provincial jurisdiction.

The Protection of Conscience Project has repeatedly made this suggestion to Canadian parliamentarians, but its submissions have been ignored.

It is remarkable that the Canadian government clearly believes it is acceptable to compel citizens to become parties to homicide — killing other people — and punish them if they refuse. It is, perhaps, even more remarkable that Canadians are unwilling to talk openly about this.

Mental illness should never be a death sentence

National Newswatch

Margaret Eaton

Anyone living with mental illness knows it can absolutely be grievous and even unbearable. However, what sets mental illness apart from all other types of suffering is that there always remains the hope of recovery. That’s why the Senate’s amendment to C-7, the assisted dying bill, is so concerning.

People with a mental health problem or illness need assistance to live and thrive, not hasten death. . . [Full text]

MAID for mental illness opens dangerous doors

Hamilton Spectator

K. Sonu Gaind, Sephora Tang

Last week the Canadian Senate voted to recommend a “sunset clause” on the exclusion of mental illness as a sole eligibility criterion for medical assistance in dying (MAID).

If ratified by the House of Commons, within 18 months people suffering solely from a mental illness will be able to request MAID. Some argue that prohibiting access to MAID for mental illness is unconstitutional and discriminatory. Unfortunately that claim is based on a superficial notion that anything being treated differently reflects undue discrimination. In reality, significant differences exist between illnesses that are mental in nature and those that are physical, such that removal of this prohibition would be more than merely discriminatory, it will be fatal for those who most need protection and care within a protective legal framework. . . [Full text]

How Bill C-7 will sacrifice the medical profession’s standard of care

Amendments to assisted dying laws are a stunning reversal of the central role of the medical and legal concept of the standard of care

Trudo Lemmens, Mary Shariff, Leonie Herx

As Parliament discusses Bill C-7’s expansion of the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) Act, one issue has been conspicuously absent from public debate, even though it has major implications for medicine and for patients: the impact of the bill on the role of the medical profession in determining the standard of care, as it applies to MAiD.

The government introduced Bill C-7 in response to the decision of Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Beaudouin (in the Truchon case), who ruled unconstitutional the current law’s limiting of MAiD to those whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”. . . [Full Text]

Indigenous Peoples Should Not Be Compelled to Provide or Facilitate Medical Assistance in Dying

Letter to Canadian Senators, Elected Federal & Provincial Leaders, and Regulators

Tyler White, Graydon Nicholas, Nick Sibbeston, Alika Lafontaine, Lana R. Potts, Rosella Kinoshameg, Bob Sutherland, Troy Hunter, Howard Jolly, Rennie Nahanee, Kenny Blacksmith, Travis Gladue-Beauregard, Karen Sibbeston, Vincent Solomon, Barry C. Maracle

As Indigenous people in Canada, we have grave concerns over the implications of Bill C-7 on our communities.

The expansion of “Medical Assistance in Dying” (MAiD) beyond those whose death is foreseeable will have a lasting impact on our vulnerable populations. Not only has the consultation of Bill C-7 with our leaders been inadequate, it has not taken into account the existing health disparities and social inequalities we face compared to non-Indigenous people.

As sovereign nations in Canada, we have a right in determining how health services will be delivered in our communities, and the Government of Canada has a responsibility to respect this relationship.

Bill C-7 goes against many of our cultural values, belief systems, and sacred teachings. The view that MAiD is a dignified end for the terminally ill or those living with disabilities should not be forced on our peoples.

Given our history with the negative consequences of colonialism and the involuntary imposition of cultural values and ideas, we believe that people should not be compelled to provide or facilitate in the provision of MAiD. Furthermore, our population is vulnerable to discrimination and coercion in the healthcare system, and should be protected against unsolicited counsel regarding MAiD.

These civil measures should extend to all Canadians.

Regardless of one’s opinion of MAiD, the right to self-determination and to act on one’s conscience is recognized as a fundamental freedom in all peoples. We call on the Government of Canada to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices by respecting Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination in spiritual matters, including the right to practise our own traditions and customs when supporting those who are dying, without discrimination in the health care system.

Tyler White.
Chief Executive Officer,
Siksika Health Services, Siksika Nation;
Member of Blackfoot Confederacy and Treaty 7 of Alberta.

Honourable Graydon Nicholas.
Order of New Brunswick,
First Indigenous Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick,
Member of Wolastoqey Nation.

Honourable Nick Sibbeston.
Retired Senator,
Former Premier,
Northwest Territories.

Dr. Alika Lafontaine MD, FRCPC,
Past President, Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada.

Dr. Lana R. Potts BScN MD CCFP.
Indigenous Health Advisor,
Blackfoot Family Physician with Specialty in Indigenous Health;
Blackfoot Ceremonialist;
Member of Racism and Discrimnation Working Group of the
Federal Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada;
Member of Indigenous Advisory at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta.

Rosella Kinoshameg. Elder, DSL hc., RN., B.Sc.N.,
Indigenous Palliative Care Consultant,
Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, Ontario.

Bob Sutherland.
Elder and Traditional Health Worker
Member of Moose Cree First Nation

Troy Hunter.
Indigenous Lawyer, New Columbia Law Corporation,
Member of Ktunaxa Nation, British Columbia.
February 2021

Howard Jolly.
Executive Director, First Nations Alliance Churches of Canada;
Member of the Eeyou Cree Nation, Quebec.

Deacon Rennie Nahanee.
Elder, Squamish Nation;
Volunteer at Lionsgate Hospital for Squamish People;
Advisor for Suicide Prevention for Squamish Nation, British Columbia.

Chief Kenny Blacksmith.
Former Deputy Grand Chief of Eeyou Cree Nation;
KLB Resources Inc/Chief Essential Oils;
Member of the Cree Nation of Mistissini, Quebec.

Travis Gladue-Beauregard,
Operations Director of The Buffalo Tribune;
Columnist and Writer. Former Service Member.
Member of Bigstone Cree Nation, Alberta. Treaty 8 Territory.

Karen Sibbeston. Elder,
Dene Nation, Northwest Territories.

Vincent Solomon.
Urban Indigenous Ministry Developer,
Diocese of Rupert’s Land, Winnipeg, Manitoba.<br.
Barry C. Maracle.
Founder of TakeCharge Ministries.
Mohawk from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario