The Government of Canada has been hearing from disability rights groups in Canada for literally decades, warning them of the dangers of de-criminalizing assisted suicide. It has been clear to the community since Robert Latimer murdered his daughter, Tracy, back in 1993, that public opinion is a lousy guide when it comes to protecting their lives. The public seemed to be completely unable to perceive a difference between this murder and the concurrent request for assisted suicide being made by Sue Rodriguez.
The Council of Canadians with Disabilities had been supporting Rodriguez, understanding that she might be unable to end her life by herself without experiencing the terrifying symptoms she feared so much. It seemed like a compassionate and defensible battle. However, when Latimer gassed his daughter to death in the cab of his truck, lied about it to police, then demonstrated to them how he’d done it, and the public rose up in his defence, CCD sat back and took notice. When the Supreme Court of Canada pointed out to Canadians that the life that he had taken was not his to take, and upheld his 12-year sentence, the public thought the Court had been too harsh. Essentially, the public turned Robert, rather than his murdered daughter, into the victim of injustice.
CCD understood a terrifying truth: if people can’t tell the difference in this extremely contrasting situation, their ability to make finer distinctions would be wobbly at best. They understood that their only safe stance was to oppose assisted suicide in all cases. They fought and they lost. A new Supreme Court decision in 2015, a new government, a new set of proposals by Senators and DWD advocates, and we had bill C-14, exempting from criminal charges doctors and nurses who euthanized dying patients. They had to be dying. Then Bill C-7 in 2021 removed that guardrail. It has to be done by a medical professional — so Robert Latimer’s “final solution” would still be illegal today — but the chances of securing a conviction for such a murder would be practically nil.
To access our compilation of Submissions and Testimony to Government regarding MAID expansion, click here.
March 2023: Advice to the Profession: Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID)
There are some excellent articles appended to this 15-question checklist. But the doctor has to be really motivated to go after information in the appendix (or may think s/he already knows about things like “structural vulnerability” or “social determinants of health” or “trauma-informed practice”, so doesn’t need to bother.) S/he needs to bother.
March 2023: The Quebec Intellectual Disability Society (the Society) released its brief on Bill 11, An Act to amend the Act respecting end-of-life care and other legislative provisions
Bill 11 is a Provincial act, reminding lawmakers in Quebec of the existence of ableism and oppression in the history and current lives of people with intellectual disabilities.
“While it is clear that the intention of the legislator is not to devalue the lives of people with disabilities, access to MAiD on the basis of disability does raise fundamental questions about the way people with disabilities are presented in the collective imagination. The good intentions and empathy that motivate legislators to include forms of disability in the bill are unfortunately likely to do more damage than they will do good.” (page 5)
The committee reviewed evidence and ultimately made 23 recommendations. Recommendations 10, 11 and 12 are of highest relevance to people with disabilities.
- Rec. #10 – re Poverty Reduction and Economic Security for People with Disabilities
- Rec. #11 – re Stigma. The language in the Criminal Code must not stigmatize people with disabilities
- Rec. #12 – re Establishment of an “Expert Panel on MAiD and Disability”
There is some discussion of suicide prevention, and a passing acknowledgement — but NO RECOMMENDATION — that the government should step up efforts in that regard.
October 20, 2022. MINISTRY OF HEALTH RESPONSE TO THE MAID AND MENTAL HEALTH DISORDER INTERIM REPORT, JUNE 2022 (see below)
Not surprisingly, the Ministry of Health accepts and endorses the Panel’s recommendations, including the sufficiency of safeguards and precautions already contained in the law. There is, in their view, nothing special or different about the suffering associated with mental illness that makes it dangerous or ill-advised to offer MAID as a solution. A promised $5B investment across the country in unspecified improvements to the current mental health system will solve any outstanding problems, they assure us.
Third annual report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada 2021
Released on Friday afternoon before a long weekend, a classic ploy of governments that want controversial information “buried” or overlooked, this report works very hard to present all of its findings and statistics in the best possible light. Specific information on Track 2 (i.e. non-RFND) cases are reported at Section 4.5 of the report.
MEDICAL ASSISTANCE IN DYING AND MENTAL DISORDER AS THE SOLE UNDERLYING CONDITION: AN INTERIM REPORT. JUNE 2022
Report of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying
Hon. Marc Garneau and Hon. Yonah Martin Joint Chairs
While the conclusions of the report are a foregone conclusion — the experts and parliamentarians were only asked to identify “safeguards” for when the law comes into effect in March 2023 — it is instructive to read the report.
“Expert” Panel Report on MAID
The report, released on May 13, 2022 sets out 19 recommendations relating to mental illness for the MAID regime in Canada. While it claims to address situations regarding incurability, irreversibility, individual capacity, suicidality and the impact of structural inequality, it falls far short of these claims.
Commentary on the Expert Panel Report
Dr. Sephora Tang and Dylan McGuinty say: “The Expert Panel on MAiD and Mental Illness has it wrong on both MAiD and mental illness. At best, the panel is out of touch with reality and is blinded by its own biases. At worse, it is misleading the Canadian public on an issue of moral significance not seen since the de facto abolition of the death penalty in 1963.”
Bill C-7 is an affront to equality
“People do not die from mental illness. They are at risk of premature mortality due to poverty, poor health, human rights violations, and even homicide, including by police. They are marginalized by inequality and ableism, as they struggle with mental health conditions and society’s neglect.” — An excellent article by Trudo Lemmens, U of T Law.
This is where Canada is on supporting the lives of people with disabilities: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/accessible-canada.html
Note that the ACA only applies to federally-regulated entities, and excludes Indigenous populations for five years. The government gave itself a generous 21 years to bring about an accessible [federally-regulated part of] Canada. This is reminiscent of the AODA in Ontario, which was passed with a 20-year timeline, which advocates now recognize as pretty much impossible in the remaining 3 or 4 years.
Here is a thorough record of the engagement of Indigenous Peoples with the process of developing federal legislation on the ACA.
And also one of the important indigenous presentations to the panel on expansion of C-7 to non-dying people. “Advancing the proposed amendments contained in Bill C-7 are not congruent with Indigenous traditional, ancestral values, beliefs and cultural perspectives of life and living or of persons with disabilities and special needs. Moving forward with them poses several concerns to the Wabanaki Council on Disability – concerns that we need to discuss with our people.
It’s not only in Canada! This is an international issue