Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 7, 2005
MP's debate euthanasia bill
Members voice dissenting views
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
House of Commons debate on a controversial assisted suicide and euthanasia private members' bill began Oct. 31.
While several of the seven speakers opposed the bill, only two opposed it on principle.
Liberal MP Paul Macklin, the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, said he will vote against Bill C-407, but signaled he'd be willing to support another bill if there were adequate consultation with Canadians and sufficient safeguards to protect against abuses.
He told the House Bill C-407 was being "introduced prematurely" and was "too broad in scope."
"Canadians in general should be invited to express their views and concerns, because they deal with moral and therefore very personal issues," Macklin said, saying disabled groups and the legal establishment need to be consulted.
Bill C-407 will not be back for further debate until some time in December. Only two hours of debate are necessary before a vote that could send the bill to committee. MPs are free to vote their conscience on the bill, though the justice critics of all parties except the Bloc Quebecois have indicated they will recommend against supporting Bill C-407.
Bloc MP Francine Lalonde, who submitted the bill, told the House people facing a painful death, "should enjoy the right to die with dignity and should be helped to die if necessary."
"Let us not be hypocritical," she said. "Euthanasia is practised in Canada. It is practised without rules. There should be a protocol."
She praised the safeguards adopted by countries like the Netherlands and Belgium.
Lalonde and two of her Bloc colleagues brought up several hard cases of dying or disabled people wanting to die to escape terrible mental or physical pain and of caregivers who face jail terms for assisting in the deaths of their loved ones.
Lalonde said 71 per cent of Quebeckers support assisted suicide and euthanasia. "I don't believe the religion of some should become the religion of others," she said.
Conservative MP Jason Kenney blasted the notion of dignity as "a subjective sense of one's own self worth."
Kenney said legalizing euthanasia would be "an attack on the inalienable dignity of the human person," and make human life a "disposable object that can be eliminated at will.
"Without the sanctity of human life as an inviolable principle, than anything is possible," he said, pointing to the cult of eugenics practised by Nazi Germany.
Kenney said studies have shown the Netherlands is euthanizing up to 1,000 cases a year without their consent. What began as a way of "helping" the terminally ill, has now been used on the chronically ill, the depressed and even newborn babies with birth defects.
Liberal MP Gary Carr said he would vote against the bill, and put on the record that he'd heard from his Halton riding's pro-life group, the Knights of Columbus and the pastor of a Catholic Church, in addition to many letters and emails opposing euthanasia.
Life is expendable?
NDP Justice Critic Joe Comartin warned of the risk sent to the elderly and the disabled if a bill sends the message "that life is expendable, we don't care enough about you to take care of you.
"That's not Canada," he said. "That is not what our health system is about. We should never go down that route."
"We can build a system that will allow every single Canadian to die with dignity in their own time and in the natural course of events," he said. The government could do far more to allow people to take time off work to care for loved ones.
He urged more money be put into palliative and end of life care and pointed out that Oregon's assisted suicide law was coupled with prioritizing health care costs to minimize the demands sick people put on the system.