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Feb 24th

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    Feb 24, 2015 7:05 am | British Columbia, Vancouver Quadra

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to table a petition today demanding respect for the right of small-scale family farmers to preserve, exchange, and use seeds. This is signed by hundreds of petitioners from across the Vancouver area. They are asking that the Government of Canada and the House of Commons commit to adopting international aid policies that support small family farmers, especially women. This will ensure that Canadian policies and programs are developed in consultation with small family farmers and that they protect the rights of small family farmers in the global south to preserve, use, and freely exchange seeds.

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    Feb 24, 2015 7:10 am | Quebec, Papineau


    That (a) the House recognize that (i) the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice”, (ii) the Supreme Court has suspended the implementation of its ruling for 12 months, (iii) the expected federal election and summer recess limit the remaining sitting days in 2015, (iv) Canadians expect Parliamentarians to take a leadership role on this issue and engage with it in an informed and respectful way, (v) a non-partisan, deliberate and effective discussion took place on this issue in the Quebec National Assembly, (vi) Parliament has a responsibility to respond to the Supreme Court ruling; and (b) a special committee be appointed to consider the ruling of the Supreme Court; that the committee consult with experts and with Canadians, and make recommendations for a legislative framework that will respect the Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the priorities of Canadians; that the committee consist of 12 members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair is from the government party; that in addition to the Chair, there be one Vice-Chair from each of the recognized opposition parties; that the committee have all of the powers of a standing committee as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, inside and outside of Canada, subject to the usual authorization from the House; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Whip of each party depositing with the Clerk of the House a list of his or her party’s members of the committee no later than March 11, 2015; that the quorum of the committee be seven members for any proceedings, provided that at least a member of the opposition and of the government party be present; that membership substitutions be permitted to be made from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2); and that the committee report no later than July 31, 2015, provided that, if the committee has ready its report at any time the House stands adjourned, when that report is deposited with the Clerk of the House, it shall be deemed to have been duly presented to the House.

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the hon. member for Charlottetown.

    Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark judgment, striking down the ban on physician-assisted death. Its decision was not only unanimous; it was unambiguous. For adults who are mentally competent but suffering grievous and irremediable medical conditions, the court ruled that the current prohibition in the Criminal Code infringes the right to life, liberty, and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

    The court has ruled, and now it is up to us, as legislators, to act.

    Death, and all the ways it affects our lives, is not an easy topic to discuss. In recent weeks, I have had several sensitive conversations with individuals who applaud the court's decision and with individuals who condemn it. Our responsibility is to create new legislation, even though the process may be difficult and may make some people uncomfortable. We are here to speak for our constituents. We must have the debate, despite how difficult it might be. We must make difficult decisions, and Canadians are aware of this.

    The Supreme Court—perhaps taking into account the contentious nature of this process—judiciously set a deadline and gave us one year to draft legislation on physician-assisted death. Given this is such a deeply personal and controversial issue, one year is hardly enough. We are not talking here about an insignificant amendment to a minor law. When Quebec decided to begin drafting its own legislation on physician-assisted death, there were four and a half years between creating a new multi-party committee and passing the legislation. During those four and a half years, one full year was spent on holding hearings and public consultations, as well as proposing and debating amendments.

    It took four and a half years in the Quebec National Assembly, including one full year of consultations and debate. The Supreme Court has given us 12 months, which is reasonable, but with the summer recess and the fall election, that gives barely more than 12 sitting weeks for us parliamentarians. That gives us enough time to do this, but no time to waste.

    Today, we are putting forward a motion that calls on the House of Commons to take immediate action. We are asking that:

    ...a special committee be appointed to consider the ruling of the Supreme Court; that the committee consult with experts and with Canadians, and make recommendations for a legislative framework that will respect the Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the priorities of Canadians;

    As the hon. member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia has noted, the Supreme Court's decision has given us a clear path to move forward quickly but thoughtfully. There is no advantage to delaying debate. Indeed, given the timeline offered by the Supreme Court, if the House has any intention of addressing this issue before the next election, those consultations must begin immediately.

    When I asked the Prime Minister about this last week, he said in the House of Commons that physician-assisted death is a sensitive topic for many Canadians, and there are strong opinions on both sides. That is fair. I have a strong opinion. It is based on my personal experience, when I sat by my father in his final moments of life. I know that we must respect personal freedoms and choice while ensuring as a society that the most vulnerable among us are protected.

    I believe that the Supreme Court made the right decision and that our laws must be consistent with its ruling because that is the right thing to do. That is my opinion, anyway. We have to hear what others have to say about this.

    Last week, the Prime Minister himself indicated that he agreed. He said that we will “hold broad consultations on all aspects of this difficult issue”. Today, we can begin to keep that promise.

    Quebec's experience shows us, reassuringly, that respectful and responsible deliberation is possible. It reminds us that when political parties set aside their differences in service of the public good, co-operation can follow. Consensus can be found, even on an issue as complex and sensitive as end-of-life care.

    If we do nothing, if we do not get this important national debate under way soon, Canada will find itself without any laws governing physician-assisted death. That kind of legislative vacuum serves no one: not people who are suffering, not their anxious family members, and not the compassionate physicians who offer them care.

    In the legal challenges leading up to the Supreme Court decision, one thing was constant: no one wanted to break the law. What they were asking for, and what the Supreme Court has now compelled us to provide, is a law that spells out the limitations on physician assistance to Canadians who wish to die with dignity.

    The Supreme Court ruling applies to competent adults whose enduring suffering is intolerable and who clearly consent to physician-assisted death. Even within the scope of these provisions, Canadians have diverging opinions, as the Prime Minister remarked. Canadians have firmly held values. Whether those values are based on religious convictions, personal experience or professional experience, these voices deserve to be heard. In order for us to have a respectful and responsible discussion on this important issue, we need to have enough time to hear from Canadians and listen to people who are concerned by this legislative measure, their families and medical and legal experts. Part of this ruling calls for an honest look at the quality of care already being provided. Do Canadians who are suffering feel adequately supported by their community? Do they have equitable access to quality palliative care?

    We need to have a national conversation on dying with dignity. That conversation needs to include how we care with empathy and respect for those who are suffering at the end of their lives.

    The court provided a deadline. It is our job to take it seriously, to act quickly but thoughtfully, and to live up to our shared responsibilities as legislators. I ask every member to reflect on that responsibility today and to support this motion, this process. The court has spoken; Canada and Canadians await our response.

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    Feb 24, 2015 7:10 am | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle

    Is that agreed?

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    Feb 24, 2015 7:10 am | Saskatchewan, Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

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    Feb 24, 2015 7:20 am | Quebec, Papineau

    Mr. Speaker, the motion we have before us is asking for a committee to make consultations and hear from experts on an issue that the Supreme Court has given to Canadians and given to us legislators to deal with, so Canadians expect their legislators to dig into this. I think a special committee in which the Conservatives will have the majority would give an opportunity to actually engage responsibly in a way that will inform the government when it chooses to bring forward legislation. This is what people expect of us.

    There have been many studies on this issue. There were studies in 1995 and in 2010. As well, there was one in the year 2000 that the Senate put forward. Various people have put them forward on such issues. We can draw upon that expertise.

    However, it is time that Canadians saw their legislators leaning in and dealing with this important issue so that when the government sits down and puts forward a piece of legislation, it would be informed by the views of Canadians and experts.

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    Feb 24, 2015 7:25 am | Quebec, Papineau

    Mr. Speaker, we of course are open to all amendments to this process because we want to bring forward a multi-partisan discussion in a responsible way. We are open to any reasonable amendments that would improve the process of discussion. We look forward to hearing any such proposals and amendments and welcome them so that we can have a proper discussion.

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    Feb 24, 2015 7:35 am | Ontario, Burlington

    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is a valuable member of the justice committee, which I chair, and always has input.

    I have just two questions for my colleague.

    Today's motion from the Liberal Party is a procedural motion. It is about procedures moving forward. The leader indicated that it is not about reviewing legislation. It is more about setting up a committee to do a procedural thing.

    The leader of the Liberal Party talked about expert witnesses. Does the member who just spoke have a definition of what experts are? This deals with all Canadians. How are they expecting to define who is an expert on this and who is not?

    The standing committees now have 10 members. On a percentage basis, the Liberals have one seat. Committees have moved from what used to be the standing committee size of 12, which means that there was even less presence for the Liberal Party, in a sense, than they have now. Why did they choose 12 members over 10, which is the normal process for a standing committee of the House of Commons?

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    Feb 24, 2015 8:00 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, some of the steps the member outlined, particularly his phrase, “we must all come together”, speaks to the need to get on with this.

    I am concerned that the member for Kitchener Centre and the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin have already decided that the “notwithstanding” clause should be implemented, and that the member for Vegreville—Wainwright already thinks there is not enough time and that the Conservatives need an extension.

    Could the member explain to me why it is important for not only for his caucus to have a proper conversation? Why can we not do what Preston Manning has said and let the the people speak in Parliament in a transparent way so we can get this right? What would be the way to all come together and listen to Canadians, rather than a conversation in some backroom with where Conservative members of Parliament are told what to do?

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    Feb 24, 2015 8:10 am | Ontario, York West

    Mr. Speaker, what is the government's plan?

    We have put forward a proposal to start consultation. This is a very difficult and complex issue. It is probably one that none of us really want to have to deal with, but the reality is that the Supreme Court has referred it back to Parliament and has told us we have 12 months to come up with something. Therefore, we have put forward a proposal to start the process moving in a non-partisan way.

    What is the government's proposal, other than putting something up on the Internet and talking about already asking for an extension, rather than starting to deal with this difficult issue?

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    Feb 24, 2015 8:25 am | Ontario, Kitchener—Conestoga

    Mr. Speaker, it is clear through the discussion this morning and I am sure to all members of Parliament, judging by the volume of information we are getting from our constituents, that this is a very crucial and a very sensitive issue for Canadians to deal with. It is my hope that we will take adequate time to study it and to hear from a broad spectrum of Canadians.

    The concern I have with my colleague's comments, both in her speech now and in her earlier question to my colleague the parliamentary secretary, was her implication that somehow this party or this government has already made a decision, or will make a decision, irrespective of Parliament.

    I need to remind her and all Canadians that all parties have dealt with this issue in Parliament. Nine different private members' bills introduced from 1991 to 2012 have dealt with this exact issue. Six of those bills failed to pass.

    It is not this government that is making the decision. It is not this party. Parliament has spoken to this issue, and it is clear to me that if we are to deal with this issue now, we need adequate time to consult.

    My question to the member is this: why, in an election year when we have many weeks out of the parliamentary calendar to study this issue adequately, would she oppose the idea of having a full 12 months of parliamentary time to study this very crucial issue?

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    Feb 24, 2015 8:40 am | Ontario, Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock

    Order. The hon. member for Trois-Rivières.

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    Feb 24, 2015 8:40 am | British Columbia, Vancouver Centre

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for St. Paul's.

    This motion is fairly simple. It is asking for a special committee to be set up to seek input from experts and to have a broad consultation with the public and with physicians because we are talking about physician-assisted death. The Supreme Court has actually talked about the very complex and controversial nature of the whole issue of the idea of assisted death. We know that some people are anxious and concerned that vulnerable people would be coerced. The Supreme Court spoke clearly to the idea that people could be coerced and abused and pushed into making decisions to end their life when it is not necessary. The court has balanced that with the idea that some people do feel they need to end their life for various reasons. Because of the very complex nature of this ruling and because of the very controversial nature of how Canadians see this, many groups should be consulted. It is important for us to deal with this controversy within the public realm, and also to speak to physicians who would be the people dealing with the issue of physician-assisted death.

    The Supreme Court was very clear that this legislation has to be balanced. It must balance protection of the vulnerable from coercion, et cetera, and allow for that right to life, liberty, and security of the person, for people who are:

    ...a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.

    That is particularly clear. What the Supreme Court said is that any law must have “...properly designed and administered safeguards...capable of protecting vulnerable people from abuse and error”. The Court was very clear that we need to balance this. It is something about which we need to talk to the public. We need to hear from all the various groups and experts and from physicians.

    The courts also said something very important. In the context of medical decision making and informed consent, physicians are fully competent and capable of assessing all of the criteria that the court spoke about earlier, which is about the adult person who is competent, et cetera. Physicians are the ones who diagnose a patient's condition, who know the prognosis of a patient, who understand all of the available choices that a patient has in order to relieve suffering and in order to look at the choices in terms of his or her life. Ending his or her life has to be one of those choices. Assessing competency is core when a physician is dealing with a patient.

    Every day as a physician, I spent a lot of time with my patients, giving them the options for treatments and interventions, telling them exactly what their illness is about, what the prognosis is, and what the treatments may or may not be; and giving them every single option, so that at the end of the time patients are the ones who actually choose. It is called informed consent. They are given the information about what to do, where to go, and what decisions to make. This is just one more part of that informed consent, and physicians are the only persons capable of doing that, because they know how to assess competency. Physicians know when a patient is being coerced or abused. They know when a patient is able to understand the nature of his or her illness. Physicians are able to diagnose whether a situation is irremediable. They are able to assess whether the patient is in intolerable pain and whether there is no hope for the patient. In fact, in the context of life and death decisions, physicians are very capable of assessing these criteria.

    In some jurisdictions, such as Oregon and Belgium, in Europe, we see that, in the decisions where there is physician-assisted death, there is always a second opinion. Many physicians, in the course of their discussions with their patient, will suggest getting a second opinion, so that patient hears from another qualified physician whether those options are indeed the only ones, and the patient is able to make the choices.

    I think it is really important that physicians be able to do this, and I think the courts have said that they believe that physicians are capable of doing it.

    One of the things we would have to look at, which is not widely accessible to anyone across the country right now, is an option for many patients who are finding themselves in intolerable pain or who are totally unable to have their condition remedied. That is the idea of palliative care. There is no palliative care accessible. I know that a physician would like to be able to tell a patient that there is a choice, that there is a place to go to for good palliative care, to relieve the pain a person may be experiencing and to do the kinds of things to help them die with dignity. Patients could then have a choice, but this is not a choice that is currently available across the country.

    I want to stress that the Canadian Medical Association and I as a physician believe that palliative care is a key component to create as some kind of parallel program that would assist us when the legislation is being written, thereby offering these kinds of informed consent and real options to patients.

    Suicide prevention programs need to be maintained, because we know that many patients who face a chronic, debilitating disease or an intractable illness become extremely depressed. It is one of the first things that happens to a patient when they are diagnosed with something that is intractable or life threatening. Therefore, they are not really making competent decisions because of depression. Good mental health care for patients who have been diagnosed with these illnesses is another option that is not currently available to patients. If we look at dealing with this issue, we have to give patients real options, so we need to expand these programs where necessary.

    The second piece we need to discuss is to talk with physicians about legislation. The CMA has said clearly that it believes that the medical profession should be given adequate opportunity to comment or to have input into any kind of legislation, because we see clearly that physicians will be playing a great role.

    We also know that physicians themselves are quite split down the middle on this issue. We know that physicians are torn between the two primary ethics. One is to consider first the well-being of the patient, which may very well be to assist that patient in dying with dignity. Second is to do no harm, which many physicians feel is an ethic that conflicts with that.

    Therefore, there need to be clear protections, as currently exist in all jurisdictions globally that have legal physician-assisted suicide. They say that physicians who do not wish to assist a patient dying, for moral, religious, or other reasons, have an ethical and moral duty to refer that patient to a physician who will assist that patient.

    These are some of the reasons that physicians have to be protected if they make a decision, as is currently the case in regard to abortion. If a physician for moral or other reasons will not perform an abortion, that physician has an ethical duty to refer the patient, if the patient wishes that to be done, to a physician who will do so.

    These are very important issues on which we need to hear from physicians as we are crafting legislation. We need to look at best practices in other jurisdictions. That is an important piece.

    However, the procedural component of this is very clear. The House will only sit for another 12 weeks. If we in fact get a committee to go now, to travel, to listen to Canadians and meet with experts and listen to physicians, we would be able, after an election with a new government of whatever political stripe, to meet the Supreme Court's deadline with a committee report.

    Using a special committee is not without precedent. In fact, other special committees, such as the committee on solicitation, the special committee on the non-medical use of drugs, and the special committee on missing and murdered aboriginal women, have been precedents for this. It is because parliamentary committees have other roles to play in the course of their duties in looking at legislation and would not be able to carry out this job as completely and fully as a special committee could, whose only job would be to do that.

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    Feb 24, 2015 8:50 am | Manitoba, Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia

    Mr. Speaker, what we are debating today is a motion to set up a committee to try to collect information so that the government can draft legislation to meet the Supreme Court of Canada deadline.

    I am concerned about the 12 weeks. That is not a lot of time. A budget is coming up. We have the regular legislative stuff that we deal with all the time. There is the summer break and then there will be an election. Nothing is really going to happen until after the election on October 20, and it will take a couple of weeks for the government to get organized, so we are looking at November. We really are talking about a couple of months.

    I wonder if Parliament should not recommend to the Supreme Court an extension of the 12-month timeline. Would the member agree with that?

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    Feb 24, 2015 8:55 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, it is with some sadness that I rise today in response to what we have heard so far from government members. This issue should have been an opportunity for Parliament to show itself at its best. It is about the relevance of Parliament and Parliament doing what the Supreme Court of Canada has asked it to do.

    We on this side had hoped that this motion would nudge the government to do the right thing, as it did two years ago when we asked for a special committee on missing and murdered indigenous women. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice at the time had no objections to the establishment of a special committee. Now we have a reference, literally, from the Supreme Court and somehow, all of a sudden, government members are objecting. What is also extraordinary is that if their strategy is to get an extension, there is absolutely no reason that I can see for the Supreme Court to grant one if there seems to be no work under way on what it has asked Parliament to do.

    I come from an institution whose Latin motto was non quo sed quomodo: it is not only what we do, but how we do it. This is the time for Parliament and parliamentarians to demonstrate to Canadians that the way we will go about making decisions will be in an open way, by tackling the tough things, hearing all points of view, and not in a closed-minded way where it will appear to Canadians as if the government has already made up its mind and Parliament will not have a say and, therefore, that citizens and Canadians will not have a say.

    There is no question that this debate evokes strong feelings. Therefore, it is really important that Canadians see that we are prepared to tackle this very difficult decision and important challenge that the Supreme Court has given us to get this right and put in place the safeguards that it and all Canadians know need to exist. As physicians, the member for Vancouver Centre and I both know when it is not time to prescribe. It is not time for us to prescribe what to do; it is a time for us to listen. It is the only way that we will get it right.

    It is a very serious piece of work that we have been asked to do, but it is very serious that Canadians understand that it is Parliament that has been asked to do this work and to consult Canadians. It is not okay for Parliament to abdicate from this challenge that it has been given by the Supreme Court of Canada and to abdicate it to a government that has a terrible track record in consulting Canadians, asking civil servants to attend information sessions but then not listening to what was heard. We have a responsibility to develop a very transparent and accountable process so that Canadians will know what we heard and that we listened to them.

    It is about listening to people with expertise and those with lived experience. It is about an opportunity for a democracy between elections to show Canadians that they were listened to and allowed to shape public policy. It is what Jane Jacobs said, that good public policy comes when the decision-makers can see in their mind's eye that people are affected. We need to listen to the people who will be affected by this legislation and get it right.

    The words in paragraph 127 of the judgment, even as my colleague said, are clear, but Canadians may have very different interpretations of what constitutes a “competent adult person”, what “clearly consents” means, what “grievous and irremediable” are, what is “enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition”, and how we can ensure that Canadians are not intimidated and the vulnerable are not put at risk.

    I can only interpret this as the government's refusal to govern, its refusal to tackle the tough stuff. It is hiding from it and I hope that it still has time today to take the little offering that Liberals have given on how we can show that Parliament will do its job, and that the government is not merely an administration in campaign mode that refuses to deal with the tough decisions.

    It is very clear that there are many ways the government could go about this, such as a white paper for consultation or a draft bill. The online consultation that it talks about just will not work unless there is an understanding of what the questions are and whether they actually will be listened to. Some of the members are already suggesting that they need an extension or that they need to use the notwithstanding clause.

    There is no question that the Supreme Court of Canada did its job unanimously. It is time for us, as parliamentarians, to do ours.

    I attended probably over 2,000 births in my career as a family doctor, and I felt that my job was to ensure they were safe, elegant and what the family wanted. I attended far fewer deaths, but it was also my job to see they were serene, pain-free, and that people were able to die in dignity. All of us in the House have our stories, and we know that we have to do better.

    Initiating this debate will be imperative for us to get on with the other undone business in the country in terms of the serious approach to palliative care and end-of-life care, and a serious approach to a pain strategy.

    Doctor Chochinov's article from The Star, on Wednesday, February 18, really spoke to the fact that doctors were not well trained to engage in the end of life conversations. Many of the goals of care are unclear. In view of the Supreme Court's decision, these issues have never been more important and they have to be dealt with, not only by Canadians but by medical schools and associations. We have to know that real choice in end of life does not happen if people do not have optimal palliative care and optimal dignity in their lives.

    I was lucky enough that my mom, at the end of her life, was able to die in dignity with a pain pump that she controlled. With my dad, on the other hand, it was not to be the end of his life. He broke his hip. He was in unbearable pain and had unacceptable pain relief, and he died 72 hours later. We did not want him to die then. Again, without a decent pain strategy and without decent palliative care, we will be unable to give people real choices.

    As members know, the Canadian Medical Association has said that it wants clarity on how the courts actually distinguish between the definition of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Canadians expect us to do differently.

    We know the safeguards have to be there. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities has been eloquent in terms of the need to protect the vulnerable. We know from our history with HIV-AIDS, when it was a death sentence, that people whose physicians chose to help them take their lives woke up and realized that they were merely depressed.

    We know there are power differentials. Families descend on a vulnerable senior who they say has had enough. Mainly, there is a financial reward, or they are just tired of providing care.

    As the member for Mount Royal has said so often, our society is judged by how we look after the most vulnerable in our society. We cannot let them down.

    There are need objectives that we could use. Ontario has an objective where 70% of people over 70 would have an advanced directive as they go forward.

    We need everybody to read Willie Molloy's Let Me Decide. We need to get on with the kind of efforts that the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians has mentioned.

    Dame Cicely Saunders said:

    You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.

    There is no question that too many are suffering at the end. Too few die peacefully and with dignity. We need a process that uses the research, the knowledge translation, the policies, the political will, the practice, and the applied research to ensure we design a truly excellent and exemplary process for the people who expect this of their Parliament.

    We must tackle this as a Parliament. We cannot let the government do this in some sort of backroom way. We cannot deal with what is practically prorogation and padlocking this place any longer, thinking that things will happen elsewhere or will not happen at all until the next government.

    We implore the government members to do the right thing and let Parliament do its work. The Supreme Court and Canadians ask no less of us.

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    Feb 24, 2015 8:55 am | British Columbia, Vancouver Centre

    Mr. Speaker, obviously if the Supreme Court of Canada does not grant an extension, provincial jurisdictions will craft different pieces of legislation across the country and we will have a situation similar to the one we had in regard to abortion, where some provinces did and some did not. We will see a lot of issues. Regardless of where they live, Canadians will not be able to access what the Supreme Court ruled is a constitutional right under section 7 of the charter.

    This ruling came in December. The House has been meeting for quite a while. There needs to be a sense of compassion. We talk about dying with dignity and a lot of people are waiting. They have been waiting a year and we would be asking them to wait longer than a year in pain and suffering.

    There are two downsides to asking the Supreme Court to grant an extension: it may not, and we have to think of the compassionate nature of this work.

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    Feb 24, 2015 9:05 am | Manitoba, Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member intently. I cannot help but reflect that there is an undertone of partisanship which does not suit this debate, as other members from all sides have suggested. On the issue of time, we already have 12 months and an extra 6 months seems to be reasonable if that means we get a better law.

    I would remind the House that the member and the party had years to bring forward opposition day motions or legislation on this issue and have not. The member was a minister of public health in the previous government and did nothing on this issue.

    I introduced a private member's bill. I wish the member would support something in that realm.

    The fact is that to now say that the Liberal Party is all for it is a little bit disingenuous. When the Liberals had the chance, they did nothing about it.

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    Feb 24, 2015 9:10 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer the member's question in a slightly different way, which would be to say that the former Liberal government had to tackle some tough stuff.

    I remember the assisted reproduction issue. After the task force reported, it was very important that Minister Rock come forward with something. What he chose to do was come forward with a white paper, immediately, that we then discussed at the parliamentary committee.

    He then came forward with a draft bill that we discussed. There was also the opportunity, both, I believe, in that bill, but certainly in the Young Offenders Act, for Parliament to discuss it after first reading. We, as a Liberal government, were always able to understand that we had to have Parliament's input. We had to listen to experts with the lived experience.

    I also think the timeline as the member lays out is not really possible unless we get on with this now.

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    Feb 24, 2015 9:10 am | British Columbia, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to note that I will be sharing my time with the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe.

    It is a privilege to rise today to speak to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision regarding physician-assisted dying. As we all know, end-of-life issues are deeply emotional. Questions about how our family and loved ones hope to go through their final days will not be answered easily. However, anyone who has had to support a family member during a difficult time will understand that these conversations are essential to respecting the wishes of our loved ones and ensuring that we all have dignity in our final days.

    We also know from recent polls and media coverage that this is not an academic topic. Canadians are having these discussions around the dinner table, and it is important that government is equally engaged. Despite the differences Canadians experience in their respective lives, be it the jobs they have held, the lifestyle they have chosen to adopt or the contributions they have made to society, all people ultimately have one thing in common; this being that we will eventually face the end of life.

    Given advances in modern medicine and care practices and the fact that we are living longer lives, the reality around this experience has changed. In the past, when deaths resulted from serious or contagious diseases, accidents or otherwise natural causes, many Canadians died in their own homes in the midst of their family and community members. Now Canadians more typically spend their last days in the clinical environment of hospitals, often after a long and arduous course of battling debilitating illnesses, disease or coping with chronic conditions.

    Those who are in need of palliative and end-of-life care and who are admitted into hospital settings often find themselves surrounded by medical professionals, strangers who strive to provide the best care even when death is imminent. In such cases, people are provided with very well-meaning care, but there may be little that can be done to make patients more comfortable near their lives. These situations are distressing for both the patients and the families.

    That leads me to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision. I will quote from its conclusion, which states:

    —prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who...clearly consents to the termination of life and...has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.

    It is important to reflect a bit in terms of those different pieces, which I know some people who have already spoken have done. When we hear that 80% of people actually support this measure, I really think they do not understand the full scope and if they did understand it, they might have a different perspective.

    I thought this was well said, when Andrew Coyne stated:

    When most people think of assisted suicide...they have in mind not only a competent adult, capable of giving consent, but someone suffering unbearable physical pain and in the last stages of a terminal disease, for whom suicide is no more than a way to hasten an end that is already both inevitable and near.

    He goes on to say:

    First, it is clear from the ruling that the “enduring and intolerable suffering”...is not limited to physical pain, but also psychological pain—which, besides being a murkier concept by far, raises the question of how competent the subject really is. Nor is suffering defined further: it is enough that it is intolerable “to the individual.”

    He continues:

    Second, nothing in the words “grievous and irremediable medical condition,” the court’s other requirement for the exercise of this right, suggests that death is near, or even likely.

    Certainly many people share that perspective with respect to people who are near their end of life. However, I have heard many concerns with respect to the comments “intolerable psychological pain”. The disability associations have spoken to this very articulately. We must also look at other countries, such as Belgium, where I understand assisted suicide is now provided to children. Those comments tell me that we have to be incredibly careful in how we craft the legislation.

    It is important to look at the concerns I have regarding this motion.

    The first and most obvious concern is the timeframe. The leader of the third party stood up in the House and talked about how Quebec took four and a half years to craft its legislation. It took an important length of time for Quebec to get it right. As well, it took the Supreme Court of Canada well over a year just to strike down the legislation.

    Crafting careful legislation will require important conversations. My colleague talked about the special committee on missing and murdered women and girls. It is important to recognize that the committee was struck for 12 months, yet it still required an extension to complete its work. It is also important to note that it was through a unanimous motion put forward by the Liberals, which we supported. However, when we got into the special committee structure that they had presented, they soon realized that there was a real flaw in terms of a special committee's structure. We needed the Native Women's Association of Canada to be an equal partner at the table, but through the unanimous motion of the House they had not struck a committee that allowed for the important partners to play a role in that conversation.

    The Liberals like to use that as an example, but there were some important flaws in how that process moved forward.

    One obvious partner that I see missing in this is the Canadian Medical Association. It is going to be, and must be, intimately involved in terms of the kind of legislation that ultimately comes out.

    Those are my concerns with the timeframe.

    We know that there will ultimately be a committee structure to deal with this particular issue, but more importantly, how many of our 308 members of Parliament will get to sit on such a special committee? There will be only 12. Therefore, all 308 members of Parliament have a responsibility right now to be talking with groups and individuals in their communities. If every single member does not send a letter to the Minister of Justice outlining the consultations they have had, they are, in my opinion, not doing the job properly.

    We do have a critical job ahead of us. We have to get it right. The motion before us today is, in my opinion, very restrictive in terms of the timeframe, and it is very restrictive in terms of the structure to be used in moving forward, since there would be no critical partners at the table. We know that committees can do great work, but they have limitations in terms of the number of witnesses they can hear from and for how long.

    Again, we must do this right. Having dealt with people with ALS and terminal cancer, we know that compassion needs to be shown in what we do and how we do it. We need to move forward, but to be quite frank, the motion that the Liberals have put forward is not going to provide the comprehensive response that we are going to need.

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    Feb 24, 2015 9:20 am | British Columbia, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo

    Mr. Speaker, I think what the member heard was my conversation that 308 members of Parliament need to be engaged in this very important issue. We have a responsibility to have round tables in our ridings in order to have that conversation and put forward the representations of the citizens that we represent. As the member knows, committee structures are a part of the parliamentary process, but to limit the process to 12 people with very limited time and working within a very defined structure is perhaps not going to do justice to this very critical piece of legislative work that we need to do.

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    Feb 24, 2015 9:20 am | British Columbia, Vancouver Centre

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague across the way. I know that she is a nurse and understands this issue very well.

    The member talked about structure and said that the structure of the suggested committee is not right. She said that she learned from the special committee on missing and murdered aboriginal women that there could have been more people at the table. However, when our leader brought forward the motion today, he said that he was very open to amendments. In that case, did I hear the hon. member suggest that we can add the Canadian Medical Association to the structure of that table? I think the leader said he was open to anything that would make it a better process, so I am asking the member if this is what she is suggesting.

    Also, the member talked about a timeframe. The Supreme Court gave 12 months; the current government has done absolutely nothing to deal with the Supreme Court's ruling, and we are now moving into the third month of the year.

    The bottom line is that there was time, and I think we can do it in that time. As well, I am glad to hear the hon. member suggesting an amendment to the motion. Does that mean she is supporting it?

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    Feb 24, 2015 9:25 am | British Columbia, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo

    Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member again misheard me. I said 308 members of Parliament have a critical responsibility to engage with their constituents, to have round tables, to receive emails. Certainly the Internet could be part of it. We saw with the prostitution legislation that many thousands of Canadians engaged. That is one tool among the multiple tools that are needed, but predominantly it is the 308 members of Parliament who have the responsibility.

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    Feb 24, 2015 9:50 am | Ontario, Kitchener—Conestoga

    Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more that we need a better palliative care system in this country. We have worked across party lines to discuss some of those things, and my colleagues on the other side have made some recommendations in that regard.

    I have two questions. First, why would we rush to have a committee present its findings by the end of July, when we could take the time in an election year to study it more fully with a bit of an extension or to at least use the full 12 months the Supreme Court has granted?

    I am getting a fair bit of communication from my constituents, and just this morning, I received a letter from a doctor in my riding who asked that as we consider this issue:

    ...we establish policies that allow physicians to opt out of participation in activities and procedures that go against their conscience, especially when it concerns acts that would result in ending a person's life. Physicians should not be required to refer for or participate in such acts.

    I am wondering if my colleague would agree that this would be a good thing to try to work into any proposed legislation Parliament comes up with.

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    Feb 24, 2015 10:00 am | Ontario, Burlington

    Mr. Speaker, I have been listening all morning to the comments on this topic, and all of us are treating this issue with the dignity it deserves.

    My question is a procedural one, and the member is relatively new here, so I will bear that in mind. The leader of the Liberal Party who put the motion forward said today that this is not about legislation, but rather about studying the issues surrounding doctor-assisted death.

    The report by the committee is deemed to be reported back to the House by the end of July, but an election is to be held on October 19, so the House will not sit until that is over. The message I am hearing is that we would have this resolved before the election, but in fact we are not debating legislation. This is not about legislation; it is about studying the issue.

    How can a decision be made on the motion by the House prior to the election?

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    Feb 24, 2015 10:05 am | Ontario, Burlington

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Kootenay—Columbia, with whom I have the honour of working on the justice committee. It is also an honour to know him as a former RCMP officer. I have a tremendous amount of respect for his thoughts on a number of justice issues, and he does a fantastic job on our committee.

    It is also my pleasure and honour to speak today to the Liberal supply day motion. To be frank, I appreciate today's motion. We have had a number of supply day motions recently that have been less about what Parliament should be engaged in, in terms of discussion between parliamentarians. However, this one certainly goes to that point, and I do appreciate it. I also believe that this is a non-partisan issue, and the discussion has been very respectful, as it should be, on this particular tough issue.

    I am going to spend most of my time talking about the procedural issues. In my view, this is a motion to deal with procedure on a policy issue. The Liberal motion today puts out a direction for, or a way of tackling, the issue. It recommends that this be done through a special committee. The Liberals have highlighted the membership of the committee, which would be roughly 60% Conservative, 30% NDP, and 10% Liberal. I made the point earlier about how the committee structure now is for a standing committee of 10 members. This would be for 12, which is the old way of doing things. It really does not matter. It is still a percentage. The new way would give the Liberal Party a little more presence on committees, with two fewer opposition members there, but that is what the Liberals have chosen to present today.

    Here is why I do not think this is the right approach to this very important issue. I have been here nine years and have sat on a number of committees. I have been the chair of the justice committee for the last couple of years. In my view, the best use of time at committee for members of Parliament is to deal with actual legislation. That is when there are words on paper about the direction of the government or a member, depending on the type of bill. The wording is there, the clauses that we are dealing with are there, and the changes are all there.

    Dealing with legislation is a better use of members' time. I have been on a number of committees that do studies, and they are interesting. Sometimes they are useful, and sometimes they are not. This particular item needs a very broad consultation before it goes to committee.

    The committee that the Liberals are highlighting in today's motion is would be a special committee that would not deal with an actual piece of legislation. The Liberals are saying, let us study it and have it back by July 31. I assume that out of that study, they are thinking that there would be a piece of legislation that would come after the election. The public still would not know what Parliament's direction would be, based on the study that would be done by July. It would be an overview of the issues and a number of questions might be asked. There may be directions and recommendations coming out of it, but there would be no piece of actual legislation. Of course, there are a number of options that will be available to Parliament, including not doing anything. That is one of the options.

    The motion would not really advance the issue to a point where people would think that by July, they will have an answer on where the Government of Canada and Parliament of Canada are going on this particular issue. Based on today's motion, that would absolutely not be the case.

    It would have recommendations. No committee study can compel the government to do anything. That is standard, whether it is a standing committee or a special committee. A study cannot compel the government of the day to do anything. Even if, God forbid, after October 19, there is a change in government, the study could not compel that next government to do anything at all.

    Today's motion does not do what I think the Liberal Party thinks it would do and wants to present it as doing. It is a reasonable approach, and I am not saying that what the Liberals are doing is wrong. I do not think it is what the public is anticipating based on this particular motion.

    The other issue is that when I consider broad consultation, I think of a variety of different groups. At present when we call witnesses to committees, as chair of the committee I try to achieve a balance. We get submissions from all parties. Normally we try to accommodate everyone's witnesses, and that has happened 99% of the time. On some occasions, we cannot accommodate everyone. Then the witness list is based on the size of the committee membership. Approximately 50% of the witnesses then would be from the Conservatives; approximately 40% from the NDP, the official opposition; and approximately 10% or so from the Liberal Party.

    The record of the justice committee shows that the number of witnesses from the Conservatives is much less, maybe 45%, and that witnesses from other parties fill in that space. We deal very little there with legislation that is a matter of life or death. If we do something right, it is great. If we do something wrong, normally we can change it, or the next government changes the policy or legislation to improve it or to make changes.

    The hardest vote for me thus far has been when we commit the men and women of our armed services to foreign conflicts, whether in Afghanistan or to what is going on in the Middle East right now, because we know there is the potential for a Canadian to die. In this case that is what it is all about, someone having the option to proceed in that manner.

    The consultation with Canadians needs to be broader than the witnesses we pick to come to committee. There is a whole basket of opportunities. We should all be able to contribute those we consider to be experts. There are experts in this area who have different opinions in their particular fields, but there needs to be a broader way of consulting the public.

    To my view, and I might be a bit biased, I think this issue should go to the justice committee and, based on the broad consultation at committee, the government should bring forward a piece of legislation. The justice committee, in its current form, has been working very well on a number of very difficult files, including the prostitution bill. The prostitution bill only really affected a small portion of the population, but this affects everyone, so we need a broader approach.

    I am not supporting the motion today, because the process gives a false image that we will have legislation by July. The leader of the third party, the mover of the motion today, indicated that this does not create legislation. He said that directly to the House, that it is a study, a consultation. I do not disagree with him that we need broad consultation. I am not sure that the committee structure in the House of Commons is the appropriate structure to use to get that consultation, to develop legislation that should go to the standing committee process and result in witnesses being called to talk about actual legislation that will be developed.

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    Feb 24, 2015 10:15 am | Ontario, Burlington

    Mr. Speaker, now we know why this motion is here: they think this is an election issue. That is what the member just asked me. He asked if this should be in the debate during an election.

    In my view, this is not an election issue and should not be an election issue. This is a very personal family issue that needs proper policy discussion. It is not an election issue.

    We have not said today on this side that we are not open to broad public consultations. There are questions. For example, is the individual considering the option of assisted death by a doctor the only one to decide? Does a spouse decide, or a father or mother if it is a child? Who decides? Does one doctor do it? Do doctors have the right to refuse? Is there a panel to determine whether the person is of sound mind to make the decision? All these questions need to be addressed.

    My view is that every Canadian should have an opportunity for input on what the answers are and what the questions should be. A parliamentary committee is not broad enough to be able to do that job.

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    Feb 24, 2015 10:15 am | Quebec, Lac-Saint-Louis

    Mr. Speaker, a couple of things stand out in the arguments being presented by the government.

    The government's logic in its first argument seems to be that we cannot finish by July, so we should not even get started. That does not seem to be a good argument to my way of thinking. We know, for example, that government members will be in a majority on this committee, so if they decide that July is too soon, they can use their majority to extend the deadline to mid-August or whatever they want, since they will be the majority party on the committee.

    Second, the member is right in saying that there will probably not be legislation before the next election. We understand that. However, would the hearings that would be taking place around this issue not help inform any debate that might occur on this issue during an election campaign? Do we not want informed election campaigns in this country?

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    Feb 24, 2015 10:20 am | Ontario, Burlington

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. He was making my point, in a sense, by saying that broad consultation includes people from all the opposition parties and members, including our independent members, on what questions should be asked and what information is needed.

    My colleague used one example, and everyone is hanging their hat on it. It was one piece. When we do our consultations on any topic, we use focus groups, we go to experts, we ask our constituents. It is a broad mix. It is a bigger basket. We need a really big basket.

    My mother-in-law had cancer of the lung. She went through very serious surgery. She went on a program as a test case with a drug company. Fortunately for our family, she survived and has been cancer free for over a decade. Many of her friends who were in the same program did not. We had called the priest to come to give her last rites at the hospital. We could have made some different decisions, but those decisions were not made.

    Every family should have an opportunity to comment on this matter. My mother-in-law should have an opportunity to have input on it.

    That is why the consultations need to be broad.

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    Feb 24, 2015 10:30 am | Quebec, Lac-Saint-Louis

    Mr. Speaker, the member's speech was very thoughtful. I concur with my colleague from Ottawa South that it underscores the need to act urgently on this issue because we want to protect vulnerable groups. In fact, all individuals are vulnerable when facing death. We need to have protections and we need to have a good discussion about this.

    What I would like to know from the member is this. Why would having a parliamentary committee made up of legislators who would eventually be voting on legislation be mutually exclusive from having broad public consultations?

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    Feb 24, 2015 10:30 am | Ontario, Ottawa South

    Mr. Speaker, if there is any rationale for actually passing the motion today and moving on this important study, it is the speech that was just given by the member. What we just heard from the member was some important insight as to what was happening comparatively on this subject in both the United States and Europe. That is exactly and precisely the kind of information, front-line experience that should be brought to bear in a special committee.

    A special committee, by the way, which O'Brien and Bosc contemplates especially this kind of study, is:

    Every special committee is established by an order of reference of the House. The motion usually defines its mandate and may include other provisions covering its powers...

    It goes on to say:

    Unlike legislative committees...they are not usually charged with the study of a bill...but rather with inquiring into a matter to which the House attaches particular importance.

    That is why the motion has been brought here.

    For the life of me and for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians right now who are touched with this issue, I think people are asking why the government cannot come to its senses and see that we need to get started on this, particularly, because we have a 12-month window within which to bring forward a proper legislative response, which would build upon our own personal and professional experiences.

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    Feb 24, 2015 10:35 am | Ontario, Markham—Unionville

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with my colleague from Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.

    I have the pleasure of speaking to this difficult subject because I think it is an extremely important one, not just for me, but for many Canadians.

    I realize this is primarily a debate about process, but since my position is already on the record, I will start briefly with that point.

    I was part of the minority who voted in favour of the Bloc Québécois bill a few years ago. Naturally, I am in favour of the Supreme Court decision.

    I think I could say that perhaps I have a libertarian streak in me, because I always favour the right of individuals to make their own choices if it does not hurt other individuals.

    I was in favour of the right of gay couples to make their free choice to marry because it certainly did not impact my marriage negatively by one iota. I am in favour of the right of a woman to wear a niqab at a citizenship ceremony if that is indeed her religious belief. I am in favour of a women's right to choose. I am in favour of this decision by the Supreme Court, although I would like to see in its implementation a great deal of attention paid to true consent and a great deal of attention paid as well to expanding our palliative care system, because the stronger that system, the fewer people will be obliged to take this decision.

    I understand that while this is my view, Canada is a diverse country. My riding of Markham is particularly diverse, having been declared by Statistics Canada to be the most diverse city in the country. I understand that not all Canadians will agree with me, and I certainly respect their right to a different opinion for religious reasons or other reasons.

    I was born in Quebec. Up to now, I spent most of my life in Quebec. I must say, as a former Quebecker, that I am extremely proud of the measure implemented by the National Assembly of Quebec. It truly took courage for the MNAs to act on this difficult issue; they put their partisanship and even their personal ideology aside. They formed a committee. They heard a number of witnesses and, at the end of the day, they reached not only a consensus, but a unanimous decision.

    Therefore, what I am proposing to the chamber and my fellow federal parliamentarians is that we show similar courage that was shown by our provincial counterparts in Quebec. Indeed, it was more difficult for them because they acted before the Supreme Court decision. We will be acting after the Supreme Court decision, so in that sense the parameters or the guiding rules have already been laid down for us.

    Federal parliamentarians have often been slow or weak in dealing with these difficult moral questions and they have been left to a legal void. We should do our jobs for Canadians to take part in the debate on these difficult issues for the sake of Canadians and we should not be obsessed with our own personal ideology or partisan issues. That is what was done in Quebec and we, in this Parliament, should be willing to do no less.

    I also believe it is in all of our interests to engage in such a process as we in the Liberal Party have proposed, whatever our personal views on this matter. Let us, for example, suppose that a group is opposed to the Supreme Court decision. If there is a committee and witnesses are called, those groups will be allowed to make representations to make the interpretation of the law narrow, to ensure consent is real, to ensure everything is done to increase palliative care. On some of these issues, I have already indicated that I agree.

    That side will have an opportunity to make representations, but absent such a committee, absent such a process, we will be in a legal void, in which anything can happen and the people on that side of the debate may not have any influence at all on what the outcome is. Similarly, those on the other side who favour the Supreme Court decision, they too will have an opportunity to make their cases known, to present evidence and will then have an impact on the ultimate decision.

    Quebec, in some ways, is more homogeneous than Canada, so I would not anticipate a unanimous decision on this issue by the federal Parliament, certainly not before the next election. However, it is incumbent on us to do our job for Canadians, to do as our Quebec counterparts did, which is to put aside our partisan inclinations and personal beliefs and get down to the very difficult, arduous work of listening to Canadians, hearing witnesses, debating and debating until we come up with a position that will not necessarily satisfy everybody, but which, one would hope, will command a large consensus in this place.

    To put it briefly, we federal parliamentarians should do what we were elected to do. We should work on behalf of Canadians on a very difficult issue and follow the spirit of our counterparts in the Quebec national assembly.

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    Feb 24, 2015 10:35 am | New Brunswick, Acadie—Bathurst

    Mr. Speaker, I do not want to mix apples with oranges, but when we look at Bill C-51, the Conservatives may limit expert testimony on the anti-terror bill. They may want to limit the number of experts. Canadians want to know more about it and experts want to get involved. In this case, the Conservatives want to shut down the debate.

    In the other case, it seems the Conservatives want to open the debate up to 33 million people and they want to take two years if it is possible. However, for the anti-terrorism bill, which Canadians are very concerned about it, they are saying no, that they do not want to hear from them. The Conservatives have the answer.

    I would like to hear his comments, especially since his former job was a police officer in the justice system. As a justice person, he should be able to give me a good answer on this.

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    Feb 24, 2015 10:45 am | Ontario, Markham—Unionville

    Mr. Speaker, if I understood the member, I completely agree with what he said about the fact that all parties should be included. That is the challenge we are facing. Will the Conservative members who form the government support the motion? If not, we will not have a committee, because they form the government. However, as I said, I hope that most members will have the courage to take action and to do what is right for all Canadians.

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    Feb 24, 2015 10:45 am | Quebec, Saint-Laurent—Cartierville

    Mr. Speaker, it is rare for a motion to contain its own purpose and justification as clearly as the motion before us today.

    The motion moved by the Liberal leader, the member for Papineau, calls for a special House committee to be appointed to consider the February 6, 2015 ruling of the Supreme Court, which stated that in certain specific circumstances, a prohibition on physician-assisted death violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court gave Parliament 12 months to amend the law accordingly. This means that a new legal framework must be put in place by February 6, 2016, at the latest, or else physician-assisted death will become legal, without the necessary guidelines and parameters set out in legislation. As a result of the summer recess and the upcoming general election, we have just 12 weeks of sitting time before February 6, 2016.

    Canadians expect parliamentarians to fulfill their responsibility as legislators and hold this important discussion in a calm and reasoned way, rather than in haste. That is why we need to get started on this right now. This 12-member committee, including seven government members, four official opposition members and one Liberal Party member, should begin its work in March and report to the House no later than July 31, 2015.

    That would give the committee time to properly consult legal, medical and other experts, as well as the general public. The committee would be able to travel both within and outside Canada, accompanied by the necessary staff. It would be able to make recommendations on how to give effect to the Supreme Court's decision with a view to establishing a legal framework that is consistent with the Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canadians' priorities.

    Let us summarize the court's decision. Right now, under section 241(b) of the Criminal Code, anyone who aids or abets a person to commit suicide commits a criminal offence. Under section 14 of the Criminal Code, no person is entitled to consent to have death inflicted on him. Together, these provisions prohibit Canadians from providing or receiving assistance in dying.

    It is precisely these provisions—section 241(b) and section 14 of the Criminal Code—that the Supreme Court has indicated violate section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

    The prohibitions unjustifiably violate section 7 of the charter in three ways, according to the court. First, they violate the right to life by forcing some people to commit suicide early out of fear of incapacity. Second, they violate the right to liberty by denying people the right to make decisions on their own bodily integrity and medical care. Third, they violate the security of a person by leaving people to endure intolerable suffering.

    The court was very clear about the legislator's duty.

    It writes:

    It is for Parliament and the provincial legislatures to respond, should they so choose, set out in these reasons.

    The court describes these parameters in paragraph 127 as follows:

    …[physician-assisted dying applies only to] a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition…that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.

    The parameters are there: a competent adult person who clearly consents and who has a grievous and irremediable medical condition causing enduring and intolerable suffering.

    The court also gives parliamentarians the responsibility of establishing how the charter rights of patients and physicians will be reconciled and notes that a physician's decision to participate in assisted dying is a matter of conscience.

    The court clearly stated that the task of setting these parameters fell to both levels of government, since both the Criminal Code and health are constitutional jurisdictions.

    Federal MPs have responsibilities here. We cannot hide from it. The judges did their work, and now it is our turn to do ours. We need to get started right away.

    The judges are not the only ones reminding us of our responsibilities. The Canadian Medical Association wants the law to clearly lay down the legal framework within which a doctor can participate in physician-assisted dying, and the association has emphasized the importance of improving palliative care in Canada. It issued a news release about that today and expressed support for the motion by the member for Papineau. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities wants the law to establish clear guidelines to prevent abuses. Canadians in general want the best possible legislative framework.

    There is no doubt that medical aid in dying is a complex and highly emotional issue, but if legislators had to resolve only simple problems, that would be too easy. It is our role to take a close look at public policy issues no matter how difficult they are.

    That is why it makes no sense that the Conservative government announced its intention to vote against the motion by the member for Papineau. I would ask my Conservative colleagues to reconsider that decision. The government says that it would rather undertake a different consultation process, but it did not provide any details. That seems like a cop-out.

    Why would our Conservative colleagues lack such courage? After all, the special committee we are calling for could draw on a considerable number of studies, insights, foreign examples, and expertise, including the legislative work done by our colleague from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia and by our Senate colleagues.

    This committee would benefit especially from the endless goodwill of Canadians. They would all support us throughout this process. We could move forward with confidence.

    Just look at what was accomplished by our colleagues at the National Assembly of Quebec. Following an exemplary non-partisan process, they ended up voting together on legislation on physician-assisted death that can be used as a benchmark for establishing what works at the federal level.

    In sum, because Parliament has limited time to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision to strike down the ban on physician-assisted death, in order to thoroughly and comprehensively consult with Canadians and experts on this complex and emotional issue, this House must act responsibly by immediately striking a special committee of the House.

    This committee would immediately begin consulting with Canadians and experts on strengthening end-of-life care and support, including palliative care, with the aim to have enacted a charter-compliant legal framework before February 6, 2016.

    That is what Canadians expect from us, their members of Parliament. That is what they deserve to get from us. That is why we must vote in favour of the motion moved by the hon. member for Papineau.

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    Feb 24, 2015 10:55 am | Ontario, Simcoe North

    It being a couple of minutes before statements by members, we will get started with that and allow ourselves a bit of time.

    The hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville will have five minutes for questions and comments when the House resumes debate on this motion, likely just after question period.

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:00 am | Saskatchewan, Nunavut

    Mr. Speaker, as a mother and grandmother, I could not be prouder to be a part of this Conservative government. As you know, we have recently introduced our new family tax plan, a plan that will be of great benefit to every family with children.

    I have had lots of feedback from parents who are pleased to have a government that puts more money back in their pockets. I have also heard from many grandparents like me who are grateful that our Conservative government is helping their children and grandchildren by providing income splitting for families with children, enhancing the universal child care benefit, increasing the maximum amount that can be claimed under the child care expense deduction, and doubling the children's fitness tax credit and making it refundable.

    My children have always been happy to vote for their mom, but now they, and many like them, will be especially eager to continue supporting our Conservative government and preserving this family tax-cut plan.

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:00 am | British Columbia, Vancouver Quadra

    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to congratulate B.C. resident Dr. Robert Bridson for winning an Oscar for his innovation and technical achievements in the motion picture industry. Dr. Bridson is an adjunct professor of mathematics at the University of British Columbia in my riding of Vancouver Quadra, and he is being honoured with the Academy Award for developing the mathematical software and creating the computer-generated models used to simulate real world scenes in major blockbusters such as Avatar, The Avengers, The Hobbit, and the sci-fi thriller Gravity.

    Dr. Bridson's success highlights the economic and social importance of arts and culture to Vancouver and the country as a whole. On behalf of Parliament, I would like to acknowledge and thank Dr. Bridson for his contributions to mathematics, the film industry, and our entertainment and to thank him for serving as an inspiration to young people considering math as a field of study or a career.

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:05 am | Manitoba, Selkirk—Interlake

    Mr. Speaker, it was one year ago this week that I was on the streets of the Maidan just following the massacre of the Heavenly Hundred. The people of Ukraine had taken to the streets and had paid the highest price for speaking out against the violent and repressive actions of the Yanukovych regime.

    Tragically, today Ukrainians continue to fight for their democracy and the right to self-determination in the face of Russia's sustained efforts to seize territory and undermine Ukraine's sovereignty.

    Canada strongly condemns the ongoing violations of the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine by the Putin-backed separatists. We call on the Russian Federation and their rebel proxies in Ukraine to immediately cease their attacks, withdraw heavy weapons, halt the flow of fighters and equipment, allow OSCE monitors to do their job, and proceed with the full implementation of their Minsk commitments.

    As the Prime Minister has said, whether it takes five months or 50 years, we will never, ever recognize the illegal Russian occupation of any Ukrainian territory.

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:05 am | Ontario, Timmins—James Bay

    Mr. Speaker, northern Ontarians are tired of being treated like second-class citizens. We are tired of the ongoing attack on public transit in the north. We have seen the loss of air services, like Bearskin Airlines, and the privatization of road maintenance. Then the Liberals killed our train. When the provincial Liberals killed the train, they did it on the Thanksgiving weekend in 2012, stranding all the students who wanted to come home. The Liberal minister sneeringly told northern families that if they wanted their kids home, they should buy cars. That is not good enough.

    Now they are going after the bus service. It is really unacceptable that someone who is going to Toronto for cancer treatment would have to stand outside at midnight, in -45°C weather, waiting for that bus to come down from Matheson, Kirkland Lake, and Englehart.

    The Liberal and Conservative plan for northern Ontario has been the death-by-a-thousand-cuts policy. Public transit is a right. Northerners know that only New Democrats, provincial and federal, will stand up and defend them and fight for the north.

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:10 am | Quebec, Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière

    Mr. Speaker, we are proud to put more money in the pockets of Canadian families instead of in the government's coffers, as the Liberals and the NDP would do.

    Our government created the tax-free savings account to help Canadians save money for their retirement, their children's education or a down payment on a house. These accounts benefit the Canadian economy. Today, 11 million Canadians have a tax-free savings account. These are families from every class, but mostly low-income and middle-class families, who choose to save tax free.

    While our Conservative government is cutting taxes for Canada's families and seniors, the Liberals and the NDP would increase those same taxes.

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:15 am | Alberta, La Peltrie

    Mr. Speaker, once again, we have raised this at all levels, and we will continue to do so in ways we believe are effective. We remain optimistic that this case will be resolved, but we are disappointed it has not been to this point. We will continue to press for Mr. Fahmy's full release.

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:15 am | Quebec, Outremont

    Mr. Speaker, it is no wonder they want to avoid any serious study of this bill.

    Ramming Bill C-51 through without improved oversight is reckless. Despite the Prime Minister's insistence, the Security Intelligence Review Committee is not an oversight body; it is a review body that looks at what CSIS does after the fact. SIRC's spokesperson is clear: “...we are not involved in the operational decision-making”.

    Does the Prime Minister still maintain that SIRC is adequate oversight of CSIS when even the committee itself says it is not?

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:20 am | Alberta, La Peltrie

    Mr. Speaker, the government has always respected the Supreme Court's decisions. We are going to take a look at this decision and consult with Canadians before deciding how to respond.

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:20 am | Quebec, Papineau

    Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court gave Parliament a year to implement legislation on physician-assisted dying. Parliament, therefore, has limited time to respond to this ruling in a manner that respects both the charter and Canadians' priorities.

    Will the government support our motion to create a special committee and consult with Canadians? If not, will the Prime Minister share his plan to tackle this important issue?

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:20 am | Quebec, Lévis—Bellechasse

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the House voted for this bill yesterday. I am disappointed to see that the NDP did not want this bill to move on.

    I think we should care about terrorism in this country. As elected members, we should do what we can to give the needed tools to our police officers, law enforcement, and security intelligence. We should show them respect, a thing that the leader of the opposition has not been able to do.

    We will stand for Canadians and protect them against terrorism.

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:20 am | Quebec, Outremont

    Mr. Speaker, there are more people working in the parliamentary cafeteria than there are at SIRC. With nominations like that of Arthur Porter, it is hard to believe that the Prime Minister takes the role seriously.

    The member of Parliament for Kitchener Centre and other members of the government caucus are calling on the Prime Minister to use the notwithstanding clause to go around a recent Supreme Court judgment on physician-assisted dying. Can the Prime Minister assure Canadians that he will not be using the notwithstanding clause to overrule the Supreme Court's unanimous decision on end-of-life care?

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:25 am | British Columbia, Taschereau

    Mr. Speaker, when news broke of a BSE case in Alberta, the Minister of Agriculture said that it would not harm exports, but within days, South Korea banned Canadian beef, and then Indonesia. Now Peru, Belarus, and Taiwan have also announced blanket restrictions. Far from there being no harm, we now have five jurisdictions banning Canadian beef.

    These trade restrictions will cost our producers and our economy, and there is concern that they could grow.

    Why have the Conservatives failed to effectively protect our beef exports and what are they doing to reverse the damage?

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:25 am | Quebec, Lévis—Bellechasse

    Mr. Speaker, preventing high-risk travellers from boarding a plane, meeting with parents to prevent their child from falling prey to radicalization, ensuring that foreign affairs officers share information about national security with the RCMP, shutting down a website that posts hate propaganda, preventing an imminent attack on Canadians are all measures found in this bill. I hope that we will be able to debate them in committee.

    I look forward to meeting with members of the committee to discuss the bill.

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:25 am | Saskatchewan, Regina—Qu'Appelle

    I believe I heard unparliamentary language. I will consult the “blues”.

    The hon. member for Alfred-Pellan.

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:30 am | British Columbia, Skeena—Bulkley Valley

    Mr. Speaker, middle-class families are working harder and harder, but falling further and further behind with the current government. It seems that the Conservatives are focused like a laser on schemes to help the wealthy few. Two reports out today show that the government's plan to double TFSA limits will cost tens of billions of dollars and yet benefit only the wealthiest Canadians. Does this sound at all familiar to anyone: taking from everyone to help the wealthiest few?

    Do these troubling new reports give the finance minister any pause, or is he really so hell-bent on finding new ways to give tax breaks to the wealthy and the well connected?

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    Feb 24, 2015 11:30 am | Ontario, Welland

    Mr. Speaker, tell that to the 3% of ranchers across this country that have actually just lost their markets, that it is insignificant.

    Beef boycotts have spread to five countries now, with exports worth more than $70 million. I do not think that is chump change. Maybe the minister does.

    Keeping foreign markets open depends on a really strong regulatory system here in this country. The Conservatives have cut the Canadian Food Inspection Agency budget. They say they did not, but the reality is, according to the numbers, they did.

    It is really simple. Why is the government putting that sector that is worth billions of dollars at risk, and when will Conservatives act on behalf of all farms across this country and stand up for farmers?

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