Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Assisted-death bill sends wrong message to Indigenous people, advocates say

The new bill imposes strict guidelines for people seeking assisted death as part of that category, including a 90-day waiting period

Assisted-dying legislation sends the wrong message to Indigenous communities, advocates said Tuesday as voices opposed to the bill continued to ring out on Parliament Hill.

Indigenous elders work hard to tell young people that suicide should not be an option, and the medical assistance in dying (MAID) bill says the opposite, said Tyler White, chief executive officer of Siksika Health Services, which provides health services to Indigenous communities in Alberta.

“Extraordinary efforts have been made in suicide prevention in our communities,” he said.

“The expansion of MAID sends a contradictory message to our peoples that some individuals should receive suicide prevention, while others suicide assistance.”

The new bill follows a Quebec court ruling striking down the existing legislation on medically assisted death on the grounds that it was too restrictive. The court gave the government until Dec. 18 to implement a new regime.

The Liberals’ offering, Bill C-7, expands the categories of those eligible for the procedure, opening it up to people whose deaths aren’t reasonably foreseeable.

The new bill imposes strict guidelines for people seeking assisted death as part of that category, including a 90-day waiting period.

Dr. Thomas Fung, a physician who works with Indigenous patients, said that is too short.

He cited the case of a patient of his with lung disease, who is short of breath doing even simple tasks. He needs oxygen at home but he isn’t eligible for government assistance to pay for it because his condition isn’t bad enough yet.

He could wait for that to happen, Fung said. But he could already be eligible for a medically assisted death under the new legislation.

It would “go against one’s conscience” to provide one, given there are other therapies that have not yet been tried and that could improve the patient’s life, Fung said.

But arranging the care the patient needs, such as counselling and medication, will take more time than the law allows, in part because of the rural setting.

“The 90-day waiting period is not enough time to give this patient the help he needs and I would argue not enough time for a lot of chronic conditions,” he said.

During community consultations on the bill earlier this year, the government heard from people in many Indigenous communities who had concerns with the legislation.

“Many spoke about the harmful experiences that Indigenous individuals have had with the health-care system,” said the government report on the consultations.

“This includes having procedures against their will. There are also ongoing challenges in getting culturally safe care.”

White also said doctor-assisted death runs contrary to Indigenous beliefs about life, and like some opponents of the bill, stressed the need for physicians to be able to object to providing it if it violates their consciences.

That is especially important in the context of also allowing Indigenous people the right to self-determination, he said.

“Efforts to suggest to our people that MAID is an appropriate end to life is a form of neo-colonialism,” he said.

Fung and White were part of a group of advocates who held a news conference on the bill Tuesday, the latest in a series of events organized by those opposed to many of the bill’s provisions.

Disability advocates, some of whom were also present Tuesday, are among those who have also opposed the bill, arguing it sends a message their lives have little value.

Mental health professionals have also voiced their concerns, arguing in recent days that the express exclusion of access to MAID by people suffering from mental illness amounts to discrimination.

Conservative, NDP and Bloc Québécois MPs have all introduced amendments to the bill, which is now being debated clause-by-clause in the justice committee.

The Senate study is happening at the same time, in a bid to help Parliament meet the Dec. 18 deadline.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
253 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health over the weekend

More than 1,000 cases in the region remain active

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

A power outage Thursday night left nearly 3,000 homes in Clinton and the 70 Mile areas in the dark. (Katie McCullough photo).
Updated: Clinton, 70 Mile left in the dark after vehicle crashes into transmission pole

BC Hydro still working to restore power to 330 homes in 70 Mile House

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
115 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths in Interior Health

There are now a total of 4,970 cases in the region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Sunnybank
COVID-19 related deaths at Oliver, West Kelowna and Vernon senior care homes

Sunnybank, Heritage Retirement Residence and Noric House recorded deaths over the weekend

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Most Read