Canadians who had recovered from depression are urging MPs to vote against amendments to a bill that would expand access to medically assisted deaths for people suffering from mental illnesses.
In a press conference co-hosted by Conservative MPs on Monday, witnesses expressed concerns about the Liberal government’s latest amendments to Bill C-7, which would allow people who are suffering solely from mental illnesses, but are not close to a “natural death,” to receive medical assistance in dying (MAiD).
“This could mean Canadians whose sole condition is depression could be offered medical death. This is significant expansion beyond Bill C-7 as was debated by members of Parliament, as was studied in the Justice Committee, and as was ultimately passed in the House of Commons,” Conservative MP Rob Moore said in his opening remarks.
Bill C-7 was introduced to bend the federal law into compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling that declared the “reasonable foreseeability of natural death” to MAiD eligibility to be unconstitutional.
When the Commons passed Bill C-7, mental illness was explicitly excluded as an eligibility criterion for accessing MAiD.
But on Feb. 17, the Senate passed its own version of the bill, in which senators approved amendments that would allow people with mental illnesses to receive a medically assisted death.
“Now at the final stage of Parliamentary process, the Liberals wanted to dramatically expand this bill, and rush it through with virtually zero scrutiny from members of Parliament, this is, of course, absolutely unacceptable,” Moore said.
He also noted that one of the amendments will remove a safeguard and automatically expand MAiD to cover people with mental illnesses within 24 months if this version of Bill C-7 is passed into law.
Moore said he is preparing to move a motion at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for a review of what he called the Liberal’s attempt to “rubber stamp” the bill on a matter of “life and death.”
Savanna Beatch, who was diagnosed with depression at 19, said at the press conference that people may not understand the strength they have at the time when the mental illness has overpowered them, but they “truly want to live.”
“The fact is people are very resilient. People who’s being through mental illnesses are incredibly resilient, they fight day-to-day, and they do recover,” Beatch said.
Wayne Wegner, a Saskatchewan resident, said he had considered suicide when a series of misfortune befell him three years ago. He had serious financial troubles, his marriage was falling apart, his son got into a car accident, and his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Wegner said he’s concerned about medically assisted suicide because people who could have overcome their difficulties may needlessly take the option, which unnecessarily puts Canadians at risk.
“People will take the option if offered it in their most difficult and vulnerable times,” Wegner said. “When they are given hope, they will see overtime that life has offered a permanent solution to temporary problems.”
“We need to send people to places of hope, and not medically assisted deaths,” Wegner said.