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

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

A fire broke out near the Willow Point Bottle Depot early on Jan. 22. Photo courtesy Ashley Laycock
Two injured in early-morning fire in Campbell River

Sailboat fire also attended by Campbell River fire crews

A Vancouver Island teacher has started a petition imploring B.C. Premier John Horgan to close provincial borders to non-essential travel and enforce stricter quarantine measures for travellers. (B.C. government)
Teacher launches petition for B.C. to close provincial border, impose stricter quarantine

Province says what works elsewhere may not work here as they look into legalities of such actions

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Most Read