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

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Sadie, a long-term care resident at Mountainview Lodge in Kitimat was among those who got the COVID-19 vaccine at the vaccination clinic held Thursday (Jan. 21). Northern Health photo
Mountainview Lodge gets first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines

The first vaccination clinic was held Thursday (Jan. 21)

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Haisla Nation Council photo
COVID-19 vaccine supply delayed for Kitamaat Village

Supply could not be guaranteed for the Village with the current national Pfizer-BioNTech shortage

Bus routes for CMSD82 students in Cablecar and Kitamaat Village have been temporarily changed for Jan. 21 and 22. (Black Press file photo)
Temporary school bus route changes for Cablecar, Kitamaat Village

The two routes will be combined for Jan. 21 and 22 due to a bus driver shortage

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

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

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Most Read