A bill to delay MAiD for mental illness has passed in the House of Commons. This is good news and we are thankful this legislation is moving forward. And we are deeply grateful to each of you for praying and for speaking out.
However, there is a significant hurdle ahead. The bill must now pass in the Senate and the Senate has a two-week break scheduled for the beginning of March. There are only six days scheduled for the Senate to sit before March 17, when the law allowing MAiD for mental illness will take effect. The bill can still be passed after that date, but it would be walking back a change that has already taken effect.
Bill C-62 would delay euthanasia for mental illness for 3 years, until 2027. It also requires that a special committee be set up within 2 years to do a comprehensive review on the eligibility of persons with mental illness as their sole underlying medical condition to receive MAiD.
The timeline is very tight for this bill to pass. And there are some very strongly pro-MAiD senators who oppose a delay.
In fact, the change to allow MAiD for mental illness was added to Bill C-7 in 2021 by the Senate and passed by a significant majority of senators. Three pro-MAiD senators who were on the special joint committee reviewing MAiD have held a press conference to say they oppose this delay.
Senators are appointed and do not have the same re-election concerns as MPs. However, it is possible to share concerns and personal stories, and try to persuade senators of the need for delay. Find the senators that represent your province/territory here.
Please pray for senators to pass a delay of MAiD for mental illness. Please ask your network to pray, as well.
If this bill passes, it will not be the complete stop that we want and firmly believe should happen, but a delay of MAiD for mental illness means people in vulnerable moments would be better protected for a longer time. It would at least be a check to the momentum of rapid MAiD expansion.
Just to note, this bill to delay MAiD for mental illness comes after months of hard work by so many. There have been many organizations (including the EFC), mental health professionals, doctors, lawyers – and individuals like you – who have called for a delay or a halt to MAiD for mental illness.
If you contacted your MP to ask for a delay, please remember to circle back to say thank you.
And thank you to each and every one of you who prayed, contacted your MP and shared the need to engage with your network. We’re so grateful for your partnership and prayers.
As always, our hope is in God alone, as we seek to be his faithful servants and to love our neighbours.
Julia BeazleyDirector, Public Policy The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
EFC Article: An important win in a long battle against MAiD’s expansion HERE
As of this last Monday, Health Minister Mark Holland announced a pause on the planned expansion of MAiD that had been set to happen this spring for people with a mental health condition being the sole reason for seeking assisted dying.
That comes as provinces and territories have asked the federal government for an indefinite pause on the controversial expansion that was set to take place in March, but was delayed for a second time on Monday following warnings from a parliamentary committee report.
Ultimately, it is up to provincial health systems to deliver MAiD, and Holland says the lack of readiness for the planned expansion is the sole reason for this delay.
He says some provinces are opposed for ideological reasons, but will ultimately have to get ready eventually.
“Now, some of [the provinces] are, ideological on this issue. Absolutely. Some of… their position is that they don’t ever want this to occur, and I understand that but that is not, in my view, a tenable position,” Holland said.
“I think that the, there’s very clear that mental suffering and physical suffering have equivalency. The question here is a state of readiness.”
Excerpts taken from David Baxter Global News
We are glad for the delay, but there is still reason to pray. We don’t believe that our country should be leading the world in adopting assisted suicide. Please take the time to explore the resources compiled by The EFC by clicking HERE.
The above chart is from the Fourth annual report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada 2022.
Everyone who dies by MAiD identifies the nature of their suffering and is able to choose more than one option. Just over half (59%) give their reason for MAiD as inadequate pain control or a fear of inadequate pain control – they don’t distinguish between having pain or being concerned about pain.
Many identify issues of meaning (meaningful activities 86%) and dignity (53%), as well as feeling like a burden (35%), loneliness or isolation (17%). Note, ADL is activities of daily living.
The Priority for Health Care
Imagine requiring ongoing medical treatment or needing basic supports to sustain your life. As hassle-free, hastened death is increasingly normalized and promoted, the message being communicated is this – We’re not sure we can provide adequate care, but we are willing to kill you.
Our societal response to those suffering is quite different than the Covid rallying cry, “We’re all in this together.” Rather than ensuring all Canadians have access to high-quality mental health programs, palliative care and additional supports needed to live such as quality PSW screening/training, decision makers are now expanding eligibility to hastened death.
Since the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that hastened death can in some circumstances be a legitimate expression of your dignity and autonomy, this logic has led to continual pressure for expansion – with mature minors being among the next groups considered for access.
The government recently reported 7,595 hastened deaths in 2020, compared to 5,660 in 2019 – a 32.4 percent increase.
The question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) is increasingly relevant. God’s response was, “What have you done?”
Other Scripture passages admonish us to go beyond caring for our household (1 Timothy 5:8) and the community of faith (Acts 4:32) to include neighbours and strangers (Philippians 2:4, Matthew 25:40, Luke 10:25–37).
“The “never again” health care vision was driven by the resolve to uphold dignity and respect for all persons.”
Right after the Second World War Canadians embraced this obligation and expressed it in universal health care. Medicare was birthed in the wake of rejecting eugenics and its prioritizing of whose life was most worth living – and the atrocities done in its name. The “never again” health care vision was driven by the resolve to uphold dignity and respect for all persons. It was a societal expression of a consensus on the sanctity of human life.
In one of our many Supreme Court appearances defending the sanctity of human life over decades, the EFC (this time with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops) stated our biblically based belief that humans are created in the image of God and that human life “must be valued, respected and protected throughout all its stages.”
We showcased how a broader societal commitment to human life is the cornerstone of Canadian civil and criminal law and not just a religious preference. As the Law Reform Commission put it in 1980: “Our society recognizes that, morally, religiously, philosophically and socially, human life merits special protection. This recognition of life’s fundamental importance has often been expressed through the concept of the sanctity of human life.”
The majority of judges agreed in a 1993 ruling, saying there is a “generally held and deeply rooted belief in our society that human life is sacred or inviolable” (using these terms in a “non-religious sense”) and that “human life is seen to have a deep intrinsic value of its own.”
They also noted they saw no consensus opposed to restrictions on assisted suicide. The balance between autonomy and the sanctity of human life tilted toward a societal commitment to life.
“86% OF CANADIANS SEEKING HASTENED DEATH GAVE THE REASON AS THE LOSS OF ABILITY TO ENGAGE IN MEANINGFUL ACTIVITIES”
But by 2015 that consensus had changed. While the Supreme Court affirmed respect for life, it decided individual autonomy in some circumstances can outweigh the sanctity of human life – that exceptions should be allowed.
This balance continues to shift as the criteria of who qualifies for hastened death is expanded. At the same time, economic commitments to improve the quality and availability of palliative care and long-term care have lagged behind. For 86 per cent of those seeking hastened death in 2020, their reason for requesting it was the loss of ability to engage in meaningful activities, according to a government report. It’s not physical pain but the loss of meaning in life.
How can we respond?
Individuals, families and communities can volunteer and give practical expression to our affirmation of the sanctity of human life to those nearing death, those needing extra care and minors struggling to find their way in life. This is part of what it means to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
A continued robust, biblically based presence in Parliament and the courts is the intergenerational witness needed (one the EFC provides) and so too is our advocacy as citizens to re-establish a societal consensus on the inviolability of human life – ever more so in these times.
By: Bruce J. Clemenger is president of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.