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Bill C-7 - Medical Assistance in Dying - Question to Senator Cotter

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum: Would the honourable senator take a question?

Senator Cotter: I would be honoured to take a question.

Senator McCallum: Thank you, Senator Cotter.

I want to thank you for your powerful speech and to let you know that we are blessed to have you with us in the Red Chamber.

Senator Cotter, we have heard, a number of times already throughout this debate, reference to the fact that consideration should remain firmly on the principle of this bill. This is something I’m uncomfortable with, as I feel it is negligent to the fact that while the principle of the bill can be viewed plainly as text on paper, the reality is that Bill C-7 will lead to dire and critical human consequences and outcomes. Indigenous peoples of Canada are especially susceptible to the negative consequences that this bill could herald.

As has been indicated, this debate is on Bill C-7 and not Bill C-14, which I understand. However, if it were not for Bill C-14, Bill C-7 would not be in existence. I find it difficult to view consideration of Bill C-14 as beyond the scope and principle of this bill, as one gave birth to the other. There is an intricate link between the two.

In your expert and legal opinion, should senators not put equal consideration into the human part of the bill as opposed to simply focusing on the principle? If so, how would you envision marrying and balancing these two views? This siloed and, frankly, cold approach to considering the principle seems borderline inhumane. It is also an approach that has proven inadequate and ineffective when approaching relevant matters such as social determinants of health.

I would welcome and appreciate your insights into this matter. Thank you.

Senator Cotter: Thank you, senator. I’m not entirely sure of the question, but let me offer the answer I would like to give.

One of the arguments that was advanced in the last couple of days is that this bill is only an amendment to the Criminal Code, so let’s keep ourselves blinkered and focused on that. I accept that as a legitimate legal exercise. However, it is within the power of the Government of Canada to do more in one fell swoop than amend one piece of legislation; it could commit to spend money at the same time.

My argument is that we should be making meaningful investments that were celebrated by the joint parliamentary committee — as far as I could tell, made up of parliamentarians from this chamber and the other place, some of whom were members of the governing party. They called for meaningful investments in palliative care and living circumstances, and those should run in parallel with this bill, not left separately, with our fingers crossed that something might happen. Thank you.

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