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Bill C-7 - Medical Assistance in Dying - Senator Jaffer's Amendment

Honourable senators, I rise to speak in support of Senator Jaffer’s amendment to Bill C-7. Much like Senator Jaffer, I have serious concerns and misgivings about how such a critical life-and-death piece of government-driven legislation could be lacking in such a fundamental way with regard to the analysis undertaken at the outset of the drafting process, as well as its shortcomings in protecting vulnerable and minority groups.

In a letter sent to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on January 18, Minister Lametti gave a very brief overview of the Gender-based Analysis Plus that was undertaken with regard to Bill C-7. This GBA+ would be considered completely underwhelming and insufficient on a lesser piece of legislation, yet for a bill of this sensitive and important a nature, the analysis done was completely unacceptable in providing insight into how this bill would and could impact racialized and other minorities.

On the government’s own Status of Women Canada website, GBA+ is described, in part, as such:

The “plus” in GBA+ is not just about differences between biological (sexes) and socio-cultural (genders). We all have multiple characteristics that intersect and contribute to who we are. GBA+ considers many other identity factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, age, and mental or physical disability and how the interaction between these factors influences the way we might experience government policies and initiatives.

Colleagues, GBA+ is a tool that is supposed to have been in use in Canada since our country ratified the United Nations Beijing Declaration on the rights of women as well as its accompanying platform for action in 1995. Despite this, and the fact that we are now 25 years removed from signing that declaration, Canada still does not have a uniform GBA+ that is held up to every piece of legislation. Instead, it is evident that it is used piecemeal and ad hoc, never fully ensuring the issues of equality and protection are fully considered and guaranteed as they should be.

Colleagues, it is also worth mentioning the mandate letter for all of the ministers, which includes the following statement:

We remain committed to evidence-based decision-making that takes into consideration the impacts of policies on all Canadians and fully defends the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You will apply Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) in the decisions that you make and consider public policies through an intersectional lens in order to address systemic inequities including: systemic racism; unconscious bias; gender-based discrimination; barriers for persons with disabilities; discrimination against LGBTQ2 communities; and inequities faced by all vulnerable populations. Whenever possible, you will work to improve the quality and availability of disaggregated data to ensure that policy decisions benefit all communities.

Honourable senators, all ministers are to apply GBA+ as well as work to improve the quality and availability of data, but it is clear that the government has fallen short of this mark when it comes to Bill C-7. I am thankful to Senator Jaffer that she has put forward this amendment so as to prompt the government to do the fulsome job that they are tasked to do.

In all the mandate letters to the ministers, the following directive is given:

There remains no more important relationship to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. With respect and dignity, we remain committed to moving forward along the shared path of reconciliation. You, and indeed all ministers, must continue to play a role in helping to advance self-determination, close socio-economic gaps and eliminate systemic barriers facing First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. As Minister, I expect you to work in full partnership with Indigenous Peoples and communities to advance meaningful reconciliation.

Colleagues, although these are nice sentiments, at the end of the day words are wind. Without concrete action behind these words, First Nations people in Canada and the disability community will continue to be left behind and made vulnerable. The government has not done due diligence in consultation with First Nations and the disability community. One round table is not adequate. The government has not adequately applied a GBA+ to this critical bill. Therefore, the government has fallen short in their duty to work in full partnership with Indigenous peoples and to eliminate the systemic barriers they face.

Although I have serious concerns with Bill C-7 and the lack of fulsome consultation, I applaud Senator Jaffer in bringing forward this important issue. I urge all senators to lend your support in passing this amendment. Thank you.

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