Parliament passed Bill C-7 into law on March 17, 2021. This new bill amends Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) law (passed June 2016) and expands euthanasia to people not dying in the “reasonably foreseeable” future, by removing some critical safeguards for people at the end of life such as a ten-day reflection period before their medically assisted death. Starting March 2023, the MAiD law will allow medically assisted suicide for people suffering from mental illness alone.
The amendments also requires the formation of a parliamentary committee be formed to review the MAiD law, studying issues such as medical-assisted death for mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, the protection of Canadians with disabilities, and the state of palliative care in Canada.
Every national disability group in Canada voiced objections to Bill C-7. Most faith groups did the same. The Fellowship was a signatory to a Canada-wide faith community letter sent to the federal government declaring our concern. Even United Nations human rights experts voiced concern stating Bill C-7 amendments would “be contrary to Canada’s international obligation to respect, protect, and fulfil the core right of equality and non-discrimination of persons with disabilities.”
Despite the ground swell of dissent and requests to rewrite sections of the proposed amendments, the federal government (with senate ascent) not only passed Bill C-7, but added further provisions to extend the bill’s reach even more. Many would argue it is easier to access assisted-death in Canada than receive quality palliative care or receive social supports for Canadians suffering from disabilities, chronic illness, and mental illness. Should it be easier to end life than get the support needed to live life in Canada?
The bill passed with little dissent in parliament. Vulnerable Canadians face new risks; the mentally ill and the disabled may choose death over life. Life is precious. Life is sacred. People have inherent dignity regardless of illness or disability. They need to know they are loved and not alone. What is the Church’s response to Bill C-7?
A journalist for Christianity Today recently interviewed me on the passing of Bill C-7. I invite you to read her article for more information. When asked what my thoughts were concerning the bill’s recent amendments, this is what I shared:
1. Love your neighbour
Those of us who believe life is sacred need to intentionally reach out and support our neighbours in our community, especially those most vulnerable. We must share the hope God gives in practical, tangible ways. To introduce ourselves to neighbours who suffer from disabilities or mental illness and assure them that embracing life is better than succumbing to our growing culture of death. We must touch lives before people feel there is no other alternative than hastening death.
2. New church ministries
Our local church’s need to expand outreach efforts to the vulnerable in our communities. Developing a parish mentality that reaches seniors, the disabled, and emotionally unwell not only in our church but in our community. Our churches might consider partnership with Christian ministries already doing this. One of our Fellowship churches has a Fellowship chaplain who serves as a “parish nurse”, extending care to their church and community.
3. Conscience protection
Our Fellowship of Churches must lobby provincial governments to ensure conscience protection for our doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical practitioners who are unable, for religious and/or conscience reasons, to participate or refer patients for medical assisted dying.
4. Senior-care policy
Our Fellowship churches must lobby government for more robust senior-care policy. Our recent pandemic has indicated that our current long-term elder care policy is wanting. Many amazing caregivers have given so much of themselves to the care of elderly Canadians, but they need more resources to do the work. In the early months of COVID-19, 69% of COVID deaths were among senior Canadians, whereas senior deaths were approximately 40% in most other developed western nations. A serious review is necessary. The Church can help.
The reality is Bill C-7 will allow many more assisted deaths. In Ontario, assisted deaths grew from 189 in 2016 to 5,631 in 2019. For all of these Canadians a “reasonably foreseeable” death was imminent. With the passing of Bill C-7, many more Canadians with no pending death can choose suicide. Those people making that decision are some of the most vulnerable in society. This cavalier approach to life will ultimately harm our nation. The church must respond.