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Canora audience told of 10,000 Canadian assisted deaths in 2021

Along with many other Canadians, local residents are expressing concerns about the trend in Canada which is making it easier to access assisted death.

CANORA - As a Parliamentary committee continues to review Canada's laws for medically assisted dying, a local church and local MP are expressing concerns.

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) Act established the procedural safeguards for “a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life, and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”

On Nov. 20 at Gateway Community Church in Canora, church member Patricia Kachman shared information on the trend toward assisted dying in Canada.

“I get a daily readout from Christianity Today and noticed the cover article, and it tore me up about euthanization in Canada,” said Kachman. “I have known about this topic before, but this really brought it through for me. I really believe in life. I choose to honour life from its beginning to its natural ending.”

Kachman was referring to a story in the November 2022 issue of Christianity Today.

In the article, entitled Canada euthanized 10,000 people in 2021. Has death lost its sting? Author Ewan C. Goligher, assistant professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Toronto, told of an encounter with a patent.

 “She had suffered for years with chronic illness and had been admitted to my intensive care unit with acute complications. She was debilitated and exhausted, and her grief and frustration had come to a head. ‘I just want to die,’ she wept.

“Her friend was standing next to me at the bedside, and he was clearly upset by her distress. ‘Just ask for MAID’ he told her, using the popular acronym for medical assistance in dying, often referred to as physician-assisted death. ‘Then you can end it all now.’

“I was startled by his statement. Though physician-assisted death is available in Canada, where I live, I had not expected the conversation to move in that direction. Yet I saw that he was feeling desperate and helpless at the sight of her distress.

“After some gentle exploration, we quickly realized that the patient didn’t really want to die, rather, she needed relief from her pain and anxiety, and to understand her acute illness and what it meant to her future. She still wanted time with her loved ones. We worked to address her symptoms and concerns, and she soon felt calmer and more comfortable. Watching her rest and converse with family made it hard to believe she was the same person who only a few hours earlier cried out to have her life ended.”

Later in the article, Goligher added, “Some patients with disabilities or mental illness reported that assisted death was proposed to them without their instigation. Patients have sought and obtained euthanasia because they were unable to access affordable housing. There are even reports that patients have received physician-assisted death based on misdiagnosis, discovered at autopsy.”

Canada’s MAID timeline

In 1991, Sue Rodriguez requested euthanasia following a diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, according to information from Wikipedia, ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), a very debilitating disease with long progression and certain death. Request for euthanasia was denied. Rodriguez sought a legal exception in her home province of B.C. but was denied.

In 1993 her case was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, and it was decided against her, 5-4. In 1994, with the assistance of an anonymous doctor, Sue Rodriguez ended her own life.

According to information from The Canadian Encyclopedia, In 2015, the Supreme Court voted unanimously (9-0) to allow physician-assisted suicide for “a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her own condition.”

In 2016, Bill C14 became law in Canada.

This was followed by the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) Act.

By 2021, Bill C14 had been broadened considerably. The clause “reasonably foreseen death” was removed. The door was open to people with physical disabilities to request medical assistance in dying.

Canadians whose only medical condition is a mental illness, and who otherwise meet all eligibility criteria, will not be eligible for MAID until March 17, 2023. At that time MAID will be legally available for those having mental illness.

In October 2022, the Quebec College of Physicians and Surgeons proposed the killing of babies up to one year of age who have disabilities.

At this point, people in the medical profession cannot withdraw from providing this service on the basis of conscience. A private member’s bill in favour of withdrawal on the basis of conscience was defeated in the House of Commons in October.

Kachman shared the position of the Mennonite Brethren Church, the denomination to which Gateway Community Church belongs, regarding life and death. The Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith, Article 14, states: “Ultimate decisions regarding life and death belong to God. Therefore, we hold that procedures designed to take life, including abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide, are an affront to God’s sovereignty. We esteem the life-sustaining findings of medical science, but recognize that there are limits to the value of seeking to sustain life indefinitely. In all complex ethical decisions regarding life and death, we seek to offer hope and healing, support and counsel in the context of the Christian community.”

At the end of her presentation, Kachman encouraged everyone to:

  • Pray;
  • Be alert and informed; and
  • Above all, love- no condemnation or judgement.

When Yorkton-Melville MP Cathay Wagantall was contacted by The Canora Courier regarding the local interest in the ongoing changes in assisted death in Canada, she was eager to share her thoughts. The following is Wagatall’s response.

MP Wagantall weighs in

Canada is spinning out of control on the slippery slope of assisted death.

If you are reading this, I hope you and yours are well. I am thankful for the opportunity to discuss a sensitive topic on which Canadians have many strong opinions. Medical assistance in dying – or MAID for short – is a key issue before Parliament this fall, and the decisions made by legislators now will affect society’s most vulnerable people for years to come.

This past summer, Canadians were shocked to learn that a Canadian Armed Forces Veteran, struggling with PTSD and a brain injury, was repeatedly advised of the option of MAID as a ‘solution’ to his suffering by a Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) employee. Assisted death was not something the veteran had inquired about or was even interested in, but even after asking the VAC employee to stop pressuring him into it, the employee persisted.

Subsequent meetings of the Veterans Affairs Committee have uncovered at least four additional instances of such conversations affecting other veterans. One of those veterans went through with the procedure and is no longer with us. While the Minister of Veterans Affairs insists that the inappropriate calls were confined to the actions of one employee, the internal investigation has yet to conclude that.  

Veterans face a greater risk of suicide compared to the average population. It is frightening to know that, instead of facilitating the most appropriate and restorative care possible, this public servant chose to repeatedly broach a subject that was entirely outside of VAC’s authority.

This kind of rogue advice can lead to tragic consequences.

Debbie Lowther of VETS Canada stated that the mere suggestion of suicide as a solution to suffering is like “planting a seed” within someone who is already struggling with their mental health or may even be contemplating suicide. 

This situation affecting our veterans has done a lot to draw Canadians’ attention to the normalization of assisted death in our country and just how rapidly it is becoming a ‘fix-all solution’ – not just for end-of-life issues, but for treatable illnesses among vulnerable people.

To put things into perspective, it has only been six years since MAID was first legalized. At the time, it was limited to those over 18 with terminal illnesses. The ‘protections’ and ‘safeguards,’ which were already inadequate in my view, were stripped down even further by Bill C-7 in 2021. That bill allowed doctors to end the lives of those with disabilities and whose death is not ‘reasonably foreseeable.’ C-7 was recklessly passed by the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois before the required five-year review of the original legislation could take place.

While completely illogical and nonsensical, safeguards for the vulnerable are being stripped away as MAID becomes more accessible. Waiting periods have been shortened and the number of witnesses required to go through with the procedure has been reduced.

We have seen assisted deaths rise exponentially, from over 1,000 in 2016 to over 10,000 last year. As these numbers increase, so do the accounts of families who have had heartbreaking experiences with the MAID regime. Some feel that their loved ones were rushed into the decision after a failure of our support systems, or simply on the belief that they were a burden on their families.

In short, Canada is becoming the global case study on how not to implement an assisted death regime.

But unless Parliamentarians act now, MAID is scheduled to automatically expand even further to include those with mental illnesses and ‘mature minors’ next March.

With just a few short months left before this expansion, the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying has been undertaking a statutory review of Canada’s MAID laws. This committee was the last opportunity to make recommendations to Parliament on the future of assisted death. Testimony ended on Friday, Nov. 25, and the committee is moving into writing their report and recommendations. It is expected to become public just one month before the expansion becomes law.  

We have heard some shocking testimony at this committee. On one extreme, some feel that an extension of MAID to mature minors and those with mental illnesses does not go far enough. The Quebec College of Physicians, for example, has proposed the prospect of euthanizing children under one year of age.

On the other hand, hope for moderation and sober second thought remains. Dr. Catherine Frazee, professor emerita in the School of Disability Studies at Toronto Metropolitan University, knows that the growth of MAID will put equality for people with disabilities at risk. She told the Committee, “What you are doing is going to powerfully affect whether people with disabilities in this country see ourselves as welcome and valued citizens.”

Concerned Canadians from all walks of life are speaking out on behalf of our most vulnerable – as well as for those without a voice.

We should not forget that the same majority of Canadians who desire empowerment in their end-of-life decisions would also like Parliament to carefully weigh the risks of MAID for those living with mental health issues, such as depression. Sixty-nine per cent fear that depressed individuals could see MAID as a means to escape dealing with the underlying causes of their condition.

The slippery slope does exist, and Canada is rapidly spinning out of control.

We must apply the brakes. MPs must take a serious look at not only the record of MAID over the past six years, but at the rush to expand assisted death to many more vulnerable Canadians who are not facing an imminent end to their lives. Vulnerable people, including those with mental illnesses, children, and infants, deserve full protection under our laws.

We should not further stigmatize those with mental illness by placing euthanasia ahead of other solutions to their illness, such as palliative care. That will do nothing to improve Canada’s record on mental health treatment. In fact, it would be a great step backward just as the world is beginning to recognize the equal footing of mental health with conventional health care, as well as the need for robust, personalized support.

I will be frank – Parliament has failed in its duty to protect vulnerable Canadians in need of help. While medical science continues to make leaps and bounds, our lawmakers have made decisions that increasingly devalue life. I believe it is time to stop these rapid legal shifts before they cause irreversible damage to Canada’s social fabric. We must reject a culture of death-on-demand. Instead, let’s make Canada a champion for suicide prevention while also providing seamless, quality palliative care for those facing end of life illnesses at all stages of life. 

If you would like to hear the witnesses who spoke at the most recent meeting of the Special Joint Committee, you can find it online at I would like to thank readers of The Canora Courier for the opportunity to share my thoughts on Canada’s assisted death regime. I welcome your feedback.

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