There are numerous federal government bills and policies expected to either come before Parliament in 2024 or be fully implemented. One is the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) eligibility for persons suffering solely from a mental illness. Last year, Parliament delayed this MAID expansion a year, to March 17, 2024.
In 2023, the heads of psychiatry at all of Canada’s 17 medical schools called for a delay to the federal government’s MAID legislation that would have expanded eligibility to persons suffering solely from a mental illness. Many stated that it is impossible to determine that an individual’s mental illness will never respond to treatment.
As the Shadow Minister for Persons with Disabilities, I have also found widespread opposition to the expansion of MAID to persons with mental illness among advocates for persons with disabilities.
More than 50 disability organizations, including several from within BC, wrote a joint letter to the Minister of Justice in December 2022 to express their total opposition to this expansion citing discrimination, lack of supports, and concerns for protecting vulnerable people. There are also many Kelowna-Lake Country residents living with disabilities who have reached out to me, having serious concerns about this.
The government supported only a one-year delay from March 2023 to March 2024 while the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying consulted further on the matter.
The Prime Minister and the newly appointed Minister of Justice have not answered whether they believe MAID should be offered to those for whom mental illness is the sole underlying condition.
Canada’s Conservatives supported a Conservative Private Members Bill C-314 which sought to amend the Criminal Code to provide that a mental disorder is not a grievous and irremediable medical condition for which a person could receive medical assistance in dying. This bill was voted down in October 2023 with 150 MPs voting in favour and 167 against.
Many people are increasingly struggling with a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. Many local residents and Canadians across the country have to deal with the immense stress of not knowing how they will pay to house themselves or put food on the table every month.
With such a climate of anxiety, mental health challenges, and increasing rates of addiction, expanding MAID to include mental illness as the sole underlying condition could be a tragic course.
We’ve already seen concerning examples such as Veteran’s Affairs Canada confirming unprompted suggestions of MAID were offered by a Veterans Affairs caseworker to several veterans as a resolution for concerns such as PTSD, testimony by disabled persons considering MAID at the Human Resources committee due to lack of living affordability and reports of food banks being asked by clients for details on applying for MAID.
I believe we should be focusing our efforts on improving affordability and quality of life, and compassionately helping people where it should not be easier to get MAID than to access mental health and addiction supports.
I, alongside my Conservative colleagues, will continue to stand with the many experts, doctors, and those serving disabled persons who oppose MAID expansion where mental illness is the sole underlying condition who are expressing inherent risks and concerns about protecting those who may be struggling and expressing concerns about protecting the most vulnerable.
If you need assistance with federal programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].