It is a position the Canadian government shouldn’t be in.
That is what Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen said regarding Bill C-14, also known as the medical assistance in dying (MAID) law.
The Barrhead Leader asked Viersen for his opinion on the Liberal government’s decision not to appeal a September Superior Court of Quebec ruling that declared it was unconstitutional to allow Canadians who are already near death to seek out medical assistance to end their lives.
As a result, the government has until March 11 to amend the law, but are giving Canadians until Jan. 27 to weigh in on the topic.
Viersen recommends that Canadians and his constituents, in particular, complete the online survey available on the Justice Department’s website (www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cons/ad-am/index.html), noting it only takes about three minutes to complete.
However, he said it should have never been allowed to get this far.
“I’m very frustrated that the federal government isn’t appealing the court decision,” Viersen said. “This is a junior court in Quebec that has made the ruling and if you don’t appeal it then the judgement stands to the highest court of the land.”
He added although he did not agree with the law, the government should carry out Parliament’s wishes.
“By not appealing, it does a disservice to the House of Commons. If the legislature says this is the ‘law of the land’ the government ought to be defending it.”
The bill received Royal assent in June 2017 and came in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous ruling in February 2015 that struck down the ban on physician-assisted death. As part of the ruling, the then Conservative government had 12 months to prepare before the ruling came into effect — the Liberal government, following their election win, received a four-month extension.
Previously during debate in the House of Commons Viersen said: “Assisted suicide is a grave matter and has serious implications for all society, in the short term and the long term. Based on the experiences of countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, which have legalized assisted suicide, we can know with great certainty that vulnerable populations, such as seniors, youth, and those who struggle with mental illness, will inevitably be put at risk. Legalization of assisted suicide has also greatly undermined the public trust in the medical system in these countries.”
This is why during a ‘meet the MP’ event in Barrhead in November 2016, he said one of the amendments he put forward would have seen the government institute a licensing system that would allow people outside the health care system to help.
“Health care is there to help people live. This is helping people die. It should be a different system,” he said.
Viersen added he is also disappointed at the government’s efforts in improving palliative care.
“In the absence of a good palliative care, assisted suicide becomes the only option and they have subsequently failed to deliver on that.”
According to Alberta Health, in 2019, 377 Albertans underwent physician-assisted death, up from 307 in 2018 and 206 in 2017.
On a more light-hearted topic, Viersen was asked whether he is concerned about the added cost to the nation if Duke and Duchess of Sussex, ie Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, decide to move to Canada. Most notably there has been some conjecture that Canada might be responsible for their protection detail that is now paid for by British taxpayers.
Although Viersen said, he is a ‘big fan’ of Queen Elizabeth, he is not sure Canada would necessarily have to pick up their security tab, adding it would partly depend if they are still ‘royals.’
“If someone’s mother comes to Canada, we pick up the security tab,” he said. “It would be like if Justin Bieber, or another celebrity comes to Canada, there is an added security risk and the RCMP might pay a little bit of extra attention, but no one asks how much extra it costs.”