Parliament narrowly defeated a bill that would have prevented the expansion of eligibility for medical assistance in dying (MAID). On October 18, 167 MPs voted against Bill C-314 while 150 voted for it.
The private members bill was sponsored by Ed Fast, Conservative MP for Abbotsford.
That means that on March 17, 2024, people who suffer “solely from a mental illness and who meet all other eligibility criteria” will become eligible for MAID in Canada, according to the federal justice department website.
The vote blurred usual partisan lines. All Conservative, NDP and Green MPs voted in favour of Fast’s bill, as did eight Liberals. Fast says numerous other Liberals had indicated they would support the bill but seemingly changed their minds based on Prime Minster Trudeau’s pledge to re-convene a Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying.
Fast does not believe that committee, which is supposed to report in January, will seriously reconsider the merits of MAID for people with mental illness.
Fast says there are no other legislative options at this point, though the government could decide to delay the expansion of eligibility. Fast notes that Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has said he would revoke the planned changes to MAID if he were elected. The next federal election is slated for October 2025.
Fast says Poilevre has not made further commitments related to MAID legislation, nor is Fast calling for elimination of the current MAID provisions. Fast separates the question of Bill C-314 from basic MAID provisions, which came into force in 2016.
He says there is a “broad consensus” in Canadian society that a limited application of MAID is “reasonably appropriate.” This would apply to cases of “incurable illness, intolerable pain and where death is reasonably foreseeable.” Fast’s concern is not this sort of application of MAID but rather protecting the “most vulnerable from overreach by government.”
When the first MAID legislation was passed, Fast says him and others “were predicting that we were stepping onto a very slippery slope.” Those warnings he says, were dismissed as “fear-mongering.”
Seven years later, he says, “the slope is so much steeper than we ever expected,” noting talk that criteria could expand to include the opioid-addicted and minors.
Fast says the defeat of Bill C-314 “is just the first skirmish.” The fight goes on.
“We as society should put a very special emphasis on valuing life,” he says, “doing everything we can to enhance the dignity of the individual and provide the supports that Canadians need to live lives of joy.”
Fast is a member of Northview Community Church, a Mennonite Brethren congregation.