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Letter: Bill C-7 institutionalizes dangerous ableist stereotypes in law

Re: “When medically assisted death becomes unmoored from morality.” In her Feb. 13 online opinion piece in the Chronicle Herald, Nuala Kenny talks about the moral and real-life implications of the new and expanded Medical Assistance in Dying bill (MAID), C-7, which has passed third reading in the House of Commons and is working its way through the Senate. 

The new bill, which is MAID on steroids, has removed the death as reasonably foreseeable criterion and has included suffering with a disability as one of the eligible criteria for seeking an end to life.  

A worse stereotype could not be institutionalized in law: that disability-related suffering, often caused by inadequate health, poverty, lack of social supports and entrenched inequality, justifies the termination of a person’s life.  

As a mother of an adult son with a disability, I am horrified by the message this sends. My years of experience as a Member of Parliament and a disability advocate have shown me that all Canadians are not treated equally. Despite foundational documents such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the lives of thousands of Canadians with disabilities remain difficult and often desperate. 

As they grow older, many lose whatever family supports they have and become even more isolated and lonely. A great percentage live in poverty and with the physical and mental health ailments that come with age. Living with chronic hopelessness, loneliness, pain and lack of love can cause suffering that makes anyone want to end it all. We need to make sure that life is worth living before we say that death is a viable option.

Bill C-7 is removing the protection for our most vulnerable citizens and we need to stop that. United Nations human rights experts have already condemned the bill as a direct violation of Canada’s commitments as a signatory to the UNCRPD. A coalition that has grown to over 90 disability-rights organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Canadians with disabilities has called on the Senate to amend the bill and remove this discriminatory and damaging clause.   

We will be watching to see whether the senators and Members of Parliament from Nova Scotia speak out against Bill C-7 in its present form and whether they fight to defend the lives and human rights of our most vulnerable citizens.

Wendy Lill, Dartmouth

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