Senator Wilfred P. Moore—Third reading of Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying)Published on 15 June 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Wilfred Moore (retired)
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore:
Honourable senators, it is indeed a unique honour and privilege to engage in the debate on Bill C-14. First of all, I want to compliment the work of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, which laid out a solid road map for the government to follow. I applaud the superb speeches by the leadership on all sides, as well as the remarks of Senator Ogilvie, and I sincerely appreciate the deeply personal experiences shared by so many of our colleagues.
The work of the Senate on this file has been textbook. I regret that the Minister of Justice commented that she would not accept any amendments to the bill. In doing so, I’m concerned that the minister not only prejudged our work but that she may not understand or appreciate the legislative role of the Senate.
I want to tell you a little bit about a similar exercise that I was deeply involved in here in the chamber in 2001. At that time we were looking at amending the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I was on the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee at the time. We heard evidence that the judge, in handing out the sentence to a First Nation youth, should consider the punishment that was considered in First Nations. That provision existed in the Criminal Code for adult First Nations offenders but not for youth. We heard that it should apply to youth.
I brought in an amendment to that effect, and I can tell you that I have been on that lonely side of the road that Senator Manning spoke about: tremendous pressure from all sides. I was sitting as a Liberal senator, being pressured by all heights of authority within the government, but I took an oath to the Queen and country to do the best thing for the good of the country. That didn’t include deferring to the House of Commons. They are not always right.
We got to the vote, and thankfully it went through on a vote of 51 to 50, with one abstention.
The message is that the people spoke. They spoke to us in committee. We heard that in the exercise here — in the various committees, pre-studies, and in the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, which did the work in advance.
It’s our job to be legislators, to consider the legislation and the views expressed to us by the public, and not to give in to the House of Commons or to the executive. If we, in our wisdom, think that it’s right, I’ll put my stock in this gang right here.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Moore: Many amendments have been adopted by the collective wisdom of this chamber, and I don’t believe that work is to be taken lightly or dismissively. That wisdom saw the Senate approve numerous amendments, including an important one introduced by our learned colleague the Honourable Serge Joyal. It is an amendment which provides for the inclusion of the minorities, persons to whom medical assistance in dying was not available under the bill in its original form.
Therefore, senators, remember who you are, remember your oath, remember the people. I shall be voting in favour of this bill as amended.