Debates of the Senate  
1st Session, 42st Parliament, Volume 150, Issue 49
  Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Question to Senator Lankin on Bill C-14

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Would you take another question, Senator Lankin?

Senator Lankin: Yes; I will.

Senator Dyck: I was listening carefully to you talking about vulnerable groups and how the government was concerned about vulnerable groups who may be coerced into giving consent to medically assisted death. In your speech, you talked several times about the disabled, the physically disabled. I'm wondering why, in the list of groups that you list here, you have not included the physically disabled. You have included those with mental illness, and then you have the other groups that are defined by social determinants.

Senator Lankin: Thank you very much, Senator Dyck. Actually, I haven't included the reference to mental illness. That is in the existing legislation. It is for people for whom the sole underlying condition is mental illness. That just repeats what is in the act and adds the group that I referred to, and the subamendment adds, for greater clarity, those people for whom natural death is not reasonably foreseeable.

Senator Dyck: I may not have heard you correctly, but what was the rationale for leaving out the disabled?

Senator Lankin: I did not leave out the disabled. I didn't engage in putting in a list, as Senator Martin pointed out. When you start to name groups, you actually start to eliminate other groups. The more specified a list is, the more it presumes that others were not included for a reason. This sets out that it is for those people who, for the social conditions of their life and/or the social determinants of their health condition, may face further suffering and/or their voluntariness may be brought into question. It could involve disabled people, but it could be more than disabled people.

Senator Dyck: As a follow-up question, you haven't included the physically disabled because it wasn't in the original. I guess I would like a fuller explanation of why you didn't include it. It wasn't in the original list, but why have you, in a sense, chosen to exclude them?

Senator Lankin: Thank you. I'm going to be a bit repetitive. I apologize for that.

The original list of reviews involves mature minors making requests, advance directive requests and requests from those whose underlying condition is one of solely mental illness. To that we're adding a broad review of vulnerable people, which would include people with physical disabilities. My answer before, Senator Dyck, was if I said "physical disabilities" and started listing them, the interpretation of that that is, when you provide a list is that you're excluding others. So I have included a broad category of people who are the people that the ministers have said they are concerned about in terms of vulnerability and why they narrowed the legislation in the first place. Senator Harder can speak to his subamendment, but it is to give a more fulsome inclusion, given the Joyal amendment, of all those people whose death is not naturally foreseeable.

Senator Dyck: If the purpose of the amendment is to address those who are vulnerable, I would like to know why you didn't include in the amendment something about vulnerable groups such as those social conditions and social determinants of health so that it is clear that you're seeking to look at vulnerability and that it may include other things that you have chosen not to list.

Senator Lankin: I think that could have been an equally fine way to draft this. The inclusion of the words "social conditions" and "social determinants of health" in and of themselves, in terms of their common application, deals with vulnerable peoples. It could have provided greater clarity. I appreciate that. I didn't think of that at the time I was drafting and working with legislative drafters and with the disability community. The coalition of disability groups has worked with me and helped provide some of this language. However, it's a great suggestion.

Particularly now that we have had so much discussion about it, if someone wants to interpret it and they come to the debates, they will see exactly what we have been talking about. Your interventions have been helpful, Senator Dyck. Thank you.