Paul Tuns

Bloc Quebecois, Liberal, and NDP members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities rejected a motion by Conservative MP Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords-Lloydminster) to condemn child euthanasia.

During Oct. 7 testimony at the Commons’ Special Joint Committee of Medical Assistance in Dying, Dr. Louis Roy of the Quebec College of Physicians, called for euthanasia for infants up to age one who are born with “severe malformations” and “grave and severe syndromes” when physicians believe there is little chance for survival. He said that parents or physicians could make that decision on behalf of the infant to reduce the child’s suffering, reiterating the position of the college that was released in a statement in 2021.

During a Nov. 16 committee debate on Bill C-22, An Act to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities by establishing the Canada disability benefit and making a consequential amendment to the Income Tax Act, Falk noted the committee was working toward “inclusion and the need to break down economic and social barriers” for people with disabilities. In that spirit, she introduced a motion condemning the College’s position on infant euthanasia, saying it “is not only unethical but flies in the face of what we are trying to do here today.”

Falk read out her motion, that the committee would report to the House of Commons that it “rejects the Quebec College of Physicians assertion on Oct. 7, 2022, that the expansion of Medical Assistance in Dying is appropriate for infants up to the age of one that are born with ‘severe and grave syndromes’.”

Falk asked that the motion be passed “really quickly” because it would “reaffirms the work we are doing here today.” 

BQ MP Louise Chabot (Thérèse-De Blainville) said the motion was out of order and apologized to witnesses during the committee meeting that they had to endure the motion. She said that it was properly a debate for Special Joint Committee of Medical Assistance in Dying. NDP MP Bonita Zarrillo (Port Moody—Coquitlam) said she was horrified at the Quebec College of Physicians recommendation and that the full House or special committee should debate the matter.

Falk disagreed, saying that the committee could send a strong signal that it opposes child euthanasia.

The motion was voted down 7-4, with only the four Conservatives supporting it: Falk, Scott Aitchison (Parry Sound-Muskoka), Michelle Ferreri (Peterborough-Kawartha), and Tracy Gray (Kelowna-Lake Country).

Voting against the motion were Chabot and Zarrillo, along with Liberal MPs Chad Collins (Hamilton East-Stoney Creek), Michael Coteau (Don Valley East), Wayne Long (Saint John-Rothesay), Soraya Marisel Martínez Ferrada (Hochelaga), and Tony Van Bynen (Newmarket-Aurora). During her vote against the motion, Zarrillo said she would like to see the House unanimously oppose child euthanasia. Collins commented that the motion was a “waste of time” when he voted against it.

Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis (Haldimand-Norfolk) tweeted a condemnation of the committee’s rejection of her colleague’s motion: “Kids born with disabilities are now being considered for assisted suicide up to a year after their birth. Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) was never meant for those who can’t give consent. Why aren’t the Liberals, Bloc and NDP condemning this unethical agenda?”

Campaign Life Coalition spokesman Pete Baklinski told The Interim “It’s almost unbelievable that our elected officials, when given the opportunity to condemn infanticide, the killing of already born infants who completely depend on adults for their well-being, chose to abandon these babies.”

He said, “This callous disregard for vulnerable human life outside the womb at its earliest stages is certainly shocking. But, it’s not unexpected from a culture that supports the killing of babies inside the womb. The reality is that there is no moral difference between a born baby and an unborn baby – both are fully members of the human family and both deserve love and protection along with human rights.”

Baklinski also took issue with the assertion by Collins that the motion “was a waste of time,” noting, “there is no better use of time for our elected officials than advocating for, defending, and protecting the most vulnerable among us.”