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As some of you will already know, the federal government recently passed Bill C-7, legislation regarding medical assistance in dying, which expands eligibility to comply with a Quebec Superior Court ruling. Medical assistance in dying remains limited to people suffering from a “grievous and irremediable medical condition,” but to satisfy the Superior Court, death is no longer required to be “reasonably foreseeable.” This new legislation permits individuals experiencing severe and enduring pain and suffering, for which there is no apparent remedy, to request medical assistance in dying subject to certain conditions and safeguards.
While some Canadians support this legislation and the changes it brings, others do not. I am concerned for this legislation and its implications for Canadian society. As Salvationists and as people committed to living out our core values of hope, service and dignity, we believe in the dignity and worth of every person and in the sacredness of life and we lament any action that suggests a person is not worthy of care and support, their life is not worth living, or that their life should be intentionally ended.
I can assure you that The Salvation Army has been following the legislation carefully and speaking into the process. In early January 2020, a link to a public consultation was posted on Salvationist.ca encouraging Salvationists to express their views to government on this issue. In addition, I sent letters to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and Minister of Health to encourage the development of appropriate safeguards to protect the vulnerable and to ensure patients have access to quality palliative care, clear options and genuine choice.
By way of response, we were directed to Health Canada’s Framework on Palliative Care in Canada, where we note the reference to the benefits of palliative care and the government’s commitment to strengthen this vital program. In that document we can see some lofty goals, and we anticipate that the federal and provincial governments will continue to work together to invest in a qualitative improvement in care, especially palliative care.
I am writing you now to let you know this issue of caring for suffering humanity has not gone away. We will continue to monitor the implementation of this legislation and work with governments and our caregivers to navigate any impact this legislation may have and to find ways support the delivery of holistic services to people experiencing severe illness and disease, including palliative care at the end of life.
Easter has just passed, and I cannot help but think of the disciples gathered at the cross, or alone on the way home, feeling quite helpless in the face of Jesus’ death. When they saw Jesus hanging on the cross, they were without hope and did not have the benefit of knowing the rest of the story. However, we live with knowledge that there is a living Christ! The Apostle Paul says, “Thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15: 57-58). The deep needs and concerns of Canadians are not going away, and neither are we. The Salvation Army will continue to minister to the distressed and the suffering. We will mobilize to design effective responses, guided by the love and compassion of Christ. I am confident that we are called by God to serve suffering humanity and I urge you to serve with resolve.
Stay firm in your faith and walk with me as we reach out to our fellow Canadians and help them cope with their personal challenges and unanswered questions.
May you be blessed and strengthened in your faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ!
Yours in Christ,
Commissioner Floyd Tidd
Would you like to know more about how The Salvation Army is supporting individuals, their caregivers and loved ones, and officers asked to provide pastoral care to people contemplating Medical Assistance in Dying?
Read Dr. Aimee Patterson’s September 2020 article titled Final Words: What happens when a candidate for medical assistance in dying requests pastoral care?, the International Position Statement on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, contact the Ethics Centre for a copy of the Territorial Position Statement, visit the Public Affairs subsite on Salvationist.ca. In addition, we will soon launch an online course titled “Understanding the Scope of Perspectives and Ministry in MAID.”
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