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CHP Canada calls on the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to Oppose Bill C-14

Tue, May 17, 2016

Good morning, on behalf of the Christian Heritage Party I’m going to address the suicide epidemic among First Nations youth and the failure of the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to respond to it wisely by not connecting it to Bill C-14, the government’s Assisted Suicide Bill.

When we hear of any death, we are saddened; when we hear of a suicide, that sadness strikes us even more deeply because we know that it might have been prevented. We sense a loneliness and a hopelessness we wish we had recognized and responded to more effectively.

The pain we feel at the suicide of even one young person is acute. Our response to the suicide epidemics in Cross Lake and Attawapiskat earlier this year have given all of us cause for somber reflection.

These are First Nations communities. The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous Affairs has expressed genuine sadness and concern at this tragedy, and we do not doubt her sincerity, but she has so far failed to connect these suicide epidemics with future assisted suicide epidemics.

On April 19th, the minister was asked about a possible connection between bill C-14, and the suicide epidemics wreaking havoc in First Nations’ communities. She denied there was a link and stated her opinion that suicide epidemics were more likely fuelled by the fact that young people have had siblings, neighbours, friends, or close relatives who have taken their own lives, or attempted to do so, and have followed their example.

In saying this, however, the minister acknowledged that the decision to commit suicide can be influenced by others who have chosen suicide and that suicides can be related to each other. How then, can she not see that enabling and legitimizing more suicides, as Bill C-14 will do, will lead to further suicides among the “siblings, friends, neighbours, and close relatives” of those who choose assisted suicide, including, but not limited to First Nations communities?

The question that must be asked of our Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister is this:

How can she justify helping people to commit suicide as per Bill C-14 when the deep need among First Nations communities is for suicide prevention?

If we want fewer suicides, we make it harder, not easier. If we want young people, on and off reserves, to value their lives in spite of challenges and setbacks, we need to

proclaim a consistent message that life is worth living and never to be prematurely ended.

Bill C-14 will not stop or prevent suicides; it will reinforce the destructive perception that there are lives “not worth living”.

Why then did Canada’s Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister vote for Bill C-14 on second reading; why did she not speak against it?

MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette, of Cree background himself, spoke against this Bill in Parliament based on his personal experience and the wisdom of First Nations elders who are warning of a “spirit of suicide”. We applaud his wisdom and his courage. All Parliamentarians should heed his warning, especially his colleagues in the Liberal Party and the Minister of Indigenous Affairs most of all.

Minister Bennett’s voice should be a voice of restraint and caution on this issue, a voice that respects First Nations wisdom, and which acknowledges the connection between suicides among young people and the hopelessness sometimes felt by the elderly. There is a connection, and the Minister, as well as all Members of Parliament, must stop denying it and instead act to protect all Canadians.

Suicide epidemics are a tragedy; they must also serve as a warning.

We call on the minister of indigenous affairs and her colleagues to join Robert-Falcon Ouelette in opposing Bill C-14. To ignore the combined wisdom of the elders and the conscience of spiritual leaders on this matter is to further embrace a culture of death.

CHP Canada calls on Parliament to vote down Bill C-14 and invoke the notwithstanding clause immediately to avoid the June 6 deadline imposed by the courts. They could then use the time gained to write a proper law protecting First Nations and all Canadians from euthanasia and assisted suicide. It can be done.

We ask our fellow citizens to pray for our Parliamentarians and to write or call your MPs and Senators, encouraging them to do the right thing and defend lives. All lives are worth living.

Rod Taylor
National Leader
Christian Heritage Party of Canada

For more information or comment, contact:
CHP Executive Director Vicki Gunn NationalOffice@chp.ca