Tag Archives: Mental Health

The Crisis of MAID and the Argument for Social Reform

by Shivahn Garvie

In early February, the Canadian government deferred the expansion of medical assistance in dying (MAID) to individuals suffering solely from mental illness by one year (Zimonjic 2023). Justice Minister David Lametti requested a delay for Bill C-39 to further investigate the potential risks of this new legislation (Zimonjic 2023). An interim report released in June 2022 concluded that “more remains to be done to ensure the necessary steps have been taken” before the March 2023 deadline (Zimonjic 2023).

According to the new bill, “mental illness” encompasses psychiatric conditions like depression and personality disorders, and excludes neurodevelopmental or neurocognitive disorders (Zimonjic 2023). Euthanasia was introduced to Canada in 2015 when the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting assisted death stripped citizens of dignity and autonomy (Cheng 2022). Assisted suicide was approved in Canada for individuals 18 and older with terminal illness in 2016, and was extended to those with non-threatening severe and chronic physical conditions in 2021 (Honderich 2023). Since 2016, the number of people receiving medical assistance in dying has increased each year, constituting 3.3% of all deaths in Canada in 2021 (Honderich 2023). The planned expansion to those suffering solely from mental illness has raised concerns about the MAID program as a whole.

Recent reports have indicated that vulnerable individuals are requesting and receiving assisted death due to poverty, loneliness, or lack of housing rather than failing health (Honderich 2023). Some argue that this indicates a crisis of Canada’s social safety net. In May 2022, Marie-Claud Landry, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, stated that giving people the option of assisted death because the government is, “failing to fulfill their fundamental human rights is unacceptable.” (Honderich 2023).

Bill C-39 attracted further criticism from three United Nations human rights experts in 2021 who warned that the expanded law will denigrate Canada’s disabled community, sending a message that serious disability is worse than death (Cheng 2022). Critics point to the story of Alan Nichols as evidence that MAID lacks sufficient safeguards. Nichols was a 61-year-old Canadian with a history of depression and concurrent mental health issues who was hospitalized in June 2019 following concerns that he was suicidal (Cheng 2022). The next month, Nichols requested euthanasia through MAID and was killed despite objections from his family and nurse practitioner (Cheng 2022). After his death, it was revealed that Nichols’ MAID application listed hearing loss as the reason for his request to die (Cheng 2022). Nichols’ family brought this case to the police, claiming that he had not been suffering unbearably, but was confused as he had been refusing to take necessary medication and wear a cochlear implant that helped him hear (Cheng 2022).

Most of the controversy surrounding this expansion is centered on assessing the “irremediability” of mental illness (Honderich 2023). Individuals only qualify for MAID in Canada if their

condition is considered incurable (Honderich 2023). However, the Canadian Mental Health Association cautions that it is “not possible” to classify any mental illness as irremediable, and thus disapproves of the upcoming expansion (Honderich 2023).

Despite fears from the public and professionals, Mr. Lametti assures that this legislation is not being taken lightly, claiming, “We are listening to what we are hearing and being responsive” (Honderich 2023). The federal government promises that Bill-C-39 will respect individuals’ autonomy but prioritize their safety (Honderich 2023). While the expansion of MAID may intimidate many Canadians, this delay should bolster their faith in the governments’ commitment and responsiveness to its people’s concerns.

Works Cited

Cheng, Maria. “‘Disturbing’: Experts troubled by Canada’s euthanasia laws.” AP International News, Associated Press, 11 August 2022, https://apnews.com/article/covid-science-heaalth-toronto-7c631558a457188d2bd2b5cfd360a867.

France-Presse, Agence. “Canada seeks to delay euthanasia for mentally ill.” SCMP, South China Morning Post, 3 February 2023, https://www.scmp.com/news/world/united-states-canada/article/3208926/canada-seeks-delay-euthanasia-mentally-ill.

Honderich, Holly. “Who can die? Canada wrestles with euthanasia for the mentally ill.” BBC News, British Broadcasting Corporation, 14 January 2023. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64004329.

Zimonjic, Peter. “Federal government moves to delay MAID for people suffering solely from mental illness.” CBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2 February 2023. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/maid-delay-solely-mental-illness-1.6734686.

Canada’s Abuse of Immigrants

By: Tia DeRuiter

In July of 2020, the Federal Court of Canada passed a ruling that withdrew Canada
from their participation within the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) (Canadian Council
for Refugees [CCR], 2020). An agreement which legalized the transfer of refugees back to
whatever “safe” country they landed in first, either Canada or the United States (Government
of Canada). The proposed withdrawal from this agreement was brought forth on the grounds
of the egregious conditions in which the United States treated those who were sent back from
Canada, including arbitrary imprisonment, psychological abuse, and extreme human rights
abuses (CCR, 2020). The court justified their decision to leave the STCA because of the
United States clear and appalling violations of section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights
and Freedoms (CCR, 2020). The section in which gives all persons the equal right to security
and liberty, a right infringed upon by the erroneous treatment of refugees in the U.S. (CCR,

Almost one year later, in June of 2021, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty
International (AI) released a report detailing the appalling treatment of immigrants in Canada,
those in which are remarkably similar to the conditions for which Canada left the STCA
(Gros et al., 2021). According to this report, Canada imprisons thousands of people a year on
immigration related charges, often involving abusive behaviour (Gros et al., 2021). Not only
are the reasons for which these immigrants are detained not disclosed or arbitrary, but their
release dates are kept from them as well (Gros et al., 2021). During their imprisonment,
immigrant detainees face some of the most putative measures, including being housed in
maximum security prisons, and emplaced into solitary confinement, finding that these
conditions were even harsher for Black immigrants, and those with psychosocial disabilities
(Gros et al., 2021). These abuses have had devastatingly severe impacts on the mental health
of these immigrants, often resulting in feelings of hopelessness, failure, and sometimes
suicide (Gros et al., 2021).

It is not difficult to draw the parallels between this abuse, arbitrary detainment, and
human rights violations, that not less than a year ago Canada’s courts denounced the United
States for (CCR, 2020). Both HRW and AI hold that something must be done to eradicate
these atrocious conditions and treatment (Gros et al., 2021). A report done in 2016, in
conjunction with the University of Toronto, AI, and many other organizations, provided
suggestions for eliminating these abuses (Muscati, 2016). Including, but not limited to,
establishing an independent body to which the Canadian Border Patrol Service Agency
(CBSA) is held accountable, modifying existing laws and regulations, imposing requirements
to access of essential services for both physical and mental health, and increasing funding to
find safe, healthy, and adequate housing for immigration detainees (Muscati, 2016). Since
this, both the CBSA and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada have responded,
declaring their intentions to look further into this issue, but action has yet to be seen
(Ossowski, 2021; Wex, 2021). While Canada may never change their approach to this issue,
there is hope through advocacy by AI, HRW, and institutions like UofT, that there will be
amendments in the future.

Image Attribution: hrw.org, via Getty Images


A Statistical Report on the State of Indigenous Mental Health in Canada

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