2nd Session, 43rd Parliament
Volume 152, Issue 27

Thursday, February 11, 2021
The Honourable Pierrette Ringuette, Speaker pro tempore

Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—Third Reading—Debate

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Petitclerc, seconded by the Honourable Senator Gold, P.C., for the third reading of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), as amended.

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I will be moving an amendment.

I cannot express how privileged I feel today to rise to encourage you all to support my amendment calling for race-based data of all people who request and receive MAID to be systematically collected by the Government of Canada.

This amendment truly is the culmination of decades of work, and it is underpinned by principles of true justice and racial equity. Senators, I am aware that while my amendment focuses on race, I certainly do acknowledge that there are many other gaps in data collection. While data collection may be inadequate for other groups, data collection is completely absent when it comes to race, and that is why it is my primary focus.

Honourable senators, we have spent the past year talking about systemic racism and injustices racialized people face. While studying Bill C-7, I identified an instance where race was not taken into consideration, and I felt it was our responsibility to take action, as this is a very important piece of legislation.

At committee, Senator Harder said the following:

I have a further question, going back to data collection. It is not uncommon in bills such as this to have a hook in the bill with respect to regulatory amendments or regulatory procedures that would allow data to be collected that is relevant for the consideration of the issue that the bill addresses.

Are you saying that you don’t have the capacity to collect the data that we assumed with Bill C-14 would be collected and therefore instructive in future consideration of this issue? If not, would the government consider an amendment that would cause such data to be collected through a regulatory framework?

Senators, this is why Senator Harder’s intervention gave me the impetus to introduce a regulatory amendment, as I have done. My amendment will ensure the data of racialized people is collected: a group that comprises one quarter of our population.

With regard to paragraph 241.31(3)(a)(i), section B, the information collection of those who request and receive MAID will be extended to include a person’s race.

Paragraph 241.31(3)(b) of the amendment will ensure that the bill includes the analysis and interpretation of this information including for the purposes of identifying race-based inequities and how race intersects with other forms of systemic inequality in medical assistance in dying.

Ultimately, if adopted by the other place, this amendment would put in place a systemic approach to combating racism and the ways race-based inequality intersects with other systematic inequalities.

Honourable senators, with regard to why we must also consider the way race intersects with and breeds systemic inequality, I believe Dr. Laverne Jacobs, 1 of over 80 witnesses at our pre-study report, said it best when she explained:

Racial stigma forms part of anti-Black racism. . . .

As a result of social structures that have been built on biased understandings of social existence, inequality becomes not just a set of individual circumstances but also a much larger web of systemic discrimination.

We know that the current government is not blind to the issues posed by this huge information gap. I was extremely appreciative that Minister Lametti, and the officials both from Justice and Health, were very forthright in their admission that absolutely no race-based data had been collected. As you are aware, senators, the gender-based analysis plus is carried out to ensure that all legislation and policy adequately acknowledge and account for the lived experiences of women, men and people with gender identities, as well as for other factors such as age, sexual orientation, disability, race, education, language, geography, culture and income.

The fact is, since 2016 the government has publicly committed to collecting this data among its gender-based analysis plus study criteria. When we were given a copy of the gender-based analysis plus to show the impact of Bill C-7 on racialized communities, this was not considered. I had asked the minister if racialized communities considered. He originally thought they were, but when we received the report, he was forthright. He said, “No, they were not considered.”

This amendment solely aims to ensure this commitment is being fulfilled and the rights of racialized people, almost a quarter of the population, are also being fulfilled.

The government has long had access to existing federal framework plans outlining just how seamlessly this method of analysis could be statistically gathered on a national level. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) stated in July 2020:

The lack of race-based data in the health sector in Canada makes it difficult to measure health inequalities and to identify inequities that may stem from racism and discrimination.

CIHI has proposed a pan-Canadian standard for collecting race-based data. What is more, back in 2019, the government published its own document entitled Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022. In the document heading concerning Building Awareness and Changing Attitudes, it specifically lists data and evidence as one of the most effective and important ways to do so.

Honourable senators, our path forward has long been clear, and today we have an unprecedented opportunity to clearly tell the government that the time for change is now: not tomorrow and not next year.

As I mentioned earlier, one in four people has been left out of the data collection. While we can all agree that this is unacceptable, we do not all know what it feels like to be “the one” in that statistic.

There have been many times in my life when I have been in a room and I looked different, sounded different and was even dressed differently from others. While I am very proud to be who I am, I must tell you that it can be very lonely.

Throughout my life, I’ve endured countless instances of racism. I truly cannot count the number of times when, upon arriving at the Senate Chamber, I was told that this is the senators’ entrance only.


I am very grateful to represent the province of British Columbia in the Senate of Canada, and I will be perpetually grateful to Prime Minister Chrétien for giving me this opportunity. I have always been committed to advocating for the one in four, and that is why I am introducing this amendment. We must not accept the status quo; we must push for change.

My father used to tell me until the day he died, “Do not let anybody ever tell you that you are not equal to them. All human beings are created equal.” This is why we all deserve the same degree of consideration.

Last year, here in the Senate, Senators Plett, Lankin, Moodie and Bernard, among other senators, led our chamber in taking the next steps forward and standing firmly against racism in this place and across our country as a whole.

Honourable senators, I humbly ask that you please join me as we take the next step to ensure that disaggregated data — specifically race-based data — is systematically collected on a national level in order to enable us to move forward as a country together.

Motion in Amendment Adopted

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That Bill C-7, as amended, be not now read a third time, but that it be further amended in clause 3, on page 8, by replacing lines 28 to 38 with the following:

(2) The portion of paragraph 241.31(3)(a) before subparagraph (ii) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(a) respecting the provision and collection of information relating to requests for and the provision of medical assistance in dying, including

(i) the information to be provided, at various stages, by medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, persons referred to in subsection (1.1) who have the responsibility to carry out preliminary assessments, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, or by a class of any of them, including

(A) the elements considered in the course of the assessments — preliminary or otherwise — of whether a person meets the criteria set out in subsection 241.2(1), and

(B) information respecting the race of a person who requests or receives medical assistance in dying, if the person consents to providing this information,

(2.1) Paragraph 241.31(3)(b) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(b) respecting the use, analysis and interpretation of that information, including for the purposes of identifying race-based inequities and how race intersects with other forms of systemic inequality in medical assistance in dying;

(b.1) respecting the protection, publication, and disclosure of that information;”.

Honourable senators, I remember when affirmative action was first introduced in Canada. People had many questions and concerns. They worried that this policy would not include everybody — just women. Some even called it reverse discrimination. At that time, Canadians stood up and said, “No, it is not reverse discrimination; it is equity.” So, too, is my amendment.

Today, I ask you to consider supporting this amendment for the future of our country, for harmony in our country, and for my grandson Ayaan, who is watching these proceedings and has encouraged me to put forward this amendment.

Thank you, senators.