Living, Working, and Wasting Time in Southern Manitoba

Month: February 2015

Crossing the floor

I really need to remember not to read the comments section on news stories.

The floor of the House of Commons - WikipediaThis morning, Eve Adams, the Member of Parliament for Mississauga-Brampton South crossed the floor from the Conservatives to join the Liberal Caucus under Justin Trudeau. Now, I have no idea what kind of MP Ms. Adams is, although I have heard that she has had questionable dealings in and with her former party during the nomination processes in her former and neighbouring ridings. Apparently she broke some party rules, however from past experience I know that that can be a murky mess too. Brandon-Souris had its own nomination irregularities in the last by-election which still seem questionable to me. But that’s another topic.

Just like any time that someone crosses the floor to another party, or leaves the party to sit as an independent, you start to hear people saying how dishonest the floor-crosser is, how they should resign and run again. The idea is that the representative ran under the party banner and got a bunch of votes from people who voted for that party.  That’s what I saw in the comments section, except with more name calling.

One problem. We don’t vote for parties in Canada, we vote for candidates. I really wish that people would catch on to this when they make these assertions. When you vote for a candidate, you vote for that person to represent your constituency. You do not vote for a party to represent your constituency. If that was the case, when Merv Tweed resigned his seat, then the Tories could have appointed someone to “their seat”. They were not allowed to do that, there had to be a by-election, because the person who held the seat vacated it. I really wish these commenters would learn how our system works before they comment. Eve Adams has the right, perhaps even the responsibility, to cross the floor if she thinks that the party she represents no longer represents her constituents. I don’t know if that is what has happened in this case, perhaps she is just an opportunist who jumped ship when she had pretty much been tossed overboard. Time will tell.

However, the right to “cross the floor” is one of the few threats that an MP has against their party, especially a party in government. It is something that is an integral part of our system.

Personally I would go further. I would like to see the removal of party names from our ballots. To me, the party name is a form of advertising for the candidate. Political advertising is forbidden by law inside or within so many metres of a polling place. Some will say that the party name beside the candidate lets people identify who they want to vote for. I would argue that if you have not been able to figure out who is the representative of your favourite party before you go into the polling place, then perhaps you have not done due diligence in researching and knowing the positions of the candidates in your area. If you cannot even identify the political affiliation of someone that you want to represent you, perhaps you don’t know them well enough.

I would hope people would put more thought into their vote than just picking a colour.

Competent Adult Persons

The Supreme Court of Canada

In what is being called a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday struck down the total ban on doctor assisted suicide. The Court found that the ban went again the Charter right of “Security of the person” and as such struck that section of the law down.

Insofar  as  they  prohibit  physician-assisted dying  for  competent  adults who  seek  such  assistance  as  a  result  of  a  grievous  and  irremediable  medical  condition that  causes  enduring  and  intolerable  suffering,  ss. 241(b)  and  14 of the  Criminal Code deprive  these  adults  of  their  right  to  life,  liberty  and  security  of  the  person  under  s. 7 of  the  Charter.  The  right  to  life  is  engaged  where  the  law  or  state  action  imposes death  or  an  increased  risk  of  death  on  a  person,  either  directly or indirectly.  Here, the prohibition deprives  some  individuals of  life, as  it  has  the  effect  of  forcing some individuals  to  take  their  own  lives  prematurely,  for  fear  that  they  would  be  incapable of  doing  so  when  they  reached  the  point  where  suffering  was  intolerable.  The  rights to  liberty  and  security  of  the  person,  which  deal  with  concerns  about  autonomy  and quality  of  life,  are  also  engaged.  An  individual’s response  to  a  grievous  and irremediable  medical  condition  is  a  matter  critical  to  their  dignity  and  autonomy.  The prohibition  denies  people  in  this  situation  the  right  to  make  decisions  concerning  their bodily  integrity  and  medical  care  and  thus  trenches  on  their  liberty.  And  by  leaving them  to endure  intolerable  suffering,  it impinges  on their  security  of the person.

In my opinion, the Court used an interesting term when they said “competent adults”, as it underlies a basic freedom that most of us should be seen to have. If we are of sound mind, in other words, a “competent adult”, then decisions that we make in accordance with the use, misuse, or end of use of our bodies should not be impinged by other people if we are not causing harm or undue hardship to others, or costing other people or society unreasonable sums of money.

In the case of assisted suicide, a competent adult person should be able to determine the end date of their life. With multiple safeguards in place to protect the vulnerable, I see no reason why it is any of modern society’s business when any mentally competent person decides that they do not wish to live any longer. To me whether or not the person is in grievous pain does not enter the picture. If you are going to protect the sanctity of my life, then you must also protect my right to not live that life too, if I choose. If you do not leave me to determine what is best for me and my body, then you do not respect my right to my security of the person. I can and will determine what is best for me and my body and I do not give anyone the right to tell me differently. To put it mildly, my body, my choice.

This does not mean that the concerns of the disabled are not without some merit. I do however think that some of the fears are overstated, or perhaps more likely, misplaced. The arguments that I heard yesterday from disabled individuals opposed to this decision was that they feared that some disabled people would choose to die because they were not able to live with pain in instances where proper pain management techniques were not being offered to them, or even withheld. To me, that would not be covered by this decision. That would be a failure of the medical system to provide care. As my spouse pointed out yesterday, the hope would be that palliative care in this country would now become more front and centre as many in the industry tried to improve end-of-life conditions so that fewer people would feel the need to end their life prematurely. Perhaps terminal patients in this country will now find their pain-management and quality of life are more important now than they ever were before.

This idea of competent persons should really be seen to apply in other instances as well. We have too many laws that infringe on what a person can do with their own body, when doing so causes no harm to others. Cases in point; drug use and prostitution laws.

As I have argued before, the right of an adult person to decide who they will have sex with should be a basic right. The fact that money may be a deciding factor in that decision should not be the business of the government. If the people involved are competent adults and they make the choice freely without duress, then it is their choice, and theirs alone whether or not they proceed with that action. What we as a society have a responsibility to do is to make sure that anyone who makes that choice is doing it with free will and not seen as a last resort or as an only choice. Yes, many people are in that industry that do not want to be there, our duty is to them to make sure that nobody finds themself in that position. However, telling those that want to be there, and are of competent mind to make that decision, that they cannot, takes away their right of self determination.

As for those that take drugs. Yes, many people abuse drugs or alcohol and it has a devastating effect on their life. However, many people use alcohol and drugs recreationally and never have a problem functioning, or in fact thriving, in our society. I personally do not drink, smoke, or ingest any illicit drugs, but I do not for one second feel that it is my right to tell others who seem to be able to do it in a responsible manner, to not do it. Again, what a competent person does with their own body is none of my business.

Now, this does not mean that people should now be able to do what they want with no consideration for other people or of the common good. For example, I was challenged yesterday as to whether or not this means that I am against seatbelt use. No, I am not, and I think that you are an idiot if you do not use one. I would argue though that not doing up your seatbelt is your right, just do not expect an insurance company to pay for your choice in the case of injury, or more likely death. If you do not take the reasonable precautions to avoid grievous injury as prescribed by your insurer, then you should not expect them to pay large sums of money to your estate in the event of your untimely death. The same would go for not putting children in seatbelts, they are not competent adults and it is not the right of the parent or guardian to make a decision that will increase their chance of death or injury. It is not in the child’s best interest.

Another case in point is the anti-vaccine movement. The choice to not vaccinate is not one that affects only the person, but of all of those around the person also. Because the true effectiveness of vaccines only really exists in the “herd immunity” achieved when 95% of the population is immunized, by not immunizing one also makes medical choices for those other than one’s self. If immunization was 100% effective for every person, and every person could get it, then your choice not to would be yours alone. Immunizations do not work that way though, so for the greater good of society, everyone who can get the vaccine should get it, to protect those who cannot for other than philosophical reasons. In other words, not just your body, so not just your choice.

We definitely need to consider the rights of a competent adult person more often when we are crafting public policy. The litmus test I would say is whether or not the choice made by someone infringes on the rights of another. If nobody else’s right are being impinged on, then perhaps we should stay out of these decisions.