More on Opposition to Bill C-7 (Medically-Assisted Suicide) and the Role of Philosophers

Last week, once again in the context of discussion about MAiD, I returned to the subject of how bioethics and bioethicists continue to shape philosophy departments in Canada and Canadian public policy with respect to the lives of disabled people and the limiting effects that this institutional formation has on the range of views that are taught and valued in Canadian philosophy departments, on the opportunities available to disabled philosophers, and in regard to the perceptions and prospects of disabled Canadians in general.

I am extremely pleased to note that we have been successful in our organizing against Bill C-7. The Canadian Senate instituted an extension to voting on Bill C-7 and will resume discussion about it on February 1st, with a new deadline of February 26th, sending the proposed legislation back to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, deeming some elements of it to be unconstitutional—an irony given that some Canadian bioethicists initiated the legislation with arguments according to which it brings federal policy in line with the (single) Truchon decision of a lower Quebec court and policy of the province of Quebec (go here for an explanation of the decision).

In the interim, that is, between now and February, we have work to do.

Philosophers ought to be concerned about the deleterious effects that will accrue to disabled people due to the arguments that some of their colleagues have advanced and the role of complicity that the profession of philosophy will have played in this grievous state of affairs.

Philosophers in Canada and elsewhere must act now. They must show the same passionate resistance to Bill C-7 that they have shown for The Gender Recognition Act of the U.K. and other pieces of legislation that dehumanize and further disenfranchise certain subordinated sectors of the profession and population at large.

One of the tasks in which philosophers must engage is public education with respect to Bill C-7 and the incremental normalization of ableist eugenics that it would facilitate and promises to propel, including access to medically-assisted suicide for Canadians in emotional and psychological distress and “mature” minors, future legislative challenges that some Canadian (feminist) bioethicists have already proposed.

In short, philosophers who are not bioethicists need to get involved on this matter. They must have the courage to push back against the arguments and actions of their mentors and friends in the profession.

Large sectors of the Canadian public are uninformed about what Bill C-7 proposes. Socially and politically engaged philosophers and other academics can serve a role here.

Explain that modern eugenics follows the formula and often takes the form of legislation like Bill C-7, that modern forms of power operate so effectively because they seem innocuous and even progressive, benevolent and even compassionate. Chapter five of Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability, which is entitled “Bioethics as a Technology of Government,” is instructive in this regard, explaining the way that neoliberal forms of power tend primarily to operate through coercion and control rather overt violence.

Discuss this piece of legislation with your colleagues and students so that they understand why it is must be quashed. Tell them that it directly targets disabled people, offering government-facilitated suicide rather than providing social solutions to the poverty, isolation, disenfranchisement, and discrimination in housing, employment, and education that disabled people confront.

Contact Senators (link to a list of emails for Senators and their office staff is included below). Tell Senators that you know this legislation was formulated on the basis of a misguided and biased lower-court decision that the Liberal federal government could and should have appealed, not a Supreme Court decision.

Post on your Facebook and Twitter pages about Bill C-7 and why it is detrimental to the lives of disabled Canadians, reproducing prevalent ableist biases and prejudices about disabled people according to which their lives are inherently less valuable than the lives of nondisabled Canadians.

Here is the link to a spreadsheet that lists Senators email addresses, phone numbers, and names of staff:

As one Senator has indicated, limited consultation has taken place with Indigenous people in Canada and racialized Canadians. Sarah Jama and the Disability Justice Network of Ontario are organizing around this lack of consultation and representation. If you want to get involved, contact Sarah Jama and DJNO directly through Twitter at @djnontario.

Here is the link to an article that discusses the impact that this legislation will have on Indigenous people in Canada:

Here are links to other important items on Bill C-7 and opposition to it:

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