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Statement on upcoming changes to Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) law

The Canadian Mental Health Association is making this statement in anticipation of the legislative change that will allow people to qualify for Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) when mental illness is the sole underlying condition. Having considered both the Final Report from the Expert Panel on MAiD and Mental Illness and the recently released report of the Special Joint Parliamentary Committee on MAiD, CMHA is focused on advocating to ensure that all people with a mental illness have the conditions they need to recover, and the care they need to be well.

As the leading network of community-based mental healthcare providers across the country, CMHA is working to hold the federal government accountable for delivering universal mental health care so that everyone in Canada can access the full range of mental health and substance use health programs and supports to which they are entitled under international human rights law. CMHA stands firmly in support of the rights of people with a mental illness, including their rights to dignity, self-determination and bodily autonomy. Canada is failing to meet its human rights obligations when people with a mental illness cannot receive the programs and supports they need to be well and live with dignity.

Universal mental health care entails integrating mental health programs and supports into our public universal healthcare system and making them all available free of charge, including recovery-oriented approaches and new, life-saving treatments to which only some people currently have access. It means ensuring such services are culturally safe and trauma-informed and rooted in the principles of health equity. It also means centering the social determinants that are prerequisites for good mental health by providing housing, and income and food supports that help keep people well, safe and out of poverty, and which create conditions that may mitigate requests for MAiD.

CMHA strongly recommends the creation of robust and rights-based safeguards to protect people seeking MAiD from harm and discrimination. Safeguards must create space to include caregivers and allied health care professionals, like case managers and counselors, in discussions when making decisions about eligibility and capacity. Safeguards must include minimum assessment periods to ensure sufficient time for individuals to connect with and benefit from community resources.

People with lived and living experience of a mental illness must be meaningfully engaged in the development of these safeguards and all other policies related to MAiD. CMHA will continue working with governments and other stakeholders to ensure that the perspectives of people with lived and living experience and their allies inform the development of safeguards that will accompany this legislative change.

CMHA calls on the federal government to establish a permanent Canada Mental Health Transfer, with 50% of funds earmarked for community-based services, and an accompanying Canada Mental Health Act. This would help alleviate the suffering of those with mental health issues and mental illnesses and provide them with every opportunity to recover and thrive.