Discours de l'honorable sénatrice Chantal Petitclerc au sujet du projet de loi C-14

June 4, 2016

Le discours très émouvant et personnel que l'honorable sénatrice Chantal Petitclerc a prononcé aujourd’hui sur le le projet de loi C-14 m’a beaucoup touché. Voici une copie de son discours 

 

Le 3 juin 2016

Honorables sénateurs, sénatrices

 

C’est avec beaucoup d’émotions que je prends la parole aujourd’hui pour la première fois dans cette chambre. Quel privilège incroyable d’être ici. Plus qu’un privilège. Je conduisais ici ce matin très tôt pour écrire ce discours , et j’avais le cœur rempli d’émotion et une grande fierté à faire partie de ce groupe. Je vous dis à chacun : merci. Les débats d’hier étaient inspirants et les questions, pertinentes.

 

Let me honest with you: I did not plan, or want to talk today. I feel nowhere close to being ready to speak in this impressive chamber. Remembering my former life as an athlete, this morning I feel like my coach put me in a final event, among the best in the world, with no training. And therefore no chance to win. And I don’t like that.

But this morning, for one of the very few times in my life, it’s not about performing. It about bringing my personal perspective to a discussion that I believe, is crucial, and will define the country we love so much.

 

Je réalise bien sûr que j’ai beaucoup de choses à apprendre. Soyez indulgents à mon égard. La loi et les procédures, vous serez d’accord, ça s’apprend.  Les convictions et les valeurs profondes,  c’est à travers notre vécu qu’on les acquiert. Et c’est ce que j’ai à offrir au Sénat ce matin.

 

I will be brief. Blame it on the fact that I used a sprinter. But mostly it is because, so much have been said yesterday, and in such way that there is nothing to add. I will not talk about the constitution, the wording of this bill, or even advance planning, that I support entirely. I feel that my questions, worries and doubts have been brought to attention in this chamber by many of you in a way that, honestly, I could not do. So thank you for this.

 

Je le disais, je ne me sentais pas prête à parler. Mais hier, plus la journée avançait, plus j’écoutais, plus je me sentais une responsabilité, un devoir, de prendre la parole sur le projet de loi C-14. Et tard dans la soirée, à 21h20 exactement, j’ai demandé à Sénatrice Bellemare de mettre mon nom sur la liste, vite, avant que je ne change d’idée.

Je crois que j’ai quelque chose à apporter à cette conversation riche, en tant que sénatrice, mais aussi, et surtout peut-être, en tant que personne handicapée.

 

This Bill C-14, affects me in a very profound, personal way. At 3 different levels. Let me say before I share them with you, in all candor: I want to be able to support this bill, with all my heart. For as long as I can remember, I support the right to medical assistance in dying. And since we received the bill, I genuinely want to be able to support it. But the truth is: It is not the bill I was waiting for, it is my hope that we can contribute in making it better.

 

Permettez-moi d’y aller d’une contribution très personnelle. Je suis ici en tant que sénatrice, mais je suis aussi, une personne handicapée. Donc vous comprendrez que c’est impossible, pour moi, d’avoir un détachement émotif dans ce débat. Donc, 3 choses que je tenais à dire. La première, je n’en ai jamais parlé.

 

I want to talk about unbearable pain. Because this is what this is all about. I heard some comments that seemed to suggest that pain is ALWAYS manageable at some level and that there is no such thing as too much pain to justify dying. Let me assure you, it is not true. I know, first hand, what unbearable pain is.

 

Not that I want anybody to feel sorry for me but, as some may know, I had an accident at the age of 12. A barn door fell on me. The next 4 months I was in the hospital. The first 19 days were torture, nothing less. Not to get too medical, but I had a broken spine, and broken ribs. Now they could not fix the fractures until the swelling went down, and that took 19 days. I will never forget those 19 days of unbearable pain. In fact, I was so heavily medicated that I forgot everything, except the pain of lying in bed with broken bones.

 

I will never forget, lying in my bed, the big white hospital clock on the wall in front of me. Every hour on the clock, the nurses had to turn me from side to side to avoid pressure. I swear to you, I was staring at that clock, and started to cry every time the hour was coming as I knew the pain I would feel when they would turn me. And that was followed by screaming when it would happen, and begging my mom to help me. Every hour, for 19 days. At times, even the nurses were tearing up at the sight of me.

 

Dans mon cas, je savais que c’était temporaire et que j’allais vite retomber sur mes pattes, ou sur mes roues. Mais je ne peux m’empêcher de penser aux personnes qui vivent avec ce genre de souffrance intolérable, sans espoir de guérison. C’est pour eux qu’il faut que cette loi soit la meilleure possible.

 

Comprenez-moi bien, j’ai le plus grand des respects pour la vie. Je chéris la mienne à chaque instant. Et je suis bien placée pour savoir que la vie vient avec des joies et aussi de grands défis. Je suis aussi très bien placée pour comprendre l’importance d’être libre de ses choix.

 

That brings me to my second point. The right to make our own choices. Ever since we got Bill C-14, I am trying to get my head around the concept and the limits of : What is foreseeable death? I have read and thought about it, trying to understand. What exactly does it mean ? But let me be honest with you : it does not make sense. And I was certain that with the debates, and listening to all of you experts, that it would all come clear to me but yet, it still makes no sense to me. And this is a problem.

 

A bigger problem is, and Sénateur Pratte and others mentioned it: by not allowing someone who is in unbearable pain but not dying the right to access medical assistance to dying, it denies a whole group of individuals the right to choose how they want to end their lives.

 

Sure, they are the most vulnerable and we have to protect them. I agree, but not this way. This really affects me because, even if most days I like to think of myself as invincible, I know that because I am a person with a disability, I belong to what we call the vulnerable.

 

Je vous dirais, ce n’est pas parce qu’une personne est vulnérable qu’elle n’a pas de droit, et qu’il ne faut pas les respecter. Que l’on trouve des mesures de protections, des « safeguards » pour les protéger, bien sûr, c’est notre devoir de le faire.

 

Mais ce n’est pas à nous de s’octroyer le droit de prendre une telle décision à la place d’un individu lucide, dans des souffrances extrêmes, qui veut avoir accès à l’aide médical à mourir même si sa mort n’est pas raisonnablement prévisible. C’est un manque de respect envers ces individus. Je comprends que c’est un réflexe humain que de vouloir aider, surprotéger les personnes handicapées ou gravement malades. On le fait tous, et ça part d’une empathie, d’une bonne intention.

 

But let me tell you, there is nothing more frustrating, when you are a person with a disability, to feel as if you have no control over your own life.

 

I say person with disability but really, it’s true for all of us. Every day we have moments when we don’t have control, and we don’t like it. And I suspect it is even more true for our group of strong people.

 

When you have a disability, the worst part is feeling as if you have no control over your own life, over your own body. It happens to all people with disabilities I can assure you. It happens to me often. This winter, there will be a few times when, despite my great autonomy, I will be physically unable to get from my car to the door of the senate after a snow fall and I will hate it and will need some help. And this is normal.

 

 But it does feel like your own body is betraying you. And the more severe the disability, the bigger the betrayal feels. So I can only imagine how someone would feel if they were vulnerable, in great pain, and unable to have the control over their own choice. That would be, to me, betrayal not only from the body, but from our country.

There is a fine line between protecting the vulnerable and patronizing. And it is my belief that this bill is crossing that line. And this is NOT acceptable.

 

Lastly, I had to speak today because to me, Bill C-14 is not just a number. It’s people I know. I have two friends who, years ago, chose to end their lives. One Canadian, one Swiss. One with severe disability, one with incurable desease. Both in great pain.

 

2 hommes brillants, lucides, dans la quarantaine, et pas sur le point de mourir. Je ressens toujours une certaine paix à savoir qu’ils sont partis de la façon qu’ils ont choisie. Et j’ai toujours respecté leur choix et leurs droits de choisir. En lisant la loi C-14, je sais que mon pays ne leur permettrait pas d’exercer ce droit. Ça me révolte. Mais en même temps ça me fait sourire un peu, car c’était des individus forts, des têtes dures, et c’est clair qu’ils se battraient jusqu’au bout pour faire respecter leurs droits.

 

C’est en pensant à eux que je vous dis, en terminant, Sénateurs, Sénatrices, que je vais appuyer fortement les amendements qui seront proposés, dans l’espoir que TOUS les Canadiens aient accès à la loi qu’ils méritent.

 

Merci.

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