Barbara Jane (Bobbie) SPARROW

SPARROW, The Hon. Barbara Jane (Bobbie), P.C.

Personal Data

Progressive Conservative
Calgary Southwest (Alberta)
Birth Date
July 11, 1935
businesswoman, president / manager, registered nurse

Parliamentary Career

September 4, 1984 - October 1, 1988
  Calgary South (Alberta)
November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
  Calgary Southwest (Alberta)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Health and Welfare (May 8, 1991 - June 24, 1993)
  • Minister of Forestry (June 25, 1993 - November 3, 1993)
  • Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources (June 25, 1993 - November 3, 1993)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 109)

June 8, 1993

Mrs. Barbara Sparrow (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Health and Welfare):

Mr. Speaker, Immigration Canada has no information that Sheikh Rahman was granted legal entry into Canada.

Investigation into the matter confirms, mostly through anecdotal information, that Sheikh Rahman was in Canada in 1991. As was stated at the standing committee on May 6, 1993, Immigration Canada has as yet been unable to confirm if Sheikh Rahman entered Canada in


As was also stated at that committee meeting, had Sheikh Rahman come to the attention of any of the immigration authorities in 1991 he would most likely have been inadmissible. Today, thanks to Bill C-86 which the hon. member opposed, there is no doubt that Sheikh Rahman would be inadmissible.

It is not truly accurate to say, as the hon. member did on April 26, that thousands of others who are not as dangerous are denied entry every day. The hon. member knows perfectly well that, thanks to government legisla-

June 8, 1993

Adjournment Debate

tion we have put through, Canadians welcome millions of visitors and we will keep out those people who, as he says, are dangerous and inadmissible.

Over the past three or four years, with the changes to the Immigration Act, we have gone out of our way to protect Canadian society and to make sure that fair terms are legislated.

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June 8, 1993

Mrs. Barbara Sparrow (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Health and Welfare):

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to my colleague, who is a very good member for her constituents in Montreal, that poverty is a very important issue for all of us in this House. When Canadians have to resort to food banks to feed their families and when children go to school hungry it affects all of us. It affects their health and education and the whole future of this country.

We do want to build a better future for all the children. It was a year ago May that the Minister of National Health and Welfare brought out Brighter Futures which directed $500 million specifically at those most in need, and a specific amount was allocated to the native community.

A year ago the Minister of Finance introduced the tax benefit package with regard to rolling in the refundable child tax credit, the child tax credit and the family allowance. We put an extra $2.1 billion into that. This is money going specifically to the homes of families and it is tax free.

The Minister of Employment and Immigration has set aside $3.8 billion to create jobs and train and retrain Canadians all across the country.

We work with our provincial counterparts. Welfare is a provincial jurisdiction but we are all in this together. We will do everything possible within the fiscal constraints that we have to assist all those people who are really in need.

Subtopic:   POVERTY
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June 8, 1993

Mrs. Barbara Sparrow (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Health and Welfare):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to say to my colleague that AIDS has affected Canadians in many ways over the past 10 to 15 years. For those who have received blood or blood products that have been contaminated with the HIV virus the issue has become one that is very difficult for many Canadians.

I want to thank each and every one who has come forth and spoken out with regard to their difficult circumstances. It has indeed been rewarding. Not only did it help us but it helped the committee make its decisions.

The problem with the HIV tainted-blood supply in the early 1980s has prompted other actions. My colleague responded to the subcommittee's report on tainted blood which was tabled in the House probably 10 days ago. Immediately the Minister of National Health and Welfare took action. He wrote to every provincial minister of health with regard to going into this public inquiry with all the provinces and with the other players such as the Red Cross and the Haemophilia Society. They will all

June 8, 1993

play a major part. The minister gave his word. He has written and he also stated that he hoped to have this public inquiry underway by September 1. This is a result of the good work that the committee did under the leadership of the member for Delta.

In the middle of last April the Hospital for Sick Children announced a plan to notify the families of children who received large volumes of blood or a blood transfusion between 1980 and 1985. They are tracing these because those infants were quite young then and they would probably be around the age of 13, 14 or 15 now. There might be a chance of sexual activity and we do not want any transmission from any youngster who might have had contaminated blood in those days.

With regard to the-

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June 7, 1993

Mrs. Sparrow:

They are inspected every year.

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June 7, 1993

Mrs. Barbara Sparrow (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Health and Welfare):

Mr. Speaker, this motion of the member for North Island-Powell River on legislation to allow physician assisted suicide raises the issue of euthanasia on request where the


June 7, 1993

patient is no longer able to act, or should there be a distinction.

I am not aware that the medical profession in Canada has asked the government to decriminalize either physician assisted suicide or euthanasia. The reason may very well be that it does not recognize these practices as constituting the practice of medicine. The proper concern of medicine is with treatment, including palliative treatment to relieve pain.

There is a great deal of confusion on whether there is a need for decriminalization and on whether it commands general support. This is complicated by the fact that the media has not always distinguished between euthanasia on request and plain murder.

Moreover palliative treatment to relieve pain which has the effect of hastening death has often also been included in the euthanasia debate, even though courts have indicated that this is not a crime. That is because in such circumstances the disease, rather than the treatment, is considered to be the legal cause of death.

In the face of all this confusion it is not surprising that opinion polls report a majority in favour of something or another. However when one asks what the respondent understands when opinion polls present the question, it is obvious that not only the respondent but also the pollster has failed to appreciate the wide range of very different situations that could be included in the general type of questions favoured by those conducting the polls on this very hotly contested issue.

Once this is understood we may find there is no need and little demand for decriminalization of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. Once a person is assured of effective palliative treatment to relieve pain he or she is much less likely to demand that these practices be made available.

As a practical matter, court decisions have made it clear that not only is palliative treatment which hastens death not a crime, but neither is removing a respirator at the request of a patient. Similarly, withdrawing food and drugs from patients in a persistent vegetative state at the request of the patient's family has been recognized as an extension of the patient's own right to refuse treatment.

Doctors are aware that in all these situations treatment has not been successful and since they cannot offer

Private Members' Business

any further useful treatment, they are willing to accept the decision of the patient or his family to cease treatment.

The medical profession remains by and large opposed to physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. They are aware of the implications of decriminalization. Just as there are specialties in medicine, so we have seen there are doctors who are prepared to bring their death machines to assist people to commit suicide. No doubt a specialty in assisted suicide and euthanasia would develop if the practices cease to be prohibited by the criminal law.

What is absent from the arguments of those promoting these practices is consideration of how decriminalization would affect the plight of children or other persons who are incapable of requesting assisted suicide or euthanasia. Once these facts are available to those who can consent to them they may well be extended to those who are not in a position to request them.

These acts would go beyond withdrawal of treatment that has proven unsuccessful. They would reverse the ancient medical injunction to do no harm and would involve the doctor in deliberately doing harm. They would foist on the medical profession a philosophical position that says killing is better than allowing suffering. In those processes the alternate to accept the challenge to develop the art of palliative treatment to a point where no one need suffer and no one need be killed to avoid suffering may all be ignored.

What is even worse and equally incompatible with our principles of criminal law and our principles of human rights is the fact that euthanasia could eventually be administered to those who are incapable of either consenting or refusing. The only basis for administering euthanasia to these people would be their chronic or terminal illnesses.

There have been prosecutions of doctors in England for acts which in the Netherlands would be prosecuted as euthanasia. Some have failed for lack of evidence.

A doctor was recently convicted of attempted murder and was subsequently found guilty of unprofessional conduct by the general medical council. They found that the criminal conviction was sufficient punishment and declined to remove his licence to practice. However, the

Private Members' Business

regional medical council put very strict conditions on his future work.

Some doctors resented the verdict of the court because euthanasia had been requested by the patient and her family. However it was clear that the doctor did not administer a drug aimed at relieving pain but rather a drug aimed only at killing the patient.

This case emphasizes the fact that the criminal law prohibition against euthanasia as murder plays a very necessary role in helping the medical profession regulate itself. It educates the profession in what the law, which reflects social values, regards as permissible and what goes beyond the boundaries of societal acceptance.

Had the doctor administered a drug aimed at relieving pain and the patient died as a secondary effect, provided he did not act in a negligent manner, he would not have been prosecuted.

It was made clear in a jury direction many years ago and was recently confirmed in this decision in the English Court of Appeal that such a case of the law regards the death to be from the disease and not from the attempt to alleviate the pain.

The consequence of this educational and regulatory effect of the criminal law is that members of the medical profession are encouraged to improve their ability to provide effective palliative care, to secure the knowledge they are not going to be in conflict with the law. In contrast, medical practitioners in the Netherlands are really not encouraged to improve their ability to provide effective palliative care because in appropriate circumstances, they may act directly to kill the patient.

I personally think the way to go is to improve our palliative care methods. There is a great deal more we can do in society within the medical profession to alleviate the pain of those suffering. I cannot and do not support the member's motion.

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