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Food Bank Clients: Rather Commit Suicide Than Starve

I was floored when I read about this in the morning news feeds. Food Bank staff report that clients have been coming in asking about Medically Assisted Dying. They’d rather commit suicide than starve…

Calgary Food Bank Empty - ©2022 Azin Ghaffari - PostmediaFood Banks are facing a serious emergency. Client demand is up. Donations
are down. Food Bank staff say clients have been asking about
Medical Assistance In Dying, rather than starving…

It’s the stuff that used to figure in science fiction ‘dystopian future’ stories. Cautionary tales set in the near future (i.e.- still within many of our lifetimes) about the imminent failure of our social system. But something I would have considered unthinkable in my time is already happening…

Food Bank clients ask about MAID service

No, not help with the housework. MAID as in Medical Assistance In Dying.

“What the hell?” I hear you echoing my thoughts. But it’s true. The leader of Canada’s ‘loyal opposition’ in parliament, Conservative Party chief Pierre Polièvre, says a Veterans Affairs Canada employee recently discussed it with at least four veterans who said they couldn’t afford to eat. And officials at the Food Bank in Mississauga, the huge urban region just west of Toronto, have been getting inquiries about it from folks who say they’re going to starve soon anyway because they can’t afford t5o eat. They say they’d rather go quickly, on their own terms, than suffer a long, drawn-out demise.

Food Bank sidesteps issue

I usually criticise folks – especially those in official or quasi-official positions – who sidestep important issues. But in this case, I think it’s quite appropriate to give Food Bank officials a pass. Medically Assisted Dying is way above their pay grade and miles outside their wheel house. But for many in need, Food Bank staff are the first – and sometimes only – ‘official’ people they have access to in their daily quest to survive.

Polièvre, of course, is taking the political high road. “Conservatives believe that we should provide mental health care to people to improve their quality of life, help heal the psychological wounds that are afflicting them rather than giving up,” Polièvre said during a news conference this past Friday. “And we’re very worried about the slippery slope that we see.”

Government scurries to erect road blocks

The MAID program was passed into law back in 2016, to provide an option for Canadians facing crippling injuries or incurable diseases the option of a dignified exit. New legislation is in the wings, originally slated to be considered early this year, would expand the MAID rules to include folks suffering extreme mental illness.

The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, is racing to at least make the official, legal position clear. Federal Justice Minister David Lametti said, during a Dec. 15, 2022, news conference, “We’re seeking to move that time period back,” Lametti told reporters, noting ‘concerns’ about the expansion of the MAID program from both ordinary Canadians as well as legal and medical experts.

Food Banks underline seriousness of  emergency

The CEO of the Mississauga Food Bank said we are definitely in the midst of an ’emergency’ due to the cost of living crisis and soaring food bank usage, which has led to immense psychological pressure on those most affected. “People who are living at the bottom income percentile in our community are [telling us] it’s too hard to be poor any longer,” Meghan Nicholls said.

My take

I never thought it would come to this. At least not in my lifetime. Ideally, not at all. Foolishly, perhaps, I assumed governments at all levels, the churches and other institutions such as the Food Banks would work together to ensure that no one in Canada would be placed in a position where the felt they had no future.

Polièvre says the key to controlling inflation, which is pushing up the overall of living, is to cut government spending. ”

“Right now, the cost of government is increasing the cost of living,” he said. ” We have to cap government spending and cut government waste in order to bring down the inflation, so that [current] higher interest rates are no longer necessary.”

That, of course, is a standard political stance. But Trudeau agrees, at least in part:

“We’re doing a number of things and we’ll continue to do more. [But] we need to make sure we’re targeting those supports.” he told reporters. “That’s how we get to the other side.” […] “[That’s going to] lead us to a better future in the coming year or two.”

I sure hope he’s right. What with a significant number of Canadians already saying they just can’t wait that long….

~ Maggie J.