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Filibustering death-dealing ableism

An interview with Catherine Frazee and Gabrielle Peters on the Disability Filibuster and Bill C-7

Canadian PoliticsHuman RightsSocial Movements

ACORN Ottawa members protest changes to the definition of disability under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), July 2019. Photo by Juwairiya Kembo.

Disability Filibuster was created by Catherine Frazee and Gabrielle Peters in March 2021 in response to the passage of Bill C-7, a piece of federal legislation which expanded “medical assistance in dying” (or MAiD) to people whose death is not “reasonably foreseeable.”

As detailed on the Filibuster’s website, this meant that “people with disabilities, at any stage in life, would henceforth find that our cries for help could result in a state-sanctioned death.” Due to the constraints of COVID-19 preventing in-person protest, the Filibuster “put our bodies, our lives, our passion and our culture on the line virtually” through a 60-hour event, a “round-the-clock, inclusive livestream protest of disabled artists, activists, scholars and allies.”

Despite dedicated organizing by the disability justice community, C-7 became law on March 17, 2021. Now, a special joint committee is considering yet another expansion of MAiD criteria to include “mature minors,” advance requests, and for the sole reason of mental illness. While the original deadline for a final report has been extended from June to October, this still leaves very little time to consider these major changes, along with reviewing “the state of palliative care in Canada, and the protection of Canadians with disabilities.” As a result, Disability Filibuster has returned for 2022 to oppose further expansion and continue building a “virtual hub for the expression, preservation and promotion of activist disability culture.”

Canadian Dimension spoke with Catherine Frazee and Gabrielle Peters about the Disability Filibuster, the implicit ableism of pro-MAiD narratives, the involvement (or lack thereof) by the left in disability justice, and next steps for the Filibuster. Catherine is a writer, poet, long-time activist, and professor emerita in the Toronto Metropolitan University’s School of Disability Studies who lives in Nova Scotia. Gabrielle is a disabled writer and policy analyst and a commissioner on the Vancouver City Planning Commission.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Canadian Dimension (CD): How is Disability Filibuster 2022 going so far?

Catherine Frazee (CF): You know, it’s going really well. I think we are beginning to disrupt the narrative that has been dominant about MAiD: about there being nothing to see there, nothing to be concerned about. I think we are disrupting that narrative. I think we are bringing new voices into the conversation that have never been heard or contemplated as having any bearing or any relevance to this debate. We’re making a dent in our finances but we’ve got enough to keep on going, so I think all told we’re doing pretty well at this point.

Gabrielle Peters (GP): I think it’s going very well. I think we’re disrupting many things, including our own lives! I think a bit of the giggle is just you have to appreciate that Catherine is on one side of the country, I’m on the other side of the country: we’ve never met. We’re pulling this together basically learning—making it up—as we go.

There’s the Disability Filibuster and then there’s the community building and support that goes on behind the scenes. So as much as you become aware of people who want to participate but are maybe hesitant or are worried about their participation, you also become aware of people who are in crisis.

We are not a company. We are disabled people who are working against a piece of legislation specifically because it’s killing other disabled people and it puts our lives as a community at risk. By its very existence, it encourages the devaluing and diminishing of disabled lives. Our obligation isn’t to a “Disability Filibuster Inc.” Our obligation and duty is to our community, to people, to human beings. You can be in the midst of organizing a panel and also find yourself in the midst of some very human, personal crises. We’re doing our best to support those.

We are dealing with living people who we’re not going to exploit. We don’t want to be in a situation of doing harm. It’s not a lobbying effort in the traditional sense. This is very much a community organizing in a public way.

CF: With very high stakes. With the highest of all possible stakes: people’s lives. I would just emphasize what Gabrielle said there. It’s hard work. It’s very demanding. There are times when we are both exhausted to the bone and wonder if we can go on. But then there are voices, there are people, who correspond and communicate with us, who say “this is saving my life.” And we realize we can’t stop. We mustn’t stop. That is precisely what we’re trying to do.

GP: They say that very specifically, actually. Those specific words: “this is saving my life.”

CD: The first Filibuster was an incredible organizing feat on so many levels: the duration, and the number of people involved, and everything else. The format of this year’s Filibuster is a bit different. On your website, you describe it as working to “pace ourselves for a longer marathon.” Could you explain the new format and the idea that “our energies in the post-Bill C-7 ethos must be divided between labouring for justice and labouring for survival”?

CF: We already knew before we were even out the door with Filibuster 2022 that both Gabrielle and I, both in our very separate lives, were already supporting people: individuals who were struggling with poverty, struggling with injustice, struggling to be heard by physicians and respected in their choices of treatment or desire for medical attention. People who were struggling with police, or with grief, or with COVID. There was so much. We knew—it wasn’t just the two of us—that everyone was either fighting for their own life or fighting to support the life of someone else.

I’m older and less energetic than Gabrielle and couldn’t conceive of doing what we had done last year in terms of a 24-hour, day-after-day marathon. But I’ll admit, perhaps a little naively, it seemed that doing one broadcast once a week for the duration of the committee’s work—which at the time was scheduled to extend to late June; it’s since been extended—was a pace that we could maintain without abandoning the individuals who we were trying to help and the lives that we were trying to live around the edges of the Filibuster. Naively, I say, because I think saying that one a week is manageable is a bit like saying having one child every year for 12 years is going to be manageable. It’s not quite the perfect metaphor—but it is an immense amount of work, as Gabrielle has flagged.

We really do believe that in the rhythms of what we call “crip time” there is something very sustainable and healthy for us as human beings. We aspire to that goal: sometimes not entirely successfully when it comes to Gabrielle and me personally. But we’re doing better and I think we are going to be able to sustain this and not sacrifice everything else that’s equally important along the way.

GP: In an ideal world, if we had the funding in place, there would be a 24-hour-a-day Disability Filibuster that paid people to not just do the ASL (American Sign Language) and CART (Communication Access Real-time Transcription) and tech but actually run it: to do the things that Catherine and I are doing unpaid, and to do more of it. That is something that, in my mind, should actually happen and should actually exist because there isn’t a space for disabled people.

The thing about disability—I’ve been thinking about this, and I think about it a lot because I’m also poor—is if I go to somebody and I say “I live in serious poverty,” even though most middle class people really don’t grasp what the lived experience of that is, they do grasp some elements. Also, I have a community: there are other poor people. There’s a class politics. I live amongst other poor people: I live in social housing. Disabled people are largely, by virtue of the way the medical model treats disability—and our politics and politicians reinforce it even when they use social model language at times—very isolated.

If somebody says something that demeans me as “woman” or “poor,” they’re demeaning women, they’re demeaning poor people. When they say something ableist, it’s usually me. There’s something wrong with you: you are broken. You are the problem. You, you, you. So people are incredibly isolated and suffering in that sense of lacking community, lacking a politics. It’s particularly stark in Canada as opposed to if you look at somewhere like the US or UK, where there was a coming together. Canada has bought more into a myth of individualism and neoliberalism, much more strongly than a collective community politics.

The other thing about the timing of the Filibuster is that it is now a long fight. I don’t even know how you describe that, because I’m both a realist and an optimist. I have left politics, so I’m fighting for justice and believe you can feel, you can see, you can imagine a tangible thing called justice. I don’t want to say I was hopeful going into Bill C-7 but I certainly am not somebody who went in, and I don’t think most people went in, thinking there is no possible way we can manage to stop this bill.

Because if you really understand it from our perspective, it is hard to believe the amount of support across the board that it received. Because it is that horrible. It is that dangerous. It is that bad. So we sat back and we gave it our all. The Filibuster the first time was sort of: “if we collapse doing this, we will do that because we have to for the sake of humanity and disabled lives stop this. And if we can do it, it’s worth it. If we can literally 24/hour a day, whatever it takes, it’s worth it. This is our last hope.”

And now, we’re settled into the reality that we’re living under a system where we are both going to have to try to survive in spite of this, try to keep other people alive, and try and have a very long fight to make people realize and bring people onside to understand why it must be revoked: why the expansion of MAiD cannot be left in place.

CF: Of course, we’re still fighting to defeat the legislation, to shatter the narrative upon which it is premised. But equally, we are fighting to reach our own people so that they do not despair, to live another day to continue the fight. We cannot let this practice become normalized in their eyes, just as we continue to try and penetrate the consciousness of those who support the law. It’s really a dual effort at this point. That wasn’t as clear a year ago as it is now.

GP: The other thing is that post-C7, more than ever, disabled people need community. Just as Catherine said: we’re going to have to fight, we can’t give up the fight. But you can’t fight that as Gabrielle or Catherine or whoever. It has to come together to form a disability politics. That is what’s necessary and it’s also long, long overdue.

Going back to what I was saying, we are taught that the suffering we endure—in a very, very personal way—is because of our own fault. Our own bodies, our own choices, whatever. When you start realizing how much of your suffering is socially constructed and how other people are experiencing the same and are fighting against it, that is a source of maybe not hope but an end to isolation. It challenges the narrative in and of itself that it’s really hard for non-disabled people to understand: that a key part of this is how much you are made to feel like a burden as a disabled person. Really, it’s not disabled people are a burden: again, it’s you, personally, are a burden.

It is not a hard stretch for any of us to understand how you can then conclude that the world would be better without you and that the lives of people around you would be better without you. That is exactly, actually, the rational conclusion to come to based on the things we’re being told by the society we live in.

CD: The Disability Filibuster is obviously about the legislation, but it’s also about much more than that. Could you expand on the broader significance of the Filibuster for the disability justice community?

CF: I think we’ve made the point that we’re building solidarity, that we are doing what might have been called in the 1960s “consciousness raising”: bringing a sense of community and awareness and the political analysis and the vocabulary that comes from our experience, and amplifying voices that have typically been excluded from conversations about public policy.

I think the other thing we’re doing and that was fairly deliberate in 2021 and again this year is we have really rejected the processes which are primarily symbolic and theatrical: the processes of “public engagement” that our government likes to play with and pretend to be inclusive and listening and democratic. We find, increasingly and shamelessly, those processes exclude us. And you really only have to spend 20 minutes watching one of the current hearings to see what happens when you’re given five minutes and not a second more to articulate a complex and deeply misunderstood perspective on a life and death issue to people who are hostile to that perspective and whose hostility expresses itself in the refusal to even ask you questions because that would give you another precious two minutes to speak.

It’s a sham and we have instead created our own platform, our own opportunity, for evidence, for testimony, to be heard and to go on record. This is, in our view, ultimately a democratic exercise. An exercise of bringing people together in the public commons to talk about issues of real concern and to narrate our own experiences of injustice and exclusion.

The controversial Bill C-7 expanded medical assistance in dying (MAiD) to situations where death is “reasonably foreseeable,” and introduced a new de facto access track for disabled Canadians. Photo by Tao55/iStock.

GP: I always think of inclusion as sort of: I mentored some health students and they did this drawing of this set of stairs and then at the top is this table that’s completely inaccessible in multiple levels and “here, come be included.” That’s always the visual representation.

I think of the Filibuster as saying “no, you come sit at our table.” Because we have allowed some people in who are non-disabled on occasion. It’s mainly crip space. But it’s about the fact that what people constantly miss—and there’s never any room made for—is there’s such a thing as crip culture. There’s crip knowledge. There’s crip expertise. We aren’t just challenging the charade that is their forum, their panel or committee. But the very nature of how they define expertise. It’s a form of claiming space and speaking about our lives and our concerns in a way that reflects and supports our way of knowing and being.

The unfortunate thing that people don’t realize is that capitalism and ableism are killing everybody, not just disabled people. In my article for Maclean’s I used the analogy of ableism as the rebar of the system: they pour everything else on it. When people are talking about themselves and worried about “am I productive enough?” or “am I efficient enough?”: ableism is in there. As much as ableism and the disability construct is used to define the surplus humanity in the system of surplus value, it also sets the perimeters for belonging, not just exclusion.

At first, around MAiD, they said “well it’s about the pain, it’s the intolerable pain.” And I don’t want to diminish that at all because right now people are actually considering MAiD because they are being denied proper pain control. And yet that’s not one of the main reasons why people are applying for MAiD. It’s “I’m afraid I might need help going to the bathroom” or “I’m afraid I might need help getting dressed.” That fear, that worry, that terror is because they have learned to devalue and despise us. And the last thing you want to do is become part of a demographic that you despise and devalue.

For example, one of the people I interviewed was a white female doctor who had a spinal cord injury. Not long after her injury, the doctor asked if she wanted MAiD. That’s something where we actually have some data and the data shows that people move very dramatically from feeling hopeless and suicidal immediately after, both because they’ve just experienced trauma and because they’re basing their projections on the future on their fears of being now one of “those people.” What the data we have shows is that a year or two down the road they have a very dramatically different opinion. It’s now a small thing that MAiD legislation is being crafted primarily by people who are worried about becoming part of a lived experience they don’t have or by the relatives of the people who are now deceased.

There’s an inherent assumption in their process of “us”—as a collective “us”—having universal agreement and experience of the country, of the policies, but also of certain words. They throw around “freedom,” they throw around “autonomy” and “agency.” They throw around “dignity.” As if these are words that have a single definition that has ever been agreed to, that there aren’t inherent tensions.

It’s a colonialist, white supremacist, capitalist country. When you use words like “us” and you start from the foundation of believing that we have this collective agreement of similar experiences, what you’re really doing is shoring up and replicating the institutional power and preventing any actual change, and inhibiting if not silencing the perspectives and participation of anybody who exists outside of those classes, that abledness.

It’s sort of like, “come sit down and you can say a thing that we can change in five minutes.” A line, for example, in our policy. That’s what you could do in five minutes: you could explain why Section A should be moved to the bottom of the page and Subsection 3 should be deleted. That’s what you’re going to accomplish. But you can’t possibly enter into those spaces and explain our opposition.

They’ve developed this MAiD policy based on a bunch of lies. And primary to that is that the institutions that exist can actually safeguard disabled lives. They have their supposed safeguards which are ineffective and very minimal, as opposed to them being the actual threats to disabled lives.

CD: There have been several recent high-profile cases in Canada of people being forced into medically assisted suicide due to inability to find accessible housing, which is exactly what the disability justice community was warning would happen with C-7. In response, proponents of MAiD have argued that they’re isolated cases and not to do with the legislation itself. What’s your response to that?

CF: It wasn’t at all surprising. It was precisely what they countered our every argument with in court and the whole process leading up to Bill C-7.

My response to the argument is that it is naive and self-serving. We know, they know, everybody knows, it’s on the record, that the support for expansionist approaches to MAiD comes from a very specific sector of the population. Sometimes they’re referred to as the three W’s: they are people who are white, wealthy, and worried about losing their social privilege if and when their lives are overtaken by disability.

Now we all know that their voices have carried the day time and time again in Canadian public policy. And in the MAiD debate, they have effectively set the agenda for rapid expansion. Thus far, they’ve managed to avoid the scrutiny of the higher courts with Bill C-7. They have managed to invest immense resources in creating and perpetuating a narrative that MAiD is for those who are very frail and very old and very beloved, honourable people who have had a good life. And that narrative is a fiction.

Yes, those people are the beneficiaries of MAiD. But who are the casualties? And it’s no surprise to anyone, least of all to us, that we are the casualties. With respect to the recent cases you’ve referred to, the so-called “high-profile” cases, let’s not lose sight of the fact that these individuals who have had multiple chemical and environmental sensitivities have struggled all their lives to be believed, let alone to be honoured and accommodated and to have their needs met. They are, I think, the tip of the iceberg. That community has described themselves as the canary in the coalmine, as environmental toxins and byproducts of the capitalist juggernaut are knocking people down on its path.

There is a lot to be learned from a close examination of those cases and to say that they’re isolated cases and that our evidence is by its very nature anecdotal is to deny all of the forces that operate against such cases coming to public light. Number one of which is that the entire system is “monitored” by reports filed by the very physicians who are authorizing and performing the procedure. There is no independent attention given to these cases. They’re all seen as private, medically confidential cases. They all involve people at the end of their rope. And of course these are not people who are easily getting the attention of the media or the authorities. There are just so many ways that dismissing them as “anecdotal” is an offensive response to these critical cases that are coming to light.

GP: They’re also not only recent cases. This is one of the lies that really annoys me. Sean Tagert died because of lack of accessible housing in 2019. He got MAiD because of lack of accessible housing. It’s because we don’t know how to talk about accessibility in a proper way that it’s not understood. He had ALS, if I’m not mistaken, and required care, which is part of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention [on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] that Canada ratified: the right to live in the community with the supports necessary.

Making accessible housing extends beyond the design of the structure itself. Housing is not accessible unless it is accessible for that person to live in it. This obviously includes providing the support necessary to live there. It is included in Article 19 of the UNCRPD for this reason. The only way that he could get the support that he required was to move into an institution. And what’s more, it was an institution that was hours away from his child, which was why he was still experiencing joy in his life. His joy and purpose was being a father, spending time with his son. So they took that away. And for him, that took away the reason to live.

We don’t know details about all the MAiD cases and part of the reason in many cases we may never know is because we’re relying on relatives in a lot of these situations. If you are poor, you are more likely to live alone or be a single parent as a disabled person. We’re talking about people who probably among the most marginalized and isolated. And the narrators of their stories, if they exist, will have their own ableism, perhaps.

For many, what we know from the relatives of disabled people in general—we hear this regularly—is for them, they experience it as a relief when the disabled relative dies. So of course they’re going to portray MAiD in a favourable light because for them, that’s how they view it. So we do know of recent cases. We also know of a case of Sean Tagert. And many of us have been in these situations. For myself, prior to MAiD, I was very, very, very much experiencing a great deal of coercion to try and force me to sign a DNR (Do-Not-Resuscitate). I have no doubt whatsoever that if I’d signed that DNR I wouldn’t be here today.

It’s interesting to me because Canada likes to talk about “evidence-based policy.” There’s multiple problems with evidence-based policy. One is it’s always counting bodies after the fact, generally speaking. But secondly, it requires that you ask the right questions, that somebody actually collects that evidence, that somebody analyzes that evidence. We don’t do that around disability in Canada, generally speaking. There’s very little data. And then we ignore everything that disabled people tell—our stories—because it’s ignored as anecdotal.

But even if you were to just look at all the different media stories and you were to think about medical racism, medical ableism, all the violence, the misdiagnosis, the being dismissed, all the different stories that have managed to make it to public view outside of MAiD: there’s some basic deductive reasoning skills missing here into thinking about how that could apply and come into play in MAiD.

I feel like I shouldn’t have to be defensive to these questions. They should explain to me how that couldn’t possibly be an issue. The philosopher Berlin said “freedom for wolves has often meant death for sheep.” That’s exactly what’s happening here. How often do we have situations where privileged people—the white, well-off, and worried—want something and the effect of having that, their will, their freedom, is harmful to the non-well-off, the not-white, the not-non-disabled? This should not come as new information. Which is I think what made it so striking to me that there was such a lack of analysis coming from the NDP and the left.

For example, one thing that often never enters into the MAiD discussion is disabled women experience violence at two to four times the rate of non-disabled women. And we already know the rate that women experience violence in our society is staggeringly high, right? This is two to four times that rate. We also know that disabled people are put into situations where they become financially dependent because you can’t receive disability benefits if they are even living with someone who has an income. So they actually create the conditions for this section of the population that already experiences a lot of violence to be even more vulnerable to it. We know the impacts of that psychologically. I don’t understand how there’s a lack of even thinking about that impact in terms of MAiD.

So we’re not just talking about housing. We’re talking about the very different lived experience of being disabled in Canada. They’re writing policy for non-disabled white, wealthy people who are worried about aging.

Rally against Bill C-14, the medically assisted dying bill, during a protest organized by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition on Parliament Hill on Wednesday, June 1, 2016 in Ottawa. Photo by Justin Tang/CP.

CF: I would only add to what Gabrielle has said that we don’t have the numbers. She’s given the accurate numbers for violence affecting disabled women. We don’t have, but we can certainly imagine, how those numbers shoot up exponentially for disabled trans women, disabled Indigenous trans women, and so on. We don’t have the data. And it’s not our job at the Disability Filibuster or in grassroots disability worlds to produce that data. It requires a political commitment and specifically a commitment from the left to demand that attention and those forms of analysis.

CD: Gabrielle, you wrote about a year ago that “The Canadian left progressives and social justice movements fail to demonstrate even the most minuscule solidarity with disabled people’s struggle. Instead they actively exclude us from their own activism and advocate against our interests far too often.” Has anything changed in that regard over the last year regarding the issue of MAiD?

GP: First of all, of course, it’s always figuring out what you mean by “the left.” I would say that the further left you go, the more there’s an understanding and support for opposition to MAiD. I think that’s been demonstrated in some of the other countries. There was a really good statement, I think in Portugal, by a communist party when it was being brought up there. It was quite good: I was reading through it and going “yup, yup, yup, you’re hitting the important points here.”

So I think it depends. Progressives are still terrible. I would say the NDP has generally not demonstrated the kind of analysis and insight that you would expect and hope from that party. And I think that neoliberalism has taken over “the discourse” to such a degree that unless you have a very strong class-based intersectional analysis, you’re not even going to understand the entrypoint. You’re going to get stuck on “but freedom!” In this way, one of the things I find quite striking is at its core, in much of the rhetoric the response to us from the progressives, from the so-called left-leaning liberals, the NDP is not markedly dissimilar from the convoy support. It’s the same sort of grade-school level conceptualization of society and the society they live in, in particular.

At the same time, I want to say that there has been some movement. With C-7, within our activism, Nora Loreto was someone who vocally came on side: her and Sandy have talked about it on their podcast. Q. Anthony has certainly been vocal and clear in their analysis around MAiD. I’m wanting to say that there’s more. But I think there’s a momentum. I certainly see more at the grassroots level, certainly not at the leadership level. In our Disability Filibuster and the people who are working against MAiD tend to overwhelmingly be NDP or left of the NDP. I would say this isn’t their first time or their first experience at being at odds with the policy of party or group they belong to.

To understand disability, you have to start at ableism and not at disability. To understand modern Western ableism as it presents in Canada, you have to start at Enlightenment. And you have to start at colonialism. And chattel slavery. And anti-Black racism. And the stealing of lands. And eugenics. And then you can start to have a useful dialogue with us. People who have and possess that level of analysis generally can understand and are supportive. And then can understand and you can discuss ableism with them. People who came at it from a more liberal-left version, if there is such a thing, really get stuck on their individual freedom. And they can’t budge.

CF: I thought Gabrielle’s analysis was very thorough and less pessimistic than mine would have been. She’s right: you’re right, Gabrielle, There was the Nova Scotia Advocate, another left-wing publication. There was Talking Radical Radio. There has been some attention on the left and I would done that a disservice if I had spoken first, so I think Gabrielle’s response was more fair than mine would have been. So let’s just let that one be the response that stands for both of us.

CD: The final report by the Special Joint Parliamentary Committee on MAiD will be tabled in October. What is the Disability Filibuster’s plan for the upcoming weeks and months? What can people who want to help or support do at this time?

CF: I’m smiling because it was ironic that the government had given this committee, which has been tasked with five immense issues of profound social consequence to deal with, a period of maybe 30 or 40 hours of deliberation. It was outrageous and signaled the lack of importance being given to this legally required review.

But then they postponed, or they extended, the term of the committee’s deliberation, or at least the deadline for the submission of their final report, until October because they didn’t have enough resources in government to make this work. We have virtually no resources and we’re doing it. While we weren’t particularly sympathetic to the reasons cited for the extension of the committee’s work, maybe that will give them time to think better of what they’re doing and of what consequence it is. I don’t suppose it will.

They will go until October, or they won’t report until October. At least, by that time in the summer, we will have a report from the so-called monitoring system which will tell us a little more—not nearly enough, but a little more—of what’s been happening since the expansion of Bill C-7. So they might have a bit of data to their deliberations. We’ll be looking very carefully at that data as well.

But we’re going to keep on going as long as we can afford to. To provide the accommodations that we’re committed to for the sake of accessibility and to provide very minimal honoraria to low-income participants, we need about $1,500 per broadcast. We’ve calculated and believe that we can go until the end of June: we do have a GoFundMe page and are hoping to continue to receive active support of people who believe in this work, and who believe in the capacity of this community. So that’s one of the really important things that people can do to help.

Other things are obvious. Be talking to your elected representatives, provincially and federally. Be writing, be heard. Support other people with disabilities to join us on the filibuster, to be in touch, to join the community, to join the movement. If there are questions or topics you want us to discuss, get in touch with us. Be engaged and help us to stay functioning and relevant and effective.

GP: To me, that’s what we’ve done most, first and foremost, and I think we’ve done a fairly good job of not making our voice. It’s not Gabrielle’s voice, it’s not Catherine’s voice. If you’re part of the disability community and you want to participate or if you don’t feel comfortable speaking necessarily on a panel then as Catherine said, reach out and tell us what you would like more of. You don’t have to have any prior knowledge other than your lived experience of being disabled and your concerns about the expansion of MAiD.

We have had some panels where in order for people to have the conversations in the way that they feel comfortable or they would feel most dynamic, they tell us “this is how I want to make that panel up.” And that’s fine! Somebody’s working on creating an all-Indigenous panel to have that conversation, who — by the way — were completely shut out of the MAiD conversation and were given the same five minutes to speak as we were all given; one of the Indigenous leaders called it “neo-colonialism.”

I think if you’re non-disabled, then you can watch, listen, and learn, and if you need things to read, we’re happy to provide suggestions. Educate yourself, inform yourself. Think critically about this using an anti-oppression lens. Think about it through an analysis of capitalism and anti-capitalist lens, a class analysis within the context of white supremacy and the role that ableism plays. Definitely write letters to the editor. Write letters in response to articles.

Somebody might want to call up some of the publications like the Globe and Mail. Leading up to C-7, Q. Anthony had one article published, I had two in Maclean’s, I think Catherine’s got one. That was about it. In the meantime, there seems to be no word limits for pro-MAiD articles: we had one that I cut and paste and it was 4,500 words. They seem to have no end to the number of “my relative died on their ‘own terms’” stories. They seem to have absolutely no journalistic responsibility or concern about acting as a suicide contagion. And by the way, even their own proponents are now saying “yes, this is assisted suicide, this is euthanisa.”

Because when you’re talking about people who are dying, this isn’t medical assistance in dying. The very fact that we keep calling it MAiD: it’s not medical assistance in dying. People aren’t dying who are getting this lethal injection, including the option for people who are prison who are being denied care. They’re not dying.

CF: Or they weren’t until the needle went in.

GP: Challenge some of these publications. Where are the other views? If you’re non-disabled, demand that space be made for our participation in this legislation that specifically targets us. And care.

I understand that everybody is exhausted. That everybody is dealing with multiple things in their own lives. But there is a strong crossover here with COVID and the COVID response. Nobody should fail to notice that they rushed through the expansion of MAiD to disabled people who are not near end-of-life during a pandemic. No-one should fail to notice this has happened after years and years of telling us that nothing matters more than deficits and budgets. That aging is a crisis. That we’re going to have a crisis of healthcare: the terrible language of “grey tsunami.” Where we have articles actually talking about people living too long. While billionaires try to figure out how they can live forever.

I just think that people should try to connect some dots in their minds between the things that they see happening around them and these issues. We are in the eyes of capitalism, surplus humanity. And the solution to climate change that is often floated is a lower population. This certainly helps to treat that, doesn’t it?

CF: All of my adult and politically conscious life, I have looked to the people of the left for intellectual leadership and for framings of justice and equality. I know and respect and have worked alongside so many “progressive” people and I know what we’re capable of. And I just want to echo what Gabrielle has said and ask that for heaven’s sake, you do not leave your critical faculties at the door when you cross over into the domain of disability.

Disability is political. We are not a human interest story. And you must apply all that you know about power and relations of power and what masquerades for equality and the implications for those who lack power. You must bring all of that to your analysis of MAiD and set your fears and your emotional responses to our lives—set all of that “heartstring” stuff aside.

Put all of that aside and apply the analysis that we know you’re capable of, because that’s where I first learned it. That’s all we ask.

Disability Filibuster sessions are live-streamed (and archived) on the website and YouTube channel. You can also donate to Disability Filibuster’s GoFundMe page to help cover costs.

James Wilt is a freelance journalist and graduate student based in Winnipeg. He is the author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? Public Transit in the Age of Google, Uber, and Elon Musk (Between the Lines Books) and the upcoming Drinking Up the Revolution (Repeater Books). You can follow him on Twitter @james_m_wilt.


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