The right to die Many argue in its favour
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by authorities at all levels. “What is the difference,” he questioned, “between existing and living?” Having looked death in the face on more than one occasion and having not only survived but triumphed, he understood that it was not death itself that was to be feared, but rather the terror of living a life of unbearable agony, waiting for the merciful escape from torment that only death would grant. Readers started to share their stories with him, their sorrows, their anguish and grief about what it is like to endure un- relenting pain and to face a cruel death with no assistance to help shorten the agonies of the dying period. Profoundly moved by all he had heard and experi-
enced, on March 27, 2014, Steven introduced two bills in the House of Commons, to legalize physician-assisted death and to establish safeguards to prevent abuse of the new law.
Master of My Fate deals extensively with the impact of those two bills.
It is not often that one gets to sit down with others – friends, family, complete strangers – and delve into in- tense and sometimes passionate discussions about life and death. While writing this book, I have had many such opportunities and I have discovered, as Steven has, that the vast majority of people favour permitting physician- assisted death, with strict safeguards. They have as many reasons for their viewpoints as there are stars in the sky. Facing the unknown
People who are approaching the completion of a nor-
mal life-span have specific worries about the way in which life will end for them. They worry that a stroke might incapacitate them and they will lose their independence. They are afraid that they may become devastated by can- cer and waste away. They are frightened by the thought that they or their spouses might end up in a prolonged coma or vegetative state or die a terrible death. They have seen many in their generation suffer these indignities and they don’t want to suffer them also.
They don’t want to live so long that the only thing left for them to desire is death. Those elderly folk who die suddenly or peacefully are thought to have had a “good death”. “At least he didn’t suffer,” and “He’s free of his pain now,” are two commonly heard thoughts expressed by seniors attending funerals. They are revealing state- ments. At the end of the day, if there is pain, they just want the hurting to stop.
The younger members of our society tend to support physician-assisted-death for a more philosophical reason. They are very “rights conscious". The upcoming genera- tion will be demanding rights that have never yet been considered. Among these is the emerging insistence on self-determination, on doing things “my way”. Whatever the age or the circumstances, the majority of people with whom I discussed the issue overwhelmingly supported legislation allowing assisted death, with appro- priate safeguards.
Will there be scoldings Those who oppose such an idea also have a variety of
reasons for the positions they hold. They question the long-term effects on society by asking, “Will a cultural shift in attitude make severely ill people feel obliged to choose death over life in certain circumstances? If the se- verely ill complain that they ache, will they be told that they shouldn’t complain because, after all, it had been their ‘choice’ to live? Will they be judged and chastised for not making a decision to die?”
Others opposed to physician-assisted death point out that wanting to die is very different from making death happen. God alone is the determiner of life and death, they believe, not us. There are lessons to be learned from the natural ending of life and the focus should be on the eternal, not the immediate. Moreover, many assert, there are reasons for suffering that are beyond our grasp to un- derstand. Whatever our opinions may be, the thing that I have learned as I wrote this second book is that the debate Ste- ven Fletcher has stimulated is one we need to have. With scientific advancement and the ability to sustain life in ways not dreamed of in days gone by, it is right to pause and consider the meaning of life … and its ending. Linda McIntosh is an artist and author who lives with her husband, Don, on the shores of Lake Agimak in the boreal forests of northwest Ontario. A former Manitoba cabinet min- ister, McIntosh has been Steven Fletcher’s friend and confi- dante for many years. Master of My Fate is her third book. Her two earlier books, What Do You Do If You Don’t Die? and Child of Lamposaari have been praised by both critics and readers.
e have all heard the saying, “time flies”, and these days that is ringing true with me. Nov. 1 marks the 20th anniversary for my store, The Preferred Perch. It is amazing to think I have been do- ing this for so long, and to realize how my store has evolved.
You just show up every day and do what must be done, and all of a sudden it’s 20 years later! Being a unique, Mani- toba-made specialty store is difficult in the world of big box stores and major retail developments, so I am truly honoured to have reached this milestone. A precious vision
The story of The Preferred Perch started in early 1995 when a nature-loving Mani- toban named Ron Carriere had a vision for a store dedicated to those who enjoy feeding wild birds. He had grown up with nature being a big part of his life. He was raised in a very rural area of Manitoba where his Métis family truly lived off the land.
Two decades, and time to say thanks! W
Sherrie Versluis Feathered Friends
Ron’s childhood was spent in the bush, mostly collect- ing or harvesting food for the family, but he was always aware of nature’s creatures. He had always admired wild birds and took up feeding birds as a hobby as he grew up. Once he had decided to open the as-yet-unnamed store, he was on a search for an employee. Here is where I came in! I had spent the previous several years working in the pet industry, focusing of course on birds as well as the seed industry. I had experience in retail and knowledge of birds and the foods they eat. Ron had heard about me through someone who patronized the store where I then worked. He came to see me and talked about his potential project. Soon I was hired as the store manager. Much of the wood interior design and shelving of The Preferred Perch was created by Ron himself! Together we selected products and created many of our own designs for birdhouses and feeders; the products are still made here in Manitoba by a local woodworker. Then came Nov. 1,
1995, and the Preferred Perch officially opened for busi- ness at 1604 St. Mary's Road, where we still are today! By 2000, Ron had decided the retail life was not for him, so on July 1 of that year I became the owner. It was a surreal time as all of a sudden my respon- sibilities as manager were elevated to a whole other world!
Owning and running a business as a single person with really no money was a brand new experience. It’s very true that I spent many years living on crackers and bananas, and looking back I often wonder how I made it. Yet there is an explanation: I decided one day I either had to make it or give up. I had good relationships with vendors who helped me stock my shelves, support from friends who helped me at the store when I could not afford employees, and truly loyal customers. Over the years I have diversified my product lines, making the store a unique environment for any nature lover. The wild bird products, nature-themed gifts and the newest addition of rocks, crys- tals and minerals from around the world have all helped create this very special, Manitoba-made store. I am thankful to many people for this blessing. To my parents, for allowing me to spend my childhood summers running freely in the woods where I truly became a part of nature. Also for their support in helping me become owner of this store.
To many friends and family who gave their time to help me out in many ways over the years.
To people of the media like Dorothy Dobbie, Jimmy
Mac, the Winnipeg Free Press, Greg Mackling and many others at Corus Media. All these people/media outlets have promoted and supported The Preferred Perch over the years. Also to the many employees who contributed to the store’s success throughout the period. Sherrie Versluis owns The Preferred Perch on St. Mary’s Road in St. Vital.
round the world, the women’s suffrage move- ment advanced in the 19th century as women— especially those in the British Commonwealth— became increasingly politically active. In England, John Stuart Mill, who openly supported women’s suffrage, was elected to the British Parliament in 1864. Although he called for the inclusion of fe- male suffrage he never succeeded in hav- ing his Reform Act amendments passed. But he did succeed in raising awareness of this issue throughout the Common- wealth.
Humour furthered suffrage cause A
Toward the end of the century there were many small groups working to get the vote for women, but it wasn’t until they formed one large group that they started to have some success. This large group was active writing letters to politi- cians and publications, and holding meet- ings and lectures to encourage public par- ticipation. In 1907, the National Union of Women’s Suffragette Societies was able to organize a large protest, which be- came known as the Mud March. Thousands of women took to the streets, braving the cold and mud to march from Hyde Park to Exeter Hall in support of women’s suffrage.
Emmeline Pankhurst, a highly visible suffragist from
the United Kingdom, broke away from the NUWSS to create the Women’s Social and Political Union. Since the movement had lost momentum and support of the press, Pankhurst advocated for more violent forms of protest. This led to the arrest and imprisonment of many women, many of whom were treated inhumanely while in jail. While the WSPU’s tactics gained public awareness through shock value, they also caused the group to lose many supporters of suffrage – men and women alike – who did not agree with their methods. By the time the First World War ended, Parliament
had agreed through the 1918 Qualification of Women Act to enfranchise women who were deemed “qualified” to vote. “Qualified” meant they were over 30 years of age, householders, married to a householder, or holders of a university degree. It was 1928 before women were granted equal voting rights alongside men in England.
In Canada, as early as 1884, women were granted lim- ited franchise to vote in Ontario, provided they were widows or unmarried. However, married women were not only unable to vote, they were not allowed to own property or hold pub- lic office because they were not deemed “persons” under the law.
Myrna Driedger Broadway Journal
On the Prairies, especially in the grain belt of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the women’s movement was particularly ac- tive. Nellie McClung was already a well- known advocate and popular speaker on the subject of women’s suffrage. Having relocated with her family to Winnipeg, Nellie joined a group of men and women activists to found the Political Equality League.
At that time in Manitoba, Premier Rodney Roblin strongly opposed giv- ing women the vote and, in 1914, Nellie McClung and her fellow reformers want-
ed to defeat him. They put on a play called The Women’s Parliament, a satire that turned the tables and poked fun at the dangers of giving men the right to vote. Nel- lie McClung’s parody of Premier Roblin’s arguments caused uproarious laughter and the play went on tour, playing to packed houses and enthusiastic audiences. Until Manitoba finally gave women the vote in 1916, legislation to enfranchise women in provincial elections failed to pass in any province. Once Manitoba gave women the right to vote, other jurisdictions followed suit.
It is because of this momentous event in our history that the Nellie McClung Foundation is putting on a gala on Jan. 28 and celebrating the centennial of Manitoba women getting the right to vote. We are also, along with the Winnipeg Free Press, presenting the “Nellie” Awards. This is a call for Manitobans to nominate wom- en who have followed in Nellie McClung’s footsteps, pursuing social justice, women and human rights. The nomination period concludes at 4 p.m. on Sun- day, Nov. 22. There is still time to get your nomination in. The awards will be presented at the gala on Jan. 28. More details on the gala will follow in an upcoming is- sue.
Myrna Driedger is MLA for Charleswood. November 2015
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