05/19/2016 02:27 EDT | Updated 05/20/2017 05:12 EDT

Know What's Deeply Traumatic, Elbowgaters? Needing Assisted Dying

Chris Wattie / Reuters
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a formal apology for the Komagata Maru incident in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, May 18, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Can we discuss the privilege involved in calling an accidental elbow "deeply traumatic" during a debate on an assisted-dying bill? ‪

I think it's clear that everyone was in the wrong in this #Elbowgate fiasco. I'm not going to defend the Prime Minister for giving into his frustration and wading into what grown-up parliamentarian Elizabeth May described as "mischief" on the floor, or for frustrating the opposition in the first place by trying to limit debate.

I think it's clear that everyone was in the wrong in this #Elbowgate fiasco.

The eventual blow-up was a result of, as May also described it in an ironic turn-of-phrase, "a tit for tat escalation" of political squabbling. It began with the Liberals' nearly lost vote on Monday and ended on Wednesday night with NDP and Conservative delay tactics worthy of a kindergartner who moves in slow-mo because they don't want to go to bed.

Something got lost in all this childish behaviour, especially once Tom Mulcair transitioned from apparently laughing at Trudeau losing his cool to losing his own cool and screaming that the Prime Minister was "pathetic" for accidentally elbowing NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest.

(And to give May one more word here, the Green Party leader who owes nobody anything was right there and confirmed it was clearly "unintentional.")

What got lost was the bill they were debating, Bill C-14, the government's assisted-dying legislation.

And it fell further from prominence once the NDP, the party that allegedly wants to make this bill better, saw an opportunity to use the accident as political leverage against the Prime Minister and perhaps for their own leadership ambitions.

"I want to say that for all of us who witnessed this, this was deeply traumatic," said NDP MP Niki Ashton, adding she was "ashamed" to have seen it.

Well, that's not what she should be ashamed about.

You know what is actually deeply traumatic? How about being a person in so much pain and suffering that you want the help of the state to end your life.

But Ashton did not take this opportunity to attack the Liberal government for their doctor-assisted suicide legislation being too restrictive.

She did not bring up that a panel of judges on the Alberta Court of Appeals declared Tuesday that the medical-assisted dying bill, as written, is not compliant with the Supreme Court's Carter decision because it excludes people suffering only from psychiatric conditions.

She didn't even mention how its classification of mental health as lesser than physical health undermines years of stigma-reduction efforts or draw attention to those who are being further hurt by delays over a bad bill.

Instead, she went after Trudeau's feminist cred by saying "it is very important that young women in this space feel safe to come here and work here" and that it was the "furthest thing from a feminist act."

Let's not diminish violence against women by describing this incident as such.

So let's elbow past Elbowgate, let's drop the melodramatic accusations that "a woman was assaulted in the House of Commons by the PM." (Yes, the Conservatives jumped on this, too.)

Let's not diminish violence against women by describing this incident as such, because that, too, is the furthest thing from a feminist act.

Instead, how about MPs use the defeat of that debate-limiting vote last night to force Trudeau to improve the assisted-dying bill so that it is as comprehensive as possible and becomes law as quickly as possible.

Right now there are Canadians who are suffering from deep trauma -- and you were all elected to help them, not yourselves.

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