By Trevor Busch
A group of community residents have organized the South East ARPA (Association for Reformed Political Action) chapter in Taber.
They are hoping to raise awareness about the federal government’s plan to open assisted suicide to Canadians with mental illness.
“The legislation is concerning,” said South East ARPA board member Margreet Kleinjan. “As of March 2023, doctors can offer assisted suicide to a mother who struggles with depression or a university student with anxiety and suicidality.”
Members of the local ARPA chapter are interested in making connections with local politicians.
“We want to raise awareness about different concerns in the community,” said board member Valerie Beukema. “Just build relationships with political people, MPs, MLAs, mayors.”
Kleinjan is opposed to the prospect of medically-assisted suicide for mental illness, and is concerned that expanding assisted suicide regulations encourages stigmatization and a culture of neglect for those who are suffering.
“We’re independent, but we rely on ARPA to lobby characters in Ottawa, and they have people more close to the federal government. We have a provincial representative, and he is a lot in Ottawa, in Edmonton. We are a Christian organization and are glad to stand up for people in a Christian way. So we encourage life confirming care. We want to bring awareness to this, because the public doesn’t always know what’s going on in our lives. And it’s really important, because if, for instance, the medical assisted suicide for people with mental illness goes through then what kind of care are we giving people with those illnesses? I know they will offer me suicide if I ask and maybe even before they ask, so what kind of care do we have in this country now?”
The South East ARPA chapter is raising awareness through flyer campaigns and a recent trailer ad outside of Taber.
“It says ‘mental health support should never include assisted suicide’,” said Beukema. “In other words, if you’re trying to help somebody with a mental illness, one of your options isn’t ‘would you like to help us end your life for you?’ And we just had a prayer meeting which was in conjunction with about six different chapters all around Grande Prairie, Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Barrhead, Taber, to just bring before the Lord the concerns of the people, give Him glory, that he is the Lord, that we trust in His teaching, that we as they call the grassroots people should be aware of what’s going on and should pick up the phone and tell the MP ‘this is what I think is important’.”
Kleinjan is urging Canadians to write their MPs and express concerns, or go to carenotkill.ca to learn more about the issue and take action.
“It’s got a pre-written letter email for your MP, but you can edit it yourself, and it goes directly to your MP and chooses based on your postal code which is your MP,” said Kleinjan. “There are more calls to action on the website that you can do and because it’s important that the government hears us first. What is that people care about? And I think we’d like to be building relationships with the MPs, too, and express our concerns.”
Beukema cites two pillars that inform the local ARPA chapter’s beliefs. The organization has roughly 30 members at present.
“Education and awareness is our basic goal. Thing is, call your politician. Go home and love your people. So there’s two things right, the political and the pastoral. So if you notice your neighbour needs help, if your grandmother is beginning to have dementia, if your daughter has postpartum depression, how can you be there? So it’s a twofold action.”
The question of suicide hits close to home for Beukema, and is part of the reason she decided to get involved and protest the legislation.
“We know people that are struggling with mental illness, I had a sister that committed suicide. I have a daughter, a daughter in law, a niece who has struggled, but they’ve all been given really good supports. So they are now happily married. They have children, but they continue to have supports. So not goodbye, but how can we work with you?”