Vanier tells politicians the disabled know ways of the heart

01 November 2010

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

L’Arche founder Jean Vanier has written to a Canadian parliamentary committee about the beauty of people with intellectual disabilities.

“These beautiful men and women have much to teach us about vulnerability, about caring, and about the ways of the heart,” Vanier wrote in a letter from Trosly-Breuil, France.

“As individuals and as a population, they have lived a history of suffering, of being rejected and hidden away; away from the mainstream, away from power, away from belonging.”

“Their obvious physical impairments, their openness of heart and their cry of need for relationship have gently invited me to reflect on my own impairments, fear of openness and need for relationship.”

Vanier sent his four-page letter to parliamentary committee on palliative and compassionate care.

NDP MP Joe Comartin set up the committee last April after the defeat of a pro-euthanasia and assisted suicide private members’ bill.

At the time Comartin said that without an adequate system of compassionate and palliative care for suffering and dying people, Canada should not consider offering euthanasia or assisted suicide as a choice.

In an interview, he said the committee has attracted 30 MPs, half of whom contribute from their budgets for the salary of a researcher. Many other MPs have helped with regional meetings.

The committee held three hearings before the summer break, as well as about a dozen regional meetings. More are planned for the east and west coasts and the Prairie provinces.

On Oct. 19 and 20, the committee held hearings on Parliament Hill on pain management that included submissions from L’Arche Ottawa and from the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada.

Comartin said the committee asks each group or individual to present a written brief, and then make a brief presentation. That portion takes up to an hour. The second hour of the hearing is opened up for questions from MPs, members of the groups or the audience.

“There was a dynamic we hadn’t thought about, but it’s worked out really well,” said Comartin. Many new ideas have come to the fore during the interactions and many touching stories have been told.