National Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act
An Act respecting a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention
Megan Leslie NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-297.
November 6th, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.
Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON
Mr. Speaker, the second petition is with regard to suicide.
It gives me pleasure today to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Thunder Bay and Ottawa on the topic of suicide in Canada. Suicide kills ten Canadians every single day. It is the second biggest killer of Canadian youth. Canada is the only industrialized country in the world without a national suicide prevention strategy, and therefore these petitioners urge Parliament to act on Bill C-297 and Bill C-300, dealing with suicide.
Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business
May 14th, 2012 / 11:50 a.m.
Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise today and voice my support for Bill C-300, an act respecting a federal framework for suicide prevention.
I also want to congratulate my hon. colleague from the other side of the House for bringing forward an issue that I think is truly important to every MP and Canadian right across the country. No matter what colour one's tie is, this is an important issue for all of us to address.
The bill would enact and establish a requirement for the Government of Canada to develop a federal framework for suicide prevention in consultation with the relevant non-governmental organizations, the relevant entity in each province and territory as well as the relevant federal departments.
The bill is a great first step, but we believe more could have been done. We presented some amendments at committee to make the bill stronger to ensure that Canadians had a bill that encompassed everyone and included first nations, Métis and Inuit as well. However, we will move forward in good faith with the bill because, as I mentioned, we believe it is a good first step.
Suicide has a major impact on Canadians today. It is the second leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year olds and the third leading cause among 25 to 49 years olds. Furthermore, the stigma that surrounds mental health and suicide has long delayed a national dialogue about the issue and how to address it. Therefore, I am very happy that we are talking about it on the national stage.
Suicide is a tragedy for many Canadians and their families. Given the current statistics that I mentioned earlier, it is likely that most Canadians have been impacted by a death by suicide. However, suicide is entirely preventable through a combination of knowledge, care and compassion.
We in the NDP support the bill put forward by my hon. colleague. We think a national suicide prevention strategy is something that families and stakeholders have been demanding for years now.
The NDP has consistently worked on this issue in the past. In 2011, my colleague for Halifax put forward Bill C-297, An Act respecting a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. My friend's bill already calls for the provinces, territories and representatives from first nations, Inuit and Métis people to work together to create a national strategy for suicide prevention. The bill would ensure access to mental health and substance abuse services, reduce the stigma associated with using mental health and suicide-related services, establish national guidelines for best practices in suicide prevention, work with communities to use cultural-specific knowledge to design appropriate policies and programs, coordinate professionals and organizations throughout our great country in order to share information and research and support health care professionals and others who work with individuals at risk of suicide.
I believe my colleague's bill is the template of how we should approach a national suicide prevention strategy as it would allow for best practices to be set up, particularly for at-risk communities.
These are some key facts and figures about suicide in Canada that are very disturbing: 10 people die every day by suicide; over 3,500 people die by suicide annually; and, in the past 20 years, more than 100,000 Canadians have died by suicide. In Canada the number of people affected by suicide due to the loss of a loved one, friend or co-worker is estimated at three million. I am, unfortunately, one of those three million.
Back in 1986, 26 years ago, my brother-in-law decided to take his own life. I can talk about how a family goes through that type of trauma and what the family to this day still goes through. Many times at Christmas dinner, Thanksgiving or any family gathering, we talk about what it would be like to have that individual back with us as a family.
Of course, there are always those feelings of doubt. What could we have done to make things better? What could we have done to change what has happened? There is really nothing that we could have done, at the end of the day, because my brother-in-law needed some help. What we could have done is try to find ways to get him that help. I think this national strategy is doing what we can to ensure that no other person ever has to go through this and no other family ever has to go through this, and I hope we all can understand.
If we are looking at international comparisons, both the United Nations and the World Health Organization have recognized suicide as a serious and priority public health issue. We were once a world leader on suicide prevention, but now Canada lags behind other industrialized countries.
In 1993, at the invitation of the UN Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs, Canada hosted an international experts' meeting to develop UN-supported suicide prevention guidelines.
Following the release of these guidelines, both the United Nations and the World Health Organization called upon every country to not only establish its own national strategy but also appoint and adequately fund a coordinating body responsible for suicide prevention.
Whereas Australia, New Zealand, Wales, England, Norway, Sweden, Scotland and the United States, to name a few, now all have national suicide prevention strategies that have proven to work, Canada still does not. I think with this bill we are getting one step closer. However, as I mentioned at the top, we will continue to work to try to make this bill stronger.
Let us look at our statistics in Canada. They show Canada has a higher suicide rate, for example, than the United States. It is in the top third of developed countries with the highest rate of suicide.
The Government of Canada has stated in the past that the Mental Health Commission of Canada framework already covers suicide prevention. However, its important 2009 report, “A Framework for a Mental Health Strategy for Canada”, only briefly touches upon the issue of suicide. It does not even specifically include in it any of its seven recommendations and it does not constitute a suicide prevention strategy.
All experts and stakeholders agree that its mandate does not properly cover the issue of suicide prevention. As yet, there is no sign that the MHCC is doing the necessary work that is needed on this issue. The MHCC is focused on bringing about long-term fundamental changes with respect to various mental health issues, while a national suicide prevention strategy is desperately needed, especially today, given the crisis facing many communities.
The MHCC even notes that suicide is often but not always, 95% of the time, associated with the presence of a mental illness. A suicide prevention strategy is needed because it is distinct from the issue of mental health.
Let me quote from a media article today from a Vancouver Island first nation, where it has declared a state of emergency because over the last few weeks it has seen the number of suicides in its communities dramatically increase. I believe it was four.
Leaders of a Vancouver Island First Nation have declared a state of emergency over the recent spate of suicides and attempted suicides.
According to the chief:
Unless we receive support from the feds and province, we may lose more community members to what feels like a hopeless situation, and although we have provided some resources, it is very limited and employees are over-taxed with the burden of double duty.
That is why we truly need a national strategy on suicide prevention.
I know my time is running out. With that, I will just mention again that we support the bill as it is presented, but we would definitely like to see more amendments and things brought forward to make this a stronger bill.
Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business
May 14th, 2012 / 11:20 a.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am please to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-300. It came from committee and is now at third reading in the House. I would again like to congratulate the member for bringing the bill forward.
The NDP members on the health committee have been very supportive of the bill, as we have in the House at second reading. We will support the bill when it comes to a final vote. However, I want to reflect on the nature of the bill and what more we could possibly have done.
There is another bill in the House, Bill C-297, put forward by the member for Halifax. Although both bills deal with suicide prevention, they bring forward different strategies. Bill C-300, is much more of a limiting bill. It plays down the role of the federal government in establishing suicide prevention strategy and, unfortunately, there is nothing in the bill that pertains to first nations consultation.
I recognize it is difficult to put every single group in a bill and say we should do this and that. However, the statistics show this is a very important health issue and systemic issue around inequality, cultural history and colonialism that does affect first nations in Canada, aboriginal people.
The bill of the member for Halifax speaks to the need to directly engage the federal government with provincial ministers and first nations, and support smaller communities and provinces that might not otherwise have the infrastructure to enact the strategies. She lays out a clear federal role. Bill C-297 outlines the need for first nations, Inuit and Métis groups to be involved in the construction of the strategy. This is very important.
The bill we are debating today calls for defining best practices and promotes collaboration. These are very important and we certainly concur, but it is very disappointing that it does not go beyond that.
Bill C-297 is very comprehensive. It calls for the federal government to carry out 10 different projects, including a study of effective funding, surveillance to identify at-risk groups, establishing national standards and gaining cultural-based knowledge in preventing suicide.
At committee, my colleagues, particularly the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, and I put forward a number of amendments. These were based on the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention blueprint for a Canadian national suicide prevention strategy that came out in September 2009. This organization represents the service providers and the activists on the front line helping people who are in distress, who are at risk, in dealing with suicide and suicide prevention.
We put forward about 15 amendments. They really would have strengthened the bill. For example, one of them called for a distinct national coordinating body for suicide prevention to operate within the appropriate entities in the Government of Canada. Another amendment called for assessing and adopting where appropriate the recommendations and objectives outlined in the blueprint for a national suicide prevention strategy of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.
I want to put on the record here in the House that we tried very hard at committee to bring some amendments to the bill to strengthen it so it could go beyond an issue of best practices, collaboration and information sharing and take on some more specific objectives that are desperately needed.
We did hear a number of times that we should not worry about this because the Mental Health Commission of Canada would be addressing this in its report. Of course, since dealing with the bill at committee, that report came out last week, entitled “Changing Directions, Changing Lives”.
On page 13 of the report it reads:
...establishing whole-of-government and pan-Canadian mechanisms to oversee mental health-related policies; strengthening data, research, knowledge exchange, standards and human resources related to mental health, mental illness and suicide prevention.
That is not the only reference but , that one speaks strongly to the need for all levels of government l to be involved.
While we are happy that the Mental Health Commission of Canada has included this issue in its new strategy that came out last week, it seems to me that we have missed an opportunity with this bill to look at some concrete specifics around setting up a national coordinating body, looking at better training or, more specifically, working with first nations.
We received a communication from the Assembly of First Nations after we dealt with the bill at committee. It sent some very good information that is very important for us to understand. It is really shocking. It is information that we know but when we speak about this issue it brings to mind how serious it is in the aboriginal community. The AFN points out that suicide now represents the greatest single cause of injury deaths in its population, according to a study done in 2003. It also points out that a closer examination of intentional self-harm or suicide across age groupings shows that the deaths due to suicide, as a proportion of all deaths, was the largest among first nations youth. It also points out that youth suicide is not a tragedy that is visited in equal measure in all native communities. In certain communities, the suicide rate is as much as 800 times their provincial average. These statistics cannot even begin to tell us the stories, the tragedy and the reality of what is happening in many smaller, remote communities and in urban centres.
I was disappointed and concerned that the bill did not reference the particular issues that are taking place in aboriginal communities. Amendments were put forward to include some of this important information and the need to be more specific in the bill but, surprisingly, they were turned down.
It worries me that this is becoming a pattern now. Some of the bills are fine in as far as they go but they are very informational. They are designed to create awareness. We had one just the other day on breast density, a similar kind of bill. I do not want to knock the bills in and of themselves but it is really worrying that when there is a genuine effort to put forward amendments to improve and strengthen these bills, they seem to be automatically shot down. I have to wonder why.
Parliament should be constructive, particularly on private member's business. We should try to be constructive and work together on this bill on suicide prevention because we all agree that work needs to be done on this. There is no question that we all agree. Therefore, it is very concerning that the good faith attempts to strengthen and improve the bill were shut down one hundred per cent. I read out some of the information that came before us and it was basically ignored.
We will support the bill but we will also work very hard to support my colleague's bill, Bill C-297, the member for Halifax, because it is a much broader, comprehensive and very specific strategy that would clearly involve the federal government. That is what we need to do, particularly in light of the new report that just came out from the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
April 23rd, 2012 / 3:10 p.m.
Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB
Mr. Speaker, I have in my hand a petition signed by a number of Canadians primarily from Alberta who want to draw to the attention of the House the fact that suicide is a major issue affecting youth across our country.
Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
October 4th, 2011 / 4:15 p.m.
Megan Leslie Halifax, NS
Mr. Speaker, it is easy to give a speech full of statistics, but in this case, we must look at the facts, which are so shocking.
There are about 10 suicides a day or over 3,500 suicides a year in Canada. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24. Imagine that; we have statistics on children as young as 10. Suicide rates are four to six times higher for aboriginal youth than for non-aboriginal youth. The Inuit suicide rate is more than 10 times higher than the rate for the rest of the population of Canada. Furthermore, in 2002, the WHO reported that nearly one million people had committed suicide that year, which exceeded the total number of deaths by war, homicide and civil conflicts.
Shocking does not even begin to describe those statistics. That is why last Parliament I actually introduced a bill for a national suicide prevention strategy, Bill C-297, as it is known in this Parliament.
I started working on the bill after I received a call from a man in Nunavut, Jack Hicks. He is a suicide prevention educator and researcher. He called our office and said, “You need to know what is happening in my community” and he told us about what was happening in his community. He talked about suicide and suicide prevention, and we realized we could do something legislatively. We could have a legislative answer to that. He talked about the fact that there is good work being done in provinces, in communities. In the smallest of communities and large cities there is good working being done on suicide prevention, but the problem is that it is not connected. We are not sharing best practices. We are not talking about what is working in different communities. There is no way to connect these things. So, we thought about the fact that we need a co-ordinated approach in Canada and put together this bill for a suicide prevention strategy.
In doing that, I had the great pleasure and privilege of working with the people from CASP, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. They worked so hard on this issue of suicide prevention, generally, but also in helping us with our bill and bringing it forward. I am so grateful to them for their work on suicide prevention and our bill.
When we introduce a bill on suicide prevention, an issue like that, I can tell members that we get a lot of attention from media. For example, when a particular issue arises or a particular event in a community, we are asked to do some public speaking. That has been a journey for me. It has been an amazing experience. Unfortunately, we get to really become immersed in the issue of suicide but, fortunately, it means we get to hear about the stories around Canada and realize that this is such a terrible problem in our country but that there are solutions.
Last year, I was asked by APTN, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, to do an interview because a boy, eight years old, in a small town in northern Saskatchewan died by suicide.
Can members even imagine an eight-year-old boy knowing that is an option, having seen it in his community, knowing that it was something he could do, thinking it was an answer and, frankly, knowing how to do it?
This is happening in our communities across Canada. It is something we cannot avoid. It is something we cannot hide from any more.
Another incredible experience I have had working on my own bill is being able to work across party lines on this issue. I am thrilled that the Liberals have brought forward this motion today and that we are in this House, in this amazing, wonderful place, debating this incredibly important issue. I am thrilled that we are working on the issue of suicide prevention.
I have also worked closely with the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, on the government side of the House. He is truly a champion for suicide prevention in his own community and across Canada.
In fact, this week, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention is holding a conference in Vancouver. It has actually honoured the two of us, both myself and the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, for our work on suicide prevention. We were both very sorry that we were not there personally to accept the award, but it has been a privilege to work with CASP and we were both so honoured to be given this award for our work.
I have also had the opportunity to work with amazing community groups who have endorsed the bill that I introduced, and I presume they would be very supportive of this motion, organizations like the Canadian Psychiatric Association. We have had municipalities come forward and endorse the bill from all around Canada. Also, individuals, mental health workers, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Assembly of First Nations. It has been, really, overwhelming and so wonderful.
I also had the chance to work with a young man in my riding, named Scott Chisholm. He is actually now living in the riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River. He put together a photo exhibit called “Collateral Damage”. They are photos and excerpts from people talking about how suicide has touched their lives. We hosted an art show, actually, in my riding office of these photos. They are stunning. Many of the folks are from Nova Scotia.
It was really a profound experience to walk through the exhibit and see people I knew from my community sharing their stories, people who I had no idea their lives had been touched by suicide. One of the lines or one of the tag lines Scott uses to describe his project is, “Not talking about it is not working.” He is right.
Everybody who is featured in his photo exhibit talks about that, how they have never talked about how suicide has touched their lives, how they have never shared with anybody. It is an amazing experience. He is actually touring the show around Nova Scotia and hopefully will get to some other provinces as well.
In bringing forward a private member's bill, I have often been asked if it is ever going to pass or if it has any hope of being debated in the House of Commons. I have always responded that it is part of a process, it is part of building a movement around suicide prevention. A bill can be a touchstone that people can look at and rally around.
I think that is evidenced here today. When we start talking about issues in the House of Commons, when we bring forward motions or private members' bills, we never know what is next. I could never have predicted, for example, that there would be an opposition day motion on this issue where politicians across the House would have to stand and talk about the issue of suicide prevention.
When it comes to the private member's bill, as well, I have said publicly that I will pull it if it means there is a solution. If the government says it is going to specifically mandate the Mental Health Commission to take on suicide prevention, I will pull the bill. If the government says it is actually going to put this under public health's realm, that it is going to give the jurisdiction to them, I will pull the bill. If the government says it is going to bring forward a bill for a national suicide prevention strategy, I will pull mine.
This is not a partisan issue. This is about prevention. Suicide is a preventable death. If we all work together across party lines, we can prevent suicides in this country. A suicide prevention strategy is exactly what educators and advocates around the country have been asking for. It is all they have been asking for.
The motion is a wonderful step in that direction. I really hope that together we can make it a reality.
Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
October 4th, 2011 / 11:05 a.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry.
I am very pleased to participate in the debate today on this very important motion. I thank the member for Toronto Centre for bringing forward this motion. New Democrats support this motion wholeheartedly and are glad there is a thoughtful debate taking place in the House of Commons today. We cannot always say that there is thoughtful debate. This is a very important issue and I know many members will contribute to the debate.
I listened very carefully to the comments by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and while I appreciate that he told the House what it is the Government of Canada has been involved in, I feel there was a lack of information. It seems to me that the debate today, particularly for the Government of Canada, is an opportunity for some reflection, not just about what it thinks it is doing but about what is not being done.
I did not hear that in the parliamentary secretary's speech, which was disappointing because today all sides of the House are willing to hear that kind of debate. We want to hear from the government where it thinks it is not doing enough and we want it to ask the House to support a greater effort toward what needs to be done.
Presumably, we are having this debate because there is a great sense by the Government of Canada and all of us that there is a crisis. The member for Toronto Centre made the point that it is not just the government but all parties. We have not done enough on this issue. I wanted to begin my remarks that way because I am hoping that other government members will be more reflective and make part of the debate what the Government of Canada, from its point of view, needs to be doing in a better way.
One thing I would draw attention to are the underlying risk factors. The fact is that many studies have been done on the prevalence of suicide in groups that are at high risk. We have heard some of that in the debate today, such as aboriginal youth in the north in small and remote communities, but there are other demographics and populations that are at risk, like the LGBT community, veterans and seniors. There are many studies being put forward.
It seems to me that we do not pay enough attention to some of the underlying risk factors. The fact is that suicide is preventable if one understands what is taking place, whether it is on a personal level in terms of someone who may be suffering from depression and mental illness or someone who has gone through some sort of trauma and tragic circumstances, but there are also bigger societal, socio-economic and social conditions that are in effect.
We have seen it many times in our country. How many times have we turned to a particular channel on TV and heard the most tragic story of a string of suicides taking place in some small community? Surely, that has to be setting off alarm bells that there social conditions in this country to do with poverty, isolation, lack of educational opportunities, overcrowding in housing, and a lack of the basic necessities of human dignity in life. Surely, these are assessments and risk factors that we should be looking at.
Another one would be stigma. If one looks at lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, we know they are at a much higher risk for attempting suicide than heterosexual youth, 28% versus 4% according to the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of British Columbia. These statistics are very alarming.
The motion talks about a strategy and setting up a fund. We have to understand, grapple, and come to terms with some of the underlying risk factors that are operating within our country.
We think of Canada as this incredibly wealthy place, a place of opportunity, a place of incredible resources, great cities, a great environment, and yet we have these very alarming statistics. We have to ask ourselves why it is that we have a society where the gap is widening between people who are doing exceptionally well and people who are being left behind, people who are living in poverty. I hope that in today's debate we can focus attention on some of those issues.
My colleague, the member for Halifax, recently tabled Bill C-297, An Act respecting a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. It is an excellent bill. The government would be well advised in supporting this motion to look at that bill and to incorporate the ideas that are in the bill. The bill clearly lays out the need to ensure there is access to mental health and substance abuse services and the need to reduce the stigma associated with using mental health and suicide related services.
The bill also talks about the need to establish national guidelines for best practices in suicide prevention and to work with communities to use culture specific knowledge to design appropriate policies and programs. That is a very important element. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is a matter of understanding what is going on in a particular community, whether it be in a geographic sense or in a demographic sense, to understand those cultural specific risk factors and issues that are at play. The bill also talks about the need to coordinate professionals and organizations throughout the country in order to share information and research, and to support our health care professionals and our advocacy groups who work with individuals who are at risk of suicide.
I was on a Via Rail train a couple of days ago and picked up a magazine that was in the pocket in front of me. As I was looking through the magazine I was surprised to see a major feature about suicide. It focused on the risk of suicide as it affects students, particularly those who are in an environment where the stress of academic excellence produces an enormous amount of anxiety and possibly depression. This particular article focused on the number of deaths by suicide that had taken place at Queen's University. That is where I happened to be going to speak at a human rights conference.
I thought it was quite remarkable that in a Via Rail magazine there was a major article about suicide, particularly focusing on a population in our society that we often think is doing alright. They are the students who are motivated, who have all kinds of self-esteem, who are doing really well; they are the elite, the future of our society. It was quite shocking to read the stories of what had unfolded at just one post-secondary educational facility. It was quite shocking to read of the trauma and the impact of the tragedy, and the number of deaths that had taken place in the life of that particular university. I do not mean to single out Queen's because I know this happens elsewhere as well, but it just happened to be the focus of that article. It was truly shocking.
This brings to the attention of all of us that the issue of suicide as it relates to mental health and well-being is very prevalent. The statistics that we see, that 10 people every day commit suicide, are very alarming and shocking.
For those of us in the official opposition, the NDP members, we see this issue as a national priority. We are very happy that the member for Halifax has introduced a private member's bill. It is a very comprehensive bill that gives us the framework for what we need to do to bring forward a national strategy.
I am going to end by coming back to the Government of Canada. Let today be a day where we all participate in this debate and rather than only describe the problem, let us focus on what needs to be done.
Let the government members think about what they are not doing, what they have not been addressing. Why is it that so many aboriginal communities are living in third world conditions? Why is the suicide rate so high in small northern communities? Why is this an issue that affects our youth and the LGBT community? These are the things that we need to talk about in order to come up with an adequate national strategy.
National Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act
September 29th, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.
Megan Leslie Halifax, NS
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-297, An Act respecting a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be reintroducing this legislation. The bill would create a national suicide prevention strategy.
After I tabled the bill in the last Parliament it received the support of many organizations, municipalities and individuals across the country.
Suicide is an issue that touches every region of this country. The facts are clear. Over 3,500 Canadians, or 10 people per day, die by suicide each year. We need a coordinated strategy so that folks around the country working to prevent suicide are united in a concerted effort to ensure that our communities are no longer rocked by the loss of friends and family members.
I would like to congratulate the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention on its work.
A national strategy is needed to address the higher risks of suicide faced by queer youth, Canada's elderly, teens and young adults, first nations, Inuit, and people in remote communities.
I would encourage all parties to work together to establish a national suicide prevention strategy, because we have a responsibility to help prevent suicides.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)