Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act

An Act respecting a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Elizabeth May  Green

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of June 12, 2014

Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-442.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires the Minister of Health to convene a conference with the provincial and territorial ministers responsible for health and with representatives of the medical community and patients’ groups for the purpose of developing a comprehensive federal framework to address the challenges of the recognition and timely diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2014 / 6:10 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

, seconded by the member for Vancouver East, moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

She said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all those who supported my bill. We can accomplish a lot when we work together in a non-partisan way.

I would particularly like to thank the Minister of Health, who supported this bill. She shared her opinions and was extraordinarily understanding. I also want to thank her team.

I have to thank, in particular, the member for Honoré-Mercier, because, in the spirit of non-partisanship, she gave up her slot today, June 11, so that this bill, which has received such widespread support from all corners of the House, could proceed through report stage, third reading, and make its way to the Senate. I am very grateful that Senator Janis Johnson is prepared to take it forward so that we can get this help to the people who need it most.

All members in this place are now much more familiar than they were with the threat of Lyme disease. This bill will not solve all our problems, but it will take us a long way forward. So many members spoke passionately in this place about the importance of the bill. I want to particularly thank members on all sides of the House. The hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's gave a passionate speech about the difficulties of diagnosis and what he sees happening in Nova Scotia. My friend, the hon. member for Victoria, talked about our friend who lives in his riding but works with me, Chris Powell and her daughter Nicole Bottles, who testified in committee.

The hon. member for St. Paul's gave me time in committee so I could ask questions, which I otherwise could not have done. There have been so many acts of kindness. It is unusual for a private member's bill to have been seconded initially by the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North with the Green Party, seconded at the next stage by the hon. member for Oakville, a Conservative, who has himself stood on an important issue in Bill C-17, which I hope we can also pass expeditiously, Vanessa's law. Today I am honoured that the health critic for the official opposition, the hon. member for Vancouver East, would be my seconder.

I also want to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health for her help. I know I will forget people as I keep thanking everyone. The hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie offered early help and support. Everybody on all sides of the House, including the health critic for the Liberal Party, have been unstinting in their willingness to help the bill pass, to get through amendments and clause-by-clause in committee. This bill is now called a federal framework on Lyme disease. It has the support, as I have said, of Health Canada.

I will share with the House things that I did not know when I first put this bill forward at first reading almost two years ago exactly. The Public Health Agency of the Government of Canada testified before the health committee that this is one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases in Canada. The evidence from the federal Public Health Agency is that it thinks by the year 2020 Canada could be experiencing 10,000 new cases of Lyme disease every year.

Every step we take in 2014 to put in place national approaches that work federally, provincially, and territorially for better education and better prevention so that people can avoid getting Lyme disease in the first place by knowing what to look for, by avoiding ticks, moving to better diagnoses, working with the doctors across this country, is crucial. The support of the Canadian Medical Association for this bill, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation has been absolutely essential. All of these expert bodies recognize that this is a very complicated disease, very difficult to diagnose, and that we should no longer stand for any one of our friends, neighbours, or relatives to have to go to the United States for expensive treatment.

We do not want to hear any more stories from our own constituents who had to sell their homes to be able to afford the treatment that we can provide here in Canada through a federal framework on Lyme disease. Ultimately, we need much better research. I have mentioned a couple of times how indebted I am to the hon. Minister of Health. Funds have been put in place by Health Canada without being tied to this bill, because, of course, a private member's bill cannot put forward funds.

I will close now with the most deep and heartfelt thanks to all in this place tonight and every day. God bless them.

Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2014 / 6:15 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. I know that she has put an extraordinary amount of work into this bill and it was very good to have it at committee. As she pointed out, there were some amendments made at committee and now there is certainly no problem with the name, in terms of not calling it a national strategy but a federal framework.

As she knows, as she mentioned it briefly, one of the things that was taken out of the bill by the government side was the reference to establishing guidelines and the allocation of funding. That is a consideration we have to think about. I would like to ask the member what she is thinking in terms of how this bill now goes forward. It obviously goes to the Senate, but, beyond that, it is very important that we remain vigilant and monitor the progress of this national framework to ensure that there actually is an allocation of funding so that research can continue, public awareness can continue, and that a national framework can be developed.

Would the member share any thoughts she has on that?

Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2014 / 6:15 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the hon. member for Vancouver East took a moment or two to put the question so that I could pull myself together. I am quite overwhelmed and very grateful.

I appreciate that there were changes made at committee. I do not believe that they take anything away from the thrust of the bill, but as with any piece of legislation, we will have to remain vigilant.

I know that the current Minister of Health is very committed to this, but the bill will require initiatives from the Minister of Health to hold a conference. That conference will gather expertise from the health and medical community and the Lyme disease patient community and, of course, engage at some level the federal, provincial, and territorial ministers for health.

One amendment changed that process from a six-month mandatory window from the point of passage to twelve months in order to incorporate and provide flexibility for the fact that Bill C-442 would mandate ministerial consultations at a very significant level.

We just have to commit that there is goodwill here. There is an intention to make a difference for people. We have all learned a great deal from the Lyme disease patient community. There are people whose lives have been cut short. They cannot do the job they used to do.

One of the most heartbreaking cases in my own riding is that of a young man who wrote to me and who I saw on Boxing Day. He had not been well enough to come down the corridor on Christmas morning to watch his girls open up their Christmas presents.

The sense of urgency is with us. In the spirit of goodwill, we will monitor this bill and keep pushing in a friendly fashion. We will not let the bill just sit on a shelf. I believe that is the motivation of the Minister of Health, as it is for my hon. colleague, the official opposition health critic.

Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2014 / 6:15 p.m.
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Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for the work that she did and for her efforts in rallying the support of the House for her bill.

Having met a fellow Canadian with this disease, I would like to know what the prognosis is for someone who already has Lyme disease. How will this bill help people with the disease?

Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2014 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.

By the time they are diagnosed, people have often already had this disease for many years. That makes things difficult because this disease becomes more complex after a few years. More research is needed. We need to find solutions and other ways of tackling this very serious illness.

We need to find ways to get these kids out of wheelchairs and back to school. We can do it.

Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2014 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak in support of third reading of Bill C-442 for a national framework for Lyme disease.

Today is a special day. It is not every private member's bill that gets to third reading. The fact that this bill has means that it has stood the test. It has gone through the challenges of going through second reading, going to committee, through amendments, and here it is back in the House. We are anticipating and hopeful that the bill will be approved today in the House of Commons and then go to the Senate.

I would like to speak briefly to the bill, but I would first like to congratulate the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for the hard work that she has put into this bill, into building alliances and talking to people in different parties. It is a good example of the goodwill and the solidarity that can develop around an issue when people recognize that something needs to be done. I only wish it would happen more often in the House. There are so many issues that need our attention, collectively, with a spirit of fair play and goodwill. Maybe this bill will be a good model for that, but I wish it would happen a little more often.

When this bill came to the health committee, I was pleased to be there. We went through it and heard witnesses. Hearing the witnesses was incredibly compelling. We heard from Jim Wilson of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation. People shared personal experiences about this disease, which is not easy to do in a formalized parliamentary hearing as a witness with all of the official trappings that go along with that.

Chris Powell and her daughter Nicole were quite remarkable. Nicole, who is from British Columbia, was quite remarkable in sharing her experience of having Lyme disease and the suffering she was going through. It is not only physical suffering, which she still endures, but also the emotional anguish of not being able to get a proper diagnosis.

One of the critical elements of the bill is that it would bring together the different elements we need in terms of not only prevention and better public awareness, but a medical community that is in a much more heightened state of awareness with respect to Lyme disease, as well as better clinical diagnostic tools and testing.

We heard horrifying stories from people who had gone to extraordinary lengths to find out why they were so sick and why they could not get help. We know there are two tests available in Canada, but they pertain only to basically one strain of the tick that produces Lyme disease. There is so much that needs to be known.

We heard stories about the amount of money people had spent to go to the United States, for example, where other testing has been available, to finally get a correct diagnosis. Then they would come back to Canada and have somebody contradict that diagnosis. It a nightmare for these people to live through, not just enduring and living with the disease, but coping with systemic barriers and obstacles to proper diagnosis and get the treatment they need. We heard all of that at committee. It was compelling and it made us all acutely understand that we needed a national framework.

I want to spend a moment on that. As the health critic, I meet with many organizations across the country, in Ottawa, in my riding and elsewhere. There are so many issues and people are literally begging the federal government to show leadership to develop a national strategy, whether for dementia or Alzheimer's. This is just another example of that. It is a reflection of our complex system.

We know that health care is a provincial delivery system. There is no question about that. However, there is a necessity for federal leadership. Under the Canada Health Act, we have a duty and responsibility to ensure that all people in our country, whether rich or poor or whether they live in the north, south, east, west or the centre, in small communities or large urban centres, have accessibility to our health care system. We know the inequities are getting greater, and not just between provinces but also within provinces.

There is an overarching issue that the bill also reflects, which is that we need to see the federal government be at the table. We need to see the federal government take leadership on these issues. Many groups are calling for a national strategy. People know the reality of this kind of scattered approach. It is like a patchwork across the country and that just is not good enough.

The bill speaks about a federal framework and would bring together the players. As the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has outlined, a key element of the bill is to convene a conference and include people who have Lyme disease and advocates so they are at the table as well. It is really about trying to bring the players together to develop that national framework.

We also heard at committee very interesting testimony from representatives of the Public Health Agency of Canada. They told us that Lyme disease had been a reportable disease only since 2009. We are only beginning to get a sense of the numbers out there. Of course many cases are not reported. Either people do not know they have the disease or if they suspect it, they do not get a proper diagnosis.

I agree with the member that we will face an explosion of cases, particularly with climate change and a warming environment. In southern Canada and places like B.C., where we really have not seen that many cases of Lyme disease, this will be on the increase.

I was very interested to hear that the Public Health Agency of Canada was conducting a fairly major public awareness campaign. In fact, the people from the agency assured us that Lyme disease should be a household word by the end of summer. People would know what it was, what they needed to be aware of and what they should do. I hope they are right because we do not want to see anybody suffer through this.

The issue of testing is very important. We heard loud and clear that there was an inadequate testing procedure in Canada. We need to have much better availability of testing with a greater depth of testing for different kinds of bacteria and strains.

Then finally on research, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research told us that some very good research was going on in Canada. I believe one of the researchers was in Calgary and another was maybe in Ontario. We need to fund that research. We need to know about the different strains so people can receive the appropriate diagnostic analysis and treatment.

The New Democrats have been very happy to support this bill all the way through. We are critically aware of this issue. It is something we speak about with our constituents. I am sure many of us have had visits from our constituents who have been affected by Lyme disease.

At the end of the day, we owe gratitude and thanks to the Lyme disease Foundation of Canada, which has done incredible work on this and has never given up. It is not easy. We have resources here. We can bring forward a private member's bill, which I do not want to diminish as it has a very important part. However, what is really wonderful is the fact that the people in the community, those who themselves are suffering, pushed this boulder uphill. They did not give up and they compelled us as legislators to take on this issue and support it.

Finally thanks go to those advocates. We need to remain vigilant and monitor what goes on to ensure this framework becomes a strategy that will help people.

Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2014 / 6:30 p.m.
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NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I did not realize I was speaking to the bill tonight, but I am grateful for the opportunity. I am coming in at the last minute, so I am not as organized as I would like to be, but I am glad I am here and am able to speak to the bill. I have been contacted by a lot of people in Nova Scotia about this issue. Even before I became a member of Parliament, people were talking to me about it.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is passionate about this issue. Lyme disease is very much present on the west coast. It is also present on the east coast. In Nova Scotia we have seen an incredible rise in the number of cases reported.

We have been tracking this since 2002. To the best of my understanding, that is the first reported case in Nova Scotia. We used to talk about maybe there were ticks down in the southern part of Nova Scotia, in the Yarmouth area, for example, but they are moving north.

Climate change is very real. Our climate is changing and it is making it more hospitable for these ticks to head north throughout the entire province of Nova Scotia.

Our first recorded date of Lyme disease being reported in Nova Scotia was 2002. The numbers have gone up incredibly, and show how the climate is changing. In 2011, 57 cases of Lyme disease were reported. In 2012, 52 cases were reported. However, last year, in 2013, 155 cases of Lyme disease were reported. Since 2002, we have had 329 cases.

There is a lot of factors at play here, so it is possible that people just have a better understanding of Lyme disease. People are getting treated a lot sooner. They understand more about it. There has been a lot of media coverage about this back home. Also, the ticks are marching north. It is hard for me to even wrap my head around the fact that Lyme disease is an issue in Nova Scotia when it did not used to be. Things are changing.

Climate change models predict that Nova Scotia is very close to having a suitable climate for a tick establishment across the entire province, that includes the furthest north of Cape Breton. As we can imagine, this is preoccupying people quite a bit back home, and I have received a lot of letters about this when people cross Nova Scotia, including Clark Richards, who wrote to me and said he wanted to see the bill adopted in Parliament as soon as possible.

Clark Richards is a PH.D. student of oceanography at Dalhousie and has a bit of an insider's view about science and how this all works. In addition to wanting us to support the bill, and I was glad to write back and say we did, he also wanted to let me know that as a scientist, he is very concerned about the government's attack on science in our country. He noted that he is very sad and angry that the government was so heck-bent on pursuing an agenda that was so out of line with what he perceived as the priorities of the majority of Canadians, so he wanted to address a few issues. However, he firmly supported the bill and wanted me to know about it as his member of Parliament.

Shari-Lynn Hiltz also wrote to me about a Lyme disease strategy and said that this debate was important. She said that the idea of the bill was that it would bring together Canada's health ministers, medical professionals, scientists and advocates for Canadians with Lyme disease to work toward common goals, and that is a very laudable thing.

The goals that we have in common are increasing awareness and prevention, ensuring accurate diagnoses, tracking the spread of the disease and establishing national standards for the care and treatment of Lyme disease that reflect best practices. She is really excited about the idea of having this national strategy so our country can move forward with a comprehensive strategy to combat this devastating disease.

Those are just two examples of people from my riding. We think that we are here and people are not necessarily paying attention to what goes on in the House of Commons, but they are. They are writing us letters and getting in touch.

The Lyme disease advocacy network in Nova Scotia has been fantastic. They met with me years ago when I was first elected and talked to me about what was going on with Lyme disease. When I sat down with them in 2010, I asked how we make this a federal issue. The bill does a good job of saying that we are going to have a national strategy. That is the federal issue hook. At the time, I was not thinking along those lines. I was thinking about how we could talk about Lyme disease through a federal lens.

We talked about Lyme disease as it relates to national parks. In the south of Nova Scotia, where the ticks have started and are moving northward, in their movement north they are travelling right through Kejimkujik National Park. Some folks have told me that there are ticks in Kejimkujik. It is just a reality. Yet there are no signs, no postings, and no telling people what to look for. We could fix the problem if we knew what to look for and did a tick check at the end of the day, but if people do not know, they are increasing their risk.

I wrote to the then minister of the environment, who I cannot name, but it was before Jim Prentice, so this was a while ago. I talked about the fact that the Public Health Agency of Canada had declared Lyme disease to be a reportable disease, which we have heard a few times here, and that both the Public Health Agency and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research are monitoring the prevalence and spread of the disease through the country.

I talked about the fact that Lyme disease causes a wide variety of health problems for infected individuals, that it is carried by ticks and is transmitted through biting, and that the diagnosis is on the rise, particularly in eastern Canada and in suburban areas like Bedford, Nova Scotia or in national parks.

It is so important that Canadians be made aware of whether ticks have been found in an area and whether infected ticks are in the area as well. I pointed out to the minister that it had come to my attention that Parks Canada was not making the public aware when ticks carrying Lyme disease had been discovered in our national parks.

When infected ticks are discovered, there are no warnings on the Parks Canada website. There are no signs displayed at park entrances or on trails. It needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Plans should already have been put in place. The letter actually says that it should be before the beginning of the 2011 outdoor recreation season. Here we are, and we are about to embark on the 2014 outdoor recreation season, yet still this kind of plan is not in place.

This is a good example of what a strategy can accomplish. A strategy is not necessarily that we snap our fingers and all of a sudden Lyme disease is not a problem. It is steps we can take, such as making people aware that there are infected ticks in a park and they need to do a body check at the end of the day. This is how we reduce risk. People need to understand. It is one piece that could be part of a big strategy, and that is what we are talking about. We are still waiting for the federal government to act. We are still waiting for it to take action on a strategy, including one that would include our parks.

How about some good news? The good news is that Nova Scotia is taking action. I receive updates regularly from Robert Strang, who is the Chief Public Health Officer for Nova Scotia. He sent an update to me as an MP that said, “hey, you and your constituents need to know this”. He talked about the Department of Health and Wellness, which has a Lyme disease response plan. It includes an interdisciplinary committee that includes public health, veterinary medicine, because animals are involved too, and wild life biology, and it uses evidence-based advice and guidance. It looks at how to control Lyme disease. It sends out regular updates that include subjects such as tick and Lyme disease surveillance, public information that is available, information for clinicians, testing, and research. It is a good role model.

There are good things happening across our country. A federal strategy could wrap it up really well.

Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2014 / 6:40 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking after my colleagues, particularly our health and environment critics. Every speech teaches us a little bit more about Lyme disease. I am pleased to also say a few words about Bill C-442, An Act respecting a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease.

I must say that this bill is of interest to me, as are so many other bills. We have heard some stories, and last February I received a letter from a constituent about this bill:

I am one of your constituents and on behalf of the thousands of Canadians suffering from Lyme disease, I am asking you to support Bill C-442 respecting a national strategy on Lyme disease. Debate on the bill begins on March 4.

Later on in the letter, she wrote:

We need to support Bill C-442 so that we can develop a national strategy to fight this serious disease.

The person who wrote me asked me to meet with her, which is what I did. The meeting was truly amazing for me. I was there with the mother of someone with Lyme disease.

She told me about the ordeal that she and her child, now an adult, had to go through before getting a diagnosis. Finally, after several years, it was discovered that this person was afflicted with this terrible disease. The child experienced a number of symptoms, got several diagnoses, and underwent numerous tests before being accurately diagnosed. Despite numerous doctors’ appointments and hospital tests, they were faced with more questions than answers. Over this time, the disease took its toll, and became chronic. This person will have to live with the chronic symptoms of Lyme disease.

Finally, thanks to a test in the United States—not in Canada—a clear diagnosis was obtained. In spite of the trials and tribulations, and an established diagnosis, the parents told me that it was actually a relief for the person with the disease to know what the diagnosis was. Indeed, once the disease becomes chronic, many of the symptoms of Lyme disease closely resemble chronic fatigue syndrome.

What happens when a person has symptoms but no clear diagnosis? Often, those afflicted get depressed because they do not know what has caused the symptoms. Their family and friends are left wondering what to do. They do not know how to help people with the fuzzy diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. When a diagnosis was established in this case, the family was able to support the person with Lyme disease and at that point they could come together to develop a plan of action as to how to cope with the disease.

The parent in question also praised the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, commonly known as CanLyme. The Foundation carries out very important work to raise awareness about the symptoms, diagnoses and ways to prevent Lyme disease. CanLyme is also a not-for-profit organization, and its website contains a great deal of information dispelling a number of myths and misconceptions around the disease.

I would like to commend the foundation on its extraordinary work. I would also like to salute the courage of this parent who came to meet with me to talk about their story and the plight of their loved one with Lyme disease, who had to go through quite an ordeal before getting a diagnosis.

The bill calls on the government to develop a national strategy to combat Lyme disease. I think that the government has to understand not only the need to put a strategy in place, but also the need for resources and financial backing. Parks Canada needs tools to advise people visiting our national parks on how to recognize the infamous insect that infects people with Lyme disease and the steps they should take if they are bitten, to ensure that the illness does not become chronic.

If it can be done for poison ivy, I do not understand why it cannot be done for Lyme disease. Moreover, a national strategy would help us work together with the provinces to develop tools to prevent this disease.

It is important to understand what is happening. Why is this disease spreading? It was previously a little known disease because it did not occur in Canada, where many insects die in our frigid winters and therefore do not cause a problem. However, climate change and global warming are having an effect on us as a Nordic country.

I am an agronomist by training. I got my training not so long ago. In class, we were told that Canada needed to adapt to changes in agriculture and prevent diseases that will emerge as insects head a little further north. The government must tackle these problems head on.

That is why the An Act respecting a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease is a step in the right direction, and that is why I support it. I also support it on behalf of a parent who came to meet me in my office to tell me about Lyme disease and make me more aware of it.

Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2014 / 6:50 p.m.
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NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this bill this evening. As I also have the great privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Health, I was able to hear the witnesses and experts discuss the bill when it was referred to the committee and to learn about the improvements that we could make to strengthen it. I also saw that the government had a certain agenda.

At the Standing Committee on Health, we essentially sat down together around the table and agreed that this bill should go forward. Obviously, it cannot necessarily be perfect for everyone, although the NDP will support it. There is a consensus in the Parliament of Canada in 2014 that this bill on Lyme disease is to be taken more seriously.

As many NDP colleagues have mentioned, the tick that carries Lyme disease has been moving northward for many years as a result of global warming. Now we must find ways to protect the people living in southern Canada, and increasingly those further north as well, from this tick, which can have a disastrous impact on people’s lives.

Before discussing the more technical aspect of the subject, I feel that the people who are listening to us at home may not know what Lyme disease is. We talk about a tick, an insect. They may not understand.

My speech this evening will focus essentially on what Lyme disease is and what the tick is. Then I will talk about ways to prevent the disease. I will also talk about my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean.

I got lucky last week. An excellent journalist from my hometown, Patricia Rainville, published a very good article on Lyme disease in the local newspaper, Le Quotidien. It will be a pleasure for me to read certain interesting excerpts from it.

The disease was discovered in 1977 in the U.S. town of Lyme, Connecticut, where several children were suffering from arthritis. The disease then gradually spread northward. Cases have been recorded in Quebec since 2011, but numbers have skyrocketed since 2013.

Therefore, we can see that the problem will only get worse for the people of Quebec and of Canada. That is why this is the ideal opportunity for the Parliament of Canada to move forward with a bill on the subject.

Once the tick attaches itself to the skin, it can stay there for approximately 72 hours if it is not detected. Seventy-two hours is the length of time it needs to feed, and during that period it can transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

A person bitten by a tick carrying the bacterium that causes Lyme disease will develop in the first few weeks a red rash more than 5 cm in diameter around the site of the bite. At that point, the disease can easily be treated with antibiotics. If nothing is done in the following weeks, however, the individual may suffer paralysis, swelling of the limbs, heart palpitations, headaches and even meningitis.

Clearly, the tick that carries Lyme disease can have a serious impact on human health. This is why people ideally should try to avoid being bitten by this tick, which could transmit the disease. To prevent infection, it is recommended that people apply mosquito repellent and wear long clothing and closed footwear before entering high-risk areas. Taking a shower and examining one’s body in the two or three hours following exposure is another excellent suggestion.

This is important, particularly since the tick is more likely to be found in wooded areas. Hunters are obviously at risk when they spend long hours in the woods, which is why many hunters have caught Lyme disease.

Ticks infected with Lyme disease have not yet settled in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, which is a good thing for us. Only one case was reported in the hospitals back home last year, but the disease had not been contracted in my region, thank God. There were no cases of Lyme disease in Quebec five years ago, but the blacklegged tick has come a long way since then.

Today, there are a number of cases of infection in Montérégie. Entomologist Robert Loiselle, whom I greatly admire and know personally, is urging the public to be on the lookout:

I have been talking about this for 15 years. The blacklegged tick was well established in the northern United States, but for the past few years we have been seeing more and more of them in southern Quebec, in Montérégie for example. Tourists who come to enjoy nature have to be extra careful and check themselves after a hike or a walk.

At the Agence régionale de la santé et des services sociaux, spokesperson Éric Émond confirmed that a case of Lyme disease had been reported at a hospital in Lac-Saint-Jean last summer, but the bacteria was not contracted here. This year, as I said, no cases have been reported. Obviously, we never know what will happen if we are not careful.

The Quebec ministry of health and social services is asking the public to be careful. Dr. Danielle Auger, director of public health said:

For the past few years in Quebec, we have observed an increase in the number of ticks carrying the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease. The disease can be contracted from a tick bite during activities in wooded areas, including in higher risk areas in southern Quebec, such as the northern eastern townships, southwestern Mauricie-et-Centre-du-Québec and especially Montérégie, where the majority of cases contracted in Quebec have been reported to date.

According to entomologist Robert Loiselle, it is highly likely that the blacklegged tick could end up in my region:

I recently caught a tick, but upon analysis, it was not carrying Lyme disease. Nevertheless, ticks follow the deer populations. It is therefore not outside the realm of possibility that ticks will show up one day.

I do not want to sound overly dramatic, but even my region, in northeastern Quebec, is not safe from Lyme disease. This is a growing problem, but it is also a national problem. Earlier my colleagues from British Columbia and Nova Scotia discussed the situation in their part of the country. People and health authorities are on alert and are turning to the federal government, as are patients and their families, in the hope that it will do something.

That is truly unfortunate because the Conservative government has put nothing forward for years. The NDP has been proactive in this matter since 2008. NDP member Judy Wasylycia-Leis strongly recommended in 2008 that the minister of health implement a national strategy for the diagnosis, treatment and better monitoring of Lyme disease. Yes, the NDP has been talking about it and making it a priority since 2008. The Conservative government, on the other hand, has been dragging its feet for years. That is why I am grateful that my colleague has introduced this bill. At last we can move forward in 2014.

The official opposition health critic has always recommended that such a strategy be adopted, and she supported Bill C-442 when it was introduced. That is an indication of the NDP's good faith.

The requested strategy should have been adopted long ago. Canadians deserve proper tests and care. The onus is on the federal government to improve monitoring of Lyme disease and to establish best practices so that the provinces can understand the disease and adopt more effective evidence-based measures.

Over the years, the Conservatives have taken no initiatives on important health issues such as the coordination of services provided for chronic and complex health problems and funding for innovative screening and treatment measures. The matter before us is one in which the federal government should show leadership in health care and strive to better protect Canadians.

Many patients in Canada report problems with screening and treatment for Lyme disease. The various blood tests conducted to detect the disease often yield inaccurate results. Patients who have Lyme disease may not be diagnosed with it or may be incorrectly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or chronic fatigue syndrome. Consequently they do not receive necessary care and, as a result, their symptoms worsen. It is important that we move forward to help these patients.

Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2014 / 7 p.m.
See context

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians need a national strategy on Lyme disease to ensure that testing and treatment options in Canada are improved.

The New Democratic Party of Canada supports Bill C-442 and congratulates the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands on her initiative.

This legislation lays out a concise plan for educating Canadians about disease risks and most important, provides a better quality of life for Lyme disease sufferers.

Lyme disease is caused by contact with the bacterium spread by tick bites. Ticks are small parasites that feed on the blood of animals and humans, and they pass on Lyme disease when they feed on mice, squirrels, birds, or other animals that carry the bacterium, and then bite humans. Ticks are more common during the warmer months from spring through to late autumn. Canadians who live in areas with mild winter temperatures and minimal snowfall have an increased risk of coming into contact with ticks.

Climate change is one of the factors causing more regions to be at risk, with warmer weather increasing tick distribution across many parts of Canada.

Bill C-442 is especially important to British Columbian coastal communities, as Lyme disease is currently more of a concern on Canada's west coast due to its mild temperatures.

Lyme disease symptoms can include a circular rash around the bite, fatigue, fever, headache, weakness, abnormal heartbeat, muscle and joint pain, and central and peripheral nervous system disorders. Symptoms get progressively worse if the disease is left untreated, which it is for many Canadians. Chronic Lyme can develop if the disease is left untreated and can have lasting effects for months or years afterwards, and according to Health Canada, can result in recurring arthritis and neurological problems.

In 2008, NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis urged the health minister to implement a national strategy to diagnose, treat, and create better surveillance of Lyme disease. I am proud of the member for Vancouver East, our official opposition health critic, who has continued to call for a national Lyme disease strategy since that time and seconded Bill C-442 when it was introduced by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

This strategy is long overdue. Canadians deserve to get adequate testing and treatment for this disease. The federal government is responsible for improving the surveillance of Lyme disease as well as establishing best practices so that the provinces can understand the disease and adopt evidence-based measures that improve outcomes.

The bottom line is that receiving early and appropriate treatment would improve the quality of life for thousands of Canadians and their families. Early treatment of Lyme disease reduces the severity and duration of illness. More accurate testing and earlier treatment of Lyme disease would reduce the health care costs associated with a lengthy illness and more severe side effects, particularly for women who suffer long-lasting side effects when their Lyme disease goes untreated.

The New Democrats have been working with Canadians in support of a national strategy on Lyme disease for years now. Now is the time for the federal government to adopt such a strategy to protect the health and safety of Canadians in the face of this rapidly spreading disease.

I urge all members to support the bill.

Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act
Private Members' Business

June 11th, 2014 / 7 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am deeply indebted to all members on all sides of the House. I will not need my five minutes, as I do not plan on making a long statement.

I want to close at this third reading of Bill C-442 by turning our attention to the people who are suffering with Lyme disease. I want to thank Jim Wilson and the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, Brenda Sterling in Nova Scotia, who first made me aware of the disease through her own suffering, and my dear friends and the family of Fraser Smith. I particularly want to thank Nicole Bottles for her amazing advocacy, struggling herself against the debilitating effects of the disease.

I want to thank members on all sides of the House. We have done something good today for people who need our help.