House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was years.

Topics

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am quite surprised and perplexed that the member for Elmwood—Transcona supports the amendment that would require Correctional Service Canada to notify the families of victims when offenders have decided not to bring a faint hope application.

The practical considerations aside, because he is right, this is 15 years down the road and some of these people may not exist or their whereabouts may not be known. However, the more practical reality is many of them do not want anymore involvement. Many of them, in fact I would suggest most of them, want closure.

Would he not agree that for those families of victims that want no further involvement, this requisite of notification would be counterintuitive for the whole purpose and would re-victimizes them for no apparent purpose?

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think the jury is still out on whether they like it or not. I do not think he has done the absolute ultimate in studies on that point.

However, while he is consulting with the families of victims on this point, maybe he should ask them what they think of his idea to phase in the bill in 15 years. I am sure that will make them happy.

While he is at it, would he please give us the answer as to why the Conservative government, in 1976, started sending—

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I just mentioned to the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona that is irrelevant to the bill before the House at this stage.

There is enough time for one more brief question and comment, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has asked that I perhaps apologize for former Prime Minister Joe Clark. I in fact recognize that Joe Clark was not the prime minister in 1976. It was Pierre Trudeau at that time. However, for what it is worth, if such a change was made by Joe Clark, I disagree with it.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I think we will move on with resuming debate.

The hon. member for Mississauga South.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to the faint hope clause a number of times over the years as it has come forward.

As members know, Bill S-6 is an enactment that would amend the Criminal Code with regard to the right of persons convicted of murder or high treason to be eligible to apply for early parole. It would also amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act.

We are specifically dealing with three report stage motions. The first one has to do with restoring the short title. The act may be cited as “serious time for the most serious crime act”. The issue of short titles has been a subject matter that has come up with regard to many bills.

At least 20 justice bills have been proposed. Many of them have been recycled a number of times through prorogation and other forms of restart. I think most hon. members who have participated actively in the justice committee and justice issues within the House would admit, very clearly, that instead of 15 to 20 bills, these bills could have been done in three, maybe four bills to handle them all.

The reason they are not being done quickly is because the government really has no intention of passing a lot of the bills. It has the intention to continue to recycle bills and to continue to use them to support a political slogan. The political slogan is it is “getting tough on crime”. It will not pass any bills to do that, but it wants Canadians to know it has a lot of bills and it should prove to them that there is intent to be tough on crime.

Getting tough on crime means the Conservatives better have an agenda and they need to have deliverables. There have not been deliverables. Probably the most contentious thing they are prepared to deal with is the short title of a bill, which is basically intended to give the courts an efficient way to refer to specific law in Canada without having to read an extensive title, which may be more comprehensive and is necessary with regard to a bill.

The short title is sometimes appropriate. In the government's case, the short title is usually longer than the long title and it will continue to play with that, with slogans and the like.

The bill is a very good example of why the Conservatives do not get it with regard to the whole issue of how we deal with people who commit crime. I took a couple of law courses. I have spent a lot of time observing, listening and learning over the last 17 years about how we deal with criminal justice issues. I have learned a fair bit about the importance of it, and the realms of punishment is part of the equation. That means appropriate sentencing for people who commit wrongdoing.

There is also rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is very important because the vast majority of people who commit crimes will eventually be returned to society. There has to be a rehabilitative component in the criminal justice system to ensure we deal with people who have had problems to try to help them to understand the problems. After rehabilitation and it is time to get out, there is the reintegration part and there has to be supports.

The most important part of the whole situation that government members do not seem to want to talk about is the prevention of crime.

When I became a member of Parliament, one of the first things I wanted was to be on the health committee because there was a health crisis in Canada. I remember Health Canada coming before the committee. It said that it spent 75% of health dollars on fixing problems and only 25% on prevention. Its conclusion was that was not a sustainable system.

I submit, similarly, that simply concentrating on the punishment of people who commit crimes in the absence of a commitment to rehabilitation once people are institutionalized and to ensure they are ready for reintegration into society is important, but the prevention aspect also exists. I cannot think of too many bills that are directly related to crime prevention.

The speeches of the members do not explain the sources or root causes of crime, such as the issues of poverty and family breakdown, addictions and mental health. I spent a lot of time in my career on fetal alcohol syndrome, now called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. We are told that 50% of people in Canada's jails, both federally and provincially, suffer from alcohol-related birth defects or other alcohol-related impacts and rehabilitation is not possible.

In fact, incarceration is not possible for them because there is no rehabilitation for a mental health problem. It is a permanent problem. We need institutions dedicated to helping people learn how to cope with their problems and deal with the wrongs they have committed.

I would much prefer to hear a little more about all the elements of crime prevention, rehabilitation, punishment and reintegration.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Mississauga South will have three minutes left to conclude is his remarks the next time the bill is before the House.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 28 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Alzheimer's Disease
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the motion before the House on Alzheimer's disease. This motion addresses something that all of us in the House have been affected by, through family, loved ones or members of our community.

Everyone in the House acknowledges that the federal government has a role to play when it comes to dealing with Alzheimer's. If we put this in context, this issue is akin to other issues that we have discussed in the House with respect to health care. We have seen an increase in autism, ALS and Alzheimer's in the past 10 or more years.

Our health care system was formalized back in the sixties and into the seventies. The Canada Health Act came into force in the eighties. The things that we have to deal with now were not contemplated back then, particularly the proliferation of Alzheimer's disease.

It is important that this motion put forward by my friend from Edmonton—Leduc be debated in this House. It is also important for us to seize this opportunity to engage on this issue.

Some are calling what we are seeing in Canada with regard to Alzheimer's a grey tsunami. The numbers are fairly significant and they only speak to the proliferation of this disease. The individual stories we have all heard speak to the impact of this disease on families and communities. The numbers are important because we often have to look at statistics when making policy in this place.

Statistics show that one in six women and one in ten men who reach the age of 55 can expect to develop Alzheimer's. Those figures are staggering. A disproportionate number of women are affected by this disease than men. There is certainly a gender difference.

The point is that Alzheimer's affects society. Its doppler effect is hugely significant. This is not just about the one in six women or the one in ten men; it is about the fact that this disease affects individuals, families and communities at large.

A couple of my parent's friends suffered from Alzheimer's. Some of us have family members who suffer from Alzheimer's. What is so drastic about Alzheimer's is that it robs people not only of their ability to take care of themselves but of their ability to function in a coherent manner. It robs them of their ability to recognize people they love and with whom they lived their entire life. As with a friend of mine, Alzheimer's robs people of the ability to recognize their grandchildren or friends. That is profound because it gets to the heart of what makes us human, and that is our individual relationships and our ability to see the world, understand it, feel it and touch it.

The profile of Alzheimer's is different for each person and that is extremely important to understand. Like the autism spectrum, no two cases of Alzheimer's are the same. We are just now learning about how the brain functions. It is very difficult for us to understand what it is like for someone to go through this. We do not know the profile of Alzheimer's disease, like other ailments, so we cannot say that we know how to treat it. Because we do not know a profile, we cannot say that all the diagnoses will be similar and therefore make prescriptions.

Alzheimer's requires a much more human dimension and human capacity to help people; it is similar to areas where we have learned a lot more in education, like autism.

It is important to understand what our role is as Parliament. Alzheimer's was not something that we were aware of when our health care system was being put together. What is needed is a strategy for dealing with people and their families when it comes to Alzheimer's. We need to be able to create stability of care. We need to be able to provide flexibility of care. We need to understand that there are differences in the regions in terms of ability and capacity for people to access care for Alzheimer's.

We need to make sure we are listening to those who have already gone through dealing with Alzheimer's, and that is where the Alzheimer Society is so important. Here we have a civil society capacity that came together to help people who are going through a horrific experience. The Alzheimer Society of Canada, as well as chapters throughout the country, gets it. They understand that there is no one answer, but they understand that there needs to be a comprehension in terms of our care. They believe that we need to provide communications for people to understand that they are not alone, that there is support. They believe there is an important role here for government to be able transform our health care capacity so that people and families who are suffering from Alzheimer's actually are going to be able to get the help they need. What they understand most profoundly is that when people are going through Alzheimer's with their family, it is important that they are not left alone, that they are not isolated and that we, and I mean the royal we, are there to support them.

What does that require? Sometimes it requires very basic things. Sometimes it means that there is going to be sufficient home care, not just for the patients themselves, but also for the people who are caring. What is not understood in this country is the amount of care that is done by families and that people who have to put their careers on hold and put their income aside are not getting the recognition and support. That is something we have to grapple with, not only as we see a proliferation of Alzheimer's but as we see an aging population. These things go together.

When we look at the motion that has been brought forward, when we look at what the possibilities are in terms of dealing with Alzheimer's, we need to make sure that not only is there a role for the federal government and that is support for the Alzheimer Society and the capacity at the community level. We need to make sure, when people and their families are suffering from Alzheimer's, that they indeed are not left alone, that they are not walking the path of dealing with Alzheimer's solo. If we look at the successful models for dealing with Alzheimer's, we will see they all have something similar and that is access to basic services, which is a straightforward health care policy but should be in tandem with the community supports that exist.

What I hope to see from this motion is not just a debate in the House and support of a good intention here but that we also see direct action, that we support at the federal level our communities so those who are suffering from what some call the fog of Alzheimer's will have support to make sure they are not alone and that they are supported and that we do our job here as a Parliament to support them.

Alzheimer's Disease
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, today more than half a million Canadians suffer from Alzheimer's and other related dementias. In fact, it is the single biggest cause of disability among Canadian seniors. It is a disease that takes away more than someone's memory; it takes away a person's identity and independence.

Treating this disease can be physically and emotionally exhausting, even fatal for the caregiver. With an aging population, the incidence of Alzheimer's in Canada is rapidly increasing, and this is a global phenomenon.

At its most recent annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum called Alzheimer's “a medical tsunami waiting to happen”. Here in Canada, experts in the field are calling for a national strategy on Alzheimer's and dementia.

Earlier this year, the Alzheimer Society published a report called: “Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society”. This report is helping to advance our discussion on dementia. It gives us a clearer picture of how this epidemic is affecting Canadians today and how it will affect them over the next 30 years.

For example, the report shows that, as of 2008, 55% of Canadian seniors with dementia were still living in their own homes. In 30 years, this number is expected to increase to 62%. Put another way, Canada must prepare for an additional half a million seniors who will be trying to cope with the effects of dementia while trying to remain in their own homes.

It is true that home care is often the best option for patients, provided they have the home care they need. However, it is not always the case. There are too many patients with dementia who simply cannot remain in their own homes, but they are left in their own homes, not by choice but by the fact that there are inadequate public resources. There are not enough beds or rooms for them in places where they can be taken care of in a humane and responsible way.

The shortfall in 2008 was more than 15,000 beds, but this number is projected to explode to more than 157,000 long-term beds within 30 years. There will be a massive increase in the burden placed on family caregivers from coast to coast to coast. The “Rising Tide” report places the economic cost of Canada's dementia and Alzheimer's epidemic at $15 billion per year. In 30 years, this economic burden is expected to grow to $153 billion a year, which includes $56 billion annually in lost wages for caregivers.

This does not include the significant human cost of the disease, both for patients and caregivers. Many of the caregivers feel absolutely overwhelmed by the terrible effect this disease is having on their loved ones. They are looking to governments for leadership and for help.

There is hope that the situation can change for the better, but it requires action. Canada needs a national strategy on Alzheimer's and dementia. We are one of the few developed countries without a national strategy in place. Important work towards a national strategy is being done by groups and organizations, including the Canadian Dementia Action Network. However, the current federal Minister of Health has refused to meet with them.

Last January when the Conservatives prorogued Parliament, the Liberal Party held a round table on Alzheimer's and dementia. It was co-chaired by our leader. We brought together leading experts, including Scott Dudgeon, the author of the “Rising Tide” report, leaders from civil society organizations, caregivers, patients and others. They discussed the need to support research into better treatments as well as a cure, increased prevention and awareness, enhanced integration and coordination between researchers and front-line support, as well as income security for caregivers.

At the round table, the Liberal leader committed to a national brain strategy to lessen the social and economic impacts of dementia. Our round table on Alzheimer's and dementia played a significant role that led us to the Liberal family care plan, which was released in October.

On a personal note, on November 16, 2009, a little over a year ago, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Mom is 81 years old. She has, during her life, been a successful and hard-working business woman, mother, wife and community leader. The diagnosis for our family has been a difficult one. She has a wonderful doctor, Dr. Catherine Smith, and she has a terrific specialist, Dr. Kenneth Rockwood. The drugs that were prescribed to my mother provided some element of hope in a way because there was a 33% chance that there would be some improvement, a 33% chance that the condition could be stabilized for a period, but then a 33% chance that the drugs would have no impact and her condition would continue to decline.

There is nothing curative today. We can treat symptoms but there is nothing curative. The prognosis for patients with Alzheimer's is always a bad one long term. The condition will continue to worsen. That is why research is important and the research in places like the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation is so critical. The work being done by researchers, like Don Weaver, Dr. Kenneth Rockwood and Dr. Sultan Darvesh, is absolutely essential to finding a cure for Alzheimer's, a cure that may not benefit my mom but may benefit somebody else's mom in the future.

I also want to speak to my own personal reflection on the caregiver issue. My dad, who is 87 years old, is taking care of mom. When I spoke on this issue with my leader, whose mother died of Alzheimer's, he told me that in his case his mother's Alzheimer's actually killed his father before it killed her. That happens a lot. The caregivers actually can die before the patient.

In my dad's case, he had colon cancer in the 1960s, a triple bypass in 1987 and has had prostate cancer for 15 years. He told me a few weeks ago that my mother's Alzheimer's was the toughest thing that he had ever been through. I reflect on that by saying that Canadian families need help. My parents have four children who are trying. My mother is fortunate to have a husband who is doing everything he can to help. Other people, however, need more help from home care support.

Many Canadian families have it far tougher than our family. In fact, I was reading in The Globe and Mail a few weeks ago, which did an excellent series on Alzheimer's, the story of a 26-year-old mother who was taking care of her two little kids while, at the same time. taking care of her 52-year-old father who had early onset Alzheimer's. This sandwich generation that is emerging in Canada where parents of young children taking care of their own parents at the same time will only grow.

We brought forward the Liberal family care plan because it would provide enhanced EI benefits for family caregivers. It would also provide a family care tax benefit, which is very similar to the child care benefit that would benefit disproportionately low and middle income families. Our Liberal family care plan has received support from many organizations, including the Alzheimer's Society and the Victorian Order of Nurses, the VON.

I sense that around this issue of Alzheimer's and dementia, there is multi-partisan support, not just for words in the House in support of Alzheimer's research and caregiving for families, but also for a real national action plan on Alzheimer's and dementia.

I urge the government to take serious action on this issue. It is a crisis that is going to grow with time. We are in this place not just to be looking at the priorities this week politically, but we are in this place to be looking at the challenges and opportunities facing Canada 10 years, 20 years, 30 years out.

Tackling Alzheimer's and dementia needs to be something that Parliament takes seriously. I commend the member for bringing forward this motion but I urge the Conservative government to take action.

Alzheimer's Disease
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Motion No. 574. I would like to commend the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc for bringing forward this motion.

Neurological conditions, such as dementia, can affect many aspects of an individual's life. There can be physical, cognitive and emotional effects, in addition to stigma and social isolation.

Among the more common of these conditions is Alzheimer's, and I am sure we all have friends or family members whose lives have been touched by this disease. Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are devastating and cause memory loss, impaired judgment and reasoning, impaired ability to communicate, and changes in mood and behaviour. Over time persons with this disease become unable to perform the activities of daily living that so many of us can take for granted.

Dementia places a significant burden on families, friends and caregivers. It also places demands on community health and social services, and on long-term care facilities. Alzheimer's disease and related dementias most commonly affect seniors who are also at risk of having other health problems, increasing the complexity of their care, however dementias can also affect younger individuals.

In 1% to 7% of cases, dementias develop well before the age of 65 and can affect individuals as young as 30. As the population ages, the number of people with dementia is expected to increase, including a growing number of people under age 65.

“Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society”, is the final report of an Alzheimer's Society project funded by Health Canada, Pfizer Canada and other private sector sources. It predicts that the incidents of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias in Canada will increase from one new case every five minutes in 2008 to one new case every two minutes in 2038.

Our government recognizes that understanding this complex condition and its impact on individuals, families and communities is necessary in order to be able to develop effective programs and policies that will meet the needs of people with dementia, their families and their caregivers. We are aware of the valuable contribution that informal caregivers make to Canadian society and are taking measures to ensure that our understanding remains current and relevant. In fact, the government has recently launched a three-year external research program to fill important knowledge gaps. As well, in 2012, we will run a national caregiving survey to ensure that the best data is available to understand the challenges that caregivers face and that they have the supports they require to continue in their vital role.

In addition to research, the Government of Canada is committed to helping seniors remain healthy, active and socially engaged. To start with, we have increased funding to $40 million annually for our new horizons for seniors program, which can make a real difference in communities by keeping seniors engaged, living actively and participating in social activities. Every Canadian, regardless of their age or situation, should feel comfortable in and a part of their communities.

It is debates like this that add to the knowledge and awareness of the issues around unpaid caregiving and support for families of persons afflicted with Alzheimer's and dementia. The need to better understand the complexity of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and related dementias has led to Canada's first ever national population study on neurological conditions.

In June 2009, the Minister of Health announced an investment of $15 million over four years toward a study that will look at neurological conditions and their effects on Canadians, filling many current knowledge gaps. This study is led by the Public Health Agency of Canada, working in close collaboration with the neurological health charities of Canada, a collection of 21 charities, including the Alzheimer's Society of Canada, joining forces to improve the quality of life for all persons with chronic brain disorders and their caregivers. Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research are also partners in planning and co-ordinating this important work.

In planning the national study, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Neurological Health Charities Canada have worked closely with the neurological community to identify the community's needs and priority areas for the study.

This included a wide-reaching public consultation with more than 3,000 persons affected by neurological diseases. A plan has been put in place for the four-year study and is currently in its second year of implementation.

Expert advisory groups including researchers and stakeholders are providing advice on each component of the study. A call for proposals was issued and projects have been reviewed. Successful project teams will be invited to present their planned work at the first annual progress meeting in winter 2011.

As part of the study, the Public Health Agency of Canada is working with Statistics Canada to conduct three surveys on neurological conditions. The surveys will focus on the numbers of Canadians living with a neurological condition in Canadian households and in long-term care facilities, as well as the impact of these conditions on individuals and their families.

As many people with dementia are living in long-term care facilities, it will be of great value to understand the number of people in these facilities with dementia, as well as other neurological conditions.

By expanding the Public Health Agency of Canada's Canadian chronic disease surveillance system to include Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, as well as other neurological conditions, the study will leave Canada with the legacy of a timely and ongoing source of national data on the number of new and existing cases of these neurological conditions to inform public health action.

In the final year of the project, an analysis of the future impacts of neurological conditions in terms of numbers of people affected, quality of life, and economic impacts will be produced.

A consensus meeting will be held at the end of the four-year study, in 2013, to bring all the available study findings together. A report on neurological conditions in Canada will be developed to summarize the key findings of the suite of studies.

Over the next three years, the national population study on neurological conditions will gather information about the numbers of people affected by brain conditions in Canada, the impact on individuals and families, health and community service needs, risk factors, and other health conditions that affect people with conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

The outcomes of this study will provide valuable information to guide policy and program planning for people with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, as well as other neurological conditions.

Alzheimer's is a devastating disease and touches far too many Canadian families. I hope that all members of the House will join me in supporting this very important motion.

Alzheimer's Disease
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

There being no other members rising, I will go to the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc for his five minute right of reply.

Alzheimer's Disease
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I introduced this motion in an attempt to have a national discussion in Parliament on this very important issue and I believe that has happened.

I would like to take this opportunity in my wrap-up remarks to expressly thank the people in the chamber who have spoken to this: the hon. members for Etobicoke North, Verchères—Les Patriotes, Halifax, Elmwood—Transcona, Oak Ridges—Markham, Ottawa Centre, Kings—Hants and Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar. As I have said before, I appreciated both the substance and tone of their remarks. It has demonstrated what can happen in Parliament when we focus on a very important issue that touches all Canadians.

I want to again thank the Alzheimer Society of Canada and its excellent study entitled “Rising Tide”, which, does an outstanding job of identifying the challenges of this disease and some very practical solutions on which we should be working.

I also want to thank the Neurological Health Charities Canada. It has called for a brain strategy for Canada, which would be even broader than what we are talking about in the motion. I certainly encourage members to look at that as well. It is very much a partner in the four-year national population health study of neurological conditions.

The reason I brought this forward is this will have such a massive impact beyond what it even has today. In terms of financial cost, it is estimated to rise tenfold, from $15 billion today to nearly $155 billion by 2038. This will have a massive financial impact, but its human impact will be even greater. Members have spoken very personally about mothers, fathers, grandparents and others who, unfortunately, have had this disease. It has had a very real personal impact for my family and friends.

I want to perhaps offer one human aspect to this. My father recently visited a family friend who has had this disease for 20 years and whose wife has cared for him for that time. My father returned and said, “It's like Jim is existing in a mental prison and we just have to do something about it”. As the member for Kings—Hants said, it is at this point not curable but we have to keep searching.

In that vein, I want to thank all the researchers across Canada who have done such excellent work. Even beyond that, we need to recognize the caregivers in long-term care facilities who do so much, especially family members who devote countless hours to their loved ones in these conditions. This is why the focus is on this issue today. This is why I ask all members of Parliament to support the motion to work toward a national strategy for Alzheimer's.

I thank members again for their attention and I encourage them to support this motion.

Alzheimer's Disease
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Alzheimer's Disease
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.