House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was illness.

Topics

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her remarks and the obvious sensitivity that she shows on the issue.

What perhaps struck me most about her speech today was the reference to the over-representation of first nations, Inuit and Métis young people in suicide statistics. We know that suicide is the third leading cause of death among 29- to 49-year-olds generally and the second leading cause of death for the 10- to 24-year-old age group in the general population, but that the suicide rate for aboriginal youth is four to six times higher than that of non-aboriginal people.

Surely that should be a statistic that stops everyone dead in their tracks. Could there be a more revealing social indicator than the despair that must strike first nations, Inuit and Métis youth to take their own lives at such an alarming rate?

Other than people taking their lives due to mental illness, can she elaborate on the social conditions that may lead to the despair that young people feel in first nations, Inuit and Métis communities?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is quite right in pointing out that there are many circumstances that contribute to why a young person in the north feels hopeless and sees no other way than to end his or her life.

What I would like to focus on is a project that the government has been funding. In February 2011, the government announced $2.4 million over five years for the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre project in Iqaluit, Nunavut, which will help address the needs identified by northerners to ensure good mental and physical health for aboriginal children and youth in their communities.

The project will provide direct support to a number of Nunavut communities by helping to promote positive mental health among children and youth. It will also provide community-based family health education and support, which I believe will go a long way toward addressing those many factors that contribute to suicide being at such a high rate in the north.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the most telling statistics is the one which references the clock: every 24 hours 10 Canadians are committing suicide on average. I believe that as a society we can do so much better.

Earlier today I made reference to the fact that many different stakeholders want to see involvement in this issue, in developing that national strategy. Most people acknowledge the need for that national strategy. It is encouraging to hear members from all political parties indicate how they feel regarding such a serious issue. In many ways it affects us all.

In attempting to deal with this issue, and I have heard it now for many years, does the member feel that we need to bring it into some sort of timeframe to help bring the stakeholders together? Is there something that can be done on that front?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada recognizes that suicide among aboriginal young people is an urgent matter. We also recognize that a federal strategy for suicide prevention in the north would require the full co-operation of the territorial governments since most activities would unfold within their jurisdictions.

While we recognize this is urgent, I want to highlight that in budget 2010 the government invested $75 million to extend the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy to 2015. That is a $10 million increase over previous investments.

As I mentioned in my earlier comments, Health Canada has provided nearly $15 million in the last year to the government of Nunavut, $12 million to the government of the Northwest Territories and $1.9 million to the Yukon first nations to support health promotion activities in the territories and to maintain and improve the well-being of the people, which includes mental health. This is bringing together organizations and those governments to address the issue of suicide in the north.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I stand in the House today to describe the concrete actions the government is taking to help aboriginal communities and families address the tragic issue of youth suicide. It is an important topic that we have been discussing and one to which members from all sides of the House have been sensitive.

Aboriginal populations in Canada are facing many unique challenges. That is why our government is not using a one-size-fits-all approach and is funding a variety of programs and services that target their unique needs.

As members of the House know too well many first nations, their families and communities face widespread social and economic challenges, poor health outcomes and, perhaps most tragically, the loss of children and youth to suicide.

Aboriginal people continue to have significantly poorer health outcomes than other Canadians. For example, heart disease and diabetes rates among aboriginal people are considerably higher than the rates among the non-aboriginal population. Tuberculosis rates among the Inuit have recently been reported as being 186 times higher than the rate among Canadian born non-aboriginal people.

Possibly the most distressing are the aboriginal suicide rates, which are among the highest in the world. The rate among first nations is 4.3 times higher than the national average. Inuit regions show a rate more than 11 times higher. It is significant.

Unlike suicide rates for non-aboriginal people, rates of aboriginal suicide are highest among the youth. Injury and suicide are the leading causes of death for aboriginal youth. The well-being of this demographic group is particularly pressing considering that aboriginal youth under 20 years of age account for over 40% of the aboriginal population and this figure is rising. The health of these youth literally represents the future health of aboriginal communities. Helping aboriginal young people and preventing aboriginal youth suicide is and must continue to be a public priority.

Our government is taking action on aboriginal youth suicide. In the House last year, the hon. Minister of Finance tabled a budget that included nearly $1 billion in investments for aboriginal people. This included $285 million for aboriginal health programs and $75 million to extend the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy until 2015.

The national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy exists in order to ensure that aboriginal families and communities have access to critical supports in order to prevent and respond to the most tragic of problems.

This strategy was developed in close partnership with first nations and Inuit people. It is based on a global review of evidence-based suicide prevention approaches. Health Canada worked not only with key first nations and Inuit national and regional organizations, but directly with aboriginal youth in order to ensure this important investment was relevant and would target those who would need it most.

The strategy incorporates the best available evidence with respect to youth suicide prevention.

Experience and research show that culturally-based services are important for positive health outcomes among first nations and Inuit communities, their families and for individuals. Research has also shown a strong link between cultural identity and youth suicide prevention.

The strategy recognizes that the greatest impact on youth suicide prevention comes from community-driven programming developed according to the unique needs and strengths of the people, and they have many strengths.

The national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy focuses on building coping and life skills, and other known factors that can protect youth against suicide, including family and social supports, cultural ties, youth leadership and engagement, and school performance.

The strategy has four main elements.

First, it focuses on primary prevention. These are activities which improve overall mental health at the community level. These activities promote an increased awareness of suicide risk and protective factors within families and communities.

Second, the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy supports first nations and Inuit communities that are most vulnerable to suicide.

Community-based activities are known to have the greatest impact on youth and on youth suicide prevention. The evidence indicates that these approaches produce longer term solutions that move at-risk communities toward better mental health and wellness. Based on this evidence, the strategy supports over 150 community-based prevention projects that target youth who are at an elevated risk of suicide.

The results of these projects are positive. For example, the canoe journey project is yielding tremendous results in several coastal communities in British Columbia. It brings together youth and elders and engages the whole community in traditional activities while building critical life skills and resilience. Participants have described this project as a life-changing experience.

Third, the strategy supports communities by strengthening crisis response capacity in the event of a suicide-related crisis. In many instances this includes partnering with provinces, territories and other sectors to address community needs.

The fourth component of the strategy is the development of new knowledge. This includes work with communities and researchers to build effective approaches to prevent youth suicide. Its partners have included the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the University of Victoria and McGill University. Some of this research is truly groundbreaking and is helping to inform important programs across the country.

Through all of this work the strategy works closely with national aboriginal organizations, including the Assembly of First Nations and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

I am pleased to report that the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy is demonstrating measurable success. Communities are reporting that the youth participating in suicide prevention projects demonstrate an increased sense of hope and optimism as well as more pride, discipline and confidence.

We know that people with mental illness issues are often stigmatized and there can be a great reluctance to discuss suicide. It is encouraging to note that the strategy has led to an increase in the number of first nations and Inuit community members who are willing to discuss the issue of suicide.

That is not all. Projects funded through the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy are leading to improved school attendance and performance, the development of safe and supportive community environments, as well as fostering in youth a sense of having skills and being able to contribute to society.

The strategy has also increased the effectiveness of community mental health workers. For example, suicide prevention training funded through the strategy has contiributed to an increased confidence among community workers who intervene during a crisis and and a decrease in feelings of powerlessness.

As a result of this strategy, front-line workers are better prepared to detect, prevent and intervene in the event of a suicide crisis. Following training, 84% of the workers said they were more attentive to the signs of suicide.

In addition to the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy, our government continues to invest in important long-standing programs that are critical to the long term well-being and health of first nations and Inuit. Due to the success of these initiatives, Canada is considered by many to be a world leader in terms of its innovative and proven aboriginal programs.

For example, the national youth solvent abuse program has been recognized internationally as an effective and holisitic interdisciplinary treatment program for youth.

Another successful program in many aboriginal communities is the national native alcohol and drug abuse program. It is an excellent example of a community-based and community-determined program. It is also a leader in incorporating community, cultural and holistic approaches into prevention and treatment programming. Building on the strengths of this program, we are investing $30.5 million in addiction services for first nations and Inuit as part of the national anti-drug strategy.

Health Canada is working in close partnership with the National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation and many other foundations to help address this serious problem.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Winnipeg for her very sensitive remarks regarding this compelling social crisis that we have, and I do not use the word “crisis” lightly because perhaps it is our greatest failure. The statistics that she outlined and that others have spoken to serve as our greatest social failure because there could be no more revealing or telling social indicator than the depth of despair it must take for a young person to take his or her own life. In many of these cases, mental illness is not the driving issue, especially in the first nation and Inuit communities where the prevalence is so high.

Next to the overrepresentation of first nations people in our prisons, the overrepresentation of aboriginal Métis and Inuit people in these suicide statistics should stop people dead in their tracks. Why do we tolerate numbers like this? There seems to be a wilful blindness, or maybe people put it on the too-hard-to-do pile because the statistics are so appalling and the problem is so complex that there has been an unwillingness for politicians to go there.

I would ask her to expand further on the points she made regarding these alarming statistics, just for the enlightenment of the viewing public who might be tuning in today.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that very insightful question because it is an extremely sensitive issue. Very alarming statistics are coming out, which is why the government has put forth the national youth suicide strategy program.

When the member opposite talked about different aspects of why this happens, we are finding out the cultural identity and all the different issues where we need to have community-based programs. Our government has implemented in 150 communities a national youth suicide prevention strategy to address the down to earth, everyday things that youth face. This is helpful. It makes them feel worthwhile and it makes them feel that they have a lot to contribute.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, some very compelling statistics have been shared in today's debate, but there have been some good stories as well. There have been some examples shared with the House as to some of the good work going on and where progress is being made.

What is becoming obvious is that there is no real best practices being expressed nationally. What we are seeing is that some provinces are doing better than other provinces, in this case. It should not depend on our area code as to the level of service we get or the opportunities that are presented to us.

Does she see the merit in trying to knit together a national strategy so that all Canadians have the same availability to programs and services when it comes to suicide and depression?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, again, I am gratified by the member's concern and thoughtful consideration to this project. I am glad that we are talking about this very important issue in the House of Commons today because this is where the nation is represented from coast to coast to coast, where members of Parliament come together and discuss the issues that are foremost in our minds in Canada.

Youth suicide in aboriginal and Inuit communities is certainly one that our government is addressing in large measure with this aboriginal strategy for suicide prevention, a strategy that has actually been implemented in 150 communities. Those are 150 communities that are learning that there are ways to get past this depression and this despair.

Our government has really made great strides in that, and there is more to be done in the future.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Charlottetown.

When I was in grade 11 at Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, I was the coach of the grade 10 trivia team. Some members were young geniuses, but not really nerds in the traditional sense of the word, no more than any of the other students. They were well-adjusted, sharp, nice, good kids. I worked with them for the whole year. A year later, one of these young people, who had been full of life and potential, was dead. He had committed suicide. This was my first experience with this sad reality. To this day, I remember my reaction, my questions, my shock and confusion. Why? I asked myself what I had not seen, what we had not noticed, what his friends, peers, teachers and family had not seen. And, above all, what could we have done, what could I have said to him, how could I have helped him with his problems? We did not know and he did not talk about them.

Today, we find ourselves in a place where we can do something, where we can act to prevent all these tragedies that are happening to families and individuals every year. That is why I am so proud of our motion that calls for a national suicide prevention strategy, because, despite our individual experiences, suicide is not just a personal tragedy, but also a serious public health issue and a priority that must be included in our political discussions.

As critic for youth, post-secondary education and amateur sport, this issue strikes a chord with me. In Canada, close to 4,000 people commit suicide each year, some of them young people between the ages of 15 and 24. In this age group, suicide is the second leading cause of death and accounts for over 20% of deaths. These numbers rise considerably among the most vulnerable youth. Many of our students fall within this age group. In 2009, a survey conducted on six campuses in Ontario indicated that over 50% of students felt hopeless, one in three was depressed and could not function, and almost 10% had thought about suicide in the past 12 months. Suicide affects all of us. It is not just a health issue. It is a social issue in terms of both its causes and its solutions.

Mental illness, abuse, the loss of a loved one at a young age, a family history of suicide and difficult peer relationships are all factors that can make a person vulnerable to suicide.

Looking at the numbers, we know that every dollar invested in mental health care and addiction treatment saves our health care system and our social productivity $7 to $30. Although there are no Canadian statistics on the direct and indirect costs of suicide, a series of reports estimates that suicides and suicide attempts cost around $15 billion a year. That is a lot of money, but the human cost of suicide is even higher, particularly in terms of the emotional and psychological effects on the friends and families of suicide victims.

The problem is that Canada is worse off than other industrialized countries. We have the third-highest rate among these countries. What is worse is that among our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual and intersexual youth, the suicide rate is more than seven times higher than in the heterosexual community.

That is why I provide so much support to groups like Gay Line, which provides advice, but also a listening ear to our young people. They are an excellent suicide prevention tool. That is also why a number of us participated in the “It Gets Better” project to show our young people that even though they feel different, they are an important part of our society and our lives. But we need to do more.

The situation is also dire among our first nations. In recent decades, the number of young aboriginals committing suicide has steadily increased.

It has come to the point where the aboriginal youth suicide rate is seven times higher than the non-aboriginal youth rate.

In July 2001 a Suicide Prevention Advisory Group was jointly established by the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and former health minister Allan Rock. The purpose of this advisory group was to review the existing research and formulate a series of practical, doable recommendations to help stem the tide of youth suicides occurring in first nations communities across Canada.

The report recommends, for one, that Health Canada initiate and support the creation of a comprehensive national first nations mental health strategy—including mandate, policies, and programs—that integrates holistic approaches to suicides, psychiatric disorders and other critical mental, physical, emotional and spiritual problems in first nations communities. But we need to do more.

Health Canada says that the role of the Canadian government is to help Canadians maintain and improve their mental health, including preventing suicidal behaviour. Within its jurisdiction, the government works to develop and disseminate knowledge on mental health promotion and mental illness prevention; provide leadership and governance; develop social marketing campaigns; and conduct surveillance on health trends in population.

In 2007, the federal government provided funding to establish and support the Mental Health Commission of Canada to lead the development of a national mental health strategy. And it is great that the Canadian government is providing monitoring and information, and I am very pleased that it decided to invest in the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It is a major step in the right direction, but we need to do more.

I often have the opportunity to rise in this House to talk about my father's values and politics. I have also had the opportunity to stand up and talk about how proud I am of my grandfather. He was a soldier who, at the same time, served in the House of Commons. I am also very pleased and very proud to be able to rise today to talk about my mother. Among other things, she may be the only woman in Canada to have had a father, a husband and a son elected to the House of Commons. My mother has suffered from depression and bipolar disorder her entire life. She has gone through some extremely tough times and we, as her family members who love her so, have gone through these tough times with her. Nonetheless, with help, support and much love, she has pulled through and now she is doing extraordinary work across the country to destigmatize mental illness and to remind people and governments that we can do a lot to prevent and heal, and even live very productive lives, despite the mental health challenges.

Make no mistake, suicide is largely linked to victims suffering from mental illness. In fact, some form of mental illness is diagnosed in 90% of suicide victims. A Health Canada report on suicide and prevention shows that almost everyone who kills themselves suffers from a form of mental illness such as severe depression, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder. Often they are also drug addicts or alcoholics. We can help them by taking clear and concrete measures.

We must take action because we can. We need to have a national suicide strategy to reach people in need in every sector of our society. We must put our efforts into improving life for our citizens. That is what we on this side of the House sincerely believe in and we hope the government will act accordingly.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his very moving words, especially his vulnerability in sharing his family's journey.

There have been a number of examples shared today during this discussion of good work that is being done. I mentioned earlier Dave Batters' family, which is doing exceptional work and being open about its struggle. If people go on YouTube and search for Dave Batters, they will find a good 30-second promotion to help people be more aware of this issue.

In my own experience, I have worked with a group called Your Life Counts. It is doing good work in terms of an online presence and being available to personally speak with those who contact it. In my riding, the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council does good work. It has a fundraiser golf tournament every year that raises awareness and funds for research.

I have two questions for my colleague. The first is, could he share an example or two from his local area? The more examples we hear of good community work being done will enhance the need for us to see a national leadership role as important. The second is, does he agree that if such a program is initiated, the after care of those who have dealt with suicide is as important as the prevention and intervention work we are talking about today?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I would also like to commend the excellent work he is doing with his private member's bill on this issue and thank him for all his hard work in this area.

I am honoured to say that my riding has an organization called Les Déprimés Anonymes, or Depression Anonymous. Representatives from that organization came to see me a few weeks ago to talk about the challenges they face and the resources they lack in addressing this serious issue, which affects so many people in my community, like all communities across Canada. They want to have more than just a call centre. They want to raise awareness and bring people together so they can help one another. Simply calling someone for help is not always enough. People need to feel they are part of a community. For every organization in Papineau like Les Déprimés Anonymes, there are many across the country that would benefit from and be strengthened by a national strategy.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his excellent speech.

Earlier today, our leader, the hon. member for Toronto Centre, talked about the statistics that show a drop in the youth suicide rate in Quebec. I imagine that Quebec must have some best practices that we could talk about here. Would my hon. colleague agree that these kinds of best practices should be integrated into a national strategy?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for raising the issue of how this is being addressed in Quebec.

We are very proud of what we are accomplishing in Quebec with regard to suicide prevention and mental health. There is still a lot of work to be done but, as with the focus we put on the rehabilitation of criminals rather than on repression, Quebec is often somewhat on the leading edge with what it is doing. I heard a few hon. members fretting about the fact that the federal government is concerning itself with health, which is an area of provincial jurisdiction. However, I would like to reassure all the members of the House that I know that Quebec will be very happy to see the other provinces and the federal government consider this issue, which is very important to us, and to work together to find solutions and put an end to suicide in Canada.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention Strategy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to participate in this debate on the motion proposed by our leader, the hon. member for Toronto Centre.

I would like to read the motion again:

That the House agree that suicide is more than a personal tragedy, but is also a serious public health issue and public policy priority; and, further, that the House urge the government to work cooperatively with the provinces, territories, representative organizations from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, and other stakeholders to establish and fund a National Suicide Prevention Strategy, which among other measures would promote a comprehensive and evidence-driven approach to deal with this terrible loss of life.

We will spend the day speaking about suicide prevention, but the challenge will be to continue to speak up tomorrow, the next day and beyond. Why? It is because suicide is a terrible thing. It ends a life. It is permanent. It is sad. It is final and it impacts families and our communities. It is also a challenge for each of us here to reflect upon what we can do as legislators, as parliamentarians, to develop programs and strategies to prevent these tragedies. We all must do our part to tear away the taboo associated with talking about mental health issues, depression and suicide.

Studies show that suicide is often connected to mental illness and mood disorders. Among youth, it is often stress, anxiety and bullying. Alcohol and substance abuse are also often associated with suicide as well as the loss of a parent or caregiver in early childhood, the loss or breakup of a relationship, and poverty. It is a terrible stain on our country, a country as wealthy as Canada, to find itself in a situation where far too often people take their lives as a result of financial pressures. Suicide is sometimes related to physical, sexual and mental abuse, isolation and loneliness.

Many of us know the feeling of the loss of a loved one, whether as a result of an accident, a terrible disease like cancer, or the loss of a parent or grandparent through old age. We have all experienced these losses. However, there is something deeply and profoundly sad to hear of someone who believes they have no future, suffers depression, or perhaps just wanting to end the pain and decides to end his or her own life.

I am reminded of an incident that happened just two weeks ago, and members will know this as well. It is a story of a beautiful young man with a great future ahead of him. He was a young man who had many talents and abilities. His parents said he was the most loving person in the world. He killed himself at the age of 14. He had his whole life ahead of him. We later discovered the reason for this terrible tragedy was rampant bullying because of his sexuality.

This really does cause the mind and heart to pause and think that in this day and age some young people feel that the only option available to them for escape from their tormentors and pain is to take their own life. This is but one example.

The suicide rate for Canadian youth is the third highest in the industrial world. Suicide is the leading cause of death in men aged 25 to 29 and 40 to 44, as well as women in their early 30s. Suicide rates among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex and two-spirited youth is seven times the rate of heterosexual youth. It is critically important that all of us here in this House condemn any and all forms of homophobia in Canada. It is simply unacceptable.

I want to take a few moments to return to the author of this motion, the hon. member for Toronto Centre and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

For the many who suffer silently, they often experience feelings of shame and the idea that their feelings are somehow not normal. There is a perception that being a leader means always being tough, that one must exhibit strength and show no signs of weakness or vulnerability. We often hear that a leader is someone who must have pronounced skills and abilities, someone who exhibits great communication and speaking abilities, and the list goes on.

While all of us would agree that the member for Toronto Centre possesses all of these qualities, his real strength rests in his openness about the depression in his own life and his willingness to say so publicly. By going public about depression, the fact of being vulnerable, for putting a human face to what millions of Canadians have felt and feel today, he and others put a human face to what they may be feeling and perhaps provide a sense that they are not alone, that the spiral of pain and sadness can be overcome. Again, we must confront the taboo of mental illness, and today is a good start.

This is not a controversial motion and I expect members on all sides will support it. It is not a partisan issue; it is a human issue. It is an issue that touches many of us.

I want to focus a bit of my time on veterans and the significant mental health crisis that exists among them. In January 2011 the Department of National Defence and the Department of Veterans Affairs jointly released a study called “Survey on Transition to Civilian Life: Report on Regular Force Veterans”.

Here are a few facts. The suicide rate for those in the armed forces is nearly three times higher than the general population. Of all the males who enrolled in the regular forces after 1972 and were released before 2007, a total of 2,620 have died. Of all those who died, more than 500 died of suicide. That is more than one-quarter of them. Those are alarming statistics.

Here in Canada, suicide is preventable. We can do more to help and provide necessary resources in this fight. We can work with provinces and communities to provide programs and services. Far too often our health services are fragmented, disconnected, incoherent and lacking a national vision. We can do better and we should. At the very least, we should do more for the people the federal government has direct responsibility for: our veterans and our first nations communities.

Today, for me as a new member of Parliament, is an important one. It is issues like this one and the opportunity to speak openly about mental health and suicide that make me proud to be a member of this House.