House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

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Divisions at report stage on Bill C-38
Points of Order

June 18th, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it has come to my attention that I have been inaccurately recorded as voting yea in Division No. 325 at page 9478 of Debates and page 1650 of Journals for Wednesday, June 13. If you were to look at the video, you would clearly see that I stood and voted nay to Motion No. 273, along with my government colleagues.

I would ask that the records of the House be changed to reflect that fact.

Divisions at report stage on Bill C-38
Points of Order

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. government House leader for bringing this to our attention. We will certainly look into it and make sure that the record is accurate.

The House resumed from May 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, be read the third time and passed.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Don Valley East has eight minutes left to conclude his remarks.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand this morning to talk about Bill C-300, the federal framework for suicide prevention act.

Suicide is a tragedy that not only affects the person who actually commits suicide but all the people around him or her, the whole community and relatives, et cetera, who are actually involved. The tragedy of suicide is that most people do not understand why.

A close friend of mine woke up one day and went into the washroom only to find his brother hanging there, having committed suicide. The effect of that on him and his family was tremendous. Years later, he remarks that he just does not understand why. Understanding why has been a quest for many people for a very long time.

This bill is very supportive in terms of trying to understand why. The framework allows some investigation and research to be undertaken and pushed forward so that we can better understand what causes these tragedies.

For example, a very famous footballer in England had a successful football career and was a coach in one of the first division leagues. He was seen the night before, partying and enjoying himself. The following day, it was discovered that he had taken his life. Nobody really understands why people feel this despair and that they have to take their own lives, ending it like that. He was a successful, wealthy man.

Suicide affects people from the entire spectrum of life, from the very rich to the poor and everybody in between. Understanding suicide in this country can help. We have had many tragedies of suicide among aboriginal people, particularly among youth, in the prime of their lives, who take their own lives. There must be some reason for that.

To understand that reason has to be a quest that we as a Parliament can undertake. The question is, “Why are these tragedies happening?” This bill puts forward a framework whereby research can be done, as well as follow-up with the victims and the communities around them, to try to understand and prevent some of these tragedies that are happening.

I ask all members on all party sides to support this bill.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak, today, to what no one can doubt to be an incredibly important and urgent issue: the need for a pan-Canadian suicide prevention strategy.

The House of Commons demonstrated its commitment to developing a national strategy in October of last year. The hon. member for Toronto Centre, the interim leader of the Liberal Party, introduced an important and powerful motion passed by this House almost unanimously when we agreed that suicide is more than a personal tragedy; it is also a serious public health issue and public policy priority. As a government and as national representatives, we must work with our counterparts in the provinces and territories and with representatives from non-governmental organizations, first nations, Inuit and Métis people, to establish and fund a comprehensive, evidence-driven national suicide prevention strategy.

I was proud to stand along with nearly every other member in this House to support that motion.

This issue with other mental health and end-of-life concerns has been forefront in my mind for more than two years, both here and as a member of the all-party parliamentary palliative and compassionate care committee, which I helped form with Bill C-300 sponsor, the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar and the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis.

What brought us together goes back to our initial reactions to a private member's bill dealing with end-of-life issues. At that time I felt, and still feel, that if people are given a reason to live, feel their lives are relevant and significant and truly do not feel that they are a burden on society and are able to live pain-free, they just might be less inclined to turn to more desperate measures as a relief from the emotional, mental or physical pain from which they suffer.

Over the course of our hearings, we travelled widely and Canadians from across the country came to Ottawa, at their own expense, to share their stories and experiences with us. These were men and women, parents, siblings and families who were directly affected by mental health issues and suicide, as well as experts who deal with mental health and suicide prevention daily.

Our committee ultimately concluded and recommended that the federal government establish a suicide prevention secretariat and that it provide the secretariat with adequate funding so that it might conduct and support research and act as a conduit between the provincial and municipal governments and community stakeholders to accomplish these goals.

The result of this federally directed collaboration would be the development and implementation of a national suicide prevention strategy, similar to the one we are discussing today. By working together, the various levels of government and stakeholders could develop and implement a program with nationally recognized and accepted standards for the training of suicide intervention personnel. By providing a nationally directed body to coordinate with other levels of government and groups, research and information could be more easily shared instead of being isolated in a series of silos across the country.

More important, it would enable the development of a national public awareness program on suicide and suicide prevention, as well as facilitate social media around reducing the stigma associated with suicide and mental health issues.

We have all heard various notable figures speak out and tell marginalized youth that it gets better; an important and valuable lesson that too many Canadians do not hear in time. However, our efforts to reach youth and others in need more effectively must be better coordinated across the country.

The facts behind suicide are staggering. Ten Canadians take their own life every day. By the time we wrap up here tonight, 10 more Canadians will have committed suicide because they are struggling with pain and hopelessness, depression and desperation. By the end of today, 10 more Canadian families will be devastated by the loss of a loved one. For every Canadian who commits suicide, there are 100 who attempt to kill or deliberately harm themselves. That is 1,000 Canadians a day, hundreds of thousands a year. Many of those Canadians will be men aged 25 to 29 or 40 to 44, or women aged 30 to 34. Suicide is the leading cause of death in those age groups. It is the second leading cause for young men and women between 10 and 24 years old. It may be one of our veterans, where the suicide rate is nearly three times higher than in the general population.

Suicide rates among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, intersexed and two-spirited youth is seven times the rate of heterosexual youth. The leading cause of death for aboriginal males aged 10 to 19 is suicide and the rate for Inuit youth is among the highest in the world, at 11 times higher than the national average. Yet, in the face of these staggering statistics, and for not one good reason, we remain hostage to our inability to appropriately deal with the crisis, which affects us from coast to coast to coast. We are one of two countries in the G8 without a national suicide prevention strategy.

We also know that suicide intervention works. Countless lives are saved every year through intervention. We know that so much more can be done and so many more can be saved with the appropriate public funding of research and a national direction to guide the response in each of our provinces. Many organizations have called for a national suicide prevention strategy. In October 2004, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, known as CASP, issued the first edition of the CASP blueprint for a Canadian national suicide prevention strategy, a document that was later revised in 2009. The CASP blueprint called for an awareness and understanding of suicide, so that we might all understand this tragedy better, and so that fewer Canadian families would be needlessly victimized. It called for prevention and intervention that not only features community-based programs which address the specific needs of at-risk sections of our population, but that can be implemented more broadly. In order to adequately address these needs, the call for funding and support, as well as a more coherent approach to the gathering of information, must be answered.

A month ago, the Mental Health Commission of Canada reported on its mental health strategy for Canada, once again calling for a national suicide prevention strategy. It stated, “Despite the fact that pan-Canadian initiatives could help all jurisdictions to improve mental health outcomes, planning documents that address these matters from the perspective of the country as a whole are rare.”

The testimony is voluminous, the statistics are clear. Suicide is so much more than a personal and sudden decision made in a time of great pain, angst or isolation. It is a terrible scourge that affects nearly every family across the country.

In closing, all of us here want to see this national tragedy end, and we have yet another opportunity with this step forward. We came together in October to pass a motion calling for a national strategy for suicide prevention. We came together as members of an all-party committee to advocate a national strategy for suicide prevention, outlined in the committee's report, “Not to be Forgotten”. Now we can come together again and support Bill C-300.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-300 would require the government to establish a federal framework for suicide prevention in consultation with relevant non-governmental organizations, the relevant entity in each province and territory, as well as with relevant federal departments.

I support this bill because suicide is a major health issue in this country and it must be recognized as such, so that Canada makes it a real public policy priority. There are some 4,000 suicides in Canada every year, so this is an urgent problem and the government must take a stance. We must increase awareness and understanding of suicide across the country and make prevention a priority. This bill will open the dialogue on suicide prevention.

Suicide is a public health issue that requires proper public intervention in terms of prevention, treatment and funding. For intervention to be even more effective, the government must take some responsibility, by calling on the provinces and territories, first nations, the Métis and the Inuit to work with the federal government to develop a long-term national suicide prevention strategy.

This is what families and stakeholders have been calling for for years. We need clear measures to ensure that our commitment gives rise to tangible, concerted actions with stakeholders across the country. Any strategy must also take into account groups at risk, which we must absolutely not ignore in light of what is at stake. I am thinking in particular of young people, the first nations, persons with disabilities, veterans as well as gays and lesbians.

The only way to help them is to understand their realities and the taboos associated with the issue and stigmatization, which is common. Take, for example, persons with disabilities, whose condition is deteriorating every day, who struggle with instability and social isolation, and who have a much higher unemployment rate than the general labour force. Needless to say, these are factors that lead to situations of great despair.

We are also seeing new social groups in distress that are harder to reach, such as farmers. This group of people rarely, if ever, turns to crisis workers despite high levels of stress and intense distress. In recent years, the Canadian armed forces also reported a higher suicide rate as soldiers returned to Canada by the hundreds: 20 of them took their own lives in 2011, nearly twice as many as the year before. According to the Canadian army, 187 soldiers have committed suicide since 1996. Mental health issues and post-traumatic stress are taking a heavy toll, putting soldiers at increased risk of suicide. It is clear that there are serious, ongoing deficiencies with screening and prevention services for these soldiers.

We must also consider the aboriginal communities that the government has been neglecting. The suicide rate among young aboriginals is much higher than among non-aboriginals—four to six times higher. The situation varies from one community to the next, which points to the need for targeted initiatives that take into account the unique cultural and spiritual makeup of each community.

The riding of Montcalm is also especially affected by suicide. According to the suicide prevention centre in Lanaudière, the suicide rate in this region is above the Quebec average. Statistics Canada determined that the Quebec average in 2006 was 14.8 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants, and that of Lanaudière was 16.1 suicides per 100,000.

That said, it is very difficult to put numbers on suicide attempts, but there are 210 hospitalizations for suicide attempts in Lanaudière in an average year. Despite a gradual decline in youth suicide among Quebeckers since 2000, we should still be concerned about this excess mortality, especially among boys, whose suicide rate is much higher than that of girls.

On the other hand, the rate of attempted suicides is twice as high for girls. For each of the groups affected, we must find all the factors that may lead to suicide and we must intervene. It is absurd that a national suicide prevention strategy has not yet been established, after nearly 20 years of demands from NGOs. The impact of suicide on Canadian society is clear to everyone; nearly 4,000 people take their own lives in Canada every year. It is one of the highest rates among the industrialized nations.

Suicide is not an issue that affects only one region of the country; it affects them all. In order to meet the needs of people in distress, however, the appropriate public health resources must be in place and we must work with the communities to reflect the special factors in each cultural and community group.

Prevention initiatives must reflect these specific realities. Combatting this phenomenon is possible, but in order to do so, we need to take concerted, coherent and intensive action so that people who are in distress have access to the effective resources they need. We must be able to guarantee access to mental health and addiction services, provide adequate support to professionals and stakeholders, reduce the stigmatization and focus on research.

In terms of suicide prevention, I find Canada's poor record compared to other industrialized countries very disturbing. Our suicide rate is far too high, and yet we do not have a national strategy to address the problem. Furthermore, industrialized countries that have a national suicide prevention strategy have lower suicide rates and are doing much better than we are.

In the 1990s, both the United Nations and the World Health Organization called upon every country to establish its own national strategy. Many countries answered that call. Unfortunately, Canada was not one of them. It makes no sense. Why did Canada depart from this trend towards adopting a national strategy?

Nevertheless, I want to commend the hard work of mental health care professionals across the country. They do an outstanding job of answering calls, engaging the public and working with schools and workplaces. However, their work would have a greater reach and be more effective if their efforts were coordinated and best practices were shared nationally.

Currently, efforts are fragmented and organizations working on prevention are underfunded. The government can do something to change this situation by clearly identifying current shortcomings and disseminating best practices on prevention, research, expertise and primary care. We absolutely must have national guidelines on this.

With this government, we also have very few effective suicide prevention initiatives for our soldiers and veterans. It is inconceivable considering that modern-day veterans have a higher suicide rate than other Canadians, according to three studies released in 2011 by Veterans Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence and Statistics Canada.

It was the first reliable statistical study of its kind, and I would like to share some of the findings. The suicide rate among veterans is 46% higher than that of other Canadians in the same age bracket, and the only cause of death that is proportionally higher.

Why is there no ongoing evaluation of initiatives and monitoring of trends? What are we waiting for to take suicide seriously?

The World Health Organization calls suicide a huge public health problem but, we should remember, it is a problem that is largely preventable. In Quebec, there has been a 34% decline in the suicide rate in the past 10 years. Research has led to significant progress in suicide prevention. Consequently, it would be unfortunate to not share these advances and new means of prevention.

I will close by saying that this bill reminds us that we must take immediate action, and it will help prevent people from committing suicide. Given the extent of the scourge we are trying to eliminate, the government must act and continue to act. Because the high rate of suicide is a concern, prevention must be a public policy priority.

Therefore, I encourage all my colleagues to support this bill and to continue our suicide prevention efforts. After all, suicide is a concern for all of us. We must ensure that this issue becomes a priority for Canada so we can help more people in distress and save as many lives as possible.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a little bittersweet for me to rise today to discuss this issue. Nevertheless, I am here to speak about the troubles that my home community is facing.

I inevitably return to my roots and talk about my community and other aboriginal communities in the country. Now, members must understand that the kind of reasoning I am using also applies to the rest of Canada.

Although I always try to distance myself or separate myself from the negative discourse surrounding the realities in Canada's aboriginal communities, after reviewing my recent speeches, I see that I tend to bring up some obscure points when I talk about the realities in the communities. What members must know is that I spent part of my life in a community that really struggled socially. This will necessarily be reflected in my speech. My colleagues have mentioned this to me, and since I am capable of introspection, I must say that these obscure points sometimes come out.

As I have said many times over the past year, my professional orientation probably has been guided and shaped by the idea of culturally appropriate social intervention. When I say, “culturally appropriate social intervention”, I refer to my criminal law practice, and also to my work in mental health.

In addition to providing legal services, I made sure that I took action, spoke to people and tried to find agreement or a way to connect with people more directly by referring to their everyday reality. That is why I was so successful with the legal aid office, where I began working when I was quite young, in 2007. As I have said before, I dealt with 400 files. Word got around quickly and people in the community asked me to help them more and more, because, in addition to providing legal services, I tried to improve their quality of life and influence everyone's future.

When I finished my bar admission course, my employer asked that I take responsibility for contentious matters involving the Innu and Naskapi communities. With time, my activities in the mental health field grew, and became a large part of my professional practice.

When I joined the legal aid office in 2007, I was assigned to the circuit court. As we travelled, I discovered that there was a rather significant demand for mental health services in my community. Rapidly, I found myself being asked to go to the psychiatric wing of the Sept-Îles hospital to meet clients who were sometimes dealing with the criminal justice system or the penal system, as well as custody orders, or custody in institutions under the Quebec Civil Code. In each of these cases, I had to specialize and reorient my career, because of the huge demand.

Now, when talking about problems and care with respect to mental health, there is always the concept of suicide, along with violent death and other elements that reveal the deterioration of the social fabric. These elements often come to the surface when clients are receiving services.

At the tender age of 24, 25, 26, I was called to work in fields that typically require specialized knowledge. The other lawyers who took these cases on had much more experience than I in the field, but I took the cases on anyway. Over the years, I gained more and more specialized knowledge. Now I can talk about Seroquel dosage and anticonvulsants because I was assigned to many of those cases. I am also familiar with the concept of toxic psychosis, which I will discuss in further detail shortly.

Inevitably, exposure to marked social dysfunction during childhood, combined with the career path I chose, influenced my understanding of social problems like suicide and associated issues. Everyone in my community has a passing familiarity with violent death.

I am not saying that this problem is the norm. Still, every time I return to Uashat, one of the first things I do is ask my family and friends whether there have been any violent deaths. By that, I mean everything from suicide to cirrhosis and overdose. That is the first thing I ask people in my community about. Invariably, they have names to add to the list. Many of the dead are people I represented in my legal practice, neighbours or friends. At times, when I call, people name others too. I do not necessarily need to go to Uashat to get that information. However, every time I return to my community, people tell me things that, while anything but banal, are part of daily life there. Children grow up intimately familiar with the atmosphere of bleakness and gloom in the community. That is part of everyday life there, and that background inevitably informs my own views.

I did a little research, and my community of Uashat won the gold medal for having the highest suicide rate in the world in 2003, as reported in Le Soleil in that same year. That is a very sad record, I know, but it simply illustrates the scope of the problem in my community.

I brought this up at a meeting of the aboriginal affairs committee. One stakeholder said that Uashat was going through a period of economic growth and increased socio-economic affirmation. However, I reminded that individual that this has always been a major problem for the community. Although, technically, there is some economic vitality, as I said in committee, in the end, it has very little impact on maintaining any quality of life or on the quality of the social fabric.

Aside from emphasizing the need for a national suicide prevention strategy, we also need to ensure that government initiatives and efforts on the ground somehow converge in order to really understand the causes and variables that will ultimately give us some answers. Not only is the suicide rate far too high—at dozens of suicides every year—but these suicides are being committed by very young people. In our communities, violent deaths are not necessarily limited to young people, but the suicide rate among youth is nevertheless especially high. Government efforts will have to address this problem. I will always be willing to work on this problem.

Aside from the fact that Canada will have no choice but to adopt a national suicide prevention strategy, I believe that particular efforts must be made to help aboriginal Canadians and aboriginal youth.

I submit this respectfully.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members of the House for the discussion we have had on this important topic.

It is never easy to talk about death, and as members have acknowledged, it is even more difficult to talk about suicide. That is why this conversation was so important. I am grateful to all hon. members who joined in.

As I have said so often, in this case the conversation is just as important as the legislation, but the legislation is important. We know that 10 Canadians die by suicide each day. We know that suicide is the second largest killer of our youth. We know there are identifiable communities which suffer from suicide rates that are grossly disproportionate to their general population.

These are broad statistics that do not lie, but while the statistics are depressing, the thousands of stories behind the statistics are tragic. Let me share one person's story.

This individual was molested at the age of seven. This person also experienced severe bullying. Today, he is openly talking about taking his own life. This individual just turned 11. It is one thing to hear numbers about youth suicide, but it is another thing entirely to be confronted by a real-life story where an 11-year-old child requires intervention.

As the father of three children and the proud grandparent of nine, I was sick when I heard this story. What to do? I am not trained in crisis intervention, but when this child's mother sought help from my office, we were able to connect her with people who possess the skills, experience, understanding and training to offer help.

It was on the recommendation of a friend who follows the deliberations of this House that the mother contacted me. The conversation has already made a difference.

Bill C-300 is only under debate. The legislation has not yet been enacted and is not in force. This conversation, though, has been ongoing for months, and without this conversation, at least one child would still be contemplating a very permanent response to some temporary and surmountable challenges, but with connections to help has now found hope.

I thank all hon. members for the quality of debate they brought to this topic. I thank members from my party and also members from the opposition parties who were willing to attach their names to this effort as joint seconders.

This conversation has already helped at least one child. Please do not let this conversation end with this debate. I ask all hon. members to keep it alive, both here in Ottawa and at home in their constituencies.

Every riding in Canada needs to engage in this dialogue. The most important type of leadership members of the House can provide is not as makers of the law, but as local leaders of critical and crucial conversations. By continuing the conversation, each one of us can help break the stigma and the silence. We can provide hope, the oxygen of the human spirit.

I ask members to allow Bill C-300 to proceed without a standing vote. I ask them to let Bill C-300 move as quickly as possible to the Senate to become law and provide hope as soon as possible. With each day's delay, 10 Canadians will fall victim to suicide.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time for debate has expired. The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Suspension of Sitting
Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The House will suspend sitting until 12 o'clock.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:37 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 o'clock)

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

Noon

Conservative