House of Commons Hansard #249 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Korean War Veterans Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Korean War Veterans Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 6:44 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 April 19 consideration of the motion.

Anaphylaxis
Private Members' Business

May 8th, 2013 / 6:45 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House today to speak to Motion No. 230, which has been put forward by the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook, and I thank him for that.

I know the member had a similar motion in the last Parliament, but it did not go further because of the federal election, and so we are debating the issue again. It is always good to see members continue to press on with their issues.

Unfortunately, the vote we just had on sodium reduction was lost, but I am very committed to working with the 50-plus organizations across the country that supported the bill. Even though the vote was lost, we will continue to press very hard because sodium reduction in our country is a major public health issue.

As the health critic for the NDP, I am pleased to speak in support of the motion before us.

The question of anaphylaxis is a very critical issue. It affects about 500,000 Canadians and 50% of Canadians know of someone who has at least one food allergy. In our own personal experiences we can all think of someone we know who has a serious allergy and who has to be very careful of where and what that person eats.

The motion before us begins to address the issue anaphylaxis, which affects a growing number of Canadians. The NDP is supportive of the motion, but we will demand an accounting from the Conservative government on its health care track record.

The motion asks the House to recognize the importance of taking steps to ensure that Canadians with anaphylaxis have a certain quality of life. However, as we have seen with a number of these motions, this motion is very general and does not go further into precise measures. Therefore, while we support the motion, in as far as it goes, this is an opportunity for us to debate the issue and to keep pressing the government for much better accountability on health care generally and on something like this that does affect so many people.

One of the issues with anaphylaxis is that even the purchasing of the auto-injectors is an added cost for many families, and there are families that cannot afford this kind of injector. However, I find it curious that in the budget bill, which was approved at second reading and which was rushed through the House under another time allocation motion, and will be rushed through the finance committee in five meetings, one of the provisions is taxing hospital parking lots.

I do not know if anybody listened to the CBC story recently. In fact a couple of stories have been done. One of the biggest responses is from people who feel outraged that when they go to a hospital to visit a friend or family member who is sick, they get hit with exorbitant parking fees. Now, to add insult to injury, this budget, the latest omnibus bill from the Conservative government, will add taxes on to hospital parking.

Why I am raising this issue now in this debate on the private member's motion? It is because, while on the one hand we see these sort of window-dressing kinds of motions coming through from the Conservatives, and I appreciate their intent, the fact is there are so many significant issues that are going unaddressed in our health care system. The government has fallen down on or simply retreated from its role on health care. I wanted to get that bit about the hospital parking tax in there because it is something that really grates. The Conservatives have the gall to talk about being the government of tax reduction and yet on something that is as basic as hospital parking, where people are basically a captive audience and have no choice but to pay these exorbitant cost, they will now be hit with a tax. Why would the Conservatives do that? It seems unconscionable.

While I am happy to be debating this motion, as far as it goes, I do want to shed light and illuminate the bigger picture around health care in our country.

Unfortunately, we have seen the federal government basically walk away from the table. The Conservatives made a unilateral decision about health care funding that has now left the provinces and territories about $36 billion short over the longer term. The government has failed to implement the health accords. Therefore, while we support the motion, we have to look at it in the context of the bigger picture. The government has a miserable failing record, an F, on health care.

As the health critic for the official opposition, the NDP, I do a lot of work with organizations across the country. People are just chomping at the bit. They want to see a stronger federal role or any federal role in health care.

In the House, we have had issues around drug safety and drug shortages. We have seen the abysmal health status of aboriginal people and cuts in Health Canada. The list is enormous. We need to put this on the record and hold the government to account. While I am sure the Conservative members in the House will support the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook, which is good, they need to question themselves on what is happening to our health care overall.

Why have not made any progress on a national pharmacare program? Why have not made any progress on a home care and long-term program?

All these issues were discussed in 2004 and supported by the federal government and the premiers across the country. We believed, and Canadians believed, that we would see some way forward and that we would see some progress on these issues. However, nothing has happened, and not only has the status quo remained, even worse, the government disbanded the Health Council of Canada, which was the body that monitored the progress and implementation of the health accord.

It is a pretty dismal picture, which I am sure we can all appreciate. I really want to draw it to the attention of members in the House.

I encourage Conservative members that when they bring forward a private member's motion, such as the one we are debating today, they need to link it to the broader health issue. They need to think about what about the public health interest. It is very disappointing that they chose to defeat the bill on sodium reduction, which had incredible support across the country, yet I am sure this motion will go through.

At the health committee, we have had a number of these such bills and I have supported them. That is fine, but we in the NDP do have a plan for health care. We want to see our health care system improve its accessibility. We want to see the kinds of things that people need, like pharmacare, home care and long-term care. We want to see progress made on those very critical health issues.

We are very determined, as we move toward 2015, that there is an alternative on health care that we can present to the Canadian people. If the people want medicare 2.0, we know what that is. We are actually out there, consulting with Canadians on that on a daily basis.

I know many of my colleagues get emails and work with local constituents. We know health care is really the number one issue about which Canadians are concerned. On any poll that is done, health care is always at the top of the list.

I thank the member for presenting the motion. It is very important to draw awareness to this issue, which affects about 500,000 Canadians, and what it means to face a severe allergy.

Let us recognize that we need a federal government that will be responsive to the health care needs of Canadians and willing to be at the table with the provinces, territories and first nations. We need a federal government that is committed to implementing the accords that were signed in 2004 and to bringing in new accords and a new vision for medicare that is based on the Canada Health Act, accessibility, portability, public administration and universality.

We in the NDP are committed to that. We stand for that. We are the party of medicare. We are proud of the work that we have done and the work we continue to do.

While we support the motion, we know that it is just a bit of the big job that needs to be taken on. We are taking on that job.

Anaphylaxis
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, first, I thank my colleague from Niagara West—Glanbrook for bringing forward this motion. I had the pleasure of serving with the member a few years back on, I believe, the human resources and skills development committee of the House of Commons. While we were on opposite sides of the floor, we certainly developed a very good rapport. I enjoyed working with him and I indeed appreciate this motion today.

In fact, my hon. colleague from Vancouver Centre, who sits next to me, asked me if I was interested in this. She knew that I have allergies and that one of my allergies was to crustaceans, sadly.

I do not know if the House can imagine—

Anaphylaxis
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

That's not fair.

Anaphylaxis
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

My colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour says that is not fair and I could not agree more. I love all crustaceans. I love lobster, crab and shrimp, but especially lobster. To not be able to eat it is terrible—

Anaphylaxis
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

I will be nicer to you from now on.

Anaphylaxis
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

My hon. colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has just promised to treat me much better now that he knows that I have this allergy to lobster. I look forward to that. I appreciate it. I cannot complain too much so far.

One can imagine that during the two years that I was minister of fisheries and oceans it was particularly frustrating to not be able to enjoy lobster. I remember in particular visiting Labrador and having a meeting with the Labrador shrimp co-operative, which invited us to stay for a lovely dinner. They brought out a plate of lobster and shrimp. At that point I had to explain to the guys from the lobster-shrimp co-operative who fished them that I could not enjoy these delicacies of the sea because of my allergy.

Although anaphylaxis can also be caused by insect bites, by some kinds of medicine or by a number of causes, food is the main one. One's throat can close up. There are other kinds of reactions, but it can be deadly.

I can recall very distinctly my experience on New Year's Eve 1997 when I was having dinner with some friends in Kentville, Nova Scotia. They happened to have a dog and a cat and I am allergic to dogs and cats. They do not cause anaphylaxis but of course what did we have for supper? We had lobster. At that point I had not come to the conclusion that my allergy to lobster was real or severe even though when I was about 17 the doctor pricked my arm with various needles to test for various allergens. The doctor told me that I was allergic to shellfish. I thought perhaps it was a mistake because I had eaten lobster at various times and did not think the result was that bad. The thing about crustaceans and other kinds of food is that each time the exposure is repeated, it can get worse, and the chance of an anaphylactic reaction becomes greater.

That is why I think this motion is important. That is why it is important for people to have access to information about what is in the food they are eating. It is particularly important to me when I am buying something at the grocery store, to know that it contains one of the things that can cause this kind of reaction.

Many of us are familiar with peanut allergies and how severe they can be. There has been tremendous success in labelling products that contain peanuts, so that people with those allergies can avoid them. My son's best friend has a serious peanut allergy. That has been an issue for a while. Both my son and his friend have been involved in Scouts and now Adventurers. When we go on excursions we make sure that we avoid anything with peanuts for those trips because we know this can be a life-and-death matter.

The government could produce stricter regulations about food labelling to make sure that people who have allergies that can be anaphylactic have access to the information about what is in the food.

I would like to speak about how to avoid anaphylactic allergic reactions. The only way is to completely avoid the food that causes the reaction. That means knowing what is in what you eat. When I go to a reception or an event where appetizers are being served, I often ask if they contain crab. It is easy to see if they contain shrimp or lobster, even though shrimp are more difficult to spot. We cannot necessarily see everything, like peanuts. Milk can also be an allergenic food for a lot of people. We need to read food labels carefully.

It is important for families to take precautions when preparing food. People have to wash their hands properly and use proper cleaning methods.

These are all important ways to avoid a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction.

It is not true that individuals always will die of an anaphylactic reaction. On the evening that I spoke of, New Year's Eve 1997, as we were sitting in the living room having a nice conversation after the meal, I started to close up, and it seemed for about five minutes that I could barely breathe. I did not believe I was going to die, but then again I did not know anything about anaphylaxis at that point. I did not realize it was an anaphylactic reaction, so I did not realize the risk that I was at. I did not know how important it was for someone who has an allergy to foods such as crustaceans, for example, to have an EpiPen.

It is important to have EpiPens. For instance, people who work, as I do, in two places—Nova Scotia and Ottawa—really ought to have one within 20 minutes of wherever they are, and in both places. That reminds me: I have to visit the doctor, not only to update the one I have at home, which is several years old, but also to get one for Ottawa as well. It would be a good idea. These are important precautions for anyone who has these kinds of allergies.

I am sure my hon. colleague from Niagara West—Glanbrook is aware of this and that this is one of the reasons he has brought forward this motion.

What does an EpiPen contain? Why is it that it works? In fact, it either contains epinephrine, which is why it is called an EpiPen, or it contains adrenalin. Both of those will prevent the kind of reaction to this allergen that can cause people to totally constrict and die.

One of the other things the Government of Canada ought to do to help people with this condition is raise awareness about it. As I said, when I had that reaction in 1997, I had no idea about anaphylaxis. It is important that people become more aware of it, not only people who might have it but others who might feed them. Parents who have children ought to understand what this is about so that they can recognize when it is happening and know what to do about it, although perhaps it might be a mild reaction at first.

I think it was 10 years ago that I finally stopped eating lobster when I realized it was the lobster that was having this effect. It was not necessarily immediate, but something of a delayed reaction. I remember having three lobsters one Christmas Eve; for the next two days I was sniffling and sneezing. I made the connection. A month later, I tried just one lobster and had exactly the same reaction for the following two days. I had a runny nose and I felt miserable.

It is important to raise awareness about these things, educate the public about what is involved and ensure that product labels are easy to read and understand. It would also be valuable to have an approach coordinated between the federal and provincial governments across jurisdictions to ensure public health and safety, to raise awareness and to support research to identify root causes and cures for severe allergies.

I want to again thank my hon. colleague from Niagara West—Glanbrook for raising what is, from my perspective, obviously a very important issue.

Anaphylaxis
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise in the House today and discuss Motion No. 230. I want to thank the hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook for bringing this matter before the House.

Anaphylaxis is a severe medical condition and a serious public health issue. Unfortunately, there is no cure for it, or for food allergies in general, at least not yet. The only way to prevent an anaphylactic reaction is to avoid the allergen causing it. The best way to diminish the likelihood of a reaction is through greater public awareness of the condition and its triggers.

Anaphylactic reactions are caused by a negative response to an allergen. Allergens can be in the form of medications, insect bites, latex and certain foods. There are over 200 recognized allergens. The top 10 food allergies are to eggs, seafood, as my colleague just mentioned in his case, milk, tree nuts, sesame, sulphites, wheat, mustard, soy, peanuts and cereal grains containing gluten.

Adults are more prone to reactions from medications, insect bites and stings, while foods are still the most common allergic trigger in children and young people.

There are many symptoms that can occur as a result of an anaphylactic reaction. They generally happen within minutes of coming into contact with the allergen, although a reaction could also occur several hours after exposure.

There are five areas where symptoms present themselves: the skin, the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal system, the cardiovascular system and mood.

When symptoms present themselves, usually two or more parts of the body are affected. Symptoms present themselves on the skin 80% to 90% of the time, while the respiratory system is affected in about 70% of the cases. The gastrointestinal system is affected by 30% to 45%, while the cardiovascular system is affected between 10% and 45% of the time. In addition, the central nervous system is affected in 10% to 15% of anaphylactic reactions.

Therefore, victims of anaphylaxis can exhibit symptoms, such as hives, itching, swelling, rash, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, hay fever-like symptoms and chest pain. They can experience cramps, nausea, light-headedness, develop a weak pulse and even go into shock.

The most serious symptoms are breathing difficulties and drops in blood pressure, both of which could be life-threatening. If the throat constricts, oxygen cannot be delivered to the brain and one could experience a panic attack and go into shock. When these signs or symptoms arise patients must receive medical attention immediately and a dose of epinephrine specifically. Those with a serious allergy will carry an epinephrine auto-injector, an EpiPen or Twinject, to prevent reactions when exposed to an allergen. If left untreated, one can fall unconscious and possibly die.

It is estimated that 2.5 million Canadians live with anaphylaxis and the number continues to rise every year. It is projected that 3,500 Canadians experience anaphylactic shock each year from eating the wrong foods. Of those 3,500, about a dozen will die unfortunately.

One in two Canadians know someone with a serious food allergy. Alarmingly, it is most prevalent in young children, specifically those under three years of age. Close to 6% of children below the age of three, and 300,000 youth under 18 are affected by general food allergies. Disturbingly, the frequency of food allergies has increased 350% from 1996 to 2002. The prevalence of peanut and nut allergies has increased 250% over that time. As such, it is no surprise that more than 40% of Canadians examine the ingredient information on food labels, either for themselves or for someone living with anaphylaxis.

The most recognized allergy, of course, is the one to peanuts. This allergy affects two out of 100 children in Canada. Peanuts and tree nuts are responsible for the majority of fatal anaphylactic reactions. A study examining 13 fatal and near fatal cases in children concluded that 10 of the 13 incidents occurred as a result of reactions to peanuts or nuts.

Even with great vigilance, someone with a nut allergy will have an accidental episode every three to five years. Accidental exposure occurs as a result of not being able to see the residue of a food allergen that has been left on an appliance or a piece of furniture. Airborne protein can also cause serious issues that can induce asthmatic attacks.

These statistics emphasize the magnitude of anaphylaxis and the importance of bringing it to national attention. Many Canadians, including numerous families from my constituency, face the frequent and frightening threat of an anaphylactic reaction, and this concerns me greatly. Those who live with anaphylaxis are most at risk outside the home, where one has little or no control of the surroundings. Parents try to teach their children the risk of the condition so that the children can safety interact with friends and teachers.

Travelling by airplane is perhaps the best example of a high-risk environment, where peanuts and mixed nuts are common snack foods. With airplanes being enclosed, the risk of having an allergic reaction to a nearby allergy residue or airborne protein is very high. Air travel is unnerving for those living with anaphylaxis, as flying 35,000 feet up in the air leaves them highly vulnerable and far from medical facilities. It is my hope that airlines will rise to the challenge of implementing a nut-free policy and an announcement system for passengers so that they avoid consuming nut products when an anaphylactic passenger self-identifies.

I have heard from many people struggling with anaphylaxis. I have also had discussions with members of the Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative. They improve the lives of Canadians with this condition by promoting anaphylactic-safe environments and by lobbying governments, organizations and other businesses to do the same.

Motion No. 230 is about more awareness so that Canadians will become familiar with the risks of anaphylaxis and will hopefully take precautions to limit accidental exposure for those who may be vulnerable. This, in turn, will create a safer environment for everyone.

There should be a supportive and alert community that ensures that preventive measures are taken to avoid anaphylactic reactions. It is important to mention that preliminary steps have been taken to spread awareness of anaphylaxis and its severity. Individuals, companies and governments have acted appropriately in this regard.

Let us take a quick example. In the private sector, there are the Toronto Blue Jays. I am sure most will be watching hockey tonight, but I think there is a Blue Jays game, too. The Toronto Blue Jays offered a peanut-controlled zone for three of their home games in the previous season. These zones ensured that fans at risk of a severe anaphylactic reaction were given a safer place to enjoy the game. That is good corporate leadership that benefits us all.

More awareness of this serious medical condition is needed on a nationwide level. That is why I urge members of this House to approve this motion and launch anaphylaxis further onto the national stage. By adopting this motion, the Canadian government would be taking another important step forward in ensuring that Canadians living with anaphylaxis are able to maintain a higher quality of life.

I thank Debbie Bruce, from Mississauga, who has been instrumental in helping me prepare these remarks and is a true champion advocate for the thousands of people across the country living with this condition. She should be greatly appreciated for her work.

I look forward to seeing this motion receive the unanimous support of all members of the House.

Anaphylaxis
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I must acknowledge that I really appreciated the speech by the member opposite. I never thought I would say that. I thought his presentation was very well done. Unfortunately, he is not listening to my compliments, but that is all right. I really did find his approach to the subject intriguing. it was very meticulous. I am very allergic to peanuts, so I speak from experience.

I will read the motion by the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook, because sometimes we forget what we are talking about.

That, in the opinion of the House, anaphylaxis is a serious concern for an increasing number of Canadians and the government should take the appropriate measures necessary to ensure these Canadians are able to maintain a high quality of life.

I would like to read a definition. I could give a very personal definition of anaphylaxis. However, this is the definition found on the site allerg.qc.ca:

There is no universal definition for anaphylaxis, but it may be defined as a serious allergic reaction that has a rapid onset and is potentially fatal. It is generally characterized by the appearance of several signs and symptoms involving one or multiple bodily systems.

What is the mechanism of an anaphylactic reaction? The answer is very interesting. The following quote is from the same site:

In most cases of anaphylaxis, the reaction occurs when antibodies...recognize a particular allergen. When these antibodies are in the presence of this allergen, there is an activation of certain cell types...which leads to the liberation of different inflammatory products that can affect all the organs and systems in the body.

The word “inflammatory” is important here, because it is the root of the problem. It seems as though the inflammation would be a welcome reaction, but it can affect the trachea, which makes it difficult for an individual to breathe. The site goes on to say:

This is the reason for the variety of signs and symptoms that may be observed during an allergic reaction. It is also possible to observe the phenomenon known as a biphasic reaction...

The reaction is phase one. A second reaction can follow much later because there are two phases. That is when you see the second reaction.

What can cause an anaphylactic reaction? There are many triggers, including food. As my colleague across the way said, eight foods are responsible for 93% of reactions in children. They are eggs, peanuts, milk, soya, nuts, fish, shellfish and wheat. The most common food allergens for older children and adults are peanuts, shellfish, nuts and fish.

People can also be allergic to certain medications or insect bites. I invite all of my colleagues to come look at an EpiPen syringe. The concept is very simple. When EpiPens first came on the market, they were primarily meant for bee stings.

Anaphylaxis
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

I must inform the hon. member that props are not permitted in the House.

Anaphylaxis
Private Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand. The subject of this evening's debate is not all that dangerous, fortunately. Some other bills could require props that are much more compromising. I will hide these.

The EpiPen was initially marketed to treat insect bites. Now, of course, it is used much more commonly for food allergies. Indeed, anaphylactic shock is a little like an overreaction in the body's defence system.

I myself have twice experienced anaphylactic shock, which led to unconsciousness and hospitalization. Patients usually have to be intubated in order to protect the airways. An epinephrine injection is supposed to contract the blood vessels in order to return the person's blood pressure to normal. Anaphylaxis is certainly linked to many allergies, but food allergies are by far the most common trigger.

March 21 was food allergy awareness day in Quebec. I would like to quote an excerpt from a press release issued by the Association québécoise des allergies alimentaires:

Food allergies constitute a major and fast-growing health problem. Approximately 300,000 Quebeckers suffer from food allergies, which represents 4% of the adult population and between 6% and 8% of children. Between 1997 and 2007, there was an 18% increase in the number of food allergy sufferers under the age of 18. These allergies can trigger an anaphylactic reaction at any time, which can cause death within just a few minutes. About half of the 150 or so food allergy deaths in the United States each year are caused by peanut allergies. That is why the AQAA, or Association québécoise des allergies alimentaires, has joined a coalition that is proposing an official policy for managing anaphylaxis in Quebec schools. Such a policy would help to reduce the number of anaphylactic reactions among children and help us manage them properly when they do occur, thereby reducing the level of associated risk.

I found it relevant to bring my EpiPen because I do not think there are 3,000 solutions to anaphylactic reactions. An injection of epinephrine or adrenalin is the immediate antidote that prevents the worst from happening. What is unbelievably sad about this, as our health critic just said, is that not all Canadians have insurance to cover the cost of medication.

The cost of this medication is prohibitive. In general, we are talking about $100 a syringe. I always have two on me because one syringe lasts for 20 to 40 minutes. People who come into contact with an allergenic substance and are in an urban area with a hospital nearby can use the syringe and inform hospital personnel that they think they have had an anaphylactic reaction.

If people know that they are not going to be close to a hospital, then having two syringes is far from an unnecessary precaution since it means that they will have a double dose on hand. Now, I cannot assume that a second dose will have the same effect. I do not imagine that a person can prevent an anaphylactic reaction for three days by taking 19 doses. I do not think that is how it works, but I have not checked. In any case, I always have $200 worth of medical equipment with me.

We are very fortunate that my two daughters did not inherit this allergy and have not had to live with this stress at school. However, young children who are three, four, five and six years of age carry EpiPens, and that is a big responsibility for them. It is a financial responsibility, but first and foremost it is about health and protecting oneself. It is a major responsibility.

This allergy protection system is quite costly. Fortunately, in Quebec, we are better protected because we contribute to a public prescription drug insurance plan. However, I cannot help but think of the other provinces where there are families that are keeping track of every penny and having trouble making ends meet, families that, sadly, have a child with allergies. These families must ensure that their children have an EpiPen in their bag before they leave for school.

It is a huge responsibility. As someone mentioned earlier, an EpiPen rarely lasts more than a year before it reaches its expiration date. It therefore needs to be replaced every year. It is simple math: to be on the safe side, a person needs to have two EpiPens. If we do the math, for a child diagnosed at age 3 or 4, who needs to have EpiPens on him once he goes to school, it will cost $200 a year times five or six, depending on the number of years. It adds up.

What we just saw is quite sad, and I understand what my colleague was saying earlier. We are being asked to support this bill, and it goes without saying that we will. However, I cannot help but point something out. Earlier, I noted the result of the vote on the motion to reduce sodium intake in Canada. It was a very important motion. No one can be against doing the right thing. Once again, as usual, the government opposite rather rudely gave us a big fat “no”, with a vote of 147 to 122 against the motion. I think adopting this type of policy is a no-brainer.

The point I want to make is that, at a school, there is a greater chance of an anaphylactic reaction occurring than a fire. If schools are equipped with fire extinguishers, then they should absolutely be equipped with EpiPens.

Anaphylaxis
Private Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand before the House today to speak about anaphylaxis, which is a serious allergic reaction that can occur after exposure to an allergen, such as foods, medications, insect bites or stings, or even materials like latex. This is a very serious condition that affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of Canadians. I would like to personally commend the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook for once again bringing this important issue to the attention of members of Parliament.

There is a growing concern for a growing number of Canadians, and we can all agree that the government has a role to play in helping Canadians living with serious allergies maintain a high quality of life. I believe I can say with little doubt that a number of us here today either have allergies ourselves or have family members or friends who live with serious allergic conditions.

In 2003, Health Canada reported that an estimated 600,000 Canadians may have experienced life-threatening allergies. More recently, in 2012, it was recorded that more than two million Canadians, many of whom are children, identify having at least one food allergy. These numbers are significant. When someone who experiences allergic reactions is exposed to an allergen, a number of symptoms may develop. Some of these symptoms may be as mild as watery or itchy eyes or a rash. However, more severe symptoms can include difficulty breathing, light-headedness, feeling faint, and even losing consciousness. It may take only minutes for a mild reaction to quickly develop into a potentially dangerous, even life-threatening reaction. Many Canadians may not even be aware that they are allergic to something until they are exposed and experience a reaction.

As I mentioned a few moments ago, there are many common, everyday substances that can trigger an allergic reaction. Not all of these always cause an anaphylactic reaction, but many, including certain foods such as eggs, seafood and various nuts, are more likely to cause such a reaction. There is no guaranteed cure for allergies. It is possible that allergies may develop without warning, and it is also possible they may disappear without warning. There may be steps that individuals can take to help manage their allergies, but once someone develops an allergy, it may be something that individual will have to live with for his or her entire life.

One of the most effective means to combat allergic reactions is to avoid those allergens that trigger such reactions. That is why it is essential that people have information about what products contain. It is very important that the Government of Canada have the necessary measures in place to help minimize the risks associated with anaphylaxis, so that those Canadians who live with severe allergies are able to maintain a high quality of life.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the actions taken by the Government of Canada to support Canadians who live with severe allergies. Our government has put in place regulations to enhance the information about allergens that must be included on product labels. This information helps Canadians make informed decisions about the products they purchase, which in turn will help to minimize the number of allergic reactions to health and food products.

In 2011, the Minister of Health announced new regulations to strengthen the labelling of food allergens so that Canadians with sensitivities and allergies could make better choices about the food products they purchase and consume. These new food allergen labelling regulations came into force in August 2012, following an 18-month transition period to allow industry sufficient time to come into compliance. Clear, plain-language labelling, a listing of priority allergens, and the identification of gluten sources and added sulphates in pre-packaged foods are among the enhanced requirements set out in these new regulations. If we go to the grocery store today and pick up a food product from the shelf and look at the label, we will see that the ingredient listing includes clear and understandable information about the potential allergens contained in the product.

Also in 2011, amended regulations came into force requiring the manufacturers of health products to list non-medicinal ingredients on the outer label of non-prescription drug products in Canada. This regulatory changed enhanced already existing labelling requirements for health products.

Both of these recent regulatory amendments have put in place measures that benefit Canadians who have allergies by providing them with information so they can identify potentially harmful ingredients and make informed choices about the products they use.

The Government of Canada has also put in place measures to monitor allergic reactions and to provide Canadians with reliable and trustworthy information so that they can make informed choices. For example, the Public Health Agency of Canada maintains the Canadian adverse events following immunization surveillance system. Health care professionals, consumers, provincial and territorial public health authorities and vaccine providers submit reports pertaining to adverse events following immunizations. This information facilitates the agency's work with the provinces and territories to monitor adverse events following immunization with disease preventing vaccines. In addition, the Public Health Agency has a number of documents on its website, including a guideline document relating to immunization and information on the management of anaphylaxis, that are readily available to Canadians.

We are all familiar with the Government of Canada's Healthy Canadians website, which provides Canadians with a one-stop shop for a wide range of health and safety information, including product recalls and safety alerts, information about food and health products and information concerning the health of our children. There is considerable information on the Healthy Canadians website concerning allergic reactions, anaphylaxis and how to minimize risks. This information is directed at Canadians and is a valuable resource for all of us.

In addition to the information on Healthy Canadians, many government departments also include information for Canadians on their websites. For example, Health Canada provides a food allergy e-notice, which is accessible to Canadian subscribers as a way to be better informed about food allergens and intolerance in Canada.

Health Canada is committed to promoting allergy awareness among Canadians. In the event a previously unknown allergen risk is identified, Health Canada works rapidly to promptly inform the Canadian public. Health Canada also produces annual reminders to Canadians relating to food allergies, outlining the risks to Canadians of all ages and explaining safe practices to help people reduce their risks from these allergens.

In May 2012, Health Canada published a reminder for Canadians stating that food allergies could be life-threatening to people of all ages, especially children. It highlighted the importance of reading product labels to assist in minimizing the risks of allergic reactions to food.

Health Canada also works in close collaboration with Canadian consumer associations. For example, the department participates in the annual conferences of Anaphylaxis Canada and the Association québécoise des allergies alimentaires, providing experts for “ask an allergist” training sessions.

Health Canada experts also give presentations in forums and conferences dedicated to education and awareness. Health Canada is committed to sharing resources with Canadians by including hyperlinks to these associations' websites on its website, thereby providing access to educational materials for consumers on anaphylaxis and allergies.

It is my recommendation that the House support the private member's motion from the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook. Anaphylaxis is a very serious concern for Canadians, and protecting the health and safety of Canadians is a priority. Supporting the motion will raise awareness on the challenges faced by those who suffer from anaphylactic reactions. For these reasons, I urge all hon. members to support Motion No. 230.

Anaphylaxis
Private Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues on all sides of the House before I get to my prepared remarks to wrap up. One of the great things about being a member of Parliament is the opportunities to learn on an ongoing basis. I want to thank my colleague from Québec who shared his personal experiences, as well as my colleague from Halifax West who, as we have mentioned, worked on committee before.

I personally have never had family members who have had to deal with this, but as I have gone through the learning process, it has been most educational. The purpose of what we are trying to do with this motion is to make sure we educate people and raise awareness, as has been mentioned. I want to thank the two members on the opposite side of the House for sharing their personal stories. They were very helpful.

I would also like to thank everyone who has spoken on Motion No. 230. Their inspiring words of support are very encouraging. I am glad to see that so many members recognize the dangers of anaphylaxis. When I began this process, I received a lot of support from various individuals and organizations. I would like to thank the hon. member for St. Catharines who first introduced the precursor to Motion No. 230 in the 39th Parliament.

I also extend a special thanks to the Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative and the Niagara Anaphylaxis Support and Knowledge. These two organizations do tremendous work. They spread awareness of anaphylaxis and have been unwavering in their support of this motion. They have provided me with much appreciated knowledge and expertise throughout this process, and I am grateful for their insight.

I would also like to thank the numerous people who have called, written and met with me in person to discuss their personal struggles with anaphylaxis. Their stories furthered my commitment to seeing this motion brought to the House and passed. This widespread support is an indication of the magnitude and dangers of this condition.

With 2.5 million Canadians affected, a number which continues to rise every year, it is concerning that many Canadians are not aware of the risks associated with anaphylaxis. An anaphylactic reaction is a very serious and potentially life-threatening experience and, on the average, there are 3,500 reactions per year in Canada, of which 12 will be fatal.

As mentioned in many of the speeches on this motion, epinephrine treats the short-term symptoms of anaphylaxis, but awareness can substantially reduce the amount of anaphylactic reactions in the future. Awareness includes an understanding of anaphylaxis as a condition, its different causes and triggers, and strategies to limit exposure.

On the first day of discussion in the House, I referred to the stories of Lucas, Liam and David. Their daily struggles with anaphylaxis and the fear of reaction can be reduced. Motion No. 230 aims for this goal. By bringing more attention and awareness to the Canadian public, this motion will help these children and many other Canadians who live with this condition. It will help Canadians understand the signs, dangers and consequences of an anaphylactic reaction. As was mentioned in the first hour of debate, important steps have been taken by various businesses and levels of government.

My colleague from Mississauga—Streetsville mentioned that the Toronto Blue Jays, a member of the private sector, introduced a peanut-controlled zone at three of their home games in the previous season. By doing this, they created a safer environment for their fans to enjoy the game. I am pleased to have recently found out that the Blue Jays plan to carry on this policy during the season. There will be at least another three home games that will have a peanut-controlled zone.

As a government, we have provided a significant amount of funds for allergy research, including $36.5 million to support AllerGen, which is the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network of centres of excellence that conducts allergy research. Also, in August 2012, new regulations were implemented which enhanced the labelling of priority food allergens on prepackaged retail foods. These regulations help consumers classify which foods are safe and which products they must avoid. Our government has also designated May as National Anaphylaxis Month.

Although these considerable steps have been taken, more can be done. Businesses and governments should do more to help those who live with the condition. More specifically, Parliament should recognize that anaphylaxis is a serious condition and create the necessary awareness to help those living with anaphylaxis have a higher quality of life.

Preventive measures should be taken by everyday Canadians in order to ensure the safety of those around them, especially those at risk of having an anaphylactic reaction. Understanding the condition and which allergens could cause reactions could lead to a reduction of incidents and more peace of mind for Canadians living with severe life-threatening allergies. With the passing of Motion No. 230, Canadians living with anaphylaxis will receive much needed recognition from our government. We stand with them in their efforts to promote awareness of the condition.

Once again, I would like to thank all the hon. members here today, as well as those who have pledged their support for this motion.