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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word is children.

Liberal MP for Etobicoke North (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 42.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day Act February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Bill C-643, an act respecting a national spinal cord injury awareness day.

I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Montcalm, for bringing the bill forward and for being an advocate for those living with disabilities.

Establishing a day to recognize the impact spinal cord injuries have on Canadians, the health care system, and the economy would bring awareness to this debilitating and serious condition.

Up until 2010, health officials, shockingly, had no idea how many Canadians were living with a spinal cord injury or the economic cost of the condition.

However, there was a report commissioned by the Rick Hansen Institute that revealed some startling data. I know this House will all want to, and we have heard it already tonight, recognize Rick Hansen, who became a world-class wheelchair athlete before undertaking the Man in Motion World Tour in 1985, during which he rolled more than 40,000 kilometres in 34 countries in two years raising $26 million for spinal cord research.

The report indicated that there were over 86,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in Canada, or about the same number as the population of Red Deer, Alberta. About 4,300 new cases are identified in our country each year. After speaking with Spinal Cord Injury Canada yesterday, I am informed that the number is now 96,000 Canadians. Approximately 51% of spinal cord injury cases are the result of traumatic injury and 49% are the result of non-traumatic injury or, rather, diseases such as ALS and cancer.

The report laid out, for the first time, the scale, magnitude, and cost of a spinal cord injury in human and economic terms. This was an important milestone because measuring the extent of the problem is the first step in developing strategies for preventing, mitigating, treating and, hopefully one day, curing spinal cord injuries.

Spinal cord injuries require substantial medical care. Canadians with a spinal cord injury who are admitted to intensive care units have reduced mortality and morbidity, as well as improved neurologic recovery. The average length of a hospital stay after the initial injury is 140 days, or almost five months, including critical care, acute care, and in-patient rehabilitation.

New methods for treating spinal cord injury are being studied, including surgical decompression, therapeutic hypothermia, and neuroprotective agents.

The economic cost of traumatic spinal cord injury is $3.6 billion a year, including $1.8 billion in direct medical costs. The lifetime medical costs, in the words of a recent study, for a quadriplegic exceed $3 million and for a paraplegic, $1.6 million. For Canadian families, the average cost of a manual wheelchair is $4,000 to $5,000 and the average cost of a power wheelchair is $10,000 to $15,000.

The long-term health care costs are not due to paralysis but, rather, to medical complications. Severe depression is also common among people with a spinal cord injury. Treatment for depression accounts for almost half of physician visits.

These are just numbers and do not speak to the impacts on the person affected and on the families. I cannot begin to imagine how frightening and overwhelming are the days, weeks, and months following a spinal cord injury. Everything changes in an instant and people will have many questions.

Canadians with a spinal cord injury need to know that they are not alone and that there are people and organizations that will help them through acute care, rehabilitation, and a return to the community. Canadians with a spinal cord injury need to know there are resources available to help them find the latest information on research, clinical trials, and rehabilitation techniques that may have an impact upon improved function and recovery. They need to know that there are financial resources, peer support, and organizations that can help renovate their home to make it accessible, get assistive devices to help with everyday tasks, and help them return to the community.

As a country, we can and must do more to support Canadians living with spinal cord injury and their families. All levels of government must work together to put in place essential measures to secure the right to education and economic participation. We need policies and programs that promote physically accessible homes, hospitals, schools, transportation and workplaces, inclusive education, elimination of discrimination in educational and employment settings, vocational rehabilitation to optimize the chance of employment, micro finance and other forms of self-employment, benefits to support alternative forms of economic self-sufficiency, access to social support payments that do not act as a disincentive to return to work, and correct understanding of spinal cord injury and positive attitudes toward people living with it. The member for Montcalm's bill would help to raise awareness, and this is positive.

The Urban Futures institute predicts that the number of people living with spinal cord injury will increase sharply in the coming years, reaching 121,000 in 2030. The expected increase is largely due to the aging population. Older people have more falls and suffer disproportionately from illnesses such as cancer.

I have had the honour and privilege of working with Canadians with physical and mental health challenges my whole life, and everyday I learn from them and am inspired by them. I also want to recognize the work of all health practitioners and organizations which work hard to improve the quality of life of Canadians living with a spinal cord injury and their families.

I know many of us have taken part in Spinal Cord Injury Canada's chair-leader event, during which we spend the day in a wheelchair and live first hand what accessibility really means. We learn very quickly the obstacles Canadians in chairs face. Everything is harder. It is hard to manage the chair. It does not always turn well. Getting into an elevator is hard, managing in the washroom is hard, reaching counters is hard, getting up and down Parliament Hill is really hard, and cars do not always see the chair.

The chair-leaders event is extremely important to get exposure for people in chairs, to raise awareness, to see the obstacles people face, to understand that there are financial hurdles and that we as a society must do more to help. The member for Montcalm's bill would ensure that, annually, there would be a day devoted to raising awareness about spinal cord injury.

In closing, spinal cord injuries have severe, long-term impacts. They affect almost 100,000 Canadians and their families, have far-reaching consequences, including financial hardship and caregiving needs, and the number of Canadians suffering is increasing as the population ages. The costs for people suffering from spinal cord injuries number in the billions. Spinal cord awareness would foster an environment for greater research into new treatment options. Awareness would help provide doctors with improved options for treatment.

Let me once again congratulate the member on her bill and let us all remember there is life after injury. Canadians with spinal cord injuries are active, social, and vibrant members of our communities. Let us all celebrate ability and fight for more help for Canadians with spinal cord injury and their families.

Petitions February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present several petitions regarding autism spectrum disorders, which are characterized by social and communication challenges and a pattern of repetitive behaviours and interests. They are lifelong, affect development and life experiences, and exert emotional and financial pressures on families.

The petitioners call on the government to work with the provinces, territories, and stakeholders to develop a pan-Canadian strategy for autism spectrum disorders.

Foreign Affairs February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is sitting on its hands instead of bringing Mohamed Fahmy home. Fahmy is free on bail while he waits retrial. The Liberal Party has repeatedly called on the Prime Minister to step in, but so far there has been no response from the PMO. Why is the Prime Minister sitting on the sidelines? Why will he not pick up the phone, call the president, and secure Canadian Mohamed Fahmy's freedom?

Petitions February 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are serious mental illnesses that incapacitate more than 600,000 Canadians and can be fatal.

Petitioners call upon the government to work with the provinces, territories, and stakeholders to develop a comprehensive pan-Canadian strategy for eating disorders, including better prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and support.

International Development February 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as the fourth anniversary of the Syria crisis approaches, 5.6 million children are in need of assistance. Will the Minister of International Development personally attend the donor conference in Kuwait on March 31, and will he make a meaningful contribution on behalf of all Canadians to champion the children of Syria?

Mary Harker February 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise to celebrate the extraordinary Mary Harker, who was tireless in her commitment to helping others, making the world a better place, and welcoming everyone with open arms.

Mary was legendary in Etobicoke, having worked with mayors, MPPs, and MPs. She started the Nightgown Brigade and would rush to help women escaping violent situations no matter what time of night. She served on Albion Neighbourhood Services and with Youth Without Shelter, helped found Ernestine's Women's Shelter, gave four decades to the Rexdale legal clinic, and served for decades on the Community Police Liaison Committee.

The community loved Mary and recognized her thousands of hours of volunteer services with numerous awards.

Mary is now with her beloved husband Ron, and leaves behind daughters Kathy and Wendy, their partners Scott and Peter, and her grandchildren Matthew, Cameron, and Madeline. We thank them for sharing her with us. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

Petitions February 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, autism spectrum disorders are characterized by social and communication challenges and a pattern of repetitive behaviour and interests. They are lifelong, effect development and life experience, and exert emotional financial pressures on families.

The petitioners call on the government to work with the provinces, territories and stakeholders to develop a pan-Canadian strategy for autism spectrum disorder.

Petitions February 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are serious mental illnesses that can be fatal. More than 600,000 Canadians have been incapacitated by eating disorders. They suffer long waiting lists for help and limited access to mental health services.

The petitioners call upon the government to work with provinces, territories, and stakeholders to develop a pan-Canadian strategy for eating disorders, including better prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and support.

Poverty February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Canada continues to struggle with helping its most vulnerable citizens.

The Dignity for All campaign estimates that there are 4.8 million Canadians who cannot make ends meet and 250,000 homeless Canadians while shelters are bursting at the seams. Instead of tackling poverty, the government is spending $2 billion every year on income splitting so that the wealthiest can get thousands in tax breaks.

Will the Conservatives abandon their reckless income-splitting plan and instead invest in fighting poverty?

Petitions February 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I present several petitions regarding autism spectrum disorders, or ASDs, which affect one person in 88. These disorders are characterized by social and communication challenges and a pattern of repetitive behaviours and interests. They are lifelong, affect development and life experience, and exert emotional and financial pressures on families.

The petitioners call on the government to work with the provinces and territories and stakeholders to develop a pan-Canadian strategy for autism spectrum disorder.