Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act

An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.


Harold Albrecht  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment establishes a requirement for the Government of Canada to develop 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.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Feb. 15, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
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Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

moved that Bill C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to begin our discussion regarding Bill C-300, an act respecting a federal framework for suicide prevention.

I want to thank the member for Toronto Centre for dedicating an opposition day to this important issue, and the member for Halifax for raising this issue in two consecutive Parliaments. I thank them for ensuring that this very political issue did not become partisan.

In that spirit, I use the word “discussion” rather than “debate” because I am convinced that the House is eager to take action on the national tragedy that suicide represents.

I also want to acknowledge the important contribution of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, its executive director, Mr. Tim Wall, and president, Dammy Albach, and Dr. Adrian Hill.

I also wish to extend a special thanks to Mr. Rory Butler of Your Life Counts, as well as Tana Nash and the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council, and Dr. Antoon Leenaars, psychologist and suicide researcher.

Each of these individuals and groups has contributed to my work and I thank them for their efforts in suicide prevention.

I also want to acknowledge the 20 members who have added their formal support for Bill C-300 by attaching their names as seconders of the bill. Members of all parties in the House have voiced their support formally and informally and I am grateful as it signals that long awaited action is imminent.

I believe that all members will want the bill to move quickly on to committee for further study where any possible improvements can be incorporated into Bill C-300 before it is returned to the House for final approval. The sooner the bill receives royal assent, the better for all Canadians.

This will be the first small but very crucial step in providing additional hope for those who have worked in the trenches doing this noble work for years and years, often with far too little coordination, too few resources, and a lack of federal leadership and vision.

For far too long there has been a call for some strategic national leadership and unifying coordination of the great efforts of many community groups all across Canada, suicide prevention groups that have been key in identifying and addressing the risk factors relating to suicide. They have also worked within communities, schools, commercial companies and families to provide support and care for those left to deal with the burden of grief.

Bill C-300 establishes the requirement for the Government of Canada to develop a federal framework for suicide prevention in consultation with the relevant non-governmental organizations, the relevant entity in each province and territory, as well as the relevant federal departments.

In Canada, far too many lives, almost 4,000, are lost each year to suicide. Over 10 Canadian lives are ended each day prematurely and tragically, leaving behind broken communities and shattered family dreams. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth 10 to 24 years of age. In my home area of Waterloo region, three youths lost their lives to suicide in just one single week last year. Suicide has a horrific impact: shortened lives, shattered dreams, grieving families, devastated friends, and broken communities.

We need to do more to protect the sacred gift of human life, and I believe that all human life is sacred. I will stand for the protection and preservation of the dignity of all human life well after others may have decided that a specific life is no longer worth the extra effort, the extra care, or the extra protection in late senior years. My convictions and beliefs as they relate to this issue of life without a doubt have been shaped by my life's journey.

I was elected to Parliament in January 2006. I have the honour of representing the great people of Kitchener--Conestoga. Throughout these past five years plus, I have had the honour of meeting some incredible people from all sides of the House, many of whom have become very close friends.

One of the most welcoming and encouraging MPs I met in those early days would often take the time to say “great job” or “this 2006 class of MPs is exceptional”, or “hey, I know where you could find this, or here is someone who could help you with that”. Dave Batters was positive, he was an encourager, and he was fun to be around.

Our Prime Minister spoke at Dave's memorial service about his many contributions:

Dave held a place in all our hearts. To his wife and family, he was a loving and beloved husband, son and brother. To his friends, he was unfailingly loyal, generous and caring. And among his colleagues in Parliament, myself included, he was greatly admired for his dedication to his constituents, our party and our country.

In my experience, no one on either side of the aisle ever had a bad word to say about Dave.

His passion for the causes he embraced was combined with respect for his opponents. Dave was always excited about whatever issue or initiative he was working on. His energy and enthusiasm were infectious. He had a good sense of humour. He lifted spirits and inspired others. In fact, I used to tell my staff that I wished I could match Dave Batters' liveliness and optimism.

Members can imagine my shock and disbelief, and the shock of my colleagues, when we heard the tragic news that Dave Batters, MP, had lost his life to suicide. How could it be that someone so full of life could lose hope when he seemed to be enjoying life so much, including his role as member of Parliament? What brought about that deep sense of despair?

These are bigger questions than I am prepared to answer. Suicide and its causes are extremely complex and the solutions are also not simple. However, these big questions bring me back to another question. Why did I run for public office in the first place?

The reason I ran for public office, as I am sure every member in the House did, was to do my part to make this great country of Canada an even better country for my children and for my grandchildren. My family, my community, my life experiences here in Canada and internationally have all shaped my world view.

My faith journey as a Christian informs me that as humans we have the imprint of our creator deeply imbedded within each and every one of us regardless of social status, educational achievements, ethnic background, gender, colour of skin, so-called disability issues, or age. The list of the glorious variety placed within the human race goes on and on, but we are brothers and sisters.

As it relates to the tragic premature loss of life, what steps can we take to restore hope to those who are in despair? What can we do to improve the support mechanisms for those who are dealing with acute and chronic mental health challenges, or for those who have simply lost hope? What leadership can Parliament or the Government of Canada provide?

I am certain that everyone in this chamber can tell us how they, their family, or a member in their community has been negatively impacted by suicide. Each of us knows someone whose sense of hope was overcome by despair and ended his or her life by suicide. We understand that suicide does not end the pain; it simply transfers it to the family, friends and community.

There is no way to calculate the loss to families, our communities and our country. It is estimated that for every suicide there are 22 emergency department visits and 5 hospitalizations for suicide-related behaviour. It is a huge economic cost that must be considered.

More important than the economic costs, we must think of the thousands of families robbed of loved ones long before their time. These losses deprive our communities and our country of the important contributions that those lives, which were ended prematurely, could have made. Four thousand times a year we suffer a tragic loss of human potential.

Suicide is a triumph of fear and the loss of hope. Suicide is most often the result of pain, hopelessness and despair. It is almost always preventable through caring, compassion, commitment and community.

In the first paragraph of the preamble to Bill C-300, members will find the following words:

Whereas suicide is a complex problem involving biological, psychological, social and spiritual factors, and can be influenced by societal attitudes and conditions;

It is widely recognized that in many cases, there may be biological, psychological, or physiological factors related to chemical balances and imbalances which lead to mood disorders.

The Canadian Mental Health Association of Ontario states:

People with mood disorders are at a particularly high risk of suicide. Studies indicate that more than 90 percent of suicide victims have a diagnosable psychiatric illness, and suicide is the most common cause of death for people with schizophrenia.

Social factors also may be a contributor to higher suicide rates. As we know, the suicide rate among aboriginal youth is five to seven times higher than among non-aboriginal youth. Along with the biological, psychological and spiritual factors, there are some key social factors that are having an impact on these high suicide rates.

The national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy was launched by Health Canada in 2005. It is a five-year strategy developed in full partnership with the Assembly of First Nations and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, with an investment of $65 million to establish community-based, culturally appropriate levels of prevention. Specific focus was placed on promotion of life and well-being. Budget 2010 added $75 million to expand this program up to 2015.

Evidence is accumulating that when aboriginal communities, including Inuit communities, design their own interventions, typically, based on traditional cultural values and practices, the efficacy of these interventions is high. Therefore, there is hope, but much more needs to be done. We need to offer hope to those who are facing this unbearable pain and who subsequently descend into a state of hopelessness and despair.

I have touched briefly on the possible biological, psychological and cultural factors that may affect suicidal behaviour, but there is another key factor that far too often is ignored.

Professor Margaret Somerville of McGill University has said:

Hope is dependent on having a sense of connection to the future, even if that future is very short-term....Hope is the oxygen of the human spirit; without it our spirit dies.

Hope is a sense of connection to the future. Hope is the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. Hope is a belief that life's events will turn out for the best.

Each of us can relate to the importance of having hope in our lives. That hope might be very short term, like getting through Grade 5, or graduating from high school, or getting one's driver's licence for the first time or even the upcoming weekend trip.

For people of faith, a longer term hope, in fact an eternal hope, is ours because of our belief in the reality of the resurrection.

A colleague in the House recently used the phrase, “death shall have no dominion”, crediting it to Dylan Thomas. In fact, this phrase finds its origin in the Scriptures, in the Book of Romans 6:9, in the context of Christ's victory over death, a victory offered to each of us.

I have a strong hope of seeing my grandchildren in a few hours, when I travel home for the weekend. Over the next number of years, I hope to see my grandchildren graduate from elementary school and secondary school. I hope to see my grandchildren get married and develop strong families. I hope to see each of them contribute to the building of a stronger and better Canada. My ultimate hope, however, is in the reality that I will again see by wife Betty, who left this earth almost six months ago.

These smaller and shorter hopes and the longer-term hope remind us of the many joys in life. However, for those struggling with life, and perhaps struggling with suicidal thoughts, these sources of hope have dimmed or perhaps been lost altogether.

How can each of us make a difference? How can we help?

The very fact that this discussion is happening in the House of Commons in Canada is a huge step forward. It is time to break the silence.

Too many Canadians are in the dark about this issue. A recent survey by Harris-Decima conducted on behalf of Your Life Counts found that 86% of Canadians did not know that suicide was the second leading cause of death among our youth. Over one-third thought it was a small problem or not a problem at all. Over 96% of respondents stated that in order to reduce suicide, the topic should be freely discussed, without fear or shame. An overwhelming 84% believed that government should invest in suicide prevention.

Suicide is obviously a mental health issue, but it is so much more than that. Suicide is a public health issue affecting all Canadians. All of us, including all levels of government, need to do our part to face this issue head on, to work with communities across Canada to do all that we can to relieve the mental, emotional and spiritual pain of those who are in despair and who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, so we can keep them alive and safe.

A national framework for suicide prevention will create the connections, promote the consistent use of best practices, offer hope and send a clear message that this issue matters and is important, that every life is important. By working together, we can, and we will, make a difference.

Already a lot of great work is being done in suicide prevention across the country, but with some federal vision, federal coordination and federal leadership, we can do better for vulnerable Canadians.

I ask all hon. members of the House to please support Bill C-300 in order to make that happen.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be the first recognized in what I am sure will be a fairly long list of members of Parliament who wish to congratulate the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his leadership on this issue and for bringing forward the bill. I am very proud and look forward to being able to vote for it. I commend the member.

Could the member set out further the really critical role for mental health strategies that are so severely lacking, particular for our youth?

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague called and wanted to second the bill. Unfortunately we already had 20 seconders. I thank her sincerely for her strong support.

If we take time to read the preamble and a number of points that are within the bill, what we are asking for is simply some coordination, national leadership and sharing of best practices. In our communities we all have great community groups already doing excellent work, but, without exception, they are calling out for some national leadership and visions and for the resources to help them do their job even better.

If we can get some of the research that is already being done and that is going to be commissioned out of the classroom and into the hands of people who are doing the work in the trenches, that is a good thing.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for his initiatives on Bill C-300. I have to admit a certain fondness for that name and a fondness for the member as well. I and our party will be supporting the bill. Therefore, from that standpoint there is not really much of a discussion about the issues.

However, I wanted to get into his vision about what the bill, in his ideal version, would accomplish. The bill talks about designating the appropriate entity to establish best practices, do education and things of that nature. In the member's ideal vision of how this bill would roll out over time, what would he actually see, both from an organizational standpoint and also from a best practices, best purposes standpoint?

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his support as well.

We were careful to craft the bill in a way that would not enter into jurisdictions not under the federal government and that would give latitude to whichever entity this would be referred. I assume that would be Health Canada, however, I do not want to presume that. Nor do I want to presume that Health Canada would necessarily set up an agency within itself to do this work.

However, we are giving it the freedom to do this. A lot of great work has already been done by Health Canada, and we need to acknowledge that, and we need to bring together these groups already doing the work within Health Canada. We have too many different groups within our government, and not just related to suicide prevention. However, too often the silos of information are not being shared. By sharing the information across jurisdictional lines and within Health Canada, we will have a better approach to moving forward.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we heard in the news, and as the hon. member mentioned this in his speech, people from his riding and some people in Ottawa felt they were different and because of that they felt they were being discriminated against and bullied. Whether they were different by the place they went to worship or by the colour of their skin does not matter.

I know the member said in his speech that we all have a responsibility. Could the member comment on some of the things we might be able to do in a proactive or mentoring way, as leaders in our community, as members of Parliament or just as average citizens?

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 1:50 p.m.
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Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, the very fact that this discussion is happening is a big piece of that. Each of us works with people, one on one, here in the House or in our previous employment. We need to have our eyes and ears open to know what is happening. However, too often there is a stigma, a silence, a secrecy surrounding suicide.

I could reference some people whom I have come into contact with, such as a friend who said that he knew his aunt died of suicide, but the adult children of that aunt were not talking. They do not know that she committed suicide. Anything we can do to have a greater degree of openness to discuss it would be a good thing.

On that note, I want to commend the widow of the late Dave Batters for her openness in discussing this issue frankly and clearly, and not only being willing to discuss it, but taking great initiative to promote suicide prevention initiatives across Canada.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 1:50 p.m.
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Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is at times like these that we realize what an incredible responsibility we have as members of Parliament when we feel compelled to speak about an issue as important and as complex and difficult as suicide. It is also at times like these that we are most impelled to speak from the heart.

Despite centuries of knowledge on the problem of suicide and various attempts to address the issue, it remains a persistent phenomenon, one which we cannot seem to tackle effectively. Perhaps it is the depth of the question which escapes us and makes it difficult for us to find concrete solutions, for suicide, perhaps unlike any other problem, condemns our society and culture.

As Albert Camus once wrote following upon the atrocities of the second world war and the loss of faith in human nature this entailed:

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.

Though I may disagree with his conclusions on the question of suicide, I agree with his sentiment. Having seen those close to me grapple with depression and social exclusion and having been good friends as a teenager with a person who attempted suicide several times, it is difficult for me to see suicide as anything but a failure of the very social fabric of our society.

We are social beings, after all, and the suicide of one is the failure of all, a collective failure to tolerate and to forgive, a failure to accept those who feel and are different and those who struggle under the ravages of mental illness and the stigma associated with it, but above all, a collective failure to love.

It is hard not to come to the conclusion that over the centuries of awareness of this problem that we as elected officials have been afraid to look into this problem. Perhaps it is because it entails taking a very long and very difficult look at ourselves and our immense fear of death. However, as an elected politician, I am here to say, and add my voice, that we are the representatives of those contemplating suicide as much as we are the representatives of any other Canadians. We have the responsibility to speak out and act. Our shared humanity compels us to act whether it be in our families, social circles or ridings.

It is truly sad that evidence continues to point to the failures of our inability to act. The suicide rate for Canadians, as measured by the WHO, continues to hover around 15 per 100,000 people. Populations at an increased risk of suicide include aboriginals, youth, the elderly, inmates in correctional facilities, people with mental illness and those who have previously attempted suicide.

In Canada, more than 100,000 Canadians have committed suicide over the past 20 years—10 suicides a day and more than 3,500 suicides a year. In Quebec, the most recent data from the Institut national de santé publique du Québec indicate that 1,103 people committed suicide in Quebec in 2008. Adults between the ages of 35 and 40 are most at risk. Even though it has improved over the past few years, the suicide rate in Quebec remains an ongoing problem at 13.8 out of every 100,000 people. That is higher than Greece, Italy and even the United States. Each day, three Quebeckers commit suicide. In 2009, 1,068 people killed themselves, and that does not include those who attempted suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 25- to 49-year-olds.

The situation is even worse in the aboriginal community. The suicide rate is four to six times higher for aboriginal youth than for non-aboriginal youth. The suicide rate is more than 10 times higher among Inuit than in the rest of Canada. The suicide rate for young men between the ages of 15 and 24 is 28 times higher in Nunavut than in the rest of the country.

That is shameful, absolutely shameful. The need for action is the main reason that I wholeheartedly supported the motion regarding a national suicide prevention strategy. That is why I made this speech. I support my colleague's bill with great enthusiasm. And I congratulate the hon. member for choosing to act, and I offer my help in his effort to prevent suicide.

Though the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not, it does not consume it. Darkness is but the absence of light, and as children of that light and of its hope, I must believe that we can always choose to move toward it.

I believe suicide can be prevented. We must do it together. As elected officials, it is our duty to help these people through prevention and treatment programs in all communities. Suicide prevention is everyone's business. We need to raise public awareness of this issue and encourage everyone to help, rather than judge, those who suffer. Many initiatives have been launched across the country in recent years, such as establishing national guidelines for suicide prevention among seniors and funding research into suicide among aboriginal people. Now we need to develop a national strategy in order to offer services across Canada.

Everywhere in Canada there are people like those of Tel-Aide Outaouais, the distress centre in my riding, who are dedicated to suicide prevention in public administrations, and I would like to commend their excellent work. As we know, simply being able to talk to someone at the right time can make all the difference in the world. At the same time, however, it is appalling that these efforts are often underfunded, in addition to being inconsistent and disorganized. The federal government must take action.

For instance, it needs to officially recognize that suicide is a major public health concern and make it a public policy priority in Canada. It must fund, support and coordinate a range of effective initiatives to prevent suicide. It must systematically evaluate initiatives and gaps in services across Canada. It must promote dialogue, research and the sharing of knowledge and skills among governments and stakeholders. Lastly, it must monitor trends and develop national guidelines in order to improve practices and intervention.

In closing, like Stendhal, I hope that, in the future of our country, tears become the ultimate expression of a smile for everyone, and that love becomes the miracle of our civilization.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 2 p.m.
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John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again it is an honour to rise and talk about this subject. The last time I spoke about this subject was on October 4. I spoke not only about the statistics and the facts of suicide in this country, but I also related a personal story, as did many members in this House, over one of the more extraordinary days we have had here.

It became clear to me after that day, as I reflected on it and was literally inundated by telephone calls, emails and personal approaches, that this was a subject matter the Canadian public was ready to have their elected representatives talk about.

I want to commend my hon. colleague from Kitchener—Conestoga for keeping this conversation alive. I think he has made a really good initiative. I hope we do not get lost in the weeds. As an initiative, it is about as carefully a thought-out initiative as it can be at this stage. I hope that this bill will go forward and I hope that when it does go to committee, it will receive some thoughtful reflection.

I was approached, I do not know how many times, after that speech on October 4. Colleagues who I only know in a peripheral way came up to me afterward. The pattern of the conversation was, “I want to commend you for the courage you showed in speaking”. Then they would get into their own personal stories.

Almost without exception, the stories were heartbreaking, really heartbreaking. I asked one colleague what his story was, and he said he had lost his wife to suicide 20 years ago. Another colleague in the other place lost a son to suicide. I was standing in line at the local LCBO, paying for my wine purchase for the weekend, and a lady tapped me on the shoulder, told me she had heard my speech and went on to tell me her story.

These cameras and these speeches actually can have an impact. I think that the hon. member is appropriate in bringing this forward and trying to do some form of legislative response which will hopefully move the ball forward.

Other colleagues have talked about the impact on individual populations, whether it is the gay youth or aboriginals or young people. Each story is very discouraging. How to reach into that darkness of those who have suicidal ideation is really quite a challenge. I do not know what the answer to that challenge will be, but with this initiative there is some possibility that we may be able to reach those who attempt suicide, and apparently there are 100 attempts for every “successful” suicide. Perhaps by some means we can enter into the mind of the person who is contemplating that.

I was extremely touched by a pastor friend of mine who talked about the 13 suicides he has officiated at, at two of which he literally cut down the body, and some he had been counselling up to somewhere in the order of three hours prior to the death of the individual.

There is not a person in this room, and I dare say there is not a person who is watching this debate, who has not, in some manner or another, been affected by suicide.

I think we actually have moved forward. I was raised in a generation where if uncle so-and-so died in strange and mysterious circumstances, it would be described, particularly to the children, as something other than a suicide. We have moved off that point and made some progress.

It may be that the member for Kitchener—Conestoga will be part of moving us to that next stage where we de-stigmatize, which I think is good, and get beyond de-stigmatization to bring the rates of suicide down, not only for the general population but for discrete populations as well. Whatever we can do in that respect would be worthwhile for us as legislators.

We know our limitations and what we can do in the form of legislation and regulations, but it is certainly an improvement over doing nothing, and I want to commend the hon. member for this initiative.

I did ask a question earlier with respect to his vision of how he sees this operating. I appreciated his answer, that he is not entirely sure how this will roll out in the form of government response to legislation. He shows a certain openness, and I hope the government in turn shows a certain openness to his initiative.

From my side and my party, I would encourage the government to be very open with this piece of legislation. There would be a level of collaboration, which is not frequently seen here, and I hope the consequence of that collaboration could be the best possible legislative, regulatory, financial response that we could have to this plague, this blight on our society.

It is hugely ironic that we as a wealthy, well-developed, and well-educated populace have the third highest suicide rate in the industrial world. It does not seem to be quite right. Something is not good in this country. I commend the hon. member for his initiative and for pointing that out to us.

I do want to again thank the hon. member. He can count on me and our party for whatever support we can offer him as he goes through this legislative process.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 2:05 p.m.
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Newmarket—Aurora Ontario


Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, put forward by the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga. I am also pleased to have the opportunity to provide some insight into the context surrounding suicide prevention and to highlight some of the efforts under way.

Suicide has devastating impacts on families and communities across the country. In Canada, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall. Approximately 3,600 Canadians commit suicide every year. Among Canadians aged 15 to 24, it is the second leading cause of death, and at-risk groups face disproportionately higher rates than the rest of the country.

Along with the enormous life-changing toll this takes on families and communities, it impacts every one of us directly or indirectly. For example, the economic cost of suicide and related behaviour in Canada is estimated at over $2.4 billion per year. Recently several high-profile cases have brought significant media attention to this issue, including here in Ottawa.

Canadians know of the complexities of suicide and want to hear that we are acting collaboratively with communities, governments, health professionals, the private sector and many others. They want us to help ensure that resources are there, awareness is being raised and the information on prevention, treatment and coping is being shared. This is where we can make a difference, and these are the reasons I am pleased to speak to the bill put forward by the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga and thank him for his tireless work to bring the issue of suicide prevention out of the shadows.

As my colleagues will know, this bill seeks to establish a federal framework for suicide prevention. It calls for a framework to recognize that suicide, in addition to being a mental health issue, is a public health issue, and as such is a health and safety priority.

The framework would guide and strengthen coordination of existing Government of Canada suicide prevention efforts. It would promote collaboration and coherence, guide our engagement with many partners, including provinces and territories, and help inform potential future initiatives. It would also serve as a reporting tool for more systematic documentation and tracking of related current federal actions and investments. Further, federal work on each of the elements of the framework would help support multiple stakeholders across Canada to optimize their efforts. The baseline information, best practices and research results generated would help ensure that the most effective interventions and services are provided to Canadians.

The bill recognizes that the prevention of suicide is complex and, like so many other health issues, cannot be addressed within the health portfolio alone. The bill provides a solid rationale for why we must harness the great work happening across the country. Many schools and communities across Canada are helping to raise awareness about the stigma of mental illness, initiating programs to prevent bullying and providing counselling and support for at-risk populations.

Provinces and territories are also carrying out programs to strengthen individual resilience and self-esteem and improve mental health. Nunavut's suicide prevention strategy, New Brunswick's Connecting to Life strategy and the 10-year plans established in Alberta and British Columbia are just a few examples. Countless others are providing new means of counselling, services, awareness raising and other activities for the workplace, schools, the community and individuals.

The Government of Canada is also a full partner and participant in suicide prevention. It invests in a number of programs designed to build positive mental health and address the underlying factors that can affect mental health and potentially lead to suicide.

For example, the government is very proud to provide funding of $130 million over 10 years to establish and support the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The initiatives of the commission include the development of a mental health strategy for Canada, a knowledge exchange centre, and an anti-stigma campaign entitled Opening Minds.

Several federal departments and agencies also support and disseminate leading-edge research on mental health and suicide, including Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, among many others.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is investing $27 million over the next four years to support nine large-scale mental health promotion initiatives in over 50 communities across Canada, and Budget 2010 provided $75 million until 2015 to extend the national aboriginal suicide prevention strategy.

We can work together, and are working together, in a more collaborative way within government to ensure that our actions are guided as coherently and efficiently as possible. For this reason, the creation of a framework, which Bill C-300 proposes, is an important next step in this battle. It will report on progress being made and outline concrete measures that can improve the state of mental health.

After all, the federal family is complex and involves activities related to the health of many populations. For example, the RCMP and Canadian Forces are directly responsible for the health of their members, Health Canada is responsible for the promotion of health for first nations people living on reserve, as well as Inuit populations in the north, and Veterans Affairs provides services in support for veterans who have performed active service in a war.

By contrast, there are other departments whose actions provide guidance to Canadians as a whole. The Public Health Agency of Canada, for example, is responsible for providing public health guidance and coordinates health promotion and chronic disease prevention with complementary activities of individual provinces and territories.

Research on mental health and compilation of mental health statistics is conducted by a myriad of federal players, including the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada.

Given a topic as big, broad and complex as the prevention of suicide, it would make sense for these departments and agencies to come together, share information and ensure their approach to this issue has the benefit of shared expertise, best practices and lessons learned.

It requires that the Government of Canada assume responsibility for six main activities: first, in providing guidelines to improve public awareness and knowledge about suicide; second, in disseminating information about suicide, including information concerning its prevention; third, in making existing statistics about suicide and related risk factors publicly available; fourth, in promoting collaboration and knowledge exchange across domains, sectors, regions and jurisdictions.

I want to elaborate on this point for a moment. We will be undertaking this activity in the very near term; I raise the point because it gets to the core of why we are all here, which is to ensure a collective and coordinated effort across Canada.

The fifth recommendation lies in defining best practices for the prevention of suicide. The final area is promoting the use of research and evidence-based practices for the prevention of suicide.

We are in agreement with the spirit of Bill C-300: that collectively, we can and must and will do more.

I want to again thank the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his dedication and passion in bringing the bill to the House.

We are committed to doing more. We encourage people to talk about suicide and mental health concerns with loved ones or with health professionals. We hope no one suffers in silence.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 2:15 p.m.
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Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to support Bill C-300, regarding the creation of a federal framework for suicide prevention.

The NDP congratulates the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for introducing this bill. For years, the NDP has been calling on the government to develop a national suicide prevention strategy. It is encouraging to see the Conservative government introduce a bill to address the serious issue of suicide at the national level.

The issue of suicide is particularly worrisome to me. I cannot forget the recent suicide of Jamie Hubley, a 16-year-old gay man who was the victim of harassment by his peers. As member of the NDP's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender caucus, I was proud to hear our caucus's LGBT critic, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, speak in the House of Commons on October 20, Spirit Day.

Spirit Day was started in 2010 by Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan to remember the LGBT and questioning youth lost to suicide. Spirit Day is also a time to rally governments and institutions nationwide to denounce homophobic bullying, which is a major contributor to these tragic losses.

In the Gaspé, this issue has many faces, and every year dozens of families and children are tragically left in mourning. These situations are even more tragic because they are often shrouded in silence and guilt.

In Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine the suicide rate per hundred thousand people is 25.2. This is far above the Quebec average, which is 15.

According to the Portrait statistique des conduites suicidaires en Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, a report on suicide published in 2009 by the health and social services agency in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine:

The Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine region has one of the highest suicide rates in Quebec. The region's suicide rate is 64% higher than the provincial rate.

According to statistics from 2003-2007, men in the region have a significantly higher suicide rate than other Quebeckers.

According to the most recent data, the regional hospitalization rate for suicide attempts is significantly higher than the provincial rate.

Following the increase in suicide in the 1990s, the provincial rate has decreased since the start of the 2000s. However, studies on suicide trends in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine paint a different [and very worrying] picture for the region, where the suicide rate continues to increase.

This increase in the regional suicide rate since the mid-1990s is mainly attributable to the increase in the number of male deaths. If we compare the five 5-year periods between 1983 and 2007, it is clear that the male suicide rate significantly increased during that period. For example, the suicide rate for males in the region increased from 25.4 per 100,000 in 1998-1992 to 38.1 per 100,000 in 2003-2007.

Suicide affects every part of society; however, there are some segments in which the suicide rate is quite a bit higher for social, economic and personal reasons. These segments must therefore be directly targeted by a national suicide prevention strategy. We are speaking about aboriginal people; youth, particularly young men; people with disabilities; abuse victims; seniors; people suffering from serious mental illness; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people; and others.

While I applaud the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for bringing the bill forward and recognizing that suicide is a medical issue that needs to be dealt with nationally, it is also true that suicide is much more than a medical issue. It is a social and economic issue as well.

In fact, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes that suicide rates rise and fall with the economy. In tough economic times, suicide rates go up as people lose their jobs and often their homes.

According to the study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2011:

The overall suicide rate generally rose in recessions like the Great Depression (1929-1933), the end of the New Deal (1937-1938), the Oil Crisis (1973-1975), and the Double-Dip Recession (1980-1982) and fell in expansions like the WWII period (1939-1945) and the longest expansion period (1991-2001) in which the economy experienced fast growth and low unemployment.

If we want to keep people from falling through the cracks, we need to ensure they have decent jobs and good government services.

My riding is made up of dozens of small towns and villages. Because there are no large cities in the region, residents do not have access to all the social and economic supports and services available to city dwellers. The government services we do have are crucial to our well-being.

Federal government services and programs like those offered by Service Canada centres and post offices are anchors for the communities in the Gaspé and the Islands. This is why the NDP is fighting to stop the Conservative government from closing down Service Canada centres in regions like mine.

At the New Richmond Service Canada centre, as many as 30 employees could lose their jobs delivering essential services to my constituents, services like employment insurance benefits. Citizens in my riding rely on EI payments to keep food on the table when they are out of work.

The Service Canada centre in New Richmond also provides access to training programs for aboriginal people, labour market information, disability benefits, pensions, old age security and job search tools. All these services help keep people from falling through the cracks. They help keep communities intact by making it easier for people to stay in their regions instead of being forced to move to a big city to find work and obtain government services.

Suicide is a problem for the communities in my riding, but in fact it is a national problem. People in distress need support in their community and appropriate public health resources. The suicide rate in Canada is one of the highest in the industrialized world. In Canada, 10 suicides are committed a day, or more than 3,500 suicides a year. More than 100,000 Canadians have committed suicide over the past 20 years. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people aged 25 to 49 and the second leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 24.

In Canada, the number of people affected by suicide is roughly 3 million. No sector of Canadian society is spared from suicide and everyone suffers from the stigma attached to suicide, depression, addiction and mental illness. Suicide is symptomatic of a community that is not doing well, that is facing challenges. That is why Canadian society as a whole has to work on finding solutions to deal with this scourge.

It is this need to act on a national level that makes Bill C-300 so important. It is a first step in ensuring that Canada has a national strategy for addressing suicide.

The bill calls on the Government of Canada to establish a federal framework for suicide prevention that recognizes suicide, in addition to being a mental health issue, is a public health issue and that, as such, it is a health and safety priority.

The bill would ensure that suicide prevention is a national priority and would allow experts to work toward reducing Canada's suicide rate. Given time and the political will, we can move our communities to a place where the factors that can lead to or cause suicide are significantly improved upon.

I call on the Conservative government to pass the bill, but I also call on the Conservative members to consider that suicide is more than a mental health problem. It is just as much a problem caused by the weakening of our society and our economy. It is the Conservative government's responsibility to invest in Canada's economy and to maintain and improve the essential programs and services that all Canadians rely on.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 2:25 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I call on the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton, I will have to tell her that I will need to interrupt her speech partway through when we get to the half hour mark, but we will begin.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 2:25 p.m.
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Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, suicide, mental illness and depression have been the topics of several thoughtful and compassionate discussions of late in the House of Commons and it is an honour for me to participate in this critical discussion today on Bill C-300.

I congratulate the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his leadership on this critical issue. I thank him for his leading role on the parliamentary committee on palliative and compassionate care, where he has entertained submissions from the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

As we have heard today, suicide is a tragic issue which affects all Canadians. Sadly, as members of the House know all too well, aboriginal youth are affected by suicide more than any other group within our society. I will use my allotted time today to address issues within the aboriginal community.

Helping young aboriginal people, their families and communities as a whole is and must remain an issue of importance to Canadians. Our government has invested in many initiatives that play an important role in improving the quality of life for aboriginal people. We are building safer, healthier and stronger communities.

As a government we remain committed to working with all partners to help improve aboriginal health outcomes. As part of our commitment, budget 2010 allocated $730 million over five years to renew aboriginal health programs. They focus on suicide prevention, diabetes, maternal and child health, health service integration, and aboriginal health human resources.

That builds on investments made through Canada's economic action plan to help create and renovate health facilities in first nations communities. By providing $135 million in funding over two years we have successfully completed 40 major health infrastructure projects and 135 renovation projects on existing infrastructure.

My time for debate is coming to end so I will close there. There are many more initiatives the government is undertaking to help aboriginal youth and aboriginal communities. We will continue to work with our partners to invest in first nations and Inuit suicide prevention programs in order to support communities, families and individuals in tackling this complex and wide-reaching issue.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 2:30 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton will have seven minutes remaining for her remarks when the House next takes up debate on this piece of legislation.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 2:30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)