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.

Sponsor

Harold Albrecht  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

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 / 2 p.m.
See context

Liberal

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.
See context

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario

Conservative

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.
See context

NDP

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.
See context

Conservative

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 ActRoutine Proceedings

September 29th, 2011 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to proudly introduce this bill.

The bill would establish 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 are lost each year to suicide, almost 4,000, over 10 each day. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth ages 10 to 24. Aboriginal youth suicide rates are especially troubling at five to seven times higher than the non-aboriginal rate. In Waterloo region's high schools, three youths lost their lives to suicide in just one single week last year.

Suicide has a horrific impact: shortened lives, grieving families, devastated friends and even broken communities.

There is already lots of good work being done in suicide prevention across the country, but with some federal coordination and federal leadership, we can do better for vulnerable Canadians.

I invite all hon. members to join me in supporting this very important non-partisan initiative.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)