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.