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

June 18th, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand this morning to talk about Bill C-300, the federal framework for suicide prevention act.

Suicide is a tragedy that not only affects the person who actually commits suicide but all the people around him or her, the whole community and relatives, et cetera, who are actually involved. The tragedy of suicide is that most people do not understand why.

A close friend of mine woke up one day and went into the washroom only to find his brother hanging there, having committed suicide. The effect of that on him and his family was tremendous. Years later, he remarks that he just does not understand why. Understanding why has been a quest for many people for a very long time.

This bill is very supportive in terms of trying to understand why. The framework allows some investigation and research to be undertaken and pushed forward so that we can better understand what causes these tragedies.

For example, a very famous footballer in England had a successful football career and was a coach in one of the first division leagues. He was seen the night before, partying and enjoying himself. The following day, it was discovered that he had taken his life. Nobody really understands why people feel this despair and that they have to take their own lives, ending it like that. He was a successful, wealthy man.

Suicide affects people from the entire spectrum of life, from the very rich to the poor and everybody in between. Understanding suicide in this country can help. We have had many tragedies of suicide among aboriginal people, particularly among youth, in the prime of their lives, who take their own lives. There must be some reason for that.

To understand that reason has to be a quest that we as a Parliament can undertake. The question is, “Why are these tragedies happening?” This bill puts forward a framework whereby research can be done, as well as follow-up with the victims and the communities around them, to try to understand and prevent some of these tragedies that are happening.

I ask all members on all party sides to support this bill.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

June 18th, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak, today, to what no one can doubt to be an incredibly important and urgent issue: the need for a pan-Canadian suicide prevention strategy.

The House of Commons demonstrated its commitment to developing a national strategy in October of last year. The hon. member for Toronto Centre, the interim leader of the Liberal Party, introduced an important and powerful motion passed by this House almost unanimously when we agreed that suicide is more than a personal tragedy; it is also a serious public health issue and public policy priority. As a government and as national representatives, we must work with our counterparts in the provinces and territories and with representatives from non-governmental organizations, first nations, Inuit and Métis people, to establish and fund a comprehensive, evidence-driven national suicide prevention strategy.

I was proud to stand along with nearly every other member in this House to support that motion.

This issue with other mental health and end-of-life concerns has been forefront in my mind for more than two years, both here and as a member of the all-party parliamentary palliative and compassionate care committee, which I helped form with Bill C-300 sponsor, the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar and the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis.

What brought us together goes back to our initial reactions to a private member's bill dealing with end-of-life issues. At that time I felt, and still feel, that if people are given a reason to live, feel their lives are relevant and significant and truly do not feel that they are a burden on society and are able to live pain-free, they just might be less inclined to turn to more desperate measures as a relief from the emotional, mental or physical pain from which they suffer.

Over the course of our hearings, we travelled widely and Canadians from across the country came to Ottawa, at their own expense, to share their stories and experiences with us. These were men and women, parents, siblings and families who were directly affected by mental health issues and suicide, as well as experts who deal with mental health and suicide prevention daily.

Our committee ultimately concluded and recommended that the federal government establish a suicide prevention secretariat and that it provide the secretariat with adequate funding so that it might conduct and support research and act as a conduit between the provincial and municipal governments and community stakeholders to accomplish these goals.

The result of this federally directed collaboration would be the development and implementation of a national suicide prevention strategy, similar to the one we are discussing today. By working together, the various levels of government and stakeholders could develop and implement a program with nationally recognized and accepted standards for the training of suicide intervention personnel. By providing a nationally directed body to coordinate with other levels of government and groups, research and information could be more easily shared instead of being isolated in a series of silos across the country.

More important, it would enable the development of a national public awareness program on suicide and suicide prevention, as well as facilitate social media around reducing the stigma associated with suicide and mental health issues.

We have all heard various notable figures speak out and tell marginalized youth that it gets better; an important and valuable lesson that too many Canadians do not hear in time. However, our efforts to reach youth and others in need more effectively must be better coordinated across the country.

The facts behind suicide are staggering. Ten Canadians take their own life every day. By the time we wrap up here tonight, 10 more Canadians will have committed suicide because they are struggling with pain and hopelessness, depression and desperation. By the end of today, 10 more Canadian families will be devastated by the loss of a loved one. For every Canadian who commits suicide, there are 100 who attempt to kill or deliberately harm themselves. That is 1,000 Canadians a day, hundreds of thousands a year. Many of those Canadians will be men aged 25 to 29 or 40 to 44, or women aged 30 to 34. Suicide is the leading cause of death in those age groups. It is the second leading cause for young men and women between 10 and 24 years old. It may be one of our veterans, where the suicide rate is nearly three times higher than in the general population.

Suicide rates among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, intersexed and two-spirited youth is seven times the rate of heterosexual youth. The leading cause of death for aboriginal males aged 10 to 19 is suicide and the rate for Inuit youth is among the highest in the world, at 11 times higher than the national average. Yet, in the face of these staggering statistics, and for not one good reason, we remain hostage to our inability to appropriately deal with the crisis, which affects us from coast to coast to coast. We are one of two countries in the G8 without a national suicide prevention strategy.

We also know that suicide intervention works. Countless lives are saved every year through intervention. We know that so much more can be done and so many more can be saved with the appropriate public funding of research and a national direction to guide the response in each of our provinces. Many organizations have called for a national suicide prevention strategy. In October 2004, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, known as CASP, issued the first edition of the CASP blueprint for a Canadian national suicide prevention strategy, a document that was later revised in 2009. The CASP blueprint called for an awareness and understanding of suicide, so that we might all understand this tragedy better, and so that fewer Canadian families would be needlessly victimized. It called for prevention and intervention that not only features community-based programs which address the specific needs of at-risk sections of our population, but that can be implemented more broadly. In order to adequately address these needs, the call for funding and support, as well as a more coherent approach to the gathering of information, must be answered.

A month ago, the Mental Health Commission of Canada reported on its mental health strategy for Canada, once again calling for a national suicide prevention strategy. It stated, “Despite the fact that pan-Canadian initiatives could help all jurisdictions to improve mental health outcomes, planning documents that address these matters from the perspective of the country as a whole are rare.”

The testimony is voluminous, the statistics are clear. Suicide is so much more than a personal and sudden decision made in a time of great pain, angst or isolation. It is a terrible scourge that affects nearly every family across the country.

In closing, all of us here want to see this national tragedy end, and we have yet another opportunity with this step forward. We came together in October to pass a motion calling for a national strategy for suicide prevention. We came together as members of an all-party committee to advocate a national strategy for suicide prevention, outlined in the committee's report, “Not to be Forgotten”. Now we can come together again and support Bill C-300.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

June 18th, 2012 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-300 would require the government to establish 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.

I support this bill because suicide is a major health issue in this country and it must be recognized as such, so that Canada makes it a real public policy priority. There are some 4,000 suicides in Canada every year, so this is an urgent problem and the government must take a stance. We must increase awareness and understanding of suicide across the country and make prevention a priority. This bill will open the dialogue on suicide prevention.

Suicide is a public health issue that requires proper public intervention in terms of prevention, treatment and funding. For intervention to be even more effective, the government must take some responsibility, by calling on the provinces and territories, first nations, the Métis and the Inuit to work with the federal government to develop a long-term national suicide prevention strategy.

This is what families and stakeholders have been calling for for years. We need clear measures to ensure that our commitment gives rise to tangible, concerted actions with stakeholders across the country. Any strategy must also take into account groups at risk, which we must absolutely not ignore in light of what is at stake. I am thinking in particular of young people, the first nations, persons with disabilities, veterans as well as gays and lesbians.

The only way to help them is to understand their realities and the taboos associated with the issue and stigmatization, which is common. Take, for example, persons with disabilities, whose condition is deteriorating every day, who struggle with instability and social isolation, and who have a much higher unemployment rate than the general labour force. Needless to say, these are factors that lead to situations of great despair.

We are also seeing new social groups in distress that are harder to reach, such as farmers. This group of people rarely, if ever, turns to crisis workers despite high levels of stress and intense distress. In recent years, the Canadian armed forces also reported a higher suicide rate as soldiers returned to Canada by the hundreds: 20 of them took their own lives in 2011, nearly twice as many as the year before. According to the Canadian army, 187 soldiers have committed suicide since 1996. Mental health issues and post-traumatic stress are taking a heavy toll, putting soldiers at increased risk of suicide. It is clear that there are serious, ongoing deficiencies with screening and prevention services for these soldiers.

We must also consider the aboriginal communities that the government has been neglecting. The suicide rate among young aboriginals is much higher than among non-aboriginals—four to six times higher. The situation varies from one community to the next, which points to the need for targeted initiatives that take into account the unique cultural and spiritual makeup of each community.

The riding of Montcalm is also especially affected by suicide. According to the suicide prevention centre in Lanaudière, the suicide rate in this region is above the Quebec average. Statistics Canada determined that the Quebec average in 2006 was 14.8 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants, and that of Lanaudière was 16.1 suicides per 100,000.

That said, it is very difficult to put numbers on suicide attempts, but there are 210 hospitalizations for suicide attempts in Lanaudière in an average year. Despite a gradual decline in youth suicide among Quebeckers since 2000, we should still be concerned about this excess mortality, especially among boys, whose suicide rate is much higher than that of girls.

On the other hand, the rate of attempted suicides is twice as high for girls. For each of the groups affected, we must find all the factors that may lead to suicide and we must intervene. It is absurd that a national suicide prevention strategy has not yet been established, after nearly 20 years of demands from NGOs. The impact of suicide on Canadian society is clear to everyone; nearly 4,000 people take their own lives in Canada every year. It is one of the highest rates among the industrialized nations.

Suicide is not an issue that affects only one region of the country; it affects them all. In order to meet the needs of people in distress, however, the appropriate public health resources must be in place and we must work with the communities to reflect the special factors in each cultural and community group.

Prevention initiatives must reflect these specific realities. Combatting this phenomenon is possible, but in order to do so, we need to take concerted, coherent and intensive action so that people who are in distress have access to the effective resources they need. We must be able to guarantee access to mental health and addiction services, provide adequate support to professionals and stakeholders, reduce the stigmatization and focus on research.

In terms of suicide prevention, I find Canada's poor record compared to other industrialized countries very disturbing. Our suicide rate is far too high, and yet we do not have a national strategy to address the problem. Furthermore, industrialized countries that have a national suicide prevention strategy have lower suicide rates and are doing much better than we are.

In the 1990s, both the United Nations and the World Health Organization called upon every country to establish its own national strategy. Many countries answered that call. Unfortunately, Canada was not one of them. It makes no sense. Why did Canada depart from this trend towards adopting a national strategy?

Nevertheless, I want to commend the hard work of mental health care professionals across the country. They do an outstanding job of answering calls, engaging the public and working with schools and workplaces. However, their work would have a greater reach and be more effective if their efforts were coordinated and best practices were shared nationally.

Currently, efforts are fragmented and organizations working on prevention are underfunded. The government can do something to change this situation by clearly identifying current shortcomings and disseminating best practices on prevention, research, expertise and primary care. We absolutely must have national guidelines on this.

With this government, we also have very few effective suicide prevention initiatives for our soldiers and veterans. It is inconceivable considering that modern-day veterans have a higher suicide rate than other Canadians, according to three studies released in 2011 by Veterans Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence and Statistics Canada.

It was the first reliable statistical study of its kind, and I would like to share some of the findings. The suicide rate among veterans is 46% higher than that of other Canadians in the same age bracket, and the only cause of death that is proportionally higher.

Why is there no ongoing evaluation of initiatives and monitoring of trends? What are we waiting for to take suicide seriously?

The World Health Organization calls suicide a huge public health problem but, we should remember, it is a problem that is largely preventable. In Quebec, there has been a 34% decline in the suicide rate in the past 10 years. Research has led to significant progress in suicide prevention. Consequently, it would be unfortunate to not share these advances and new means of prevention.

I will close by saying that this bill reminds us that we must take immediate action, and it will help prevent people from committing suicide. Given the extent of the scourge we are trying to eliminate, the government must act and continue to act. Because the high rate of suicide is a concern, prevention must be a public policy priority.

Therefore, I encourage all my colleagues to support this bill and to continue our suicide prevention efforts. After all, suicide is a concern for all of us. We must ensure that this issue becomes a priority for Canada so we can help more people in distress and save as many lives as possible.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

June 18th, 2012 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a little bittersweet for me to rise today to discuss this issue. Nevertheless, I am here to speak about the troubles that my home community is facing.

I inevitably return to my roots and talk about my community and other aboriginal communities in the country. Now, members must understand that the kind of reasoning I am using also applies to the rest of Canada.

Although I always try to distance myself or separate myself from the negative discourse surrounding the realities in Canada's aboriginal communities, after reviewing my recent speeches, I see that I tend to bring up some obscure points when I talk about the realities in the communities. What members must know is that I spent part of my life in a community that really struggled socially. This will necessarily be reflected in my speech. My colleagues have mentioned this to me, and since I am capable of introspection, I must say that these obscure points sometimes come out.

As I have said many times over the past year, my professional orientation probably has been guided and shaped by the idea of culturally appropriate social intervention. When I say, “culturally appropriate social intervention”, I refer to my criminal law practice, and also to my work in mental health.

In addition to providing legal services, I made sure that I took action, spoke to people and tried to find agreement or a way to connect with people more directly by referring to their everyday reality. That is why I was so successful with the legal aid office, where I began working when I was quite young, in 2007. As I have said before, I dealt with 400 files. Word got around quickly and people in the community asked me to help them more and more, because, in addition to providing legal services, I tried to improve their quality of life and influence everyone's future.

When I finished my bar admission course, my employer asked that I take responsibility for contentious matters involving the Innu and Naskapi communities. With time, my activities in the mental health field grew, and became a large part of my professional practice.

When I joined the legal aid office in 2007, I was assigned to the circuit court. As we travelled, I discovered that there was a rather significant demand for mental health services in my community. Rapidly, I found myself being asked to go to the psychiatric wing of the Sept-Îles hospital to meet clients who were sometimes dealing with the criminal justice system or the penal system, as well as custody orders, or custody in institutions under the Quebec Civil Code. In each of these cases, I had to specialize and reorient my career, because of the huge demand.

Now, when talking about problems and care with respect to mental health, there is always the concept of suicide, along with violent death and other elements that reveal the deterioration of the social fabric. These elements often come to the surface when clients are receiving services.

At the tender age of 24, 25, 26, I was called to work in fields that typically require specialized knowledge. The other lawyers who took these cases on had much more experience than I in the field, but I took the cases on anyway. Over the years, I gained more and more specialized knowledge. Now I can talk about Seroquel dosage and anticonvulsants because I was assigned to many of those cases. I am also familiar with the concept of toxic psychosis, which I will discuss in further detail shortly.

Inevitably, exposure to marked social dysfunction during childhood, combined with the career path I chose, influenced my understanding of social problems like suicide and associated issues. Everyone in my community has a passing familiarity with violent death.

I am not saying that this problem is the norm. Still, every time I return to Uashat, one of the first things I do is ask my family and friends whether there have been any violent deaths. By that, I mean everything from suicide to cirrhosis and overdose. That is the first thing I ask people in my community about. Invariably, they have names to add to the list. Many of the dead are people I represented in my legal practice, neighbours or friends. At times, when I call, people name others too. I do not necessarily need to go to Uashat to get that information. However, every time I return to my community, people tell me things that, while anything but banal, are part of daily life there. Children grow up intimately familiar with the atmosphere of bleakness and gloom in the community. That is part of everyday life there, and that background inevitably informs my own views.

I did a little research, and my community of Uashat won the gold medal for having the highest suicide rate in the world in 2003, as reported in Le Soleil in that same year. That is a very sad record, I know, but it simply illustrates the scope of the problem in my community.

I brought this up at a meeting of the aboriginal affairs committee. One stakeholder said that Uashat was going through a period of economic growth and increased socio-economic affirmation. However, I reminded that individual that this has always been a major problem for the community. Although, technically, there is some economic vitality, as I said in committee, in the end, it has very little impact on maintaining any quality of life or on the quality of the social fabric.

Aside from emphasizing the need for a national suicide prevention strategy, we also need to ensure that government initiatives and efforts on the ground somehow converge in order to really understand the causes and variables that will ultimately give us some answers. Not only is the suicide rate far too high—at dozens of suicides every year—but these suicides are being committed by very young people. In our communities, violent deaths are not necessarily limited to young people, but the suicide rate among youth is nevertheless especially high. Government efforts will have to address this problem. I will always be willing to work on this problem.

Aside from the fact that Canada will have no choice but to adopt a national suicide prevention strategy, I believe that particular efforts must be made to help aboriginal Canadians and aboriginal youth.

I submit this respectfully.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

June 18th, 2012 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members of the House for the discussion we have had on this important topic.

It is never easy to talk about death, and as members have acknowledged, it is even more difficult to talk about suicide. That is why this conversation was so important. I am grateful to all hon. members who joined in.

As I have said so often, in this case the conversation is just as important as the legislation, but the legislation is important. We know that 10 Canadians die by suicide each day. We know that suicide is the second largest killer of our youth. We know there are identifiable communities which suffer from suicide rates that are grossly disproportionate to their general population.

These are broad statistics that do not lie, but while the statistics are depressing, the thousands of stories behind the statistics are tragic. Let me share one person's story.

This individual was molested at the age of seven. This person also experienced severe bullying. Today, he is openly talking about taking his own life. This individual just turned 11. It is one thing to hear numbers about youth suicide, but it is another thing entirely to be confronted by a real-life story where an 11-year-old child requires intervention.

As the father of three children and the proud grandparent of nine, I was sick when I heard this story. What to do? I am not trained in crisis intervention, but when this child's mother sought help from my office, we were able to connect her with people who possess the skills, experience, understanding and training to offer help.

It was on the recommendation of a friend who follows the deliberations of this House that the mother contacted me. The conversation has already made a difference.

Bill C-300 is only under debate. The legislation has not yet been enacted and is not in force. This conversation, though, has been ongoing for months, and without this conversation, at least one child would still be contemplating a very permanent response to some temporary and surmountable challenges, but with connections to help has now found hope.

I thank all hon. members for the quality of debate they brought to this topic. I thank members from my party and also members from the opposition parties who were willing to attach their names to this effort as joint seconders.

This conversation has already helped at least one child. Please do not let this conversation end with this debate. I ask all hon. members to keep it alive, both here in Ottawa and at home in their constituencies.

Every riding in Canada needs to engage in this dialogue. The most important type of leadership members of the House can provide is not as makers of the law, but as local leaders of critical and crucial conversations. By continuing the conversation, each one of us can help break the stigma and the silence. We can provide hope, the oxygen of the human spirit.

I ask members to allow Bill C-300 to proceed without a standing vote. I ask them to let Bill C-300 move as quickly as possible to the Senate to become law and provide hope as soon as possible. With each day's delay, 10 Canadians will fall victim to suicide.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

May 14th, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, during my comments when the House discussed Bill C-300 at second reading, I thanked the many individuals and organizations who helped in its development. Today I would like to begin my comments by extending my gratitude to all of the witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Health. Their expertise was invaluable.

I was not able to attend all of the hearings in person, but I have reviewed the evidence and I have learned a lot. I learned that national leadership of the type called for by Bill C-300 could reduce the number of deaths by suicide in Canada by more than 450. Professor Brian Mishara of the University of Quebec's Centre for Research and Intervention on Suicide and Euthanasia made this and many other excellent points during his testimony.

From the University of Western Ontario's Dr. Marnin Heisel I learned that the cost of suicide and self-harm in Canada is more than $2.4 billion each year and that this number will only grow as our society ages. While this is an emotional issue for me, a moral imperative based on my experiences, faith and the value I place on human life, I also learned that there is a strong economic case for the coordination of suicide prevention efforts across this great country. I learned that Canada is an exporter of knowledge and expertise in suicide prevention and that other countries are often earlier adopters of Canadian-built solutions than we are ourselves. I also learned new ways to describe the role that Bill C-300 will play in providing that coordination, a vacuum that must be filled in order to bring hope to our most vulnerable.

Dammy Damstrom-Albach, president of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, noted the significance of the federal role, saying:

It must function as both catalyst and glue to stimulate and cement the needed connections. Suicide prevention requires all levels of government to unite in support of the community groups, survivors, those with lived experience and the thousands of volunteers who have long done the lion's share of this work. The national government must step forward to do its portion.

Catalyst, glue, stimulate, cement: this is a high-level view of what I believe Bill C-300 seeks to accomplish.

Tana Nash, of the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council, provided a view from the front lines. She told the health committee that Bill C-300:

...is essential. We are all operating on shoestring and non-existent budgets, but we imagine a hub where all of us working across Canada can access tools, brochures, and ideas, and we can simply add our own local crisis information instead of reinventing the wheel.

Of course, it should be clear that it is not the intent of Bill C-300 to tell communities how to do suicide prevention. Each community will need to contextualize its own approach based on the wealth of ideas and resources that are available, but there should be no community group that needs to start from scratch ever again.

Through my work developing Bill C-300, I have enjoyed meeting many passionate individuals who are champions of mental health and suicide prevent. Scott Chisholm, of Thunder Bay, founded the collateral damage project. Scott spoke on Parliament Hill about the need to do more. He reminded parliamentarians that “Our first responders don't have the tools and skills needed to evaluate risk.... Our teachers and doctors don't have the training to recognize and react to the warning signs.... We can do better with just a bit of leadership.”

He went on to say, “I believe Parliament can save lives. Better information sharing, better statistics, better translation of research into practice, all promised by Bill C-300, will save lives.”

Mr. Chisholm has closely followed Bill C-300's progress through the House. Several times after I thanked hon. members for their willingness to speak frankly on this issue, I would find a comment from Scott on Facebook thanking me for encouraging this open dialogue. His thanks usually ended with “...because not talking about it isn't working”.

And not talking about it is not working. I have commented several times through this process that the conversation we are having is just as important as the legislation. This is reflected in the thrust of Canada's new mental health strategy, which was launched by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, another great initiative of this government, just last week.

The word “stigma” is used dozens of times throughout this strategy. It is pointed out that only one in three Canadians experiencing mental health difficulties will seek help. Stigma and the fear of being labelled prevent many people from seeking help. Bill C-300 will foster the conversations in which Canada must engage if we are to save more lives. Bill C-300 will foster hope.

I have mentioned this quotation several times, and some hon. members might actually be able to say it out loud with me, but Margaret Somerville of McGill University said it best, I believe:

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.

Mr. Speaker, you and I both have hopes for the future, but some Canadians, whether due to distress, overwhelming circumstances or medical challenges, lose hope. Each day, on average, 1,000 Canadians lose hope so completely that they attempt that final irreversible step; each day, ten Canadians complete the attempt. Ten Canadians' lives are lost each day to suicide.

As hon. members shared during second reading, we all know someone. Some have struggled to help school-aged children cope with the suicide of a classmate. Most of us have dealt with death by suicide of friends or colleagues. Some, in fact—altogether too many—have faced the aftermath of suicide even more closely.

Any of us who have ever grieved the loss of a family member or a close friend will know the feelings of doubt and sorrow that can overwhelm even the strongest of us. Members of this House are aware of my life's journey over this past year. I lost my wife and best friend to an undiagnosed medical condition within hours of last year's election victory. Once again I thank hon. members from all sides of the House for the compassion they demonstrated and continue to show to this very day.

I will admit that after losing Betty, I felt overwhelmed. There were points were I doubted I would be able to continue my role in service to the people of Kitchener—Conestoga. In fact, there were some times when I doubted if I wanted to.

However, while I missed her, while I continue to miss her every day, I have never felt alone. My family members were there with me, and I was there with them. We had each other. My caucus colleagues, and indeed all hon. members, provided me a strong support network. Even today at events across the Waterloo region, it is not uncommon for someone to take the time to offer their condolences.

I am grateful to God for these heartfelt responses that remind me that I am not alone in my pain, and I am grateful to God for the gift of life and allowing me to continue to enjoy his gift despite my loss.

I share my personal experience because it is related to hope and to community. First, I never felt alone. I gained new appreciation for the blessings of family, friends and faith. They have kept me focused on the future and on hope. I cannot imagine standing in this House today were any of these elements lacking in my life.

While I can never picture myself falling victim to suicidal behaviours, I do understand how easy it could be for someone to temporarily lose hope and in the process take actions with permanent, fatal consequences.

Second, death always provides challenges to the survivors. The challenges I faced after Betty's death were profound. All those who walked those agonizing days with us, though—family, friends and staff—understood that there was simply nothing anyone could have done to change the outcome. Her condition was undiagnosed and inoperable.

Those left behind by suicide face everything I faced, but with the added complications of false guilt and blame that exist because of the stigma of suicide. While our family has drawn strength from open conversations about Betty with friends and strangers alike, those left behind by suicide too often feel uncomfortable sharing their story. That is part of the problem.

We simply cannot face a problem, let alone solve it, if we are afraid to talk about it. That is why Bill C-300 calls for the recognition of suicide as more than a mental health issue. Suicide is also a public health issue. The Mental Health Commission of Canada notes that the elements of Bill C-300 fit well within their overall mental health strategy.

Bill C-300 calls for knowledge exchange and the use of evidence-based practices, moving Canada toward the information hub called for by Tana Nash and the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council.

I do not stand today to claim Bill C-300 is a magic wand. More would still need to be done. However, I truly believe that Bill C-300 is the first step on that journey.

Were it in my power and ability, I would reach out, myself, to comfort each and every one of those coping with suicidal thoughts. If it were in my power, no volunteer currently making those heroic efforts would feel under-resourced or unappreciated by society. However, these actions are beyond me. They are in fact beyond any government that must balance the relative benefit of every request for funding and contemplate the opportunity costs of funding project A at the expense of project B.

I have the honour of serving the good people of Kitchener—Conestoga as their member of Parliament. My constituents and members of this House are familiar with my beliefs as they relate to the value and importance of human life. I will continue to promote a culture of life for those struggling, for those who can no longer speak for themselves, and for those who cannot yet speak for themselves. I believe that every life is precious.

Passing Bill C-300 would deliver a message of hope to those working in communities across Canada. In time, that hope would be delivered to the tens of thousands of Canadians who engage in suicidal behaviours each year. The implementation of Bill C-300 would enable Canadians to engage in the conversations that are required for understanding and healing. Those who have suffered from suicidal thoughts or suffered the death by suicide of a loved one would have a connection to the resources that could help restore hope.

Mr. Speaker, through you, I thank all hon. members for standing with vulnerable Canadians on this journey toward hope. Hope: the oxygen of the human spirit. Without it, our spirit dies.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

May 14th, 2012 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for getting his bill to third reading.

I do not know if he is aware, but we did not have any witnesses from first nations at the health committee where we studied the bill. I know that his bill does not specifically include consultation with first nations, where this is a very major issue.

Could he tell us whether, in working on this bill, in talking to people in the community, he had specific consultation with the first nations community about his bill and about how it possibly needed to be amended?

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

May 14th, 2012 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the support that the NDP has shown throughout the entire process.

One of the things we tried to do in crafting Bill C-300 was to avoid naming specific groups in the fear that we would unintentionally leave out other groups. We were very generic in identifying the fact that there needs to be collaboration among these groups and consultations among territorial and provincial governments and different internal departments of the Government of Canada.

I have spoken with people who have done work on the national suicide prevention strategy, as it relates to the aboriginal national suicide prevention strategy. They were very affirmative of the steps that we are taking here. It is my hope that, as Bill C-300 asks for this collaboration to continue, it would be clear to whichever government agency is charged with this responsibility, possibly the Mental Health Commission, that this is a major component of the initiative I am working on.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

May 14th, 2012 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is related to the role of the provincial governments, and even other governments such as school divisions, throughout the country. I believe that they are looking for a strong leadership coming out of Ottawa on the issue of a national suicide prevention strategy. Could the member comment on what role he sees Ottawa playing, in terms of that leadership role for the many stakeholders from coast to coast on this issue?

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

May 14th, 2012 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, the point that needs to be made here, and I think even the Mental Health Commission in its response made the point, is that improving mental health or indeed suicide prevention is not just the government's problem. Certainly, we need to take an all-of-government approach at the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal levels. That is important. However, it is also important to recognize that we need to support the initiatives of the community groups which are already doing good work on the ground. Therefore, my view is to see the federal government provide the overall vision and coordination, the sharing of best practices and the collection of up-to-date statistics. One of the major challenges we face is that we do not have up-to-date statistics on this issue.

I want to come back to a point that is crucial. We cannot take the view in this chamber that this government, or indeed any level of government, will solve this problem. We need to recognize the important value of community groups that are doing the work on the front lines.

About two weeks ago, I served on a bowling team for the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council. We raised $27,000 in this bowlathon. That is a great amount of cash to help it in its work. However, the more important part of that day for me, and it became so obvious during the afternoon, was the more than 150 bowlers who participated in that activity and who were increasing the level of conversation around suicide prevention. If we consider that probably each of those bowlers had spoken to 10 people in gathering pledges for the initiative, and we multiply that, we have possibly 1,500 people who are now aware of this issue who may not have been aware had government simply signed a cheque for $27,000.

Therefore, we can never take the approach that it is the government's problem alone. We have to work together. My initiative here is to ask the federal government to provide coordination so that when a group like the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council needs resources, it has a central repository where it can go.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

May 14th, 2012 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am please to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-300. It came from committee and is now at third reading in the House. I would again like to congratulate the member for bringing the bill forward.

The NDP members on the health committee have been very supportive of the bill, as we have in the House at second reading. We will support the bill when it comes to a final vote. However, I want to reflect on the nature of the bill and what more we could possibly have done.

There is another bill in the House, Bill C-297, put forward by the member for Halifax. Although both bills deal with suicide prevention, they bring forward different strategies. Bill C-300, is much more of a limiting bill. It plays down the role of the federal government in establishing suicide prevention strategy and, unfortunately, there is nothing in the bill that pertains to first nations consultation.

I recognize it is difficult to put every single group in a bill and say we should do this and that. However, the statistics show this is a very important health issue and systemic issue around inequality, cultural history and colonialism that does affect first nations in Canada, aboriginal people.

The bill of the member for Halifax speaks to the need to directly engage the federal government with provincial ministers and first nations, and support smaller communities and provinces that might not otherwise have the infrastructure to enact the strategies. She lays out a clear federal role. Bill C-297 outlines the need for first nations, Inuit and Métis groups to be involved in the construction of the strategy. This is very important.

The bill we are debating today calls for defining best practices and promotes collaboration. These are very important and we certainly concur, but it is very disappointing that it does not go beyond that.

Bill C-297 is very comprehensive. It calls for the federal government to carry out 10 different projects, including a study of effective funding, surveillance to identify at-risk groups, establishing national standards and gaining cultural-based knowledge in preventing suicide.

At committee, my colleagues, particularly the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, and I put forward a number of amendments. These were based on the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention blueprint for a Canadian national suicide prevention strategy that came out in September 2009. This organization represents the service providers and the activists on the front line helping people who are in distress, who are at risk, in dealing with suicide and suicide prevention.

We put forward about 15 amendments. They really would have strengthened the bill. For example, one of them called for a distinct national coordinating body for suicide prevention to operate within the appropriate entities in the Government of Canada. Another amendment called for assessing and adopting where appropriate the recommendations and objectives outlined in the blueprint for a national suicide prevention strategy of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

I want to put on the record here in the House that we tried very hard at committee to bring some amendments to the bill to strengthen it so it could go beyond an issue of best practices, collaboration and information sharing and take on some more specific objectives that are desperately needed.

We did hear a number of times that we should not worry about this because the Mental Health Commission of Canada would be addressing this in its report. Of course, since dealing with the bill at committee, that report came out last week, entitled “Changing Directions, Changing Lives”.

On page 13 of the report it reads:

...establishing whole-of-government and pan-Canadian mechanisms to oversee mental health-related policies; strengthening data, research, knowledge exchange, standards and human resources related to mental health, mental illness and suicide prevention.

That is not the only reference but , that one speaks strongly to the need for all levels of government l to be involved.

While we are happy that the Mental Health Commission of Canada has included this issue in its new strategy that came out last week, it seems to me that we have missed an opportunity with this bill to look at some concrete specifics around setting up a national coordinating body, looking at better training or, more specifically, working with first nations.

We received a communication from the Assembly of First Nations after we dealt with the bill at committee. It sent some very good information that is very important for us to understand. It is really shocking. It is information that we know but when we speak about this issue it brings to mind how serious it is in the aboriginal community. The AFN points out that suicide now represents the greatest single cause of injury deaths in its population, according to a study done in 2003. It also points out that a closer examination of intentional self-harm or suicide across age groupings shows that the deaths due to suicide, as a proportion of all deaths, was the largest among first nations youth. It also points out that youth suicide is not a tragedy that is visited in equal measure in all native communities. In certain communities, the suicide rate is as much as 800 times their provincial average. These statistics cannot even begin to tell us the stories, the tragedy and the reality of what is happening in many smaller, remote communities and in urban centres.

I was disappointed and concerned that the bill did not reference the particular issues that are taking place in aboriginal communities. Amendments were put forward to include some of this important information and the need to be more specific in the bill but, surprisingly, they were turned down.

It worries me that this is becoming a pattern now. Some of the bills are fine in as far as they go but they are very informational. They are designed to create awareness. We had one just the other day on breast density, a similar kind of bill. I do not want to knock the bills in and of themselves but it is really worrying that when there is a genuine effort to put forward amendments to improve and strengthen these bills, they seem to be automatically shot down. I have to wonder why.

Parliament should be constructive, particularly on private member's business. We should try to be constructive and work together on this bill on suicide prevention because we all agree that work needs to be done on this. There is no question that we all agree. Therefore, it is very concerning that the good faith attempts to strengthen and improve the bill were shut down one hundred per cent. I read out some of the information that came before us and it was basically ignored.

We will support the bill but we will also work very hard to support my colleague's bill, Bill C-297, the member for Halifax, because it is a much broader, comprehensive and very specific strategy that would clearly involve the federal government. That is what we need to do, particularly in light of the new report that just came out from the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

May 14th, 2012 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today and add a few thoughts to what is an important issue for all Canadians.

Suicide and attempted suicide affects all Canadians in one way or another. It is with that in mind that I do believe this debate is an important one. This issue crosses all political party lines and there is wide support for initiatives that take on this serious issue.

In the last number of months, we have had other debates on this subject. Members will recall that back in October the Liberal Party had an opposition day. I want to make reference to that because last fall other issues were facing Parliament and the Liberal Party had to come up with an important opposition day subject. Parties in the House are given a limited number of days in any given year for opposition days. In making a presentation to our caucus, the leader of the Liberal Party indicated that the issue of suicide had to be addressed. This is an area in which we need to see stronger unified leadership coming from the House of Commons and spreading out to different levels of government. We made the decision back then that we had to raise the profile of this important public issue.

I would like to read to the House the motion that was introduced by the leader of the Liberal Party on October 4. The motion reads:

That the House agree that suicide is more than a personal tragedy, but is also a serious public health issue and public policy priority; and, further, that the House urge the government to work co-operatively with the provinces, territories, representative organizations from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, and other stakeholders to establish and fund a National Suicide Prevention Strategy, which among other measures would promote a comprehensive and evidence-driven approach to deal with this terrible loss of life.

Many members of the House will recall that particular debate. A vote occurred at the end of that debate and the motion was passed unanimously, thereby acknowledging that suicide was a national issue that needed to be addressed.

Our motion called for the clear identification of funding so we could establish a national suicide prevention strategy. A major part of that involved looking at the stakeholders and ensuring that those stakeholders were incorporated into the development of a national strategy. The Liberal Party believes that there needs to be a national strategy to take on this issue.

There is one stakeholder more than any other stakeholder in our country that should be playing a leadership role and that is the national government. We look to the government, not only to support opposition motions, such as the one we introduced back in October, or bills such as the bill before us today that the Liberal Party supports, but we also look to the federal government to take tangible action to deal with these issues. There is a multitude of different ways in which we could do that.

The member who introduced this motion mentioned volunteers and our communities. We underestimate what those volunteers and those community organizations can do to have a tangible impact on decreasing the suicide rate here in Canada. Through that coordinated effort, we need to be able to share our ideas with the different community groups.

I will give an example. In some provinces, there is more of an active approach to encouraging discussions in our schools on suicide. I understand the Province of Quebec has a more proactive approach to educating its student population in comparison to other provinces. We need to look at having that open dialogue where we have our young people being aware of suicide. There is nothing wrong with talking about some of those issues, such as peer pressure, bullying, gays and so much more that is impacting our young people and the amount of stress that is there. That is one reason we have so many young people considering suicide. Fortunately, most suicide attempts fail. However, at the end of the day, everyday there are 10 Canadians who have been successful in committing suicide.

When we talk to our young people, what can we as a community say to encourage them to feel comfortable in talking about, to understand that life has its ups and downs days and that even though they might be experiencing a great deal of pressure, those days will go away and positive days will come? We want our youth to know there are individuals out there who truly care. There are organizations out there, whether they are local counsellors within the school or a community health facility where there are professionals and volunteers, they can assist with some of the pressures that are put on young people.

We also need to deal in a more tangible way with the serious issue of suicide among seniors. We have organizations and stakeholders that focus virtually 100% of their time on senior related issues. To what degree are we providing the leadership that is necessary to share ideas on what works and what does not work? Maybe we need to go to seniors' homes or talk with 55-plus groups about the issue of being alone and that sense of loneliness. What kind of policy decisions can we make that will deal with those types of issues?

I talked with the Garden City Mall Walkers Group, a group of seniors in my constituency. and they asked me why they could not ride the bus for free during off-peak hours. They said that it would get them out of their home and into their community.

I want to make reference to our veterans and the whole idea of PTSD. We have attempted to raise that issue because it affects many individuals who fought in Afghanistan, those who represented Canada so well in ensuring that our forces were there making us all proud. We need to invest in a very real and tangible way so we are taking care of those issues that are causing far too many of our members within our forces to commit suicide.

The bottom line is the Liberal Party of Canada is prepared to put party politics aside in order to deal with this issue. We believe this is a crisis situation with which we need to deal.

We support the bill, as the government supported our motion to deal with a national strategy, because we believe in it. We look forward to its eventual passage. We thank the members for the opportunity to say these few words.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

May 14th, 2012 / 11:40 a.m.
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Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to join the discussion or, as my hon. friend from Kitchener—Conestoga has appropriately called it, this parliamentary show of unity on Bill C-300, the federal framework for suicide prevention act.

Having just celebrated Mother's Day, a day when we all recognize the unfailing love, support and guidance of mothers, and thinking about this discussion today, I cannot help but imagine the sheer anguish that a mother who lost her daughter or son to suicide this past year must feel on Mother's Day. It is utterly heart-wrenching to think about it.

Over 4,000 families, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins, had their lives irreversibly impacted by suicide in this past year. We do not even have a good handle on a true number, something that the bill would fix.

I had the privilege of rising in the House 19 days ago, on April 25, to make a member's statement in support of the bill. In the 19 days since then, there have likely been 190 deaths by suicide, 19,000 suicide attempts and 4,180 visits to the emergency rooms of hospitals across the country due to suicide behaviours. I say likely, because we do not have accurate suicide statistics in our country. Once again, this is very important, and Bill C-300 would correct that.

However, the real tragedy is the story behind each one of these numbers. It is a tragedy because each one of those who attempted suicide had lost hope, or, as the member for Kitchener—Conestoga has already said, the fuel of the human spirit. In doing so, their tragedy was, and is compounded, on their families, friends and the communities of our nation.

We know suicide is a very complex confluence of a number of factors. We know some groups and circumstances are more vulnerable to the threat of suicide than the general population. Veterans and aboriginal Canadians have been noted already this morning. However, we struggle to develop a suitable evidence-based response. There is no doubt this a public health issue in Canada. We have a duty in defence of the sanctity of life to act.

According to the testimony that Dr. David Goldbloom, of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, presented to the health committee, over 90% of the Canadians who died from suicide were experiencing some sort of mental health issue. By the very nature of the complexity of the problem of suicide, approaching suicide prevention is complex in and of itself.

Teachers in a position to recognize suicidal behaviours are rarely trained to do so. It is even uncommon for medical doctors and nurses to receive specific training in this area. That is where the bill would help. Many suicide prevention groups in Canada do outstanding work. They are on the front lines. They are there when people need them. They help refuel that hope, and even if it is for a short period of time, it gives them another chance.

That is why setting up a federal framework to better coordinate these efforts makes so much sense. Great work is being done by so many groups from coast to coast. I mentioned one such group 19 days ago in this chamber, called the “Jack Project”. This initiative was spawned by the tragic death by suicide of young Jack Windeler. The project's school-based outreach program is now being piloted for a full rollout next year, and I know all of my colleagues would wish them all a great success.

Let us leverage and share information and resources, share successes and ensure we can share accurate statistics as well. That is national leadership and it is a message of hope to vulnerable Canadians.

Let me reflect on two of the statements made to the health committee on this bill, which will sum it well.

One was Dr. David Goldbloom, who I referenced a couple of minutes ago, who spoke on behalf of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. He said:

The federal framework that's under consideration today will definitely advance the strategy's recommendations to mobilize leadership, to strengthen collaboration, and to strengthen the infrastructure that's required to improve mental health outcomes in Canada with a particular focus on suicide prevention.

This view from a medical professional speaks volumes, and so does the other statement I want to highlight, a view from the very front lines of suicide prevention.

Tana Nash, from the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council, which is located in a community just a few minutes up the highway from my constituency, remarked on how the federal framework could be the catalyst for a hub of resources and evidence-based information and programs which would be a godsend for organizations that were cash-strapped yet were doing so much in local communities.

She said:

I can tell you from a grassroots organization that this is essential. We are all operating on shoestring and non-existent budgets, but we imagine a hub where all of us working across Canada can access tools, brochures, and ideas, and where we can simply add our own local crisis information, instead of reinventing the wheel.

What is most encouraging was the example she gave of how a groundbreaking program, run by her organization, was unknown in my community of Hamilton, an excellent program that takes place at the grassroots level to help prevent suicides in the most practical and direct way possible, and how the federal framework proposed by this bill could help make that connection and save lives.

These are the words of Tana Nash of the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council:

One example from the Waterloo region is the Skills for Safer Living group. This is a 20-week psychosocial, psycho-educational support group, but it's specifically for folks who have had suicide attempts and are still wrestling with wanting to die. This group was developed at St. Michael's Hospital with much evidence behind it that proves its success. It teaches things like emotional and coping skills, and how to gauge your own behaviour on a sliding scale, so that you know when you're escalating and how to reach out for help.

We are fortunate that this now runs in the Waterloo region, but when I talked to the Suicide Prevention Community Council of Hamilton last week, they hadn't heard about this great program. They are hungry to have such practical training in their region as well. It's another proven practice that can be rolled out across Canada

There are a number of experts who contributed to this discussion of Bill C-300 and the federal framework for suicide prevention at the committee level. We thank them for their time and expertise. We especially thank them for all the work they do on a daily basis in communities across Canada to help prevent suicides, and the anguish and heartbreak that suicide creates.

I believe Bill C-300 serves as a useful instrument to promote dialogue, education and awareness among federal partners. I believe the development of a federal framework on suicide prevention will also carve the way for a greater federal integration of initiatives, programs and services and will assist in greater collaboration among partners, as my colleague for Kitchener—Conestoga mentioned earlier, not only federal partners but provincial, territorial and municipal partners and all of the great NGOs that do such great work.

It has been a privilege to speak to the bill. I thank the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga and all members from both sides who have advanced this discussion so fewer parents next year may suffer a Mother's Day under such excruciating circumstance of loss.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

May 14th, 2012 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise today and voice my support for Bill C-300, an act respecting a federal framework for suicide prevention.

I also want to congratulate my hon. colleague from the other side of the House for bringing forward an issue that I think is truly important to every MP and Canadian right across the country. No matter what colour one's tie is, this is an important issue for all of us to address.

The bill would enact and establish a 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.

The bill is a great first step, but we believe more could have been done. We presented some amendments at committee to make the bill stronger to ensure that Canadians had a bill that encompassed everyone and included first nations, Métis and Inuit as well. However, we will move forward in good faith with the bill because, as I mentioned, we believe it is a good first step.

Suicide has a major impact on Canadians today. It is the second leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year olds and the third leading cause among 25 to 49 years olds. Furthermore, the stigma that surrounds mental health and suicide has long delayed a national dialogue about the issue and how to address it. Therefore, I am very happy that we are talking about it on the national stage.

Suicide is a tragedy for many Canadians and their families. Given the current statistics that I mentioned earlier, it is likely that most Canadians have been impacted by a death by suicide. However, suicide is entirely preventable through a combination of knowledge, care and compassion.

We in the NDP support the bill put forward by my hon. colleague. We think a national suicide prevention strategy is something that families and stakeholders have been demanding for years now.

The NDP has consistently worked on this issue in the past. In 2011, my colleague for Halifax put forward Bill C-297, An Act respecting a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. My friend's bill already calls for the provinces, territories and representatives from first nations, Inuit and Métis people to work together to create a national strategy for suicide prevention. The bill would ensure access to mental health and substance abuse services, reduce the stigma associated with using mental health and suicide-related services, establish national guidelines for best practices in suicide prevention, work with communities to use cultural-specific knowledge to design appropriate policies and programs, coordinate professionals and organizations throughout our great country in order to share information and research and support health care professionals and others who work with individuals at risk of suicide.

I believe my colleague's bill is the template of how we should approach a national suicide prevention strategy as it would allow for best practices to be set up, particularly for at-risk communities.

These are some key facts and figures about suicide in Canada that are very disturbing: 10 people die every day by suicide; over 3,500 people die by suicide annually; and, in the past 20 years, more than 100,000 Canadians have died by suicide. In Canada the number of people affected by suicide due to the loss of a loved one, friend or co-worker is estimated at three million. I am, unfortunately, one of those three million.

Back in 1986, 26 years ago, my brother-in-law decided to take his own life. I can talk about how a family goes through that type of trauma and what the family to this day still goes through. Many times at Christmas dinner, Thanksgiving or any family gathering, we talk about what it would be like to have that individual back with us as a family.

Of course, there are always those feelings of doubt. What could we have done to make things better? What could we have done to change what has happened? There is really nothing that we could have done, at the end of the day, because my brother-in-law needed some help. What we could have done is try to find ways to get him that help. I think this national strategy is doing what we can to ensure that no other person ever has to go through this and no other family ever has to go through this, and I hope we all can understand.

If we are looking at international comparisons, both the United Nations and the World Health Organization have recognized suicide as a serious and priority public health issue. We were once a world leader on suicide prevention, but now Canada lags behind other industrialized countries.

In 1993, at the invitation of the UN Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs, Canada hosted an international experts' meeting to develop UN-supported suicide prevention guidelines.

Following the release of these guidelines, both the United Nations and the World Health Organization called upon every country to not only establish its own national strategy but also appoint and adequately fund a coordinating body responsible for suicide prevention.

Whereas Australia, New Zealand, Wales, England, Norway, Sweden, Scotland and the United States, to name a few, now all have national suicide prevention strategies that have proven to work, Canada still does not. I think with this bill we are getting one step closer. However, as I mentioned at the top, we will continue to work to try to make this bill stronger.

Let us look at our statistics in Canada. They show Canada has a higher suicide rate, for example, than the United States. It is in the top third of developed countries with the highest rate of suicide.

The Government of Canada has stated in the past that the Mental Health Commission of Canada framework already covers suicide prevention. However, its important 2009 report, “A Framework for a Mental Health Strategy for Canada”, only briefly touches upon the issue of suicide. It does not even specifically include in it any of its seven recommendations and it does not constitute a suicide prevention strategy.

All experts and stakeholders agree that its mandate does not properly cover the issue of suicide prevention. As yet, there is no sign that the MHCC is doing the necessary work that is needed on this issue. The MHCC is focused on bringing about long-term fundamental changes with respect to various mental health issues, while a national suicide prevention strategy is desperately needed, especially today, given the crisis facing many communities.

The MHCC even notes that suicide is often but not always, 95% of the time, associated with the presence of a mental illness. A suicide prevention strategy is needed because it is distinct from the issue of mental health.

Let me quote from a media article today from a Vancouver Island first nation, where it has declared a state of emergency because over the last few weeks it has seen the number of suicides in its communities dramatically increase. I believe it was four.

Leaders of a Vancouver Island First Nation have declared a state of emergency over the recent spate of suicides and attempted suicides.

According to the chief:

Unless we receive support from the feds and province, we may lose more community members to what feels like a hopeless situation, and although we have provided some resources, it is very limited and employees are over-taxed with the burden of double duty.

That is why we truly need a national strategy on suicide prevention.

I know my time is running out. With that, I will just mention again that we support the bill as it is presented, but we would definitely like to see more amendments and things brought forward to make this a stronger bill.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

May 14th, 2012 / noon
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Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss Bill C-300, an act respecting the federal framework for suicide prevention. This bill has received overwhelming support not only in the House but throughout Canada.

What drives people to commit suicide is based on a number of complex factors, and we are always left wondering why. Why did we lose a loved one? What prompted this individual end his or her life? Could it have been prevented? Oftentimes, stigma and discrimination have prevented people from seeking the help they need. We need to help them on the sidelines to emerge out of the shadows. As was said so pointedly by Senator Kirby, there is hope in this darkness.

We must move forward on this crucial issue in a collaborative way. That is the spirit of the bill before us today. This is a very important bill, and I am pleased that so many of you have expressed your support for it. Due to recent momentum on this topic, a national conversation on suicide has resulted. I must also thank the members of the Standing Committee on Health and the witnesses who shared their experiences and expertise and the Canadians who are talking more openly about suicide in order to help prevent it.

As a government, we are listening to Canadians. We have heard many personal and family tragedies. The stories are all too familiar: a bright young person from a caring family who appears to be very happy or an adult who appears to be successfully managing his or her career but who, despite what we see, is walking an unpredictable path.

Within the areas of federal responsibility, we are making a meaningful contribution. The federal government's role in mental health and suicide prevention is multi-faceted. it includes working with researchers to better understand the causes of suicide and with children and youth to better understand the importance of their relationships. It includes supporting programs that build resiliency and develop protective factors that help ward against the potential desire to see suicide as the way out.

In addition, the federal government is providing suicide awareness and prevention workshops, as well as training staff. This includes—

Federal Framework For Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2012 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to continue my earlier remarks on this matter first delivered in support of the private member's legislation that was introduced by my hon. colleague from Kitchener—Conestoga in October 2011.

Bill C-300 is extremely important and I would like to share with the House several personal experiences I have had over the last few months, which have assisted me in developing a stronger appreciation for the work done by professionals in communities all across Canada in regard to mental health and specifically suicide prevention.

As some of my colleagues here in the House know, my community of Sarnia—Lambton was rocked by a series of youth suicides in a short period of time in the recent past.

Stakeholders, particularly those on the front lines of the mental health community, were doing everything in their power to assist families in my riding that had been hurt by youth suicide, while at the same time providing preventative services to youth who were depressed and possibly having suicidal thoughts.

With this in mind, I began organizing a one day symposium for my community to address these serious issues.

From the beginning, the Mental Health Commission of Canada played an integral role in working with my office to bring the issue of youth suicide and mental health to the forefront in my own community.

This idea grew into the Sarnia—Lambton symposium on youth mental health, which I was able to host in my riding at Lambton College that provided logistical support.

In addition, I worked with a myriad of community mental health stakeholders from Sarnia—Lambton, including Joanne Klauke-LaBelle from Harmony for Youth, Sharon Berry Ross from the Sarnia—Lambton Suicide Prevention Committee and also Ruth Geurts, a prominent faculty member within the social work program at Lambton College.

I would also like to thank Aaron Levo and Claire Checkland from the Mental Health Commission of Canada for their outstanding contributions to the symposium as well.

There were many others who attended and participated in the event, including special invitees who were considered regional stakeholders, such as local mayors, education directors from school boards and also my colleague, the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, who was able to attend for the full day and speak in support of his Bill C-300 at the symposium. We were also thankful to have a keynote address from Dr. David Goldbloom, who appeared courtesy of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Dr. Goldbloom is the senior medical advisor at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and a professor of psychiatry at the U of T. He is one of Canada's greatest minds on the issue of youth mental health.

The Sarnia—Lambton symposium on youth mental health was an effort on my behalf to raise the issues of youth suicide in a proactive forum of mental health stakeholders from across various levels of government so we could discuss the benefits and pitfalls of the existing framework in Canada across provincial lines.

I heard an array of stories that pointed out areas where we as policy makers could make direct improvements. I also heard that there was a strong willingness from all levels of government to do their best to ensure we were implementing policies that would help our youth in communities that were having issues with depression and other forms of mental illness.

With this in mind, I strongly support my colleague's efforts to further assist in this regard, which will be accomplished by the measures contained in Bill C-300.

Although Canada has made several important investments under the current government for mental health, including the formation of the Mental Health Commission of Canada and long-term funding for this organization, we have much work to do to address the severity of the issue of youth suicide. I realize it is now an issue we are all seized with as policy-makers, as youth suicide occurs in every community across Canada and is the second leading cause of death among our youth aged 10 to 24.

It is extremely upsetting to think of the bright lights of our youth being faced with such inner turmoil that they would choose to end their own life. However, in Canada it is an alarming issue that we must work together to address immediately.

In addition to events like the Sarnia—Lambton symposium on youth mental health, it is good to see corporations like Bell coming forward with innovative ideas such as the Let's Talk campaign that began this week.

I would even like to commend our hon. colleague, the member for Toronto Centre, who has shared his own battles with depression with Canadians in a very public manner. It takes a great deal of courage to share such personal stories and actions such as this can and will have a positive impact on the overall discussion toward mental health and specifically youth suicide prevention.

As we continue to place these issues on the forefront of Canadian discourse, I believe we will see more Canadians taking action to ensure that we enable discussions on mental health issues rather than treating the issue with stigma. Although it is good to see youth suicide prevention being discussed more openly in our society, the reality is it is still an urgent matter.

Regrettably, the day following the symposium in my community a youth tragically took his life. This pointed out to me the fragile nature of the youth we were attempting to reach out to and it really hit home how severe the issue had become across all of our communities. Therefore, we need to back the talk up with actions and it is my belief that Bill C-300 would build upon other actions already taken by this government, such as the formation of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, so we can truly make a difference on this issue.

I understand the commission will be releasing a report this year and I greatly look forward to reviewing it when it becomes available. Furthermore, I support the efforts of our Minister of Health who has had the opportunity to raise the issue of suicide prevention with provincial health ministers.

The efforts taken by those like my humble colleague from Kitchener—Conestoga can help shine like a beacon in the darkness and it is my sincere hope that members in the House will join together to support this important legislation fully and completely. Our youth are depending on us to do so.

Federal Framework For Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2012 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is Quebec's 22nd National Suicide Prevention Week. Thus there is no better time to talk about this bill. This year's theme is: “In our community, we care; suicide is not an option” and the goal is to change a certain cultural mentality about suicide.

In order to better understand this problem, it is important to know that suicide is not just an individual action. According to the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide, the act of suicide is related to the social and cultural context.

If suicide exists, it is because a type of distress exists that can take many forms and can be caused by many factors, including poverty, a sudden change in financial status, a social change, an illness or the termination of a romantic relationship.

As Rose-Marie Charest, president of the Ordre des psychologues du Québec, so wisely said:

An individual who is thinking about suicide does not really want to die. He just does not want to suffer any more. It is therefore up to us, as a society, to place more emphasis on preventing and easing psychological pain.

That is why we must put an end to isolation. To once again cite Ms. Charest:

We must fight suffering at every turn. We must try to understand and encourage all individuals while they are alive.

In Quebec, the suicide rate is 14 per 100,000. In my riding of Montérégie, the rate is below average at 12.7 per 100,000. These statistics are estimates from 2008-09. Although Montérégie falls below the Quebec average, there were still 165 suicides in 2009. That is a huge number because these deaths were preventable. When 165 people commit suicide, 165 families and thousands of friends and loved ones are affected. In Quebec, three people commit suicide every day. That is too many—far too many.

What I find the most striking is the difference between men and women. Men are far more likely to commit suicide, particularly those between the ages of 35 to 49, an age group whose suicide rate reached a catastrophic level of 33.9 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Here is another finding that will shock many members of the House: the age group that is most affected, among both men and women, is 35- to 49-year-olds followed by 50- to 64-year-olds. People who are in the prime of their lives are committing suicide.

There are also other groups at high risk. For example, the suicide rate among aboriginal people is five times higher than the Canadian average. Young people living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods are four times more likely to commit suicide than those living in wealthier areas.

Therefore, it is a public health issue. These deaths can be prevented. We must fund, support and coordinate a range of effective initiatives to prevent suicide. We must systematically evaluate initiatives and gaps in services across Canada. We must promote dialogue, research and the sharing of knowledge and skills among governments and stakeholders. Lastly, we must monitor trends and develop national guidelines in order to improve practices and intervention.

I support the bill introduced by the member for Kitchener—Conestoga. I support it because the evidence shows that information and sharing best practices effectively prevent suicide. This is very evident in Quebec. After adopting a national suicide prevention strategy, the suicide rate has dropped over the past 10 years and the results among the very young are quite impressive.

I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of this bill. I have always said that lives are saved in hospital emergency rooms. However, with this bill, we have a unique opportunity to help save lives.

Earlier, I quoted the president of the Ordre des psychologues du Québec, who said that we must fight suffering at every turn. An organization on the South Shore, Carrefour le Moutier, which serves part of my riding, is doing just that. Its work is amazing. Its office is located in Longueuil, but it works in the greater Longueuil community.

Carrefour le Moutier's initiative is called “Sentinelles”. This program trains people to recognize the signs of suffering and distress in those closest to them, and thus makes it possible for them to intervene. The main objective is to have these sentinels recognize the signs well before the person has thoughts of suicide. In my opinion, this is an example of a best practice that could be implemented throughout Quebec and Canada.

Carrefour le Moutier also provides a six-hours training to those who ask for it. The agency is proactive and trains the sentinels in at-risk settings such as schools, cégeps, universities and various workplaces. The agency also receives requests from some employers to train their employees on better prevention.

Sentinels are trained in the following three things: first, recognizing the signs of suffering and distress; second, using judgment to determine if the signs are dangerous or a precursor to something; and third, taking action or simply listening, or referring the higher-risk cases to professionals. I would like to take this opportunity in the House to commend Carrefour le Moutier on its initiative and its good work.

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 on the serious national problem of suicide. It is time for us to roll up our sleeves and work together, starting here in the House, across party lines. Collaboration among the federal, provincial and territorial governments and agencies across the country will allow us to address the issue of suicide head-on, to the benefit of the people who sent us here. We care about every individual and suicide is not an option.

Federal Framework For Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak in support of this bill by the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga because I think it is a bill that all of us can support.

As my colleague just said, this is something that is non-partisan because suicide touches every community, every life, every family and every school. We know that is true but it is important to note that we can prevent it.

When the member talks about looking at a national strategy, I am pleased that he is talking about building partnerships between the federal, provincial and territorial governments, non-profit societies, groups that understand the issue, as well as between communities, schools and local people. It is an issue that can flood every area in which we can look at. That makes it important and it is something we can sink our teeth into. It means that when we have a suicide prevention strategy, everyone will behind it, as it must if it is going to succeed.

As members know, the leader of the Liberal Party tabled a bill in the House on October 4 that talked about a national suicide prevention strategy. All three parties in this House unanimously supported it. Therefore, we are all on the same page here and that is important to remember. We sit in this House and figuratively shoot bullets at each another, argue, debate and become partisan, but I was moved by the opposition day motion from the hon. leader of the Liberal Party. Everyone here was silent, thoughtful and moved. Some members were choked-up and touched by personal experiences. If there is anything we can all put ourselves behind, it has to be this issue.

As a physician, I like statistical data and I like to talk about research, et cetera. Here are some things that I think we need to know. The national rate of suicide in Canada is 15 out of 100,000 people. Now, in 2012, it is 73% higher than it was in the 1950s. For every suicide, there are 100 failed attempts. The rate of suicide is higher among men. We know that 23 out of every 100,000 men will attempt suicide as opposed to 6 out of 100,000 women, although women are three to four times more likely to attempt as opposed to actually complete suicide. It is the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth aged 10 to 24. In fact, the suicide rate for Canadian youth is the third highest in the industrialized world.

We need to do something about that, not only because of the statistical data or because we all agree about it in this House, but we must think of the wasted human potential when young people commit suicide. This is something we need to look at but I do not want to only focus on youth.

It is interesting to note that the leading cause of death in men between the ages of 25 and 29, and 40 and 44 is suicide. In women, it is between the ages of 30 and 34. Therefore, this is not a youth issue only. We now have evidence showing that among seniors, especially senior women, there is a very high rate of suicide. It is not done in as dramatic a fashion but there are high rates of suicide among senior women.

We know that some populations within Canada have a greater incidence of suicide. For instance, those in the armed forces have a three times higher rate of suicide than the general population. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons have a seven times higher rate of suicide than heterosexual youth. We know that suicide is the leading cause of death in aboriginal males aged 10 to 19. In fact, the suicide rate of first nations is five to seven times higher than that of the non-first nations population. The suicide rate for Inuit youth is among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average. We know that 43% of respondents to a survey that was done in 2008 in Nunavut said that they had thought of suicide within the last week.

As we well know, 90% of suicides have a diagnosed psychiatric illness behind them. Many people who are depressed and contemplating suicide and go undiagnosed are nearly always the successful ones.

We know this reaches out into every home and community across this country. There is no one who has not been touched by it.

Here is a staggering piece of information. Suicide deaths and attempts cost the Canadian economy over $14.7 billion annually. If we are not moved by the human problem here, we should know that the $14.7 billion could go to other parts of health care to help all kinds of problems, including via measures for prevention, promotion, and setting up of community clinics, et cetera.

However, I think suicide prevention in this country is fragmented. Some provinces do it well; some provinces do not. We heard my colleague say that if we want to look at a best practice, we have to look at what Quebec has done. Quebec has had extraordinary results in suicide prevention.

We know that some of the causes of people being pushed into suicide include mental illness and mood disorders. Amongst youth, stress, anxiety, bullying, alcohol and substance abuse are huge causative factors connected to suicide. Others include the loss of a parent or caregiver in early childhood; the loss or breakup of a relationship; poverty; de-culturization and loss of traditions; and physical, sexual and mental abuse. Also, suicidal acts amongst family, friends or in a school community tend to push others who may be on the brink of thinking about it into actually committing suicide.

I just want to say that in any demographic or in any piece of statistical data we look at, this is an issue that we must deal with urgently. It is not something that we can just sit and talk about. If every day 10 Canadians commit suicide, then every day that we waste, every week that we waste, every month that we waste we should think about it. It could be someone we know or someone who is very close.

I think there are elements of a strategy that we need to talk about that are quite clear. We need to look at research. Let us look at the identification of social or other determinants of suicidal behaviour. We know that it is not only about depression and psychoses. Let us look at how we can identify the risks very early, meaning that we have to move out of medical communities and look to school counsellors, who if properly trained might be able to identify a young person very early before they begin actual suicidal ideation.

There may be a very early warning system that we can put into place. However, this will require public education, individual education of counsellors in schools and social workers and people who work in the community, including those who work with children and families. These people need to have some kind of training. Even though I am a family physician, I also need to say that family physicians need to have some training in early diagnosis and early identification of suicide.

We need to talk about how this moves not just from a medical point of view but also out into the community as part of community support programs and knowledge. We also need to have an open dialogue, because one of the reasons no one talks about suicide is the stigma. Everyone is ashamed to talk about it.

What is happening, as we discussed on the day of the opposition motion, is that it has actually triggered the following response from people across the country. People began to say, “Well, if so and so, an MP, has someone they know who committed suicide or thought of suicide or were depressed or if they have a family member with a problem, this is actually something I can feel comfortable talking about. I do not need to be ashamed.”

It is the shame and the hidden component of this that causes the problem and prevents us from picking up the signs early. Therefore, we need to talk about crisis intervention, a hot line, and early responders. We need to talk about how we build community support for all of these kinds of things. Of course we need to talk about bereavement support in schools and how we can talk about it openly within a school situation.

We know that we do not have anything on suicide prevention in the national mental health strategy. We know that the Canadian Mental Health Commission will come with its report in May or early June. I know it is going to contain something about suicide prevention.

As I said, we know that Quebec has had 50% fewer suicides in the last 10 years. This is because they have consolidated and coordinated their services so they are all moving together in the same direction, doing the same things. They have community and street mental health workers. They have promotional programs about mental illness and wellness in schools. They have police who are trained to identify people on the streets who need help.

Those are important things where we can take a page out of their book. We do not have to recreate and reinvent wheels around here when we have some very good best practices. As I said, Quebec is one of them, but there are other places with best practices too.

We should also think about what the feds can do. Let us set up, if anything, a clearing house of best practices. Look at what works, look at the evidence and let us do something about this before it is too late. I urge all members to please support the bill.

Federal Framework For Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2012 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we all know far too well, suicide has a terrible impact on Canadian families. Because of this impact on our communities, it is important for us as members of Parliament to take time to discuss suicide in the House. I thank the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga for bringing forward this bill, which it is an honour for me to debate today.

As we consider the issue of suicide and related mental health challenges, such as mood disorders and depression, I encourage all members to remember that these issues deeply affect thousands of Canadians on a daily basis.

Some would argue, perhaps with good cause, that the often overwhelming challenges presented by mental health issues and suicide are experienced most acutely in certain first nations and Inuit communities. We know that some first nations and Inuit families and communities can lose hope in the face of widespread social and economic dysfunction, poor health outcomes and the loss of children and youth through suicide, drugs and alcohol.

This fall, aboriginal leaders like Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Elisapee Sheutiapik, the President of the Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, spoke of the high rates of suicide in their communities and added their voices to the call for action against suicide.

As National Chief Atleo and President Sheutiapik told us, the health statistics for first nations and Inuit paint a challenging picture. For example, the gap in the life expectancy between first nations and Inuit on the one hand and the general Canadian population on the other is 6 to 13 years. There are higher rates of binge drinking and alcohol-related hospitalization among the former. The number of alcohol related deaths among first nations is almost double the national rate across Canada. First nations people also report using illegal drugs at more than twice the rate of the non-aboriginal Canadian population.

Perhaps the most distressing statistics are related to aboriginal youth suicide rates, which are among the highest in the world. Suicide rates of first nations youth aged 10 to 19 are over four times the national average, and rates for all Inuit are over 11 times higher than the rest of Canada. Unlike suicide rates for non-aboriginal peoples, rates of aboriginal suicide are highest among youth. Indeed, injury and suicide are the leading causes of death for aboriginal youth.

It is important that we recognize and acknowledge that one major root cause of these health disparities and mental health addiction challenges in aboriginal communities, whether it be suicide, high rates of mental health issues or alcohol and drug abuse, is the Government of Canada's past policies including the policy on Indian residential schools.

We recognize that for more than a century very young children were often forcibly removed from their homes and placed in Indian residential schools to isolate them from what was thought to be the inferior influences of their families, traditions and cultures. These children were not allowed to practise their culture or to speak their languages. Some were physically and sexually abused, and all were deprived of the care and nurturing of their parents and communities. Not surprisingly, this tragic social disruption has had negative impacts on the health and mental well-being of generations of first nations and Inuit. While some may think that the residential school experience is part of Canada's distant past, we are still seeing negative impacts from it today.

High suicide rates among aboriginal youth are particularly pressing, considering that aboriginal youth under 20 years of age account for over 40% of the aboriginal population. The physical and mental health of these youth represent, very literally, the future of aboriginal communities. Helping aboriginal young people and preventing them from committing suicide is a must. It must continue to be a public priority.

I am pleased to report today that this government is taking action on aboriginal youth suicide. In March 2010, the hon. Minister of Finance tabled a budget that included $730 million in funding for aboriginal health programs and services, including $75 million to extend the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy to 2015.

This strategy was developed based on a global review of evidence-based suicide prevention approaches. It utilizes expertise from the review led by an advisory group on suicide prevention and its final report entitled “Acting on What We Know: Preventing Youth Suicide in First Nations”. It also includes the expertise of Inuit communities with respect to how best to support Inuit youth and communities and prevent suicide. In short, the strategy incorporates the best available evidence with respect to aboriginal youth suicide prevention.

This evidence demonstrates that culturally-based services are important for positive health outcomes among first nations and Inuit communities, their families and individuals. Research has also shown a strong link between cultural identity and youth suicide prevention. Furthermore, the evidence indicates that the greatest impact on youth suicide prevention comes from community-driven programming, developed according to each community's unique needs and strengths.

That is why the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy supports communities to develop, implement and evaluate projects that respond to their needs. While these community-based approaches are unique, most focus on enhancing protective factors, including family and social supports, cultural ties and youth leadership.

The strategy supports over 150 community-based suicide prevention projects that target youth with an elevated risk of suicide. The strategy also supports communities to respond when there is a suicide-related crisis. In many instances, this includes partnering with provinces and territories to address community needs.

For example, Health Canada is supporting a multidisciplinary mental health wellness team on Vancouver Island to respond to a cluster of youth suicide attempts and rampant alcohol and drug abuse. This team includes the expertise of mental health clinicians as well as the cultural expertise of local community elders. By engaging youth, families and community members, the mental wellness team has supported stability in the community over a period of three years. During this time, no suicide attempts or completions were reported.

In addition to cases such as these, I am pleased to report that the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy is demonstrating other measurable successes. For instance, community-based projects are reporting increases in the number of youth who are referred to mental health services, which is an indication that they are receiving the support they desperately need.

There are other tangible results stemming from the national aboriginal youth suicide strategy. The stigma surrounding suicide is decreasing. Community members have become more willing to openly discuss this crucial issue. Communities have reported that their youth have a greater sense of hope and optimism, as well as more pride, discipline and confidence. Local mental health workers have increased confidence and reduced feelings of powerlessness when intervening in times of crisis. These are remarkable strides that are building the self-confidence of aboriginal youth and building the communities' capacity to address mental health issues.

Despite the progress I have described here today, we still have much work to do with our partners to address the high rates of aboriginal youth suicide and to improve the overall health and well-being of aboriginal Canadians.

We are working with our partners at the provincial, territorial and community levels to provide access to effective, sustainable and culturally appropriate health programs and services that contribute to the improved health status of first nations and Inuit.

One clear example of this is the B.C. Tripartite Framework Agreement on First Nation Health Governance signed in October 2011 in partnership with the First Nations Health Council and the province of British Columbia.

This agreement will see the creation of a first nations health authority in B.C., allowing first nations cultural knowledge, values and models of healing to be incorporated into the design, management and delivery of health programs and services.

A day long gathering was held a few weeks ago in Ottawa between the Crown and first nations. This government continues to show a commitment to working with first nations and Inuit partners to improve the life of aboriginal people in Canada, and I am proud to be a small part of these important initiatives.

As we move forward, we will continue to invest in suicide prevention programs in order to support communities, families and individuals to tackle the complex and wide-ranging issue of suicide. I suspect that there are not many Canadian families who can say that they have not been affected by the tragedy of suicide.

Therefore, I encourage my colleagues on all sides of the House to offer their support for the bill and their thanks to the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga for bringing it forward.

Federal Framework For Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this evening and speak to this bill. I cannot say that about a lot of bills that I have spoken to. I would like to spend a few minutes to praise the author of this bill, the member for Kitchener—Conestoga.

The member's work on this has been exemplary. We were fortunate enough to co-chair an ad hoc committee that we put together on palliative and compassionate care. He was clearly a leader on that study. We were able to produce a substantive report that contained several chapters addressing the issue of suicide and suicide prevention.

I say, proudly, all parties contributed both their time and effort in the hearings that we conducted, in gathering witnesses together, taking the evidence and funding the committee. We did it all from our parliamentary budgets outside the regular course of events. Again, he was a stalwart in leading in all those areas. He did it from a core within his own soul, with the passion and caring that needs to be drawn to this issue in order to accomplish what he has accomplished. As a result of that, we have this private member's bill, Bill C-300, that very clearly sets out a framework from which Canada can finally address this scourge on our society.

I want to recognize the contents of the bill. It would create a framework for suicide prevention. It would recognize suicide as both a mental health and a public health issue. That was interesting. From some of the new evidence, he and I learned during the course of this that it was both a mental health issue and a public health issue. It would designate the appropriate entity within the Government of Canada to deal with and assume responsibility for the program.

The program would be designed to improve public awareness, disseminate information on suicide and on suicide prevention, and make statistics publicly available so that we would be more knowledgeable on the issue. It would define best practices for prevention. We saw that in Canada in a number of areas, but they tended to be isolated.

The agency would be designed in such a way as to promote collaboration and knowledge exchange within the NGO community, the health community, the provinces and the territories. More specifically, it would require the Government of Canada to enter into negotiations with the NGOs and the provinces and territories within 100 days of the bill receiving royal assent. It would set up an ongoing collaboration with all levels of government, along with the NGOs.

Within four years there would be a report back and every two years after that so that we could see what progress had been made. Perhaps if there were any changes to be made, we would address those.

The member and I were both taken aback by the fact that what came out in the course of those hearings was that Canada was in a very strange position. We had led the way. This is testimony from all sorts of experts we have in the country, including one from my own riding. I want to acknowledge the work that Dr. Antoon Leenaars has done in the area of suicide and suicide prevention. He is a psychologist in the Windsor area and a recognized expert in this area, not only in Canada, but across the globe. He has worked for a number of other governments in helping them implement the program that we developed in Canada and then never implemented.

We started working on this in 1993. We developed it. It is a model for the world. All of the other G8 countries have adopted and implemented it. They have reduced the suicide rates in their countries. We did not. To some degree it is a shame that we have not. All levels of government assume some responsibility for that. I want to repeat that the United States, England, Ireland, Scotland, Finland, Australia, and a number of other countries beyond the G8 have adopted it.

I want to also acknowledge the work of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. It has been a stalwart for a number of years in helping develop that program. Initially, it was an integral part and is continuing to push to finally get it into place.

I want to single out the province of Quebec. Its provincial government, I think I am safe in saying, has moved extensively in implementing this national program that the Canadian government was instrumental in developing but never implemented. In the course of its implementation over the years, Quebec has actually reduced its suicide rate by 50%. That is not unique but reflects what happened in other countries, where we saw similar reduction rates in suicide. Rates of 25%, 40% and 50% were very common in all of the countries that implemented the program that was developed in Canada. They saw a very successful response within their communities and a very substantial reduction in suicides.

The program also works in Canada. It was implemented in the province of Quebec fairly extensively. Quebec still wants to do more and if this program is put into place at the federal level, it will complete the work it wants to do. Again, there was a 50% reduction. On an approximate basis, there are 4,000 suicides every year. If we implemented this across the whole country, we would be talking about saving 2,000 lives on an annual basis. The faster this bill gets through the process, receives royal assent and is implemented, the faster we will begin to reduce these deaths in our society. These deaths are so tragic not only for the victims but their families, friends and communities more generally.

I want to finish by again congratulating and acknowledging the work of the member for Kitchener—Conestoga. We need more parliamentarians like him.

Federal Framework For Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2012 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I much appreciate the excellent speech from the member who just spoke in the House.

I am also pleased to speak to Bill C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention. I want to offer my personal sincere thanks to the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga for bringing this very important bill to the House and to parliamentarians.

I am also grateful for this opportunity to highlight the current efforts of the Government of Canada on this issue.

Suicide is a sensitive topic and one which Canadians have traditionally spoken about in hushed tones. Today I would like to bring this issue out of the shadows and into an open conversation. Suicide affects us all. We all have a responsibility to confront it so that those who are suffering never feel alone.

As parliamentarians, we see our responsibility to Canadians to rise above partisanship and find ways to bring attention to the subject. My hope is that through caring, compassion, listening and awareness, we will see fewer Canadians retreating to the shadows, afraid to discuss the illness or the stigma which confronts them. The hope is that one day positive mental health will be considered as important as physical health and that we will work collectively to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness. To get there, it is important that we frame the issue appropriately in collaboration with all sectors of society.

Bill C-300 asks us to develop a federal framework in consultation with all partners and represents a solid first step in the right direction. It acknowledges that the Government of Canada has a complex mandate involving many players. It seeks ways in which these players can guide themselves to work collaboratively across departmental lines to share best practices in preventing suicide. It acknowledges that departments as diverse as the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, Veterans Affairs, Canadian Forces and the RCMP can find common ground upon which better synergies can be built.

Much in keeping with the spirit of this bill, since its introduction in October, I am confident that our discussions have reflected some success in opening the dialogue on this issue. We are seeing a commitment to increase awareness and knowledge about suicide in Canada. Thousands of people have shared their thoughts and experiences with us and with their own networks. Considerable efforts have been undertaken across Canada to help meet the needs of our populations at greatest risk. However, when the goal is influencing behaviour, development and resources at every phase of life for all Canadians, it is easy to become complacent. When the goal is wholesale cultural change through reducing the debilitating stigma associated with mental illness or promoting greater self-esteem, it is easy to put the challenge on the back burner. This is why these discussions are critical.

Suicide is a shared and immediate problem. It has the potential to touch each and every one of us. Indeed, it has affected many members of this Parliament and the government. Yet we only hear about these stories when it is too late. The reality is that it is a risk at any age and crosses ethnic, social and economic boundaries.

Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in Canada. Rates are disproportionate among different populations across our nation. For example, suicide is the second cause of death among young Canadians age 15 to 24, and is the tenth leading cause of death among Canadians overall. Of almost 800 youths and young adults who committed suicide in 2007, 76% were young men. As the Chief Public Health Officer notes in his 2011 report on the state of public health in Canada on youth and young adults, not all Canadians are healthy and flourishing:

Those who are not doing well are disproportionately represented by youth from low-income families, youth who live in remote communities, sexual and gender minority youth, and Aboriginal youth.

Compounding the problem, some estimates show that as many as 90% of suicide-related deaths are attributable to a recognizable but not necessarily diagnosed mental disorder. It is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to help bring these matters out of the shadows, to understand the issues better, to share our knowledge and expertise and to reflect that in our policies and programs for all Canadians.

I want to highlight that the Government of Canada understands that suicide is caused by both social and environmental factors. We know it is compounded by early experiences or social influences, such as violence, bullying or social isolation. We also understand that it can be addressed through promoting greater education and awareness and using evidence-based information to guide our collaborative efforts. Activities and interventions based on promoting positive mental health, building protective factors and reducing the risk factors associated with mental health problems, and intervening early to address the stigma associated with mental illness are all important elements in helping to reduce suicide rates.

The Government of Canada's investments and initiatives to engage in mental health and suicide prevention clearly signal a commitment to addressing the issue head-on. Allow me to provide some insight into some of these activities.

The establishment of the Mental Health Commission of Canada is helping to build the partnerships needed to raise awareness and develop a mental health strategy for the country to be released this year. In fact, the commission's opening minds initiative remains the largest systemic effort to reduce the stigma of mental illness in Canadian history. Research, planning, risk detection, knowledge exchange, surveillance and partnership building are all improving under the watch of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Several federal departments are providing suicide awareness and prevention workshops and training for staff. For example, front-line staff at Veterans Affairs Canada and the Canadian Forces receive applied suicide intervention skills training and better information. The Canadian Forces has a robust mental health outreach program for the career cycle of all employees. Prevention and promotion workshops are extending to federal inmates, as well as Correctional Service staff.

However, as I have noted, change will not happen overnight.

Investing in and promoting positive mental health over the course of one's entire life has the potential to reduce risk factors contributing to suicide and mental illness. The Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada play a key role here. These departments place a significant focus on community-based initiatives and efforts to assist the most vulnerable in all stages of life.

For early wellness intervention, the community action program for children, the aboriginal headstart program, the Canadian prenatal nutrition program reach over 100,000 children and families in thousands of communities every year. The nobody's perfect parenting program targets vulnerable parents of young children, aiming to increase their understanding of their child's health, safety, and behaviour. The Public Health Agency's recent investments in mental health promotion initiatives are reaching high-risk populations in over 50 communities across Canada. Mental health promotion for aboriginal youth works with over 15 aboriginal communities in three provinces providing culturally based, family centred programs to address aggressive behaviours and other community conditions that can lead to suicide.

We are making headway on promoting mental health through solid action at the community level and within federal, provincial and territorial governments in co-operation with many stakeholders.

The declaration on prevention and promotion, endorsed by all ministers of health in 2010, affirms positive mental health as a foundation for optimal overall health and well-being throughout a person's lifetime. Provinces and territories are developing approaches to these issues that make a difference in the lives of Canadians every day, and a desire for greater collaboration on suicide prevention has been articulated at all levels of government.

After all, it is not an easy time for many Canadians. We are not completely sheltered from the global economic crisis. The world is faster and more connected and changes to our everyday lives from rapid developments in science and technology have outpaced previous generations. These all contribute. Things such as, in schools, preventing bullying, providing counselling and support, facilitating information, supporting advocacy and contributing to the development of a mental health strategy in Canada are very important.

Suicide prevention is an extremely complex issue that no one organization can tackle alone. Our partners in this country understand the importance of breaking down barriers to work together.

Bill C-300 was developed to encourage collaborative and aligned action in the following areas: providing guidelines; disseminating information; making stats publicly available; promoting collaboration; and knowledge exchange across the boundaries. The Government of Canada recognizes the need to better understand the factors that contribute to suicide.

While the work ahead of us is long term, a marathon rather than a sprint, this bill, combined with a renewed momentum, gives us the solid footing for a long journey ahead. I want to congratulate the member again for bringing forward this very important bill that can save a lot of lives in our country.

Federal Framework For Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2012 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, “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.“ These words by ethicist Margaret Somerville of McGill University capture the essence of what this Parliament would do by passing Bill C-300 into law: provide hope.

At the heart of this bill is a clear call for national leadership, a coordination of the great efforts of many community groups across Canada, suicide prevention groups already doing all they can to bring hope. As has been acknowledged many times throughout this discussion, we all have stories to tell of how we, our families and our communities have been tragically impacted by suicide. We all know someone whose sense of hope was overcome by emotional pain and despair and consequently ended his or her life by suicide. The big problem is that suicide does not end the pain. It simply transfers it to family and community.

Bill C-300 acknowledges the complex nature of suicide and suicide prevention. We need to consider the biological, psychological, social and spiritual factors. We cannot pass all of the responsibility to government. We must remain our brother's keeper even and especially at their most vulnerable points. We as a Parliament can and must do more to protect this sacred gift of human life. The impact of the tragic, premature loss of life demands our attention. Shattered families and broken communities demand our commitment to action.

Suicide is the 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. However, there is too much secrecy. Too many Canadians are in the dark about this problem. That stigma keeps it in the shadows.

I am so grateful for so many who have walked this dark valley and who are willing to shine the light. David Batters, MP, a friend and former colleague of mine, tragically ended his life by suicide in 2009. His wife, Denise Batters, has done so much to openly address the issue of mental illness and suicide prevention. My thanks to her and many others who have, in spite of their deep loss, found the strength to bring hope to others. In this way the secrecy is ended and the silence is broken. It is time to break the silence about suicide.

In closing, I said last year as this debate began that I expected more discussion than debate. I thank hon. members for meeting that expectation, for demonstrating that while we may disagree on so much, there remain a number of issues on which we are able to not only agree in private but also publicly express that agreement as our commitment to Canadians. I thank all members.

The tone and content of this debate should provide hope. As I said, “Hope is the oxygen of the human spirit”. Canadians can have hope that this Parliament will act to provide leadership on suicide prevention.

Bill C-300's passage would mandate the federal government to track statistics so we could chart our progress. Information relating to best practices would be shared so that organizations starved for cash, working on the front lines, would not need to reinvent the wheel but could instead focus their efforts on saving lives.

I am encouraged by this discussion. When we return to our ridings, I am sure that like me, many members will hear the usual complaints about the tone of this House. Members should tell them about this debate. They should tell them about the moment when members from all parties stood together for vulnerable Canadians with scarcely a moment of partisanship and not a word of blame, when MPs from all parties not only agreed on problems, but also stepped forward in unity toward a solution.

The truth is that non-partisanship is always fragile. A million events or circumstances could have soured this opportunity, but hon. members rose to the occasion. Many comments made by members not only have educated me, but also have affirmed my belief that passing Bill C-300 is the right thing to do. It is not the end of the road but it is that vital first step toward hope. I believe that Canadians will note that despite all our differences, we are taking this step together.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention ActPrivate Members' Business

October 28th, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

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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Green

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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Conservative

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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Liberal

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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Conservative

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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Conservative

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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Conservative

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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NDP

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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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.
See context

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)