National Strategy for Dementia Act

An Act respecting a National Strategy for Dementia

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.


Claude Gravelle  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Outside the Order of Precedence (a private member's bill that hasn't yet won the draw that determines which private member's bills can be debated), as of Nov. 24, 2011
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment requires the Minister of Health to initiate discussions with the provincial and territorial ministers responsible for health or health promotion for the purpose of developing a national strategy for the health care of persons afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related diseases.


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


May 6, 2015 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 1:15 p.m.
See context


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

moved that Bill C-356, An Act respecting a National Strategy for Dementia, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting a long time for this. I count it a privilege to stand in the House today to speak on my bill, an act respecting a national strategy for dementia.

I am aware of the millions of Canadians who are directly caught up in the web of Alzheimer's or dementia. I have also become aware of many Canadians and groups who, like me, want a national dementia plan.

It was over three years ago that I stood to introduce this legislation. I shared how this bill came to be by telling the story of my mother's seven-year battle with Alzheimer's, from 1997 until her death in 2003.

The Sudbury Star had profiled my family's experience and had in the headline the following comment: “I didn't know enough”. Truer words have never been spoken. Many others who have caregiving responsibilities thrust on them tell me that those words ring true.

In the past three years, I have learned plenty. First was the staggering statistic on how many people are affected, which is reflected in the “Rising Tide” report by the Alzheimer Society of Canada. There are 740,000 people with the disease. This number will double in a generation. The health care cost of $33 billion will soar to $293 billion in 2040.

Providing millions of hours of unpaid caregiving has forced people to cut back or leave work altogether, which harms them and our economy. I want to talk about that this afternoon.

I learned from the Canadian Medical Association that 15% of scarce acute care beds are occupied by people who could be placed elsewhere, and half of those are dementia patients. Beyond those important statistics, I have learned the real face of the problem.

Fran Linton, in British Columbia, wrote to tell me about her experience and that of her husband in dealing with Lewy body dementia. She wrote:

I am writing in the hope that what I present to you will enable people to see the person with dementia and their family as real people and not just statistics and numbers. We hear the staggering statistics of how many people in Canada have dementia and we hear that dollars are being invested in research. What needs to be heard is the daily impact of being a person living with dementia and those supporting the person with dementia. Our Canadian government needs to hear the reality of their world.

I have met these real people from coast to coast to coast in our communities. They are struggling with this enormous challenge.

I have learned that the real face of dementia is not just older people. Matt Dineen is one of the biggest champions for this bill and an actual plan. He could not be here today, but he is listening in. He is a 44-year-old high school teacher here in Ottawa. He and his relatives are now forced to raise three young children as his wife and their mom, Lisa, at 45 years old, is already in secure long-term care with frontotemporal dementia. Matt has met the Minister of Health.

I learned that 15% of dementia patients are under 60 years old. I have learned that we have a health care crisis and a social and economic crisis that we must address.

My legislation calls for leadership from Ottawa, working with the provinces and territories, which, of course, have primary jurisdiction duties for health care delivery.

I want this leadership from Ottawa to tackle five main elements: early diagnosis and prevention; research; a continuum of care for people and families in the home, the community, and institutions; real help for caregivers; and training for the dementia workforce.

On that last point, help for the dementia workforce, Michael Alexander shared with me the horrific story of his father's death in a nursing home at the hands of another Alzheimer patient. CTV, in a special report, said that there have been 60 such deaths in 12 years, a figure that is growing. Michael Alexander and his family want a real and national dementia plan.

I said I wanted to speak about the challenges caregivers face. Tanya Levesque is a woman in Ottawa looking after her mom. Here are some of the life and financial issues she has met with as a caregiver.

To take care of her mom, Ms. Levesque first had to take leave without pay so she could care for her at home. She will only have the option of leave without pay for five years. Money gets tighter and tighter as they try to keep her in her home and care for her. They draw on savings that were meant for later years.

She writes the following:

Following is a list of financial barriers I have experienced during my journey as my mother's caregiver: Unable to access my El benefits; I've been unable to qualify for social assistance; unable to claim the caregiver amount on my income tax, since my mother's net income is a few thousand more than what is listed; lack of subsidies for expenses which keep increasing (i.e. property tax, parking fees at hospitals for appointments, gas for travelling to appointments, hydro, water and sewage fees and more); I've changed my eating habits to save money, due to the increased cost of food, so my mother can eat well; and because of a lack of future job security, my retirement security is in question — I can't save, because I've chosen to care for my mother, who took care of me

Ms. Levesque, her mom, and others are watching today. Let us pass a real dementia plan as law to help those overwhelmed caregivers.

As I said, I introduced this bill over three years ago. I want to recognize the progress made by Canada since then, through the government working with a G8 initiative and also with our provinces and territories. Many would like that progress to be quicker, but it does deserve recognition.

Canada had come to the G8 summit called for by the U.K. prime minister without a national dementia plan. Several allies from leading economic nations had national plans. Canada has made several significant announcements on research that we support. Research will be the key part of any plan or response to this health care crisis.

Even though research can have an impact on other parts of the dementia challenge, research alone cannot help those with the disease, their caregivers, or the workforce. That is why our party has been insistent on a full, comprehensive strategy.

Canada needs a national strategy for dementia that comes from Ottawa, but one that respects provincial and territorial jurisdiction over health. One strategy tailored to the needs of each province or territory will be far better than 13 separate strategies implemented in isolation of one another. We want a national strategy that goes beyond research, to also help those now living with the disease, their caregivers, and the dementia workforce.

The Canadian Medical Association estimates that patients who should be elsewhere occupy about 15% of the acute care hospital beds across Canada, and one third of them are suffering from dementia. Lost in those numbers perhaps is the real human face of the disease—the moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbours and work colleagues.

While an elderly face typifies most people dealing with dementia, 15% of those living with Alzheimer's or related dementia diseases are under 60. At every meeting we had on this bill, we found people who know someone directly affected as a patient or caregiver. It is a health challenge. It is a health care challenge. Given the current lack of money and resources for health care, it is a big problem for us to solve.

I have noted the work that the government is doing with the provinces and territories through the Council of the Federation.

In the past year, I have enjoyed several conversations with the current Minister of Health. I have respected her work on this file. I have been communicating with the minister and her department over the past month and have discussed possible amendments to the bill in committee to work collaboratively on changes that all parties could support. We have identified a way to have this legislation passed.

I look forward to hearing the government's position regarding possible support for a national dementia plan. I know she and all MPs have been hearing loud and clear from so many Canadians who want this to happen. We now have over 300 municipalities passing resolutions in favour of the bill. We have over 90 petitions tabled in the House of Commons in support of it.

There are so many people who say it makes sense. There is support from seniors, health care professionals, labour, and faith communities. Yes, the faith communities are very responsive to the bill, and they are very interested in seeing it pass.

In talks across the country, I have often talked about the non-partisan nature of this disease, how it strikes our loved ones, our mums, dads, siblings, grandparents, friends, neighbours, and work colleagues. Everyone, on all sides of the House, knows the story. I am astonished that wherever I go, everyone knows someone with Alzheimer's or dementia-related disease, or someone caring for them.

Let us do this for them. Let us do this for our country. Let us make history.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 1:25 p.m.
See context


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief because I know that a number of members would like to ask questions.

My mother succumbed to Alzheimer's. Therefore, I really get this bill. I also understand the families of people suffering from this disease and its consequences. In 10 years, an affected person can lose their intellectual independence and the ability to get around, feed themselves, even bathe themselves.

Is my colleague aware of the progress being made in research—even though it is not enough—to delay the illness? What more must be done?

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 1:25 p.m.
See context


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her excellent question.

The government has invested in dementia research. However, as I mentioned in my speech, it is going to take more than just research. Everyone is aware that, without research, we cannot solve the problem. Nevertheless, there are other things. We have to look after the caregivers, because home care is needed.

We have to keep our fathers and mothers at home for as long as possible because it has been proven that Alzheimer's progresses more quickly once patients leave their own homes.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 1:30 p.m.
See context


Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and for sharing his story.

We are dealing with a disease that is a type of dementia, as my colleague pointed out. Mothers, children and spouses inevitably end up being responsible for caring for a loved one, so family caregivers play a very important role.

Could my colleague tell us how we could improve the work done by family caregivers and how the government can have a positive impact on these family caregivers who do incredible work?

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 1:30 p.m.
See context


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, these people are indeed doing a very good job, but they need help. They need guidance. They need to be eligible for employment insurance. They need a lot of things and the government could do a lot for them.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 1:30 p.m.
See context


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Nickel Belt, not only for his eloquence but for his personal courage in dealing with the crisis of which this bill speaks. For the House, I should also thank him for his patience.

In that light, I wonder if the member might enlighten the House on the extent to which he may have had opportunity to work with the other parties in this House and the government. He talked about it being a non-partisan issue; if ever there were one, it surely is this. I wonder if the member could enlighten us on whether there has been any progress in that regard.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 1:30 p.m.
See context


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

I thank my colleague for that excellent question.

This bill was supposed to be presented in the House three weeks ago. The Minister of Health asked me to delay it until today so we could negotiate. We have negotiated, and I have here seven pages of amendments that were agreed to. All of the amendments that the Minister of Health wanted have been agreed to.

I am going to talk about one amendment. The Conservatives wanted to change the name of the bill, “an act respecting a national strategy for dementia”, to “an act respecting a pan-Canadian strategy for dementia”.

I do not care what they call it; I do not think the patients care what they call it, nor do the doctors or the caregivers. They can call it whatever they want, but do something.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.


Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak to Bill C-356, an act respecting a national strategy for dementia. This bill speaks to the important issue of dementia, which not only affects Canadians living with dementia, but their families, friends, and caregivers.

We can all agree that the member for Nickel Belt is well-intentioned with this bill. He has done great work raising awareness of the challenges faced by all Canadians with dementia, and indeed in his very heartfelt speech that clearly articulated personal stories, and personal stories of families who have been impacted.

I want to highlight some of the areas where we have been taking action along the lines called for by this bill, before getting into consideration of what I think are some technical issues within it.

As we all know, Alzheimer's disease and related dementia most commonly affect seniors. However, dementia can also affect younger individuals. Younger people in their forties and fifties have been diagnosed with the early-onset form of the disease.

Our government recognizes the devastating impact that this disease has on Canadian families and the help they need to be able to care for their loved ones. By supporting research and data gathering, we are improving our understanding of Alzheimer's disease and related forms of dementia and how they are affecting Canadians.

Many countries around the world are facing similar issues, and we certainly are committed to working internationally to address the health and economic challenges of dementia and how to reduce the burden of this condition. That is why we have joined our G7 partners in addressing this growing challenge.

Together, at the 2013 summit on dementia in London, Minister Ambrose worked with international leaders to coordinate efforts with the aim of finding a cure by 2025.

Mr. Speaker, can you imagine a cure for this terrible affliction?

The momentum of the G8 dementia summit has been incredible, and we are investing in ongoing efforts to accomplish our goals. Canada participated in a series of international follow-up legacy events, and co-hosted one of these events here in Ottawa last September.

Beyond this international leadership, we have also been taking strong action here at home. While our federal focus on dementia is on research, data gathering, and awareness training, we have always tried to recognize the key role of co-operation with the provinces and territories, which are the primary providers of health care.

It is important to note that in a crucial way, we are actually already ahead of Bill C-356 when it comes to working with the provinces. At the federal, provincial, and territorial health ministers meeting in October of last year, Minister Ambrose was able to secure agreement from the provincial—

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 1:35 p.m.
See context


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. I did not interrupt the parliamentary secretary the first time. This is the second time she has referred to the minister by her name. If she could avoid that, it would be appreciated.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 1:35 p.m.
See context


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I have been here in the chamber long enough to recognize that this should not be done.

The provincial ministers have begun planning a pan-Canadian dementia strategy. From a federal perspective, the initial focus of this collaboration will be on the coordination of research to advance the collective knowledge base on dementia. The provinces and territories will continue their own work on identifying best practices and on stakeholder engagement. An update on the strategy will be presented to Canada's health ministers for consideration and further direction at their next meeting.

This is truly important work. The crux of this bill is to require discussions with the provinces to set up a national strategy. Our government has already successfully negotiated with the provinces to begin working on exactly that. The work is under way, and we will continue to make progress.

The spirit and intent of this bill is also supported by current federal investments and activities on Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Many of the specific elements proposed in Bill C-356 that are within the federal role are currently being addressed. Research is needed to learn more about what causes dementia and the most effective ways to prevent, identify, treat, and ultimately, by 2025, cure it.

Since 2006, the government has invested over $220 million in research related to dementia, including $37.8 million last year. Our economic action plan announced ongoing investments of $15 million for the Canadian Institute of Health Research, CIHR, for the creation of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging and other health research priorities. Launched in 2014, the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging is the national component of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research dementia research strategy. It is a prime example of how we are encouraging greater investment in dementia research and the accelerated discovery of treatments and solutions. Through the consortium, more than 300 researchers from across the country will forge ahead with their work to improve our understanding of dementia, how we can prevent it, and how we can improve the quality of life of Canadians living with dementia, and their caregivers.

Another significant piece of work is the national population health study of neurological conditions. In 2009, our government invested $15 million over four years in this study to better understand Alzheimer's disease and other conditions and their impact on Canadians and their families. Findings from the study were released in September 2014. This groundbreaking work fills gaps in information concerning the burden of neurological conditions, their impact on Canadians, risk factors, and the use of health care services.

Research on dementia and other neurological conditions is also being funded through the Canada brain research fund.

However, research for the future is not enough. We are also working to improve the lives of Canadians living with this disease now. In September 2014, the minister announced our intention to work with the Alzheimer Society Canada to establish a new program called Dementia Friends, which will be launched this year. It is an exciting program, and I think it will make an enormous difference. It was originally launched in Japan and the U.K. It will provide education and training to help Canadians learn the facts about Alzheimer's disease and related dementias and how these diseases affect the people who live with them.

As members can see, we are making substantial investments to address the issue of dementia. While many are federal initiatives, there are also many examples of collaboration with the provinces and territories, not to mention the fantastic work being done at the international level. It is apparent that the federal government has addressed many of the themes in Bill C-356 and even some of the specific elements.

As I mentioned earlier, the minister has already secured an agreement with the provinces and territories on beginning to plan for a pan-Canadian dementia strategy that would guide our collective efforts. As I said at the beginning, I think we can all agree that this bill is very well intentioned. We have been taking action in a number of the areas laid out in it. However, with the provinces having already agreed to begin work on a strategy, many of our actions have progressed beyond what is called for in the bill, making some areas redundant.

There are also a number of technical issues with the bill. The Speaker has indicated that it would require a royal recommendation. As all members in the House know, those are extremely, if rarely, ever provided. In addition, some clauses in this bill needlessly infringe on provincial jurisdiction in areas such as health human resources and diagnostic capacity. From my understanding, conversations have not resolved all our concerns with these issues.

For these reasons and in order to respect the agreement the minister was able to secure in a co-operative fashion with the provinces, the government will not support the bill. Bringing in federal legislation to control discussions that have already happened in such a collaborative fashion is not respectful of the good work already being done.

Our government remains committed to taking strong action that will improve the lives of Canadians living with dementia, but we will do so in a way that respects provincial jurisdiction and continues to work on a pan-Canadian strategy to which they have agreed.

With that in mind, I would also like to note that my friend and chair of the health committee, the member for Huron—Bruce, has recently introduced a motion calling on the government to take continued action on dementia. This motion is yet another sign of how seriously our government takes the issue, and I look forward to debate on that motion. We will have to wait for the debate to occur, but I know my colleague fully respects the role of the provinces when it comes to health care. Perhaps it would be an opportunity for Parliament to make some further progress on this issue.

I know we are talking about something that is incredibly important to Canadians. We are talking about something with which the international community, the federal government and the provinces are grappling. I know there was a lot of conversation back and forth, but my understanding is the unresolved issues were too much of a challenge in terms of continuing at this time.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 1:40 p.m.
See context


Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-356, an act respecting a national strategy for dementia.

According to the World Health Organization, there are roughly 35.6 million around the world who are currently living with dementia. This number is expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050.

In 2011, 14.9% of Canadians aged 65 and older were living with cognitive impairment, including dementia. By 2031, this figure is expected to increase to a shocking 1.4 million people. Today we face the combined costs of dementia totalling $33 billion per year.

This is not something that Canadians can afford, both economically and socially, to continue to occur. We need to enact change by putting in place a national strategy for dementia.

The Liberal Party supports the need for a national plan to address Alzheimer's disease and all other forms of dementia. Canada today has almost as many diagnosed dementia patients as the United Kingdom does, at 847,000, despite a difference in population of 30 million. In B.C., more than 70,000 people have this disease, while another 15,000 people are diagnosed each year.

Canada pledged in 2013 to find a cure or treatment for Alzheimer's by 2025. As one of the only G7 countries still without such a strategy, our time to do so is running out.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada as well as the Canadian Association of Retired Persons and other related organizations are united in calling for stronger political leadership to battle this debilitating disease. They recognize society's need for our current government to support Canadians in their difficult battle against dementia, and to find a treatment for it.

Another associated organization, Baycrest Health Sciences and its' Rotman Research Institute (RRI), is also working to accelerate scientific research regarding dementia. This institute recognizes that a person's risk for dementia doubles every 5 years after age 65.

Their strong focus on the relationship between brain health and aging helps them to understand that as fewer people live to see these older ages, the number of Canadians with dementia could be cut in half if its onset were to be delayed by just five years. With the implementation of Bill C-356, such research could be carried out with promise for viable results.

Unfortunately, however, federal leadership is required for any such action on a pan-Canadian dementia strategy to occur. Once again, the current government is not doing enough.

In October 2014, Minister of Health announced she was in the “early stages” of discussions with the provinces to establish a national dementia strategy. The 2014 federal budget also promisingly committed new funding for research into age-related neurodegeneration. Sadly, this only represents a fraction of the resources truly necessary to even begin to focus on approaching this disease.

Alzheimer's disease puts enormous emotional stress on millions of families in Canada and costs our health care system billions of dollars every year. Delaying the onset of Alzheimer's by 2 years can save our Health Care system $219 billion over a 30 year period. A national strategy for dementia may be able to make an astounding difference in advancing research in order to work toward achieving this goal, which would diminish this enormous economic hardship and subsequently and, most important, improve the lives of affected Canadians.

As recently published in the Toronto Star, another possible solution has been proposed by the Alzheimer Society. This organization is recommending that an arm's-length not-for-profit organization be funded through the Public Health Agency of Canada at a cost of $30 million over five years. It would be responsible for research coordination, training for health care providers, delivery of health care services and education, including how to recognize early signs of the disease that affects people in their 40s and 50s. Such a program may provide a possible approach to relieving such aforementioned pressures.

In our last election platform, the Liberal Party of Canada laid out a clear, comprehensive strategy for tackling the issue of dementia. Along with directing attention towards economic issues, we focused on awareness, education and prevention to support families and combat the social stigmas of dementia.

The social implications of this disease are in equal need of many support services as related economic ramifications. Coping with the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia is exceptionally difficult.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada recently issued a report of mental health indicators that showed caregivers are facing enormous emotional stress caring for elderly parents and sick children. Many women are leaving the paid workforce in order to care for a loved one, their mother, their mother-in-law, their aunt. There are so many stories that we all know. Some end up having to take a lower-paying job in order to be able to meet the needs of the loved one and family member.

It is therefore necessary that we disseminate proper knowledge and the best practices possible in order to foster improvements in the quality of treatment and support for patients and families coping with these brain disorders, as we also work to ensure their economic security.

I commend Mount Sinai Hospital and the Reitman family for funding a unit there that supports the families of those suffering from Alzheimer's in order for them to give the best possible care. It is sometimes so difficult and frustrating for families to have to provide care without really understanding the frustration and how normal it is to feel that way.

The bill would require the minister to initiate discussions with provincial counterparts within 30 days of its coming into force in order to achieve its objectives of developing a national plan with national objectives.

I do not believe there is any strategy that can just be a laundry list of things the government is already dabbling in, which seems to be what the government thinks is a strategy. The strategy has to be what, by when, and how, and actually be able to identify the partners necessary to make the strategy work. Such a process would help to establish a method of receiving input from affected Canadians and would continue to support greater research and implementation of related technology.

Bill C-356 would also work with the international community in improving clinical guidelines in order to produce the best available practices for care, support and prevention of dementia.

By investing in both research and prevention of Alzheimer's we can delay its onset for as long as possible so all Canadians can live their lives to the fullest potential. We need the research and practice-based evidence in order to determine what is the best possible support we can give to the families of those affected.

We must work together to support the bill and most importantly, bring necessary aid to those so desperately in need.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 1:50 p.m.
See context


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I must start by acknowledging the enormous amount of work that my college from Nickel Belt has done on such an important initiative. It has been three and a half years since this initiative first came forward. He has been all around the country. He has heard, not from statistics, but from real Canadians who are living with Alzheimer's and dementia and the tragedy that they entail, not just for the individuals, but for the caregivers. They are always forgotten in these discussions, and they must be acknowledged. I do so today.

I heard the parliamentary secretary stand in this place a moment ago to say that the government could not support this bill due to “technical issues”. This is why we have committees to which we send bills. It is for them to be discussed and for evidence to come forward, and to fix problems that may or may not exist with this initiative.

It is passing strange that two days ago, a motion from the member for Huron—Bruce, the chair of the health committee, was brought forward that would do virtually the same things that this bill would do, but, of course, it would not have the force of law.

Technical objections were suggested by the parliamentary secretary. She referenced, for example, the royal recommendation as somehow being a problem. It is clear that the modifications at committee could have addressed that problem. Moreover, the Conservatives have themselves given royal recommendation to a private member's bill. I speak specifically of Bill C-838.

There is no technical problem that stands in the way of doing what so many Canadians want. There are some 750,000 of us who are living with this disease. We want a law, not a feel-good motion of no force and effect.

The parliamentary secretary talked of the provinces and the strides that have been made to work together. She said that the government is already ahead of Bill C-356.

We can work with the provinces. We can fix things in committee. That is what committees are for. That is how we fix legislation. We give a voice to Canadians, and we work on making the legislation better. To suggest that it must be thrown out, despite enormous effort in going through clause-by-clause with the government to try to do what all Canadians want, in the health field in particular, is not right.

She talks about how fantastic the work is at the international level. I agree there have been some strides made, although interestingly, Canada was not among the countries at the G8, now G7, that had a national dementia strategy, the pan-Canadian, if they want to call it that, dementia strategy. That is very upsetting. If they want to work with the provinces and work internationally, why do they not want to work with this side of the House in a non-partisan way to produce a law that Canadians so desperately want?

When I say “Canadians”, I should start with Dr. Chris Simpson of the Canadian Medical Association, with whom I had the pleasure to meet two days ago. He told me how much he looked forward to a bill of this sort. He said, “our acute care hospitals are overflowing with patients awaiting long term care placement and our long-term care facilities are understaffed...”

He suggests that the cost of looking after people in hospitals is enormous. I think my colleague from Nickel Belt made a suggestion that a health care bill, in today's terms, would be $33 billion, but by 2040, it would soar to $293 billion.

People want a health care strategy. This has to be seen as part of a national aging strategy, which our party is trying to address. This would be part and parcel of a strategy to deal with aging. People need care at home and in the community instead of overflowing expensive hospital beds. It is more humane, and it would cost radically less to treat people better.

The concern about cost is only one part of the tragedy at the human level that my colleague has signalled needs to be addressed. I am told that over 75 petitions on this topic have been tabled here. I am told that over 300 municipalities have passed supporting resolutions. There is a pent-up demand for Parliament and government to show some leadership on this issue.

I respect the initiatives that have been made for research, which are fabulous, and I salute the government for them, but it is not just about finding a cure. This bill would provide leadership, with Ottawa working with the provinces, and it would also promote earlier diagnosis and intervention.

The bill would strengthen the integration of primary home and community care. It would enhance skills and training for the dementia workforce. It would recognize the needs of and improve the supports for caregivers. They are the ones I wish to address. The plight of caregivers, the millions of unpaid hours that are given for free by loved ones for loved ones, is staggering. They do not have enough economic support as people age in our society.

In my community of Victoria, I asked my office to tell me what their experience was in dealing with people living with dementia. They said that there are so many people in a community like Victoria who are living with the disease. I think everyone in the House knows someone who is living with or is connected to someone living with the disease.

There have been so many cutbacks in government agencies in my community, my staff informed me, that people with dementia are unable to access services the way they did before. They need to have face-to-face contact. They are often unable to deal with the processes and roadblocks that have been put in the way as we cut services in the CRA, as we are now about to get rid of postal home delivery, and as we deal with no immigration office in our community.

In our community, people are already suffering from cutbacks. That is having a disproportionate impact on people living with this terrible disease. The boomer generation, of which I am a part, is going to be living with the disease in greater numbers as we go forward. It will be something like 1.4 million people in the next few years. It will increase dramatically.

It is not just a seniors issue, as my colleague from Nickel Belt so passionately demonstrated. It is people he gave examples of, people here in Ottawa who are living with early onset at a much earlier age. He did an excellent job in putting a human face on this crisis we are facing.

Apparently a Nanos survey done recently said that 83% of Canadians believe that Canada needs a national dementia plan. We have had great success with these kinds of plans, such as the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. The Canadian Medical Association make reference to its excellent work as an example of what could be done here if the government was willing to work with us to achieve that result.

The former executive director of the Alzheimer's Society of Sudbury, Patricia Montpetit, said this:

It's so pressing that a national strategy be adopted by the government so they don't suddenly wake up one day and say we're overwhelmed with the demands of care.

That is something we all have reason to fear.

I like the expression Dr. Frank Molnar, a professor at the University of Ottawa, uses in describing Alzheimer disease. He calls it “the godfather of all chronic diseases”.

With the gray tsunami, with the aging Canadian population, we are facing a crisis if we do not get our hands around this problem. I respect that the provinces are working now with the federal government to begin this dialogue. We need to go much, much further. We need a strategy that takes into account the skyrocketing economic costs, the social costs, and as I continue to say, the costs for caregivers, because the pressure on family caregivers is only mounting.

I have a statistic here that is quite remarkable. In 2011, family caregivers spent 444 million unpaid hours per year looking after someone with dementia. That represents $11 billion in lost income and 228,000 lost full-time equivalent employees in the workforce. By 2040, they will be devoting a staggering 1.2 billion unpaid hours per year to this initiative.

We have had strategies and partnerships to deal with other devastating diseases, like cancer and heart disease. Why can we not work together to deal with one that we all know is going to be something in the future that will occupy all of us in the country? As the Canadian Medical Association says, it is time to roll up our sleeves and face the epidemic head on.

It is time for the government to work with parties on both sides of the aisle on a pan-Canadian strategy. It is time to put aside partisan differences. Coming up with an alternative motion two days before this debate makes us feel good, but it does not allow a forum for Canadians to come and testify to this tragedy and to provide a law with teeth that would actually do something to address this crisis.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 2 p.m.
See context


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss Bill C-356, an act respecting a national strategy for dementia. I thank the member, my friend from Nickel Belt, very much for bringing this bill forward.

It is unfortunate that he is a little late in the cycle, because the government has been very active on this file in the last couple of years. However, I want to commend him for doing it and say that he has performed a very useful service for people with dementia by bringing the public's attention to this issue, as he has managed to do through this private member's bill. I commend him for that.

Bill C-356 states that research remains the key to finding a cure and that early diagnosis and support for treatment can lead to positive health outcomes for persons with any form of dementia. In turn, this can have a positive impact on the family and friends who provide care for people affected by dementia.

I could not agree more, and our government could not agree more. In fact, Canada's commitments, both domestically and internationally, have led to our being recognized as a global leader in dementia research.

The member mentioned some of these recent commitments in his speech. The commitments are driven by the fact that between 6% and 15% of Canadians over 65 currently suffer from Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. As our population ages, the number of Canadians with dementia is expected to double by 2031. This will have great impact on the families and caregivers of Canadians living with this disease.

To accelerate research efforts, the government is working in close collaboration with the provinces and territories, external organizations, universities, researchers, international experts, and patients and their families to improve our understanding of these conditions in order to help those affected and their families and caregivers.

As an example of global collaboration in this area, the Minister of Health represented Canada at the world's first global summit on dementia in London. This global meeting resulted in G8 ministers committing to work toward a cure for dementia by 2025, an extremely laudable goal, and I pray that they meet that goal.

Canada is upholding these promises through various international and domestic research initiatives that will bring together a variety of stakeholders toward meeting these important goals. For example, in September of 2014, nearly 200 industry leaders, academics, and policy-makers from across Canada and around the world met in Ottawa for a global dementia legacy event. This event was co-hosted by Canada and France as a follow-up to the global summit.

The Ottawa legacy event focused on finding ways to support and develop joint public-private international approaches to dementia research. A report of the discussions was presented to G7 dementia leaders. It will contribute to the development of a global action framework that aims to promote international collaboration and share ideas, data, platforms, and discoveries related to dementia.

At the global legacy event, the health minister released the coordinated Government of Canada approach to address dementia in the national dementia research and prevention plan publication. The plan outlines the government's investments, partnerships, and key initiatives related to dementia research and prevention. The research portion of the plan consists of activities that fall under the dementia research strategy led by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or the CIHR.

I am not one who is fond of acronyms, but, quite frankly, I am going to have to use them in this speech or I simply will not be able to cover the material I would like to cover.

This strategy supports research on the latest preventive, diagnostic, and treatment approaches to Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. It consists of an international and a national component. Together, these two components work toward three common goals related to primary prevention, secondary prevention, and quality of life.

Our government, through CIHR, has increased its investments in dementia research by over 67% since we took office in 2006 for a total of $220 million. Last year alone, CIHR supported close to 400 research projects related to dementia, representing a federal investment of almost $38 million. Most of this research is funded under the CIHR dementia research strategy.

In September 2014, the Minister of Health launched the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, or the CCNA. The CCNA is the national component of the CIHR dementia research strategy. It is Canada's premier research hub for all aspects of research involving neurodegenerative diseases that affect cognition in aging, including dementia. It represents a $22.6-million federal investment and is supported by an additional $9.9 million for important external public and private partners.

The CCNA brings together the very best researchers in Canada to achieve a unified objective. Together, they are working toward addressing the challenges posed by neurodegenerative diseases so that they can stimulate Canada's innovation, increase our competitiveness and lead us to solutions faster.

Currently, the CCNA is composed of over 300 researchers and 13 partners and stakeholders, all of whom are working to tackle dementia by understanding the root causes and how it progresses.

The CCNA is also integrating the perspectives of research users, policy-makers, industries and of course patients and their families to identify targeted achievable challenges that can be delivered in relatively short order. For example, CCNA researcher Dr. Sylvie Belleville brings expertise in recognizing the early signs of Alzheimer's disease. Her approach is to use a simple test of memory, attention and perception to identify those with Alzheimer's disease and ideally, slow the rate of damage to the brain.

Another CCNA researcher, Dr. Sandra Black, is interested in determining the causes and progression of dementia. Her team's approach focuses on taking pictures of the brain to see how dementia physically affects it over time. This research has already revealed important information about the connection between cardiovascular health and dementia.

CCNA is also proud to have on board Dr. Debra Morgan from the University of Saskatchewan. Her team designed a rural and remote memory clinic in Saskatoon, a one-stop shop for people with dementia and their families to get tested, treated and talk with dementia experts. This clinic reduces stress, difficulty and cost of travelling to access multiple services.

Using the new clinic model, the team has drastically decreased the time required to provide diagnosis and treatment, doing in a single day what could ordinarily take more than a year. To families and caregivers, this makes a big difference, as of course it does to the individual affected.

As is called for in the bill, research is already including populations at high risk of dementia, those less likely to receive care and more likely to be affected by its associated burden, such as women and aboriginal populations.

I once again want to commend the member for bringing forth this private member's bill. A lot of the benefit of private members' bills can be the attention they bring to issues. I want to thank my friend from Nickel Belt for bringing much needed attention to the issue and I think adding to what the government is doing in this area already. I wish him all the best in continuing with these efforts.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 2:10 p.m.
See context


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Resuming debate.

The hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard will have three minutes today.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2015 / 2:10 p.m.
See context


Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that all of the parties are showing so much compassion today. Who has not had a family member, friend or colleague with dementia?

I thank my colleague for moving this motion in the House regarding an issue that affects us all in some way. This bill proposes that we work on a national strategy. It is not just a matter of voting on a national awareness day. We also need to provide assistance and implement the necessary measures to address the increase in dementia in Canada and in many other countries. This national strategy would increase funding for research into all aspects of dementia and promote earlier diagnosis and intervention.

The number of Canadians with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia now stands at 747,000, and that number will double to 1.4 million by 2031. Now is the time to take action. Seniors are not the only ones affected. About 15% of all those suffering from this disease are under 60. No one is immune.

Of course, it is impossible to think about people with this illness without thinking about their family caregivers. These people, these children, these spouses are worried about their loved one's present and future. They want to give their best, but they deserve and sometimes need a break and some support.

Too often, governments react at the last minute and try to implement piecemeal measures to respond to serious situations. We have seen that happen in a number of cases, but I do not want to single anyone out because this is not a partisan debate. I would simply like to remind members that the aging population and the rising tide of dementia and Alzheimer's, as the Alzheimer Society of Canada has described it, are things that we can see coming.

With all of the experts, the workers in the field and the intelligent people we have in the House of Commons and in this country, we should be able to work together and pass legislation that focuses on prevention and on helping those who are in this situation.