Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to speak to Bill C-643, An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day. We have a number of awareness days in the House, and for me, this is one of the more important ones we have had since I have been here, which is nine years.
I would first like to congratulate the member for introducing this legislation. It is obviously an important issue to the member for Montcalm, but it is also important for members from ridings across the country. Spinal cord injuries are happening all over Canada because of accidents and other things. As the previous speaker mentioned, disease can cause issues with the spinal cord.
My spouse works for an organization that helps young people with physical disabilities, and spinal cord injuries is one of them. It is a tremendous burden, if that is the right word to use. “Challenge”, I think, would be a better word. Such an injury is a tremendous challenge not only to the individual who is suffering from a spinal cord injury but also to the family members and friends who are asked to look after them.
The previous speaker from the Liberal Party mentioned that about 95,000 Canadians live with neurological conditions caused by spinal cord injury. My research shows that it is actually likely that in 2011 it was closer to 120,000. There are a significant number of people in this country suffering from issues due to spinal cord injuries. They are often life-altering, of course, to individuals and their families. We see that in the House with our colleagues. We have been very fortunate that our colleagues who have spinal cord issues overcame those challenges, ran for office, and were elected to the Parliament of Canada. It took a tremendous amount of courage on their part to make that happen.
These injuries also have a significant impact on the Canadian economy. It sounds cold for me to say that, but there is a loss of opportunity both for individuals who suffer from spinal cord injuries and for their families, who have to take time and effort away from what they might otherwise be doing in terms of being productive in jobs or other areas and instead look after their loved ones. That is a loss.
In 2013, a study supported by Health Canada and the Rick Hansen Institute estimated the following:
...the lifetime economic burden per individual [with traumatic spinal cord injuries] ranges from $1.5 million for persons with incomplete paraplegia to $3.0 million for persons with complete tetraplegia....
Bill C-643 reminds us of the importance of recognizing the courage and determination of those with spinal cord injuries as well as the perseverance of the scientists whose research has improved the lives of hundreds of people with spinal cord injuries.
We have a lot of bills these days. This one in particular is important, because it would bring attention at least once a year to the challenges that individuals face and would also bring awareness to the public. We need to leverage these days that we have and not just pay lip service to the issue.
That particular day of the year would be an opportunity for all organizations, individuals, and families to rally together to make sure that governments, organizations, not-for-profit organizations, communities, and even community planning have an understanding of the issues and challenges facing people who suffer from spinal cord injuries. It would be an opportunity to make sure we have the resources and opportunities for those who have suffered from a spinal cord injury, whether those resources are in finance, research, or a physical plant, as was previously mentioned.
I think the mover of this bill should be fairly excited, because I think the vote is going to be unanimous in the House. I certainly support it. I know that our government supports the actions we need to take to help prevent these injuries in the first place and supports research for the development of innovative treatments for those who are suffering from spinal cord injuries.
From 2006 to 2014, the Government of Canada invested close to $57 million in spinal cord injury research, including more than $6.5 million in 2013-14 alone, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which we all know is a great organization. It provides support in a number of areas of health research for the betterment of Canadians.
Research projects supported through this investment cover a broad range of issues related to spinal cord injuries, from regeneration to repair of damaged nerves and nerve fibres in the spinal cord to the development of new guidelines on best practices for the treatment of patients. This investment also contributed to improving our understanding of how the spinal cord transmits neural signals between the brain and the rest of the body.
For example, last June, CIHR announced an investment of $1.7 million for a research project at Dalhousie University on mapping how a family of neurons in the spinal cord controls subconscious movements. This fundamental knowledge is an important first step in the development of new tools to restore movement in patients suffering from neurological injury or disease.
As we learn new things that are brought to us, it always amazes me the importance and quality of scientists we have in this country. We are proud as a government to be supporting those scientists who are doing great work, which is way beyond my comprehension. I am very thankful that we have people with that skill level, knowledge, and commitment to finding health solutions, including for spinal cord injuries in this country.
Another good example of research supported by CIHR is the project of Dr. Yves De Koninck of Laval University. It aims to improve our understanding of how nerve cells regulate pain and how this process is altered in the spinal cords of individuals with nerve damage. This research will contribute to designing treatments for preventing and alleviating chronic neuropathic pain or increased pain sensitivity in people with traumatic spinal cord injuries.
This fantastic scientist received the Barbara Turnbull award for his contribution in this important area. The annual award has been presented since 2001 by CIHR, the Barbara Turnbull Foundation, and Brain Canada to raise awareness of the thousands of Canadians who are living with a spinal cord injury and to promote research in this area.
CIHR is also supported by a number of research initiatives that have contributed to advancing knowledge on the effects of spinal cord injuries and the most effective treatments to address them. For example, from 2004 to 2010, CIHR and its partners invested more than $82 million to support a major strategic initiative called the regenerative medicine and nanomedicine initiative. Research supported through this investment focused on the renewal of bodily tissues and organs, the restoration of function with natural and bioengineering means, and the development of new materials to diagnose, treat, and repair damaged tissues.
Many of us have a friend, a neighbour, a family member, or a colleague right here in this House who have suffered a life-altering spinal cord injury. While there have been many scientific advancements to help in treatment and sometimes in recovery from these injuries, there is still much to be done. Bill C-643 will help raise awareness so that everyone can learn how they can play a role in preventing spinal cord injuries.
I would like to thank hon. colleagues for their attention and invite them to support this legislation when it comes to a vote.