National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day Act

An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day

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


Manon Perreault  Independent

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


Second reading (Senate), as of June 4, 2015
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment designates the third Friday of September in each and every year as “National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day”.


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.


June 3, 2015 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
See context


Manon Perreault Independent Montcalm, QC

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

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to present my bill entitled An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day. I am very pleased that it has reached this stage and that it was all done so cordially.

This bill made it through all of the previous stages and has progressed nicely to this point. That is the result of everyone working together, and I sincerely hope that this will be a turning point in the lives of people living with a spinal cord injury.

I must also mention our partners who have supported us throughout this process and who were all involved in some way in the development of this bill. I am thinking about the Rick Hansen Institute, which provided us with data, Bobby White, the director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada, and Walter Zelaya, from MEMO-Que, who gave their full support without reservation.

With this bill, we want to designate the third Friday of September as national spinal cord injury awareness day. After a number of discussions, we concluded that this awareness day could be very useful to individuals, employers and stakeholders in various fields. It will certainly also have a very positive and significant impact on people living with spinal cord injuries.

I am quite certain that I will be able to show my esteemed colleagues that implementing this bill, which will not cost anything, can have a major and meaningful impact on people with spinal cord injuries. It will do so much to raise widespread awareness of their needs and abilities.

This bill would designate the third Friday of September as national spinal cord injury awareness day. Why that day? We took a number of factors into consideration, including two major ones: accidents that happen in the summer and accidents related to winter sports. The third Friday of September is also symbolic. There is an analogy here. When someone has just suffered a spinal cord injury, it is like autumn: they see dark days ahead. In the months after a spinal cord injury, patients have to cope with a kind of darkness that is comparable to a difficult and trying winter.

This simple and effective bill that will cost nothing provides one more tool to those involved in helping people with spinal cord injuries, as well as to agencies that work on prevention and raising public awareness and recognize the harsh reality just outside the door of the rehabilitation centre. That is exactly when spinal cord injury patients first feel that those around them really are looking at them differently, that each and every outing will require considerable effort and that their new limitations mean that they have to dig to the very depths of themselves as they try to improve their lives each day and start living anywhere close to the way they did previously. They have to have the courage to forgo some activities or to summon the perseverance they need to adapt those activities to their new reality.

This bill has three components. Naturally, raising awareness among our fellow Canadians is the first objective. We want people with spinal cord injuries to feel more encouraged to take an active part in society without any prejudice towards them. If possible, they should be encouraged to develop a talent and, even better, to use it for the benefit of others. In my view, that is a fundamental part of human activity.

This day will allow people with spinal cord injuries to communicate with each other, gather information about the possibilities open to them, and listen to people with experiences to share.

It is also about recognizing the determination of those with spinal cord injuries to build a new life. One of the biggest accomplishments for anyone with a spinal cord injury is understanding that life is going to have its challenges and costs. The higher the injury is on the spinal cord, the more severe the physiological damage is and the faster the aging process seems to go.

Even people whose work requires little physical effort run into problems in terms of getting around, transfers, personal care, housekeeping, ice, snow clearing and so on.

We also want to recognize the dedication of the people who help out on a daily basis. Thanks to them, the injured persons can resume a nearly normal life. This help goes a long way toward alleviating anxiety, problems of all kinds, and especially physical exhaustion. However, what is most important in my view is that these people gently force the injured to be disciplined and to tune out the little voice in their head that tells them in the morning that they do not have the desire, energy or need to get out of bed. Believe me, that little voice is tenacious and having someone to rely on during those times is truly a blessing.

I want to acknowledge the perseverance of scientists who, through their research, are improving the lives of thousands of people with spinal cord injuries. In recent years, there have been significant advances in the neurosciences, which study everything to do with the nervous system, such as the mapping of the sensorimotor cortex.

At the trauma unit at the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal, you learn that the spinal cord is made up of nervous tissue and cells and that it looks like a cable the thickness of your little finger. It begins at the base of the brain and passes through each vertebra, ending between the first and second vertebrae. Basically, the spinal cord is the communication link between the brain and the body.

Adapting to a spinal cord injury is very difficult and takes a long time. It requires a great deal of personal effort by the injured person and the people around him or her. It turns a person's life upside down and is often accompanied by many negative emotions such as fear, anxiety and anger. It brings long hours of reflection interspersed with highs and lows.

However, as with any situation, there are also positives. Those with new injuries are taken care of by an interdisciplinary team that quickly addresses the objectives identified by specialists based on the injuries.

For several years, the notion of inclusion has dominated the debate on the place of people with disabilities in our society. A so-called inclusive society adapts to individual differences and anticipates people's needs in order to give them the best possible chance of success in life. As a result, in order for a society to be truly inclusive, collective will and collective mobilization are needed, on the part of society and the economic and political communities. They need to change their way of thinking and the way they organize things in order to integrate people who are sometimes more fragile.

Every little action to improve the living conditions of people with disabilities requires a collective and political effort, and I think that we are making such an effort today.

I also believe that as elected representatives, we must promote inclusiveness. We must position ourselves as open people who create bridges with our living environments. Of course, the inclusion of people with disabilities in society cannot be done without the support and knowledge of the medical, social and political sectors.

Finally, I sometimes get the impression that we have incorporated the notion of inclusion into our speeches, but it is difficult for a person with a disability to be convinced that political authorities are truly committed to the notion of inclusion because so much remains to be done in terms of accessibility and home care.

It is important to understand that the bill to designate a national spinal cord injury awareness day is much more than symbolic. It has the potential to help save lives and reduce the number of spinal cord injuries that happen in Canada every year.

Let us not miss this opportunity to help everyone. As I often say, spinal cord injuries do not discriminate.

As I went through the process that got me to the point of talking about this bill again today, I believe that I developed a better understanding of the real needs of people with spinal cord injuries. Let me explain. Naturally, people might think that I do not really understand them, but talking to other people can sometimes help us see other problems.

I gained a better understanding of what this special day on the calendar can contribute. This bill is representative of the political work we are all here to do because it helps us all better ourselves as a society in meaningful ways.

Sometimes we get the feeling that we are not doing enough, but in this case, even though this bill seems like a modest initiative at first glance, it is an incredible tool that leads us to a new stage in our progress toward accepting people with disabilities in Canada.

This step forward will lead to others and so on. The quality of life of all our fellow citizens, whether they are affected by spinal cord injuries or not, will certainly improve.

Creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day will ultimately significantly help improve health care, promote treatment advances, technological innovations and research in medical science, and even contribute to the Canadian economy.

Raising hope is a winning strategy, and today, the first thing we must do is make sure that this bill continues to make its way through the legislative process. We also need to make social acceptance more universal and to raise awareness among employers of the unsuspected qualities of those with spinal cord injuries, thereby making our communities more effective, productive and just.

The practical nature of this reality and the idealism of these principles work well together in this much-needed bill. We have to promote acceptance within social networks and value inclusion because it is both compassionate and for the common good.

I should mention that governments are doing their part when it comes to research, but most of the funding comes from appeals to the public's generosity. Creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day will allow for new fundraising opportunities. It will not cost us anything to provide this opportunity to organizations that offer services to persons with disabilities, and the potential returns could be extremely beneficial.

To sum up, this bill will help raise public awareness and acceptance of spinal cord injury victims. It will maximize funding and research initiatives and stimulate volunteer support and personal involvement in general. It can help communicate and draw attention to specific issues, while bringing together people on similar paths. It will validate the help and support provided by loved ones, family members, colleagues, neighbours and specialists, as well as the exceptional contribution of researchers in this area of expertise.

We are all equal before this terrible scourge and every bit of progress is a victory for all. My personal experience and that of the people I consulted, as well as the conversations I have taken part in, have convinced me that creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day is a productive, effective, economical and sensible way to do our part for Canadians with disabilities.

I often say that people living with a physical limitation who meet daily challenges have the same very strong abilities, qualities and character of people drawn to extreme sports. I am sure that my colleague across the way will agree with me. They have to have determination, courage, perseverance, and especially the will to improve their daily lives.

I think that we can do a better job of equipping these people to deal with what others would see as insurmountable obstacles. I recognize that it is often stressful and painful for the people around us, because they are not living it and do not truly understand. It is up to us to reassure them, if we want to maintain their friendship and respect, and to recognize that they may be an incredible, and even vital, source of support.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2015 / 1:15 p.m.
See context


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the bill before the House and applaud the member for the effort she has no doubt put in to making this possible. I understand that September 18, the third Friday, would be our first national awareness day.

Could the member provide some further comment on the importance of health care services for spinal cord injuries? Designating this day would provide an opportunity for those individuals to look at appealing to governments at different levels and different organizations. The member made reference to fundraising. There are all sorts of unlimited possibilities in recognizing this.

Could she provide some comment on the importance of research and health care dollars for this?

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2015 / 1:15 p.m.
See context


Manon Perreault Independent Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to research I naturally think of the Rick Hansen Institute. The institute has done much to advance research on spinal cord injuries.

There is still a lot of work to be done, but nevertheless there have been some significant advances. I am not a doctor, but rehabilitation centres are currently working very hard to ensure that spinal cord injury victims are taken care of as quickly as possible after their accident. Over the years, they have come to realize that the earlier you can operate on these individuals, the greater the chance of their muscles responding to rehabilitation.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2015 / 1:15 p.m.
See context


Manon Perreault Independent Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, when someone asks me what we could do to make our society more inclusive, two things quickly come to mind: accessibility and transportation. I would like to focus on transportation, because right now, that is really the biggest problem for people in wheelchairs who need to get to work. Often these people do not have access to transportation. For example, if I take the Montcalm commuter train, not all of the exits are wheelchair accessible. Some exits are, but not all of them. Nevertheless, this infrastructure was just built in the past few years. There is therefore an enormous amount of work to be done to make transportation and buildings accessible.

I would like to add that just because there is a sign saying that a building is wheelchair accessible, that does not make it true. One of the biggest problems we have is simply going to the washroom. Wheelchairs cannot always fit through the washroom door. The member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia is laughing, but I know he knows exactly what I am talking about.

I would like to invite all of my colleagues to come spend an entire day following us around in wheelchairs and to do push-ups every time we have to transfer in and out of our wheelchairs. They will see that it is very physically demanding.

With regard to both transportation and accessibility, there is still much to be done.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2015 / 1:20 p.m.
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Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Montcalm for her leadership in the area of spinal cord injury and disability and for her contribution to Canada as a whole. Public service is difficult, and the member for Montcalm has distinguished herself.

I would like to pick up where the member left off on the washroom issue and the idea of encouraging everyone to spend a day in a wheelchair. We do that. My colleague from Edmonton has done that.

I used to bring people together in the morning. They would come and gather in my office. They would get their wheelchair, and I would be sure to give them lots of coffee. At the end of the day, if anyone said that he or she had spent the entire day in the wheelchair, I knew for sure that the person was telling a white lie, because the washrooms are hard to find, and when one gets there, it is hard to know what to do if one is in a wheelchair.

That is something that is really emblematic of what happens. Just having a flush entrance does not mean a facility is accessible.

With regard to spinal cord awareness week, the United Kingdom has a day and Australia has a week. Part of spinal cord awareness week is awareness. What happens to the body when people have a spinal cord injury is not well understood. It is because nobody wants to talk about what it actually means. It is very uncomfortable. I am going to use this opportunity to explain some of the uncomfortable realities of a spinal cord injury.

Generally, there are quadriplegics and paraplegics. A paraplegic is one who has use of his or her arms. A quadriplegic is someone who is, like me, paralyzed from the neck down.

What does paralyzed from the neck down mean? The obvious thing is that the person cannot move any muscles below the neck. However, it also means not feeling hunger, not feeling hot or cold, not having the sense of touch. It is a bit like being a turtle on a log. One moves toward the ambient temperature of the room or the environment in which one finds oneself.

People who are quadriplegics cannot feed themselves. They cannot dress or undress themselves. They cannot shower. People at a high level, as in my case, need people 24 hours a day to help with the activities of daily living, including going to the washroom. Again, this is really icky, but it is a reality. There are a variety of things that people do, such as using indwelling catheters and other kinds of medical devices. It is the same situation on the bowel side. The individual with the injury needs help with all of that. That is really difficult.

Then we combine it with the need for proper care, which is always difficult to find and finance. Some people are fortunate to have insurance. In most cases the insurance is not nearly enough. That is something auto insurance companies and workers' comp need to look at because most spinal cord injuries occur come from a driving or work accident.

Also, the issue of reproduction is compromised as well. It is a fundamental part of being human. We are physical creatures. The change in the lifestyle that the member for Montcalm describes is almost a metamorphosis into a different kind of existence. I have to live in my mind and I am very glad that I live in Canada where someone like the member for Montcalm, or myself or many others can be a quadriplegic or paraplegic and still contribute to society.

However, there are many barriers and they include attitudinal issues. I am sure the member for Montcalm has had this happen to her. When I go to a restaurant, someone asks the person who I am with what I want to eat. The person responds “Why don't you ask the person in the wheelchair?” Then the person will sort of raise their voice and say “What would you like to eat?” It is like there is some sort of cognitive or hearing impairment associated with the wheelchair.

These are well intentioned people, but too many people do not have the awareness. I admit that I was one of those people before my accident in 1996.

Another thing is accommodation in the workplace. In the House of Commons, I would like to thank all my colleagues for allowing a stranger in the House, my caregiver who sits with me. Here, in committees and in cabinet, no one raises an eyebrow.

There have also been efforts to adjust the seating to accommodate wheelchairs. I remember when I got here, they put me over on the opposition side because we were in opposition. Claude, the architect, described all the things he had to do to accommodate me. I told him all of that was temporary, and he kind of looked at me. I told him that in a few months I would be on the government side of the House. He laughed. Then I looked him in the eye and said “Then I'm going to run for Speaker”. If we want to see an architect melt down, that is one way to do it.

I give those examples as if those most sensitive committees at the highest level in Canadian society can accommodate a quadriplegic who cannot even move a finger, there is no reason workplaces, educational institutions or any other part of society cannot accommodate people with a disabilities. They may not be able to answer or solve a problem the same way most people can, but they will get there. Technology is a great equalizer.

Since I am not competing to play football or anything, I focus on my strengths. When I ran the first time, people said interesting things. First was that I did not sound disabled. That was a classic. I was asked why would anyone vote for me, given I was really a nobody and in this physical situation. This was on the radio too. My response to that was “I would rather be paralyzed from the neck down than from the neck up“.

The point is that we need to evaluate people on the content of their character and their ability to contribute, and we need to be creative in how that contribution is made. We also have to ensure that we have the supports in home care, transportation, and the education system. We need to empower people so that they can make the best decisions for themselves, so we need to remove the systemic barriers that exist.

What we need for spinal cord injury applies to senior citizens. Members may be interested to know that. It applies as well to people with temporary or episodic disabilities. It goes on and on.

The last comment I would like to make is that Dr. Fehlings at Toronto Western Research Institute is a medical hero in Canada. Just last week in the media he announced that research had allowed paraplegics to gain more sensation through his work and that of his team with respect to the central nervous system. That is a game changer.

The government has invested in this, and I know all of the parties support that kind of investment. Would it not be wonderful if someday spinal cord or brain injuries were something for the history books and that we would all be able to live long and prosperous lives?

We live in the best country in the world. It is the best time in human history to be alive. God bless Canada.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2015 / 1:30 p.m.
See context


Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I rise in my place, and I say that because my two colleagues who preceded me could not rise in their place. They are the bravest human beings in this room. I want to thank both of them for all their courage, efforts and wonderful heartfelt speeches.

I certainly cannot add anything to what was said by those two incredible individuals. Both of them are living proof that we can adapt our society no matter what the need to accommodate those individuals who need accommodation in the workplace, society and ordinary daily living, and on transportation, as the member for Montcalm has said,

On the spinal cord awareness day, I tried to be in a wheelchair for a full day, and it was not easy. Bathrooms were difficult to manoeuver, but I did stick to it. Eventually I had to give up waiting for a bus because the folks running the buses said that they did not have enough buses and that were unable to transport me in time to make it back for a vote. However, I did get back into the chair after that occurrence.

My brother has multiple sclerosis, and while it is not a spinal cord injury, he is well on his way to being full-time in a wheelchair. He is not there yet, but I watch him and realize that, in his case, it is not a sudden and traumatic injury but a long, gradual, painful transition to where the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia and the member for Montcalm are now.

It is sad and hard to watch, but it makes me all the more determined, as the critic for persons with disabilities, to create a Canada in which everything we can possibly do is done, not just to raise awareness and to do research but to actually make it possible for everyone to live as though they were no different than anyone else.

I am thankful for this opportunity. I want to again thank my colleagues for their incredible speeches.

God Bless Canada. God bless them.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2015 / 1:35 p.m.
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Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to add a few thoughts on this issue and thank the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia for a very passionate speech and the member for Montcalm for her tenacity. It does take a great deal of tenacity in order to not only generate the idea and put it on a piece of paper but also to get it through the House. It depends upon a bit on luck too, I must say. She was in a great position to do something of some substance, and we are debating this issue today because of her efforts.

However, let me get back to my friend from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, who I think articulated exceptionally well why we as a society need to get a better understanding of the impact of some of the things that happen virtually every day in our community or in our vast country, and their consequences. He speaks with obvious first-hand experience.

I have known of the member for many years, probably more years than he has likely known of me, and I am in admiration of the member's desire to have change and the recognition that is necessary, not only on this particular issue but on other issues as well, whether at the University of Manitoba or on the streets in Winnipeg.

I applaud the fact that he took the time to share some of those personal stories, because we do take things for granted, whether it is changing or eating or some of those normal daily functions. It is hard for individuals to have empathy unless they have experienced these situations first-hand, as the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia has.

It is very enlightening for all of us, and the viewers, to listen to what the member was sharing with not only members of this chamber but with those who were tuned in through CPAC.

Recognizing a national spinal cord injury awareness day is important. It is important for the very reasons we just witnessed—that is, it would enlighten and bring awareness to a wide variety of Canadians.

I would like to share some thoughts with respect to just how wide a variety it really can be. Both speakers, the introducer and the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia in particular, talked about some of the issues they have to face. Government spends literally hundreds of millions of dollars annually dealing with this issue in our health care system through hospitals or other types of institutions, but what we really need to focus on is ensuring a sense of independent living. This is something both speakers referred to, whether directly or indirectly.

There are very tangible things that government can do. The single largest landlord is, in fact, the Government of Canada, in co-operation with the different provincial governments. We build non-profit housing or low-income housing or provide life-lease housing. We promote housing co-ops and all sorts of government-initiated programs to revitalize communities, which includes the revitalization of housing units. All of these, I would suggest, should always take into consideration the issue of disabilities. Accessibility is an issue. It is a very serious issue.

I was intrigued when the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia described his office gathering, where he provided a lot of coffee for those individuals who were about to make the commitment to spend the day in a wheelchair, and his reference to the white lie. It is very much a valid story that provides a better understanding of that one very basic issue.

I have the privilege of having Parminder Buttar working in my constituency office. He is in a wheelchair and is very dependent on the rest of civil society, as people in wheelchairs are, in ensuring that we are sensitive to the needs and respect those needs, and where we can take action that we do so.

It means ensuring that washrooms are accessible. It is to ensure that when we look at purchasing or acquiring new city buses that we take that into consideration. It is to ensure that when it comes time to build another large housing complex, that disability is taken into consideration.

So much can be done, and it is not only at the federal level. What I like about the motion before us today, is that it is Ottawa recognizing the importance of the issue and designating a day in the year. This year will be the first year we recognize it, with the understanding that the bill will get royal assent. September 18 will not only be a wonderful opportunity to educate people, but also to promote the many different positive attributes individuals, whether they are paraplegic or quadriplegic, have contributed to our society in every aspect.

In many ways it is special and is a different type of challenge. When the mover of the bill made reference to the super sports athletes, we will find that also applies to individuals in wheelchairs. They are exceptionally well motivated. Their contributions are immense and of equal nature in many different ways.

I have had the opportunity to speak on other days of action. With the passage of this legislation, members of Parliament will be afforded the opportunity to promote this going forward. The most obvious ways of promoting this are with our ten parceners or householders, or through other forms of communication that we might have with technology, the Internet and so forth.

Other ways would be to look at our local schools, taking the time where it is possible, to encourage education or awareness within a school atmosphere or to look at employers and encourage them to get more engaged in the day. I suspect there will be wide and a fairly general appreciation of the true value of having a day of this nature designated.

If we were to look at the number of days of recognition that have been passed through the House, this would be ranked as one of those issues that really and truly merits a much wider appreciation not only in Ottawa but also at the different levels of government.

I do not know, for example, if my provincial government of Manitoba has acknowledged the importance of this day. If it has not, hopefully one of the MLAs in the Manitoba legislature will do so. Even local municipalities and city councillors can get engaged on this issue. We can do much more and I encourage people to do what they can, given what has been asked of us today.

On behalf of the Liberal Party, I want to thank the mover of the motion for coming up with the idea and bringing it forward. I suspect that it will receive the unanimous support of the House as we try to deal with those important issues Canadians have to face day in and day out.

The issue of disability deserves a great deal more debate in the House of Commons, in the different legislatures, and by the public at large.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2015 / 1:45 p.m.
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Vancouver Island North B.C.


John Duncan ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I will not take all of the time, but I did want to speak to this motion from the member for Montcalm and seconded by the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia.

I cannot remember the exact year, but I was the seatmate of the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, and it was during that time that he wrote his book. We had a book unveiling in Ottawa. As a member of the caucus, and particularly because the member was my seatmate, it was incumbent upon me to get to know him much better. Now we have been caucus colleagues for at least a decade. The adversity that I realize the member has gone through, and the inspiration he provides, have carried on. There is no member of this caucus of which the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia is a member who has ever heard him utter a complaint. The member is constructive, and as everyone has witnessed today, he is quite hilarious.

I realize that I am restricting my comments to the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia rather than to the member for Montcalm. It is not for any reason other than that I know the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia much more intimately. There is no slight intended.

We are reminded every time we see the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia attending meetings, whether they are early or late, that whatever adversity or struggles we may be going through, they pale in comparison. This is part of the ongoing inspiration we all feel.

There was a time, after 13 years of serving in the opposition in this place, that I actually lost an election. It was the very year we formed government. On my way, as I departed from Ottawa by car, guess who called? It was the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia. He was thinking about me. I have never forgotten that.

We all have to recognize that these members who brought this motion forward are more than contributing members of Parliament. They are much more than full members, in a sense. I know from many discussions that the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia is actively engaged in the Treasury Board, for example. He is pursuing advanced education. He is a great student of Canadian history. There are many things all of us could learn about Canadian history from just having a short conversation with the member.

I believe that we have a strong responsibility to know our colleagues who face adversity. Today is one of those opportunities, but there is another opportunity, and it is called “every day”.

What we witnessed today is consistent with the motion that has been put forward by the member for Montcalm and seconded by the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia. I congratulate them, and I know that this place will be happy to adopt this motion.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2015 / 1:50 p.m.
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Manon Perreault Independent Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I often tell people that it is more difficult for them to approach us than it is for us to go and talk to them. I think that this national day will make more and more people aware of this issue.

When I came to this place in 2011 and I met people, they told me that they were surprised to see me in a wheelchair, and all I could do was nod. However, when I was campaigning, I did not hide it from anyone. It seems that people did not realize it until they met me.

I also realized that people often say that they think we are very nice. That makes me laugh, because everyone is nice. Being in a wheelchair does not stop you from being nice.

Last week I received an invitation from Mr. Demers to take a horse out on a racetrack. I think everyone here knows that I had a riding accident and that horseback riding was one of my great passions. A little earlier, we were talking about accessibility and changing how we look at things. That gentleman let me take his racehorse out on a track. That was such a wonderful thing for me.

When something like that happens, you have to take another look at everything you used to love doing so you can do it again. Excuse me, I am having a hard time because this is so emotional for me.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Demers from the bottom of my heart. He helped me understand that even though my accident happened in 1993, and even though I could no longer ride, I could find other ways to pursue my passion. I honestly never thought I would be able to do it. I am very proud of that.

We have to salute those who are open-minded and are helping our society become more inclusive so that everyone has a place in it.

I often say that people with disabilities have their limitations, and that is true, but we all have our limitations, and in many cases, we impose them on ourselves. When we meet people who are ready to help us challenge those limitations, they almost become heroes to us.

My colleague may understand what I am saying. Regardless, I am very happy to see that all of my colleagues in the House have so readily supported my bill. I realize that there are many national days and that they are all important. However, I know that this national day will help give people a greater voice in society.

I will end my speech there, since I am a bit overwhelmed talking about all of this.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2015 / 5:25 p.m.
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Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, I am pleased to express my support for Bill C-643, An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day.

Bill C-643, which was introduced in the House of Commons for the first time on December 8, 2014, designates the third Friday of September in each and every year as national spinal cord injury awareness day. Like my NDP colleagues, I want to voice my support for this legislative initiative.

In Canada, there are 86,000 people with spinal cord injuries and, unfortunately, 4,300 new cases are added each year. These injuries cost almost $2.67 billion per year and cause a great deal of physical and psychosocial suffering for those who sustain them. This national day is important to raise public awareness of the reality of people living with these injuries and the difficulties they have to face, as well as the work done by their caregivers and the scientists who are trying to improve their lives.

In my riding of LaSalle—Émard, many organizations work not only with people who have spinal cord injuries, but also with people with reduced mobility, people in wheelchairs, in short, people with any type of disability. Many organizations work to try to help people with disabilities integrate into society and especially to raise public awareness in order to make that integration easier.

I want to mention the organization Handicap Action Intégration and its director, Mody Maka Barry, who also has reduced mobility and uses a wheelchair. He wants to use his organization to help people with reduced mobility find their inner strength and have a healthy and fulfilling life and to prove to them that a physical limitation does not have to hold them back, because it is courage and determination that count.

Handicap Action Intégration also raises awareness among employers to encourage them to hire people with a disability. A recent report in The Globe and Mail talked about the benefits of hiring a person with a disability. That diversity is often very rewarding for a workplace. It creates bonds and allows people with a disability to work, whether or not their disability is due to a spinal cord injury that forces them to use a wheelchair.

Those who are integrated into the workforce will not only benefit from a well-paying job and, often, get out from under financial difficulties, but will also be able to contribute a great deal to society. The article mentioned a number of cases where employers benefited from the rewarding experience of hiring people with a disability. I would like to quote the article:

The article is entitled “Working wisdom: How workers with disabilities give companies an edge”. It says:

Opportunity for many people like him [a person living with a disability] is still scarce.

It means that there are not a lot of opportunities, as not a lot of employers are bold enough to hire people with disabilities.

It continues:

More than two million Canadian adults, or 11 per cent of the population, have some sort of disability and only about half of them participate in the labour force. Of those who do look for work, the jobless rate is 40 per cent or more for some groups. Underemployment is higher and even if they hold a job, incomes among adults with disabilities are typically far lower than the rest of the population.

I think a day like the one proposed in Bill C-643 could raise awareness about what life is like for people with a disability and how vulnerable many of them are. It could also help us see what we might do to help them integrate into the workforce and improve not only their financial situation, but also their physical and psychological condition.

I will share an example of an employer who hired someone with a disability. These are the benefits he discovered.

The benefit for the [employer], he added, is that it has a work force that more closely resembles its customer base. And its workers can give insights into how to reach different customers and keep them happy.

In other words, someone who has a disability or who uses a wheelchair to get around can bring new ideas to an employer such as a bank, for example. If the employer provides services to a broad clientele, the employee with a disability will be more in tune with the clientele's needs. What other employers have found is that many of these employees are very loyal and are also hard workers. They pour their hearts into their work and diversify a company's workforce. This article also shows very clearly that employers who recognize the strength of their employees and hire people who live with a disability, have reduced mobility or use a wheelchair gain a clear advantage.

The day of awareness proposed by Bill C-643 will promote all these benefits. First and foremost, it will shed light on the situation and the vulnerability of many people with disabilities and show how society in general can benefit from their integration.

I would like to reiterate the NDP's support for initiatives that foster the employment of people living with a disability and make our society even more accessible. The NDP is also a strong champion of the fight against poverty, whether it affects people with disabilities or people in precarious situations in general.

We continue to support people with disabilities and to work towards a more open and inclusive society. We also want to make our workplaces more inclusive.

I reiterate my support for Bill C-643.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2015 / 5:35 p.m.
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David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak to the private member's bill, Bill C-643, an act to establish a national spinal cord injury awareness day, put forward by the hon. member for Montcalm. It is important that she has brought this issue of spinal cord injury before the House.

Bill C-643 recognizes the courage and determination of Canadians living with spinal cord injury, and raises awareness of the importance of creating environments that encourage an active return to an inclusive society.

The bill also recognizes the dedication of their caregivers, which may include their families, friends, and professional health care workers who provide them with the vital support they need.

It also acknowledges the important contributions of leading Canadian scientists, whose research has improved the lives of hundreds of people with spinal cord injuries.

Bill C-643 aims to establish the third Friday in September every year as national spinal cord injury awareness day.

This would seek to reduce the risk of spinal cord injuries through increasing awareness and prevention, and it would also benefit those currently suffering from a spinal cord injury by shining a light on this important health issue across our country—with local government, non-government organizations, volunteer groups, and the private sector.

Spinal cord injuries include damage to any part of the spinal cord and may be traumatic or non-traumatic in nature.

Traumatic spinal cord injuries can result from many different causes including falls, traffic accidents, occupational and sports injuries, as well as violence.

Non-traumatic spinal cord injuries typically involve an underlying cause, such as an infectious disease, tumour, a muscle or bone disease such as osteoarthritis, or spina bifida

Regardless of how spinal cord injuries occur, both traumatic and non-traumatic injuries can be devastating for individuals and their families.

In terms of how traumatic spinal cord injuries occur, based upon hospitalization records from 2010 to 2011, there were 577 hospitalizations in Canada attributed to spinal cord injuries. Of these, 54% were the result of non-sport related falls, while 31% were attributable to vehicle accidents, and 4% were a results of a sport injury.

To gain a better understanding of neurological conditions in Canada, our government made a $15 million investment in 2011 to initiate the national population study on neurological conditions. It was led by the Public Health Agency of Canada and Neurological Heath Charities Canada in collaboration with Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The study was composed of thirteen research projects, three national surveys, and seven simulation models.

After the study was completed, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and Parkinson's disease were all added to the existing Canadian chronic disease surveillance system, which is managed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The study has improved our understanding of the incidence and prevalence of neurological conditions such as spinal cord injury. It has also shed light on the impact of neurological conditions on individuals living with these conditions, their families, and their communities.

Through this bill, we can create greater awareness for spinal cord injuries and their impact on the lives of those affected. We can highlight federal injury prevention efforts and showcase advancements in spinal cord injury and stem cell research in Canada, so that we as a country can make further gains.

Our government recognizes the impact spinal cord injuries have on Canadians and has directed significant financial investment into research to generate new knowledge and technologies to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.

Through our support for research on the functioning and disorders of the brain and spinal cord, I believe we are making a difference. With federal support, the work of top researchers has contributed to our understanding for the changes in nerve cells that could prevent and alleviate chronic neuropathic pain syndrome and improve recoveries of limb function following spinal cord injury or trauma.

Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, our government funds research that covers the full spectrum of spinal cord research. This includes basic biological and clinical research to population health, health services, and quality of life and health determinants.

Since 2006, our government has invested $57 million toward spinal cord injury research to generate new knowledge and technologies to improve patient outcomes and quality of life. We have also invested $470 million in stem cell research since 2006 and over $53 million in 2013-14 alone.

Research in stem cell clinical therapies has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of degenerative diseases, such as spinal cord injury, and greatly improve the quality of life of many Canadians.

In September 2014, the Minister of Health announced a federal investment in support of 32 new research projects under the Canada Brain Research Fund. One of these included the development of the Rick Hansen Alberta Spinal Cord Injury Registry through the University of Calgary.

As some may recall, the Rick Hansen Foundation was founded in 1988 after Mr. Hansen so bravely and with such determination completed the Man in Motion World Tour in Vancouver. The foundation works toward removing the barriers that limit the participation of people with disabilities in society. Our government proudly supports the Rick Hansen Foundation, an organization that is inspired by the dream of creating an accessible and inclusive world, and driven to finding a cure for spinal cord Injury.

An investment of $30 million was provided by our government to the foundation from 2007 to 2013, to implement a spinal cord injury data system across Canada, support spinal cord injury research and promote best practices in spinal cord injury care. This investment aims to improve health care and quality of life for Canadians living with a spinal cord injury.

In order to maintain the momentum of the Rick Hansen Foundation, our government announced a further investment of $35 million to this foundation until 2018.

Bill C-643 would add to significant efforts already under way in Canada for people living with spinal cord injury.

In Canada, other jurisdictions such as Saskatchewan and Manitoba have commemorated spinal cord injury awareness. In 2009, the government of Saskatchewan, in collaboration with the Canadian Paraplegic Association, proclaimed May 2009 as Spinal Cord Injury and Physical Disabilities Awareness Month to raise awareness about spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities. Manitoba declared a similar Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day in May 2011.

I hope my comments today have given everyone an understanding of the impact spinal cord injuries has in our country.

I would encourage each member to lend their support to Bill C-643 to establish the third Friday in September as the designated day for national spinal cord injury awareness day across Canada to increase awareness of spinal cord injury.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2015 / 5:45 p.m.
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Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill we are debating this evening would establish a national spinal cord injury awareness day. I support this bill and I encourage all of my colleagues to support it, since people with spinal cord injuries face daily challenges, and the public needs to be made aware of that.

We need to increase awareness of what these individuals go through. They face many problems in dealing with their disability. It is not just a matter of highlighting the dangers of high-risk activities, as is often the case in awareness campaigns. We also need more awareness about the needs people with spinal cord injuries have and the obstacles and challenges they face.

A spinal cord injury cuts communication between the brain and the body and leads to full or partial paralysis of the limbs and torso. The extent of the paralysis depends on the location of the injury on the spinal column and its severity. A low injury causes paraplegia, which refers to paralysis of the lower limbs, while a high injury would cause quadriplegia, paralysis of all four limbs.

Given that the spinal cord controls the functioning of the lower and upper limbs, people with spinal cord injuries often must use a wheelchair. The consequences of this type of paralysis lead to very costly care. The cost of traumatic spinal cord injuries is estimated at $2.7 billion a year for every newly injured person. In addition to the costs for care, the costs of reorganizing one's daily life need to be factored in. When you are in a wheelchair, you need to reorganize your home or space to have access to everything without too much difficulty. That is very expensive.

Awareness days are a useful tool to educate people and raise funds. We must not overlook that.

Making the third Friday of September national spinal cord injury awareness day will help the cause of organizations that run campaigns across the country to raise funds for research, care and financial support for victims. Even a small contribution from the general public would make it possible to change the lives of those affected by spinal cord injuries, their loved ones and their families as well.

In 2013, about 86,000 people and their families were affected by spinal cord injuries in Canada, and some 4,300 new cases are added each year.

Investments in the health care system are necessary. The government must show leadership and must not abandon the provinces. This bill reminds us just how much we need investments in our health care system. An awareness day makes it possible to highlight the needs of people with disabilities in terms of both health care and resources. We need to be able to count on a federal government that is willing to work with the provinces and territories and make long-term investments to ensure that our public health care system meets the needs of all Canadians.

Health care is a priority for all Canadians, and it should be a priority for their government too. However, the Conservatives are undermining our cherished public health care system.

They have unilaterally imposed cuts of $36 billion in transfer payments to the provinces for the next 10 years. These cuts are undermining our health care system. Currently, Canadians are not receiving health care in a timely fashion when they need it. Our seniors, for example, are receiving inadequate levels of health care. Most federal government expenditures are dropping alarmingly at the very time when the population of Canada is aging. As a result, the provinces and the territories are inheriting a huge financial burden.

Concretely, we are seeing medical clinics close their doors. In my constituency of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, three clinics have closed already and a fourth will do so in 2015. This is unacceptable. The government must adhere to the principles of the Canada Health Act.

If the Conservative government is not capable of maintaining a funding formula that will allow the provinces and territories to fund universal access to quality services, it should step aside and let us do it. We on this side of the House will listen; we will sit down with the provinces and territories in order to find appropriate solutions. The NDP has a plan to strengthen our health care system because we all deserve to have access to care, regardless of where we live.

In fact, the NDP will fill the gaps that the Conservatives are leaving in health, especially the health of those with disabilities. The Conservatives have had five years in which to come to grips with the problem of the real poverty that many people with disabilities are experiencing. They have done nothing to improve the workplace accommodation measures for persons with disabilities who are trying to be part of the workforce. The caregiver tax credit is of no use to many people with disabilities, since they do not even have a taxable income. It does not even apply to the spouses who care for their disabled partners. As we can see, much remains to be done to help those living with disabilities in our country.

In conclusion, I invite all my colleagues to support designating the third Friday in September as national spinal cord injury awareness day. Let us not forget that most accidents happen in the summer and the third Friday is a busy time for spinal cord rehabilitation centres. This is the reality surrounding this bill that we should keep in mind. I hope that, for once, the Conservative government will consider it.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2015 / 5:55 p.m.
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Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to say that the Liberal Party will be supporting Bill C-643, which, as we know, seeks to establish a day to recognize the impacts that spinal cord injuries have on Canadians, the health care system, and the economy.

This bill would bring awareness to this serious and debilitating condition. We support that idea because not a lot of people understand and know about spinal cord injuries. They think it is something that happens after a car accident and do not understand the full nature of it, the costs to the health care system, and the long-term residual effects on its victims.

The front end of a spinal cord injury is acutely traumatic and places great costs on the acute health care system, such as long-term hospitalization. A lot of care is necessary, depending on the severity of the spinal cord injury.

Then there are the long-term health implications. People who have suffered spinal cord injuries tend to have very reduced mobility and life expectancy. They also have impaired neurological recovery and are unable to recover some of the use of their central nervous system.

What is surprising to a lot of people is that currently 95,000 Canadians are living with spinal cord injuries. This number is expected to rise with the increasing age of the population, because age, interestingly enough, is a factor in spinal cord injuries.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal is predicting 4,300 new cases each year. The number of persons suffering with spinal cord injuries will increase as the population ages. Approximately 51% of spinal cord injuries are a result of trauma, such as car accidents, skiing injuries, and so on. We know that is true. Most people think that is the only reason, but there are also non-traumatic injuries, such as ALS, cancer, and degenerative diseases of the neurological system that cause the spinal cord to be severed or damaged so that the spinal cord is not continuous and does not work.

The Rick Hansen Foundation estimates that the economic costs for newly injured Canadians is approximately $2.7 billion. That is a huge amount of money. This cost includes not only acute, long-term, or chronic health care but also new equipment and modifications made to people's homes to enable them to live with the long-term injury they have sustained. For instance, the lifetime medical costs for a quadriplegic exceed $3 million in the lifetime of that one person. With respect to a paraplegic, we are looking at $1.6 million in lifetime costs. For many Canadian families the average cost of a simple manual wheelchair is $4,000 to $5,000, and the average cost of a power wheelchair is about $10,000 to $15,000. Those costs are not currently covered under the health care system.

We also know that people who are confined and unable to move because of long-term injuries, such as spinal cord injuries, suffer from higher levels of depression and ill health consistent with a changed ability to cope with life. Depression in people with spinal cord injuries is one of the biggest reasons they tend to go to see family physicians.

With respect to awareness of spinal cord injuries, people do not know or realize that while 51% are from trauma, the other 49% are from other effects, such as seniors becoming older and falling or as a result of basic neurological defects such as ALS and the like. People think the spinal cord has to be severed to cause a traumatic injury.

Therefore, if we do anything this day, we need to bring awareness of this problem to Canadians with respect to the costs to the health care system, to families, and to society, as well as the loss of person-days of work. Many people are not able to work in the system or can only do certain jobs. It is important for people to understand this and to realize the importance of research on spinal cord injuries with respect to how we can bridge that damaged spinal cord to allow people to live with some quality of life. We are now finding out that research is showing that if a spinal cord injury is caught early enough, some regeneration of the spinal cord is possible.

This is good. It is helpful for all of the people for whom the tragedy of a spinal cord injury is not only one of cost and loss of productivity but also of loss of ability to do things they used to do before, as well as the depression and the mental health problems that come with it.

If this day would improve awareness for Canadians, then we can get the political will to do the necessary research in prevention of spinal cord injuries, treatment of spinal cord injuries, and recovery from spinal cord injuries.

We learn. I was one of the Chair-Leaders on the Hill trying to get around in wheelchairs and suddenly realized that ordinarily I should not use the disabled section of the women's washroom. I had this realization because I was waiting there in a wheelchair while someone who was able was using it. Lack of consideration in that simple area was enough to show how difficult mobility is for people with spinal cord injuries.

Motor vehicle accidents, including those involving all-terrain vehicles, account for 31% of spinal cord injuries, so we might want to look at how we regulate the use and safety of all-terrain vehicles. Seniors and age are issues, as 46% of injuries result from falls, while 5% result from acts of violence and 18% result from sports and recreational injuries and other unknown and degenerative diseases.

New methods for treating spinal cord injuries are being worked on, but we need to ramp it up, because the ability to continue with life the way one knew it is invaluable. We cannot even weigh the cost of not being able to do that to the human person.

Work is being done at UBC, my home province, and in 2012 CIHR gave a grant for research on cardiovascular health in persons with spinal cord injuries. The main cause of death of persons with spinal cord injuries has become cardiovascular disease, because of their inability to be mobile and the inactivity that followed, so work is being done now to see how we can prevent cardiovascular disease in persons with spinal cord injuries. There is hope for that.

We can improve the quality of life and save the health care system up to $70 million annually, but the most important thing is to give back to persons with spinal cord injuries the ability to regain their lives, do the things that they formerly could do, and have a full quality of life.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2015 / 6:05 p.m.
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Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

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.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2015 / 6:15 p.m.
See context


Manon Perreault Independent Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, my thanks to all the members who participated in this debate. Everything I have heard here this evening is truly heartwarming. This debate was held in an exemplary fashion and with the utmost respect for our function.

Creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day will make a positive contribution to Canadian society. I would like to tell all my distinguished colleagues that persons with disabilities from all over Canada have contacted my offices to express their gratitude, and I have to share their thanks with my colleagues.

Let me also thank all those who made the study of this bill possible, all those who helped design and draft the bill, and all those who helped move it forward. The seriousness of their commitment shows an exemplary level of concern with prevention and with raising awareness not only of the challenges facing those with spinal cord injuries, but also of the treatments and research in this area of expertise.

By going through the many stages that led to this bill, which I am honoured to put before the House today, I think I have gained a better appreciation of the real needs of those living with spinal cord injuries. Let me explain.

I have gained a greater understanding of what an initiative like this special day can contribute. This bill is representative of the purpose of the political work we are all here to do because it helps us better ourselves as a society in meaningful ways.

Sometimes we get the feeling that we are not doing enough, but in this case, even though this bill seems like a modest initiative at first glance, it is an incredible tool that leads us to a new stage in our progress toward accepting people with disabilities in Canada. This step forward will lead to others and so on.

The quality of life of all our fellow citizens, whether they are affected by spinal cord injuries or not, will improve. The goal is to make social acceptance more universal and to raise awareness among employers of the unsuspected qualities of those with spinal cord injuries, thereby making our communities more effective, productive and just.

The practical nature of this reality and the idealism of these principles work well together in this much-needed bill. We have to promote acceptance within social networks and value inclusion because it is both compassionate and for the common good.

In my opinion, one of the foundations of our work is ensuring that the best decisions are made to help our society progress, that the best policies are employed for the common good and that our measures are effective when they are implemented.

I truly believe that this bill to create a national spinal cord injury awareness day is a step in the right direction, and of course I will continue to speak in support of this bill until it passes in the House of Commons.

To back my point of view, I turned to a number of stakeholders. I asked a lot of questions and tried to get some answers, and I listened to the opinions of many experts and workers on the ground. I also learned about many approaches and initiatives in the area of spinal cord injury.

There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done, but we have reached a consensus regarding the best actions to take. Creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day seems to be the approach that best meets the various needs of that community. This measure has the potential to be extremely beneficial to a broad cross-section of Canadians, all without any cost. We simply cannot do without this crucial bill. The ball is now in our court. We have examined the issue and reached our conclusions, so now let us make it happen.

There has been so much brainstorming, collaboration and passionate discussion; so many people have invested in a common goal; so much effort has been made and energy spent selflessly. Let us follow the example of these often anonymous people who, by doing their small part, have managed to put together a simple, yet effective bill. We must take this opportunity to do our part and vote in favour of the bill to create a national awareness day.

I want to mention two organizations: Spinal Cord Injury Canada, whose director, Bobby White, has supported me from the beginning, and Moelle épinière et motricité Québec, with Walter Zelaya.

I am sure we will get there. We can, we must, and we will. Canadians are dignified and proud. Let us create a spinal cord injury awareness policy that reflects that.

Let us see this bill as a positive reflection of our society, a commendable unifying effort that everyone can stand behind. On behalf of people with disabilities in Montcalm, Quebec and Canada, I want to sincerely thank my colleagues. I am deeply touched by everything they had to say about spinal cord injuries.