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

February 25th, 2015 / 5:40 p.m.
See context


Manon Perreault Independent Montcalm, QC

moved that Bill C-643, An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to thank all the members of the House who have helped get this bill to this stage in the process. It is the product of our collective efforts and co-operation over the long haul. My esteemed colleagues are doing their part admirably.

I would also like to thank our partners who have supported us during this process and have assisted us in developing this bill, which aims to designate the third Friday of September as National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day. I would also like to point out that my bill is seconded by the member for Victoria.

With the co-operation of MEMO-Quebec, we concluded that this bill could be very useful, and that raising people's awareness would have a very positive impact for people living with spinal cord injuries. Many people with disabilities in my riding of Montcalm, across Quebec and indeed throughout Canada are listening to us today. They are following the progress of our debates very closely and now want to see this bill move forward. I hope we do not let them down.

This bill would make the third Friday of September National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day. Why the third Friday in September? Simply for two key reasons. The first is that accidents frequently occur during the summer. The third Friday of September is a time of year when rehabilitation centres in particular are flooded with spinal cord injuries.

The second reason is that the third Friday of September also has a symbolic meaning. It is the time of year when the days start getting darker. In the months following a spinal cord injury, the injured person will endure dark days that are akin to a difficult fall and a painful winter.

This is a simple and effective bill that will cost nothing and provides one more tool to those involved in helping people with spinal cord injuries and to agencies that work on prevention and raising public awareness. We do not want to ignore the many difficulties people with spinal cord injuries face, far from it. Nonetheless, we wanted to create this awareness day to get across to Canadians the terrible, irreversible consequences of certain accidents. I was never one to tempt fate and so I could not have anticipated that life would test me so harshly. Often, people with spinal cord injuries joke that we are like cats who land on their feet, that after our accidents we set the clock back to zero and started a new life with new obstacles, but also with new and very interesting challenges.

That said, I will respectfully present our bill, which we have put a lot of thought into. This bill has three components. The first objective is to raise public awareness. Spinal cord injury victims must have more encouragement to actively participate, without prejudice, in our society. The bill would also recognize the determination of those with spinal cord injuries to build a new life for themselves, as well as the dedication of the people who help them and the perseverance of the scientists whose research has improved the lives of thousands of people with spinal cord injuries. This day would also serve as a tool to help prevent such injuries, as I mentioned earlier. I will come back to this a little later.

It would be useful to look at the actual statistics. In Canada, there were approximately 86,000 people living with spinal cord injuries in 2013. There are the victims themselves but also their families and friends, who live with the disability affecting the person they love. I would like to take this opportunity to salute all caregivers who look after a person with a disability, and who live and work close to them. I recognize that the situation is often stressful or harrowing for those close to people with spinal cord injuries because they are not the ones living with this disability and do not really understand it. It is up to us, as the people with the injury, to reassure them and to shed a different light on the situation. I am not saying that this is simple and easy to do, but I believe that, in the end, we will find a certain serenity and, above all, a zest for life that is great to share. We must admit that they will perhaps provide invaluable assistance.

We now know that there are 86,000 people affected in Canada, but to that total we have to add the 4,300 people who are injured every year. We must remember that prevention really does work, and that every policy that can promote the production and dissemination of new awareness and prevention campaigns has a positive impact on the work of the people on the ground.

This bill is a step in that direction, and I sincerely hope that it will be passed.

In Quebec and in Canada, falls are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, followed by motor vehicle accidents. That includes all-terrain vehicles. In the United States, many spinal cord injuries result from acts of violence, a cause that is almost non-existent in Quebec and Canada.

Let us look at the number of casualties based on the etiology of the trauma: 31% of injuries result from motor vehicle accidents, including all-terrain vehicles; 46% result from falls; 5% result from acts of violence; and 18% result from sports, recreational activities and other unknown causes.

In Quebec, people with spinal cord injuries are hospitalized for an average of 14 to 57 days, depending on the nature of the injury, namely whether the patient has complete or incomplete quadriplegia, or complete or incomplete paraplegia. The average hospital stay of these patients in Quebec is shorter than the national average, which is between 24 and 63 days, but longer than the American average, which is between 9 and 18 days.

Most people with spinal cord injuries are transferred to an in-patient rehabilitation centre once their condition has stabilized. In Quebec, they remain in that centre for an average of 58 to 202 days, depending on the nature of the injury. The length of stay in these centres in Quebec is comparable to or slightly lower than the national average, which is about 173 days, but much higher than in American centres, which are between 30 and 56 days.

Beyond the physical injury, people with spinal cord injuries often suffer from emotional distress. It is very common for these patients to feel hopeless at the thought of never being able to go back to the life they knew before and also feel discouraged by the many rehabilitation challenges they must face.

People with spinal cord injuries will often remember their stay in the rehabilitation centre. I thought that some of the people who worked in the centre took some kind of sick pleasure in forcing me to hear about their reality, which was not one I was ready to accept. What is more, I did not like the ironic demeanor that some of them had. Today, I understand that they were probably just trying to lighten the mood, but at the time, I found it rather unusual. After many years, I think I have heard all of the wheelchair jokes hundreds of times. I have not heard a new joke for at least the past 10 years.

Public awareness has a profound impact on how easily people with disabilities can return to the workforce. Indeed, how other people look at you is often the first change that people with spinal cord injuries have to get used to. When our neighbours, colleagues and community are ready to make a small effort to make our day-to-day lives a little easier, and when society is willing to accommodate its services to our specific needs, as modest as they may be, we will always want to return the favour. Usually everyone wins. I am not talking about charity here, although the economic factor definitely does enter the equation.

However, when an employer gives someone with a spinal cord injury a chance and agrees to a few small changes in their usual methods to accommodate a worker, that employer will have a motivated and productive worker who really wants to contribute to the success of the business that hired them and is providing support. Through such actions, people with spinal cord injuries gain the same dignity that is essential to everyone, and participate just as actively in creating our collective wealth.

Truth be told, the return to the workforce for people with disabilities can be challenging, and greater public awareness would make this process a little easier. We can improve the lives of thousands of people while also enhancing our social cohesion. That is what I call a win-win.

Coming back after a prolonged work stoppage is a huge step, and for someone with a spinal cord injury, it is an even bigger one. Someone who deliberately chooses to leave his or her job for a certain period probably has a stronger feeling of control over the situation than someone who is forced to quit because of an illness or accident. I think the reason for the work stoppage definitely has an impact on the return.

When people are away from work following a spinal cord injury, it is not true that they return to work as though they left the night before. It is easy to understand since their colleagues will continue to carry out their professional activities, look for opportunities and manage workplace challenges. People with a spinal cord injury who were gone from work for a long time often doubt themselves and do not have the same priorities as their colleagues.

We become more aware of certain aspects of our personal life and also our professional life. We have time to figure out what we really want to improve and what we want to pursue and, conversely, what we want to distance ourselves from and what we no longer want to put up with, such as a heavy workload because we know our physical condition requires extra effort and we might tire more easily.

Nonetheless, there is also a sense of personal accomplishment and self-esteem, which help a person recognize what they are good at and feel like their knowledge is still in demand. I believe that developing a talent and using it to help others is a fundamental part of human endeavour and it is really quite nice.

By creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day, we can officially recognize the courage and determination of people with spinal cord injuries. These Canadians make gargantuan efforts to be independent and regain their quality of life, and the rehabilitation of newly injured people is a remarkable feat in itself.

Each of these individuals has invaluable potential and a lot to offer, and the rehabilitation of people with spinal cord injuries is undeniable proof of strength and determination.

Dear colleagues, that is a fundamental part of our bill, which I think will help improve our society as well as do a great service to our friends, family members, neighbours, colleagues, or anyone who suffered a serious traumatic injury and is working very hard to regain their dignity and quality of life.

Furthermore, we must use this day to highlight not only the dedication of caregivers, of course, but also the dedication and perseverance of the scientists and researchers who are focused on the cause and sacrifice a part of their life and energy to find medical breakthroughs and give hope to those with spinal cord injuries.

As we know, modern science is evolving very quickly and advances in medical research provide hope for new treatments and technologies in the near future that could affect the quality of life of people living with spinal cord injuries and even provide hope for recovery in some cases. In fact, 20 years ago, who could have imagined today's medical advances?

Whether in terms of treatments, technological innovations or therapeutic solutions, there are many fields of research. Advances are being made in tandem on many levels. The wonderful techniques of the present foreshadow those of the future and open the door to legitimate hope for many.

Before talking more about the current state of research in Quebec, I have to first acknowledge the progress and achievements that have been made. I must also acknowledge the work of the people who are invested in improving the quality of life of people with spinal cord injuries on a daily basis. We have to promote research and we have to promote hope.

When I hear that advances are being made in biomedical science, I know that the quality of life of many people has been improved. The assessment of injuries is more precise, the development of tools is increasingly effective and preventive measures, procedures and treatments are continually improving.

We must promote this field of research and stimulate investment in this area. A number of foundations across the country are constantly working on finding money for research and new sources of funding.

The national spinal cord injury awareness day can help in that regard by symbolically bringing together the different organizations and increasing the visibility of their various campaigns.

This is just one of many suggestions, and I am confident that the organizations concerned will be able to make good use of this day to maximize their efforts.

This bill and the establishment of a national spinal cord injury awareness day are far from being just symbolic. This has the potential to help save lives and to reduce the number of new spinal cord injuries in Canada.

Every year, let us not waste this opportunity, which benefits everyone, as I said. This issue should never be highly partisan. We should remember that anyone can sustain a spinal cord injury.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 25th, 2015 / 5:55 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 know we look at having many national days in our country and certainly the member has brought up a very important point. She has articulated very well some of the challenges and why she believes it is important.

Could she talk more about what she believes the day would actually accomplish and what this day, if it is proclaimed, would mean to the victims with spinal cord injuries?

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 25th, 2015 / 5:55 p.m.
See context


Manon Perreault Independent Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, we want to establish this day in order to recognize these people's efforts. We also want to promote prevention since people often behave recklessly and some accidents can be avoided. People are often not aware of how their actions—whether it is playing sports, driving, horseback riding or diving—can affect their lives.

People need to know more about this and we need to recognize the importance of a day of awareness in this regard. Many organizations are doing good work in this area, but there is no day dedicated to this cause. They would appreciate a national day of awareness.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 25th, 2015 / 5:55 p.m.
See context


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the introduction of the bill. When we look at these special designated days, it can have an impact. The member makes reference to education.

By designating days, members of all political stripes are afforded an opportunity to talk about that day, whether in householders, or different promotions, or bringing it to the attention of local schools or asking for special attention given to it. By educating, we can have an impact on the whole issue of spinal cord injuries, hopefully leading to prevention of this type of injury from occurring.

Would the member, from personal experience, share some of her thoughts on the types of special events she would encourage in her constituency, or what other members might want to consider in promoting the day at the local level?

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 25th, 2015 / 5:55 p.m.
See context


Manon Perreault Independent Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the organizations I contacted needed three days to provide workshops to people. I am asking for just one national day.

It is important to understand that spinal cord injuries are also associated with head and chest injuries. It is rare for someone to come into a hospital with just one spinal cord injury. I think that people realize that. They know that a national day would help raise awareness about the consequences of these injuries. They are with us every day, every time we wake up.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 25th, 2015 / 6 p.m.
See context


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Montcalm for her very sensitive speech. She commented on the importance of this awareness day, to ensure that people understand what it means to have your life turned completely upside down after sustaining a spinal cord injury in an accident.

My colleague spoke about how there are consequences other than those directly associated with the spinal cord injury. What other physical or psychological effects could be caused by a spinal cord injury or that type of accident?

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 25th, 2015 / 6 p.m.
See context


Manon Perreault Independent Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, a number of people who are in rehabilitation often end up having to return to the hospital with lung problems. That is one of the more serious problems. They also end up back in hospital because of problems associated with extreme fatigue or depression, naturally.

This really goes beyond the spinal cord injury, since the physical injury makes the individual vulnerable to other issues.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 25th, 2015 / 6 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, it is a real honour to stand in the House today to speak about spinal cord injuries. This important issue deserves a discussion not only in Parliament but at the national level. I would like to take a moment to thank the hon. member for Montcalm for introducing this bill.

Bill C-643, an act to establish national spinal cord injury awareness day, proposes the designation of the third Friday of September each year as national spinal cord injury awareness day. At a fundamental level, this bill is about raising awareness of spinal cord injuries across Canada. It acknowledges the many challenges faced by Canadians living with spinal cord injuries as well as the critical role played by those who provide support and care for people with spinal cord injuries. It recognizes the important and significant contribution of the scientific community in improving the lives of thousands of people living with spinal cord injuries through research.

According to the final report of the national population health study of neurological conditions, entitled “Mapping Connections: An understanding of neurological conditions in Canada”, there are approximately 120,000 Canadians living with neurological conditions caused by spinal cord injuries. From this report, we also know that the incidence of spinal cord injuries is likely to be anywhere in the range of 1,400 to 1,700 a year over the next 20 years. These are alarming statistics. However, for Canadians living with spinal cord injuries, they are not just numbers.

Our Conservative government recognizes the significant impact spinal cord injuries have on the individuals affected, their families and friends, their community, and society at large. Spinal cord injuries entail enormous human, social, and economic burdens. There are staggering personal costs, including the cost of care and support over a lifetime. That is why raising awareness of injury prevention initiatives is critical. This includes the important initiatives our government has undertaken as well as those undertaken by national and regional non-governmental organizations. Reducing injuries among all Canadians, including spinal cord injuries, is important and achievable by increasing awareness of spinal cord injuries and by reducing the risks.

Who of us, in our younger days, did not dive into a body of water not knowing what the depth was? There are many risks we take, and awareness is certainly important.

Through the Public Health Agency of Canada, our government is involved in enhancing efforts to increase awareness of sports-related injuries among children and youth, which in turn will help to reduce many different preventable injuries, including spinal cord injuries.

I will give the House some examples over the next few minutes of some of the interventions that are happening.

In 2011, our government provided $5 million over two years to support injury prevention initiatives that reached Canadian children and youth in the communities where they live and play. The overall goal of the active and safe initiative was to reduce sports and recreation-related injuries sustained by children and youth, up to the age of 19, who participate in hockey, snow sports, cycling, and swimming. Through community-based activities, this investment increases injury awareness in sports and recreational activities by empowering Canadians to make safe choices for their children to reduce the risk of serious injuries, such as brain and spinal injuries.

We have recently gained a better understanding of the impact of falls on older Canadians with the release of the Public Health Agency of Canada's “Seniors' Falls in Canada: Second Report”, which was released in May, 2014. This report confirms that falls are the leading cause of injury among Canadians over the age of 65, with approximately 20% to 30% of seniors experiencing one or more falls per year. Of those seniors who experienced injuries due to falls, 8% involved injuries to the back or spine. That is a statistic I was completely unaware of.

In addition to supporting injury prevention initiatives, our government continues to support spinal cord injury research through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The work of its top researchers contributes to understanding the changes in neurons and support cells that could prevent and alleviate chronic neuropathic pain syndrome and could improve the recovery of limb function following spinal cord trauma or neurotrauma.

There are number other world-renowned organizations that work tirelessly toward reducing spinal cord injuries and disabilities. They advocate for improved quality of life for Canadians with spinal cord injury and continue to raise awareness of this issue. One of these organizations, which is a name familiar to many of us in this chamber and to Canadians across the country, is the Rick Hansen Foundation.

Before I speak specifically about the foundation, I would like to take a few moments to acknowledge the truly inspirational Canadian that Rick Hansen is. Although Rick suffered a life-changing spinal cord injury as a teenager, losing the use of his legs due to an automobile accident, he maintained a positive outlook. Through rehabilitation and steadfast determination, he continued to keep moving forward. Rick was involved in sports and eventually became a highly respected advocate for people living with a disability. At the 1982 Pan Am Games, held in Halifax, Rick took home nine gold medals. He was also hugely successful at both the 1980 and 1984 Paralympic Summer Games, winning gold, silver and bronze medals.

In 1985, Rick set out on a two-year journey known as the “Man in Motion World Tour”. This was a visionary quest to demonstrate to the world that people living with a disability had huge potential and could contribute to society if communities were more accessible and inclusive. This was the raison d'être for raising awareness of spinal cord injuries and disabilities in Canada and around the world.

Shortly after completing this tour, the Rick Hansen Foundation was established in 1988. In addition to finding a cure, the foundation endeavours to accelerate the progress in prevention and care of spinal cord injury as well as raising both awareness and funds to support people with disabilities.

On the 20th anniversary of the Man in Motion World Tour in 2007, our government announced funding for the foundation in support of its search for a cure for spinal cord injuries.

From 2007 to 2013, we have provided $30 million to the foundation to implement a spinal cord injury data system across the country and to support spinal cord injury research and the promotion of best practices in spinal cord injury care so Canadians affected by spinal cord injury can benefit from an improved quality of life.

The spinal cord injury registry started in Vancouver in 2003 and has since expanded across Canada. As of 2013, the registry was operational in 31 facilities in 15 cities. It is a huge accomplishment for the foundation, and our government is proud that we have played a role in its success.

Some of this funding also supported the creation of the Rick Hansen Institute in 2007, which is focused on research and care management. This institute is an independent not-for-profit organization committed to accelerating the translation of discoveries and best practices into improved treatments for people with spinal cord injury. This means that the institute leads a network of people with spinal cord injuries, researchers, service providers and other stakeholders that facilitate greater collaboration within the care and cure communities nationally and around the world. It is truly commendable work and it showcases the steadfast pursuit to achieve a world without paralysis after a spinal cord injury.

To keep the momentum going, the government announced $35 million to support some additional work of the Rick Hansen Foundation in spinal cord research.

Many other activities are currently happening, but certainly the designation of the third Friday in September as a national spinal cord awareness day would highlight these and other related commemorative events throughout the year.

Raising awareness about an issue such as spinal cord injury is a positive action. It is a simple action that can have profound effects on those living with a spinal cord injury. Most important, if we can prevent future injuries so we can turn the tide on the troubling statistics, it will be time and effort well spent.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 25th, 2015 / 6:10 p.m.
See context


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to speak on this important initiative introduced by my colleague, the member for Montcalm. I am grateful to her for raising the awareness of the House and grateful that I could second the bill.

I am also grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo for her remarks just now. I am very hopeful that the bill will pass the House for the very reasons she suggested so persuasively a moment ago.

The bill would designate the third Friday in September as a day to remember those who have been struggling with spinal cord injuries. What it would not do is create a legal holiday, but rather, just a day for awareness, as the title of the bill suggests. That is a very simple and important thing to do without the economic consequences of another day off. Therefore, it need not be of any concern to employers or others who might be worried about that.

My colleague, the member for Montcalm, suggested very persuasively that this is not just important for the victims of spinal cord injuries, which I certainly understand, but also for the caregivers and their families. She saluted the critical role of caregivers in her remarks, which is something that ought to be remembered by all members as we debate the bill.

People ask what this would be for. It would be a tool for awareness, and also for fundraising. It could be a focal point for those who are trying to raise awareness of spinal cord injuries. That in and of itself would be a good enough reason for us to support the initiative.

I want to give a shout out to Spinal Cord Injury Canada. I did a little research. The organization, which used to be called the Canadian Paraplegic Association, has been around for 70 years. It has been making an enormous contribution, not just to victims but also to their families in so many ways. I am hoping that it will support this initiative.

One of the things that Spinal Cord Injury Canada does is to sponsor an event on the Hill every year. Mr. Speaker, you will be aware that on May of last year, six members of Parliament and one senator got into wheelchairs, even though they were not disabled, to gain a better understanding of what the reality is for people suffering from this disability. My colleague, the member for York South—Weston, and my colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, spearheaded that and participated in it.

I want to acknowledge that the government has pledged over $30 million in funding over five years for spinal cord injury research, which I think has been very well received by stakeholders and the medical community. That needs to be acknowledged as an important contribution.

The cause of spinal cord injury, as my colleague from Montcalm noted, is most frequently injury or trauma of some sort, but it also has to be remembered that sometimes these injuries result from acquired diseases that cause, for example, tumours on the spine or viral, and bacterial infections like polio. It is not just those caused by trauma, although I am sure those are majority of situations the bill would address.

My colleague, the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, made reference to one of my heroes, and I am sure a hero for many Canadians, Rick Hansen. How many of us would ever forget his Man in Motion Tour? I can still hear the Bryan Adams song in my head as I mention it. I remember driving into Vancouver one day when he was coming in after his national tour across the country in his wheelchair. I will never forget the emotion of people listening to the CBC that day and phoning in to try to make a pledge. No one could get through because the lines were absolutely jammed. In my part of the world, he is one of our true heroes.

I am sure I speak for all Canadians when I acknowledge that he has given back in so many important ways since then. Not only has he raised awareness, as my colleague pointed out, but has also, through his Rick Hansen Institute, done a number of important things, like coordinating a national strategy called the access to care and timing project, which involved multiple research centres across Canada, with the goal of scaling up effective clinical practices and providing more timely access to care for patients in this area.

I thought it was important that my colleague from Montcalm noted the reason for the proposed day being the third Friday in September. She said that it was because it was after the summer when so many people are affected by this terrible trauma due to injuries occurring during the summer. It occurs more frequently, it must be said, in the demographic of risky behaviour primarily by younger men.

However, the point of getting this initiative out at that time would serve as a message during the summer for people to remember to take greater care: do not speed while driving, be careful when playing sports, do not dive into shallow water, and these sorts of things.

The number of people afflicted with spinal cord injury is quite staggering and the costs, both human and economic, are immeasurable. There are 86,000 people in Canada living with spinal cord injuries and that is expected to grow to 121,000 by 2030. There are 4,300 new cases a year in this country and the majority are as a result of injuries to young males between 20 and 29 years of age. However, as we have an aging population, as others have acknowledged, there will be more affected because of falls among the elderly population.

The economic cost is $2.7 billion every year. Of course, the use of the medical system by those with spinal cord injuries is obviously enormous as well. In comparison, they are re-hospitalized 2.6 times more often than the general population. They require contact with a physician 2.7 times more often. They require home care services 30 times more than others.

These are important statistics, but they do not tell the whole story. They do not tell the story about the tragic changes in people's lives who are affected by spinal cord injury. The bill before us would bring awareness to that.

My colleague spoke eloquently about the importance of prevention, but also about the impact on families, caregivers and individuals who are affected by spinal cord injuries.

I pay tribute to the government for its funding efforts in this regard, but many people continue to live in real poverty as a consequence of these spinal cord injuries and we need to address that. We must do more with workplace accommodation for those people with disabilities trying to find work and keep work with mobility, access and accommodation issues.

We must do better with the caregiver tax credit, which is a non-refundable tax credit. It does not cover many disabled people who are affected or the spouses who take care of disabled partners and the like. These issues, among others, must be addressed.

Nevertheless, this is not the time, as colleagues have pointed out, for partisan commentary. It is to work together across the aisle to see if we can agree on this. It sounds like we will be able to achieve a bill in this regard. I am so grateful to my colleague from Montcalm for bringing forward what appears to be an initiative that will be successful in this House.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 25th, 2015 / 6:20 p.m.
See context


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Bill C-643, an act respecting a national spinal cord injury awareness day.

I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Montcalm, for bringing the bill forward and for being an advocate for those living with disabilities.

Establishing a day to recognize the impact spinal cord injuries have on Canadians, the health care system, and the economy would bring awareness to this debilitating and serious condition.

Up until 2010, health officials, shockingly, had no idea how many Canadians were living with a spinal cord injury or the economic cost of the condition.

However, there was a report commissioned by the Rick Hansen Institute that revealed some startling data. I know this House will all want to, and we have heard it already tonight, recognize Rick Hansen, who became a world-class wheelchair athlete before undertaking the Man in Motion World Tour in 1985, during which he rolled more than 40,000 kilometres in 34 countries in two years raising $26 million for spinal cord research.

The report indicated that there were over 86,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in Canada, or about the same number as the population of Red Deer, Alberta. About 4,300 new cases are identified in our country each year. After speaking with Spinal Cord Injury Canada yesterday, I am informed that the number is now 96,000 Canadians. Approximately 51% of spinal cord injury cases are the result of traumatic injury and 49% are the result of non-traumatic injury or, rather, diseases such as ALS and cancer.

The report laid out, for the first time, the scale, magnitude, and cost of a spinal cord injury in human and economic terms. This was an important milestone because measuring the extent of the problem is the first step in developing strategies for preventing, mitigating, treating and, hopefully one day, curing spinal cord injuries.

Spinal cord injuries require substantial medical care. Canadians with a spinal cord injury who are admitted to intensive care units have reduced mortality and morbidity, as well as improved neurologic recovery. The average length of a hospital stay after the initial injury is 140 days, or almost five months, including critical care, acute care, and in-patient rehabilitation.

New methods for treating spinal cord injury are being studied, including surgical decompression, therapeutic hypothermia, and neuroprotective agents.

The economic cost of traumatic spinal cord injury is $3.6 billion a year, including $1.8 billion in direct medical costs. The lifetime medical costs, in the words of a recent study, for a quadriplegic exceed $3 million and for a paraplegic, $1.6 million. For Canadian families, the average cost of a manual wheelchair is $4,000 to $5,000 and the average cost of a power wheelchair is $10,000 to $15,000.

The long-term health care costs are not due to paralysis but, rather, to medical complications. Severe depression is also common among people with a spinal cord injury. Treatment for depression accounts for almost half of physician visits.

These are just numbers and do not speak to the impacts on the person affected and on the families. I cannot begin to imagine how frightening and overwhelming are the days, weeks, and months following a spinal cord injury. Everything changes in an instant and people will have many questions.

Canadians with a spinal cord injury need to know that they are not alone and that there are people and organizations that will help them through acute care, rehabilitation, and a return to the community. Canadians with a spinal cord injury need to know there are resources available to help them find the latest information on research, clinical trials, and rehabilitation techniques that may have an impact upon improved function and recovery. They need to know that there are financial resources, peer support, and organizations that can help renovate their home to make it accessible, get assistive devices to help with everyday tasks, and help them return to the community.

As a country, we can and must do more to support Canadians living with spinal cord injury and their families. All levels of government must work together to put in place essential measures to secure the right to education and economic participation. We need policies and programs that promote physically accessible homes, hospitals, schools, transportation and workplaces, inclusive education, elimination of discrimination in educational and employment settings, vocational rehabilitation to optimize the chance of employment, micro finance and other forms of self-employment, benefits to support alternative forms of economic self-sufficiency, access to social support payments that do not act as a disincentive to return to work, and correct understanding of spinal cord injury and positive attitudes toward people living with it. The member for Montcalm's bill would help to raise awareness, and this is positive.

The Urban Futures institute predicts that the number of people living with spinal cord injury will increase sharply in the coming years, reaching 121,000 in 2030. The expected increase is largely due to the aging population. Older people have more falls and suffer disproportionately from illnesses such as cancer.

I have had the honour and privilege of working with Canadians with physical and mental health challenges my whole life, and everyday I learn from them and am inspired by them. I also want to recognize the work of all health practitioners and organizations which work hard to improve the quality of life of Canadians living with a spinal cord injury and their families.

I know many of us have taken part in Spinal Cord Injury Canada's chair-leader event, during which we spend the day in a wheelchair and live first hand what accessibility really means. We learn very quickly the obstacles Canadians in chairs face. Everything is harder. It is hard to manage the chair. It does not always turn well. Getting into an elevator is hard, managing in the washroom is hard, reaching counters is hard, getting up and down Parliament Hill is really hard, and cars do not always see the chair.

The chair-leaders event is extremely important to get exposure for people in chairs, to raise awareness, to see the obstacles people face, to understand that there are financial hurdles and that we as a society must do more to help. The member for Montcalm's bill would ensure that, annually, there would be a day devoted to raising awareness about spinal cord injury.

In closing, spinal cord injuries have severe, long-term impacts. They affect almost 100,000 Canadians and their families, have far-reaching consequences, including financial hardship and caregiving needs, and the number of Canadians suffering is increasing as the population ages. The costs for people suffering from spinal cord injuries number in the billions. Spinal cord awareness would foster an environment for greater research into new treatment options. Awareness would help provide doctors with improved options for treatment.

Let me once again congratulate the member on her bill and let us all remember there is life after injury. Canadians with spinal cord injuries are active, social, and vibrant members of our communities. Let us all celebrate ability and fight for more help for Canadians with spinal cord injury and their families.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 25th, 2015 / 6:25 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 bringing forward this motion to declare a national day of recognition of spinal cord injuries. The member for Montcalm and I have become good friends, as far as we can become friends across the aisle, ever since we had that first race down Parliament Hill, which she won. Then, in my power wheelchair, I think I won the race going up Parliament Hill.

There are now two people in Parliament with spinal cord injuries. I think it is indicative of how Canada is progressing when it deals with persons with disabilities, but we have a long way to go. Disability crosses a large spectrum, and spinal cord injury is a sliver of that spectrum, but it has a lot of neat characteristics. I would like to share some of those with the House.

When it comes to acquired spinal cord injuries, the categories are generally quadriplegic and paraplegic, quadra meaning four limbs impaired, and para two limbs.

In my case, as many people may know, though I do not believe I have ever spoken about it in the House, I hit a moose in 1996 when I was 23. At the beginning of my life, I had a lot of things going for me at the time, and the moose went through the windshield and landed on the back seat. My car went into the ditch and the moose went over me again.

It was in a part of Manitoba that was remote. There were no cellphones in those olden days. Someone had to find me. Then they had to drive down to the nearest town. Then they had to drive up with the ambulance, then drive me back to Winnipeg. There were no helicopters or anything else to help. It was a tough rescue, and for whatever reason, somehow I survived.

The reason I raise that is that if my accident had happened 10 years earlier, I would not have survived. People are now surviving injuries that historically were not survivable. That is from the advancement of medicine, and Canada should be proud of that.

However, on the one hand, we often save people from catastrophes, then on the other hand, not provide the resources or the opportunities to allow those same people to live meaningful and dignified lives.

Let me explain. I will use my injury as an example, but whatever I am about to say could be transferred to anyone with a spinal cord injury. My injury is what they call a C4 cord injury. If those at home feel behind their necks and count four vertebrae down, that is where my neck is broken. That is a cervical spine, and it was a complete injury that has paralyzed me completely from the neck down, so I do not feel anything. It is just pins and needles.

One does not feel touch, heat, cold, pain, pleasure, hunger, or temperature. Body temperature regulation is messed up. Many people have problems with blood pressure, strange or unusual bone growth at joints, if they are not taken care of, and a whole host of other issues.

In my case, I need help with all the activities of daily living. I cannot move, so I have someone with me 24 hours a day. It is sad to say that not everyone is as fortunate as I have been in acquiring that level of care. In my case, I have had a lot of fights with insurance companies and other funding partners and over the years have been able to lay the foundation for a reasonable quality of life.

However, it was not always that way. After leaving the hospital, I refused to go into an institution, though that was what was offered. I ended up in a one-bedroom apartment with no wheelchair accessible washroom or shower or anything, so it was a tough time. Many people are still experiencing that tough time. In fact, I would say it is the vast majority.

With quadriplegia, there are some estimates of costs. A quadriplegic in his or her early twenties will cost society tens of millions of dollars if he or she lives a normal life expectancy. A paraplegic costs less than that, but it is still substantial.

The Government of Canada has provided monies for the Rick Hansen Institute and Brain Canada Foundation and has invested in stem cell research. These are all fantastic investments, and there is great promise in stem cell research. However, we have a lot to do to improve the day-to-day lives of people with spinal cord injuries. When we do that, we also improve the lives of everyone, everyone with an illness, and the elderly. We are creating an accessible society so that people, like the member for Montcalm, can be seen in Parliament, as CEOs of companies, on top of glaciers or mountains, scuba diving, and living life.

There is a difference between existing and living. As Canadians, if we are going to save people, we need to make sure that they have the option to live meaningful and dignified lives. We need to step up and make sure that the systemic barriers in society are removed. Spinal cord injury awareness day will help us in recognizing the necessity of making society inclusive for everyone, regardless of what type of disability one may have.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 25th, 2015 / 6:35 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed from February 25, 2015, consideration of the motion that Bill C-643, An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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.