moved that the be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I proudly rise today to speak to my private member's bill, C-211, an act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder.
On a personal note, I would like to express my gratitude to all those who have helped us on our journey to get to today.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank the paramedics, firefighters, military, veterans, police officers, correctional officers, dispatch, and nurses. I thank those who came forward to provide feedback about how we could go about strengthening this legislation in the future, if it is the desire and the will of the House and the Senate to enact the bill into law. I want to thank the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, the jurors, and Mr. Mark Farrant for the honest and heartfelt feedback.
I want to acknowledge the families of the fallen, those left behind to pick up the pieces. I want to thank them for sharing their stories of their loved ones. I want to thank them for showing incredible strength through their immeasurable and unspeakable pain they are going through. I know it has not been an easy journey for anyone, and their willingness to share their stories has been truly inspiring.
I also want to apologize to everyone that it has taken this long to get to this point. It has been 606 days since we were elected. It has been 600 days since I first landed in Ottawa with the background for Bill C-211. It has been 462 days since we tabled Bill C-211. It has been 100 days since we all stood together in the House and passed it unanimously at second reading.
Over this journey, I have tried to bring the voices of those who are suffering forward. I have tried to relay their incredible stories, with the same honest emotion they have shared with me.
I said this before and I will say again, we have received so many emails, so many calls, and so many messages, many of them full of heartbreak and tragedy. With the indulgence of members, I will take this opportunity to read a small excerpt of an email I received a little over a year ago after we first tabled Bill C-211. It is from the wife of one of our fallen, and it reads:
“As I write this, I'm trying hard to hold back the tears. The truth is I'm unsure how I even have tears left. I've cried every day since his death and it's been over a year. I can only manage a day at a time, and even that at times is too much. I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I guess no one really does. We were only married three years and he was my one true love. He would have been 30 this year. Our son will never know his father. He will never know the incredible man he was. My husband only wanted to serve and to save. Sadly, no one could save him. It's odd how everyone gathers around you at first, then life goes on. I don't get the invites anymore. It's like other wives don't want to be reminded of this, of how this could have been them.”
“Mr. Doherty, your bill is too late for my family, but I hope you will be successful. My pain endures and I'm not sure there is a fix. I will tell my son that his dad was a hero and saved lives. I believe if my husband knew of you and your efforts, it just might have given him enough hope that he would have reached out, that he would have hung on. Please keep fighting for this. For us it is too late, but you and your colleagues will save the lives of others.”
The letter ended with a big “thank you”.
This is one of hundreds, maybe even thousands of emails, messages, comments on social media and from private meetings that we have received since tabling our bill. It is truly overwhelming the stories we have heard from those who are struggling today, those who are receiving help, and those who are left behind to somehow pick up the pieces.
I challenge us all to come up with solutions so we do not lose another life to PTSD.
My team has also heard horrific stories of pain and suffering. In some cases, for those we met with along the way, today was too far away, and the pain was too great. Last week alone, we saw four responders from across Canada commit suicide. Within the last 48 hours, we have had a firefighter from Ottawa and a paramedic from Pickering commit suicide.
One of the questions I was asked when I was appearing at the health committee was whether there was one story that really stands out. The truth is that there are many. It is hard not to get emotional when talking about this, because it is an incredibly heavy burden. Collectively in this House, we have created so much hope.
I will take a moment to try to explain some of this to our hon. members who are in the House right now. From a young age, there are people we have been told to respect and to hold in the highest regard. We hear the stories of their heroics. Books are written. Movies are written and made about these larger-than-life individuals, these superheros. They truly embody all that is Canadian. They are altruistic individuals who want nothing more than to go out and go to work so they can help others, so they can save others, and so they can make their communities and our country safe.
This is something we heard very powerfully from Natalie Harris, a former advanced-care paramedic in the county of Simcoe in Ontario. When she appeared before the health committee on May 16, she told committee members that she went to school in 2001 to become a paramedic. She said, “I learned something new every day, was financially stable, and made such a difference in people's lives. I was in my glory, but no matter how much I loved it, each year became a bit tougher for me to cope with, and I didn't know why.” She would tell herself, “I've fought too hard. I've conquered so many difficult circumstances in my life.” She did not want to lose this career. She reassured herself, “I'm sure I'll be okay.”
Natalie continued by saying:
It's not normal to have a person ask you to just take their leg and arm off because they were experiencing so much pain from being trapped in a car with multiple open fractures all over their body. It's not normal to learn that the patient who hanged himself the night before had a second noose waiting for his wife, had his son not called 911 at the right time. It's not normal to witness a young woman, seven months pregnant, rub her belly with the only limb that could move as she had a stroke that would leave her disabled. It's not normal to see the cellphone on the road beside the obviously dead driver, crushed between the pavement and the car, who was texting and driving, and it's not normal to know he made the three sisters in the other car now two. It's not normal to experience and see the look of true evil when you learn how two innocent women were murdered.... It's not normal to see someone die before your eyes more times than you can actually count.
I would like to take this moment to thank Natalie once again for coming forward. Nothing prepares a person for these experiences. As politicians, we often do our best to translate our concerns and the concerns of our constituents into speeches and talking points, but I can truly say that in all my life, there are few people who have been able to make such an impactful statement. I know the members of the health committee who are here today felt the same way.
Our warriors make the ultimate sacrifice. They make the sacrifice by taking time away from their loved ones, their family, and their friends. They put their uniforms on every day knowing full well that they may never have an opportunity to say goodbye. They are those who run toward danger when we and others would run the other way. They experience human tragedy every day, yet they still, without exception, without hesitation, answer the call of duty. They face the sights, sounds, and smells that will stay with them for a lifetime.
Freedom is not free. There is a very real cost. Knowing what these individuals go through, I would like to share with members the flip side for a moment.
All of a sudden, these roles are reversed. Those people are now looking toward this House. They are looking to all of us, as members of Parliament and legislators. They are asking for help.
The hardest part in all this is having those people, who I know our hon. colleagues also look to as heroes, coming forward, through emails, calls, and messages, saying, “Thank you for bringing this legislation forward.”
It is such an honour to be a member of Parliament. It is truly a humbling experience. There are a few experiences I have had over the course of the last two years that have really hit home. I would like to tell members about a couple.
Shortly after being elected, stepping out of my car in a parking lot back home in Cariboo—Prince George, someone came up to me and asked if I was a member of Parliament. I said I was, and the person said, “We just want to let you know that our family loves you, and we pray for you every night. Thank you for your service.”
Another point was having someone come to us, with tears in his eyes, a police officer, thanking us, saying that we have saved his life because of the work we have done on this bill. It has allowed him to come forward to his family and to his friends, seeking help.
The other was at second reading, when a giant of a man, a former firefighter who himself has been fighting post-traumatic stress disorder, came to me and said, “Thank you. For the first time, I have hope.” Then he introduced me to his young son and said, “This is what a true Canadian hero looks like.” Words cannot express how humbling that was.
Is there not something to be said about that, that our heroes, our warriors, have been left to deal with the horrors of post-traumatic stress disorder alone and in silence? Even though they are hurting, they continue to remain just a call away when we need them. To me, that is simply shameful. It breaks my heart.
We have been blessed that so many people have followed us along this journey, some of whom were here March 8 when 284 members of Parliament rose together to send Bill C-211 to committee, and they have seen the good work we have done to this point. However, the work does not stop here.
Bill C-211 was developed to look at the overwhelming issue and the epidemic we have with respect to our first responders, our veterans, and our military. We are losing our warriors left and right. The challenge is this, a challenge that many groups we have met with over the last 18 months acknowledge. Today, as it stands, we do not have a piece of legislation that deals with PTSD. We have inconsistencies across our country, even in terminology, in diagnoses, and in treatment. We have some groups doing great work. We have others who hang a shingle and claim that they are experts. The reality is that they are causing more harm than good. We have inconsistencies across our nation in who or what is covered. An RCMP member serving in one part of our country may not be eligible for the same services their colleagues are in other provinces.
One academic brought forth the rule of thirds. He said 30% of those who are suffering with PTSD will recover 100%; 30% will have an okay life; and 30% we will lose altogether. That was one of my first committee meetings, and I took exception to this. Post-traumatic stress disorder is not something that can be cured 100%. It is a traumatic brain injury, and anything can trigger a setback.
I want to leave my hon. colleagues with this. If they had the power to save a live today, would they do so? If they knew their actions today could save lives, would they be brave enough to follow through? I ask because we have been given that opportunity today, as we speak. We can help ensure that another life is not lost and that the four lives last week, the two within the last 48 hours, and the hundreds lost since I first tabled Bill C-211 were not lost in vain.
As I read earlier from the wife of the fallen officer, the one line that sticks out is, “I don't know what tomorrow will bring.... I guess no one really does.”
For those who have been following our journey, those who are in the room with us today and those who are watching across our nation and internationally, tomorrow is just another excuse or delay, and sometimes tomorrow is too far away. I ask of you, let us not wait for tomorrow when we can truly make a difference today.