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Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act

An Act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder

Sponsor

Todd Doherty  Conservative

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

Status

In committee (House), as of March 8, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-211.

Summary

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

This enactment requires the Minister of Health to convene a conference with the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, provincial and territorial government representatives responsible for health and representatives of the medical community and patients’ groups for the purpose of developing a comprehensive federal framework to address the challenges of recognizing the symptoms and providing timely diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

March 8, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

March 6th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Louis-Hébert Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to private member's bill, Bill C-211, an act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

Improving the mental health of all people living in Canada is a priority for the federal government, which is one of the reasons why this government will be supporting Bill C-211 with amendments and we will work to address those at committee stage.

The Minister of Health continues to engage provincial and territorial governments to deliver on important investments in health, with mental health as a priority area of focus.

On December 19, 2016, the Government of Canada offered to give the provinces and territories approximately $11 billion over 10 years for mental health care and home care in addition to $544 million over five years for federal and pan-Canadian organizations to support initiatives on prescription drug and health innovation. Many provinces have decided to work with the Government of Canada by using the funds to improve mental health services for Canadians.

In addition, the Government of Canada is promoting people's mental health and well-being by supporting programs that build resilience in individuals and communities to help them overcome adversity. This involves all levels of government, national indigenous organizations, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is the lead federal organization for mental health promotion and mental illness prevention. The agency supports federal coordination in these areas across the health portfolio and other departments to provide a coherent approach to promote, protect, and improve the mental health and well-being of all Canadians.

The health portfolio, in collaboration with other federal departments, supports policy development and community-based programming across various life stages. Key areas related to post-traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD in Canada, include family violence prevention, suicide prevention, targeted indigenous mental health promotion initiatives, and helping victims cope after emergencies.

Being a victim of violence is a significant risk factor for developing post-traumatic stress disorder, which is more commonly known in Canada by its acronym, PTSD. Domestic violence, including intimate partner violence and child abuse, is a serious public health issue and a significant risk factor for developing PTSD. Some 32% of adult Canadians reported that they have been the victim of some form of violence before the age of 16.

Research shows that women who have experienced intimate partner violence have heightened rates of PTSD, injury, chronic pain, sleep disorders, substance use problems, and other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Children who have been abused or exposed to abuse in the family also have a higher risk of developing mental health issues, including PTSD. Those who were maltreated as children are twice as likely to have poor mental health and are over three times more likely to report suicidal thoughts. Boys who have been victimized or raised in violent homes are at an increased risk of becoming perpetrators of violence as adults, and girls exposed to violence in the home are at an increased risk of being victimized as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence.

Our government is supporting community projects aimed at improving the physical and mental health of individuals who have been the victims of child abuse or intimate partner violence, thereby helping them to rebuild their lives. Our government is also investing in projects to better equip health professionals to work safely and effectively with survivors of domestic violence using strategies specifically tailored to the trauma experienced by each individual.

The Public Health Agency of Canada coordinates the family violence initiative, which brings together 15 federal departments to prevent and address family violence from multiple perspectives. Partner departments meet regularly to share new research and findings, provide advice on design and project ideas, contribute to policy initiatives, connect to stakeholder networks, and ensure that new knowledge is applied across all sectors.

As part of this initiative, information is also shared through the Stop Family Violence web pages on behalf of all the family violence initiative partners. This is a one-stop source of information and resources for professionals and for the public.

At the heart of what we are talking about today is the fact that people who have PTSD are more likely to self-harm or commit suicide. Sadly, more than 4,000 Canadians commit suicide every year.

In accordance with An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, the Public Health Agency of Canada coordinated the development of a federal framework for suicide prevention. The main goals are to raise public awareness, reduce the stigma surrounding suicide, disseminate information about suicide and its prevention, and promote the use of research and evidence-based practices for suicide prevention.

Tools and resources are also being developed to help reduce the stigma and raise public awareness about suicide, informed by research evidence on safe messaging for Canadians. In addition, a guide of standard terminology and practices for federal departments to avoid stigmatizing and inappropriate language in communication products is under development.

An online suicide prevention resource has been launched, including information on where to get help, resources for professionals, and links to additional resources and information. Funding has also been provided to support the Canadian distress line network to develop a 24/7 national suicide prevention service. Once fully implemented, this line will ensure that individuals in crisis, regardless of where they live in Canada, have access to free and confidential support on a 24/7 basis, in a way that works best for them, by chat, text, or phone.

The Public Health Agency of Canada co-leads the National Collaborative on Suicide Prevention together with the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Their members include various health and community service organizations that work to promote mental health and prevent mental illness and suicide across the country, including the Assembly of First Nations and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami organization.

Federally, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Health Canada, and the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, which are federally funded, are also partners under this umbrella. The mission of this Canada-wide collective is to enhance the capacity for suicide prevention in an effective manner by connecting people, concepts, and resources across the country.

Indigenous populations may be at increased risk for PTSD because of historical and intergenerational trauma. First nations, Inuit, and Métis experience some of the most significant health inequities in Canada. The proportion of indigenous individuals experiencing mental illness during their lifetime is 55% versus 33% of the non-indigenous population. Evidence shows that health is adversely affected by culture loss; racism and stigmatization; loss of language and connection to the land; environmental deprivation; and feeling spiritually, emotionally, and mentally disconnected from one's identity.

The federal government also supports indigenous populations through programs that are culturally adapted to the communities they serve. For example, the aboriginal head start program offered in urban and northern communities promotes the healthy development of indigenous children from birth to age five and helps them achieve their full potential in adulthood.

The community action program for children and the Canada prenatal nutrition program also support the healthy development of vulnerable children aged zero to six years and their families. Special emphasis is placed on the inclusion of indigenous pregnant women, children, and families. The Nobody's Perfect parenting program is a strengths-based, educational health promotion program for parents of children aged zero to five years living in socio-economic conditions of risk. The program is offered in indigenous communities across Canada.

These targeted programs help Canadians develop protective factors that will help them build their mental resilience and lower the risk of PTSD, because they are based on the knowledge that a significant number of mental problems stem from childhood.

People who have been exposed to natural disasters and extreme events are at risk of developing mental illness, including PTSD. Extreme weather events as a result of climate change are expected to increase in numbers and severity. Many climate scientists agree that the Canadian wildfire activity of the past few years is well above average and is connected to the warming climate.

I see that I only have one minute. I thought I had 20 minutes, so I will conclude at this stage.

The federal government's efforts on PTSD so far include following through on some of these recommendations and taking advantage of existing federally run activities that target the needs of specific populations. Many of these programs and activities could also be used to support other communities in Canada.

Through these concerted efforts, and the ongoing commitment to sound, evidence-based approaches, our government continues to work to improve the lives of Canadians and those affected by PTSD.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

March 6th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of sitting on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, and we are currently studying mental health and suicide prevention.

I have heard considerable evidence of the toll that PTSD takes on veterans and their families. It is clear that action is needed, and increased services are desperately needed. I am sure that the bill was created with positive intentions. However, I remain concerned that there is nothing here to actually increase services for PTSD.

With nearly one in 10 Canadians experiencing post-traumatic stress at some point in their lives, it is time for federal leadership, to ease the suffering of those struggling with PTSD. I believe it is important to hear from veterans themselves about the impact of PTSD on their lives. I want to share with the House some testimony that was heard at the veterans affairs committee, and informal discussions I have had with veterans that highlight the struggles of so many veterans.

First, Mr. John Kelley Mcleod told the VAC Committee the following:

We're driven. We're fit people when we serve. There isn't anything that we wouldn't do for this nation, including giving our lives. I've often said, having suffered PTSD after serving in Somalia and Rwanda, it would have been easier for me to have lost a leg or two, or to lose two arms. People understand that.

When you come back, they do not understand when you tell them “Well, I have nightmares every day. I can't cope with day-to-day living. I don't like being in crowds.” For me, being a medic in those trades, everything I did at that moment was life and death. People die on the decisions you make, and you sometimes can't do anything.

I deal with that every day, and there are things that still stay with me today that are as clear as they were 20 years ago. That will never go away for me. Then, on top of that, because I served in Somalia and Rwanda, I spent over a year on mefloquine.

l'm getting older now. PTSD should be mellowing for me. I should be getting better, but l'm not getting better. l'm getting worse. I also have a terminal illness. I don't know how much longer I have, but every day I wake up and make a decision, do I live today or do I kill myself today?

Many of the veterans I spoke to said that their PTSD was triggered by financial insecurity, pensions and benefits delayed for months by an inept and dysfunctional veterans department. This is the reality of PTSD. It is terrifying and it is disabling our veterans. I also want to share with the House the words of Mr. Kurt Grant, a veteran who has been involved in the military his entire life. He came from a military family and became an air cadet at 13. He was in uniform for 41 years and deployed eight times. Kurt told us:

According to Veterans Affairs l'm now officially 136% broken; government math. I spent 15 years fighting with my PTSD before I wrote off my car and went into treatment. It's a tough thing to look at the back end of another vehicle and not realize how the hell you got there.

The stigma surrounding PTSD is huge. As much as we want to deny it and as much as we want to sit back and say, guess what, we're going to fix this, it's not going to happen. A cultural change has to take place.

...PTSD is not something that hits you right away. It took me 15 years before I finally collapsed under it.

It is clear that we desperately need to improve services for those with PTSD, and we critically need more supports for veterans specifically. We have heard testimony in veterans affairs committee that group therapy works very well for PTSD. However, there is a catch. It does not work well for veterans when therapy is in a group with civilians. Veterans have gone through traumatic experiences that civilians will never encounter. While they both may have PTSD, their experiences are not relatable. We need to make sure that veterans are able to access therapy with other veterans who understand what they have experienced and what they have lived.

We also need special supports for those living with military sexual trauma, many of whom also live with PTSD. Group therapy is very helpful for healing, but again our veterans are best served when with their peers. They not only need support from other veterans, but also those who are dealing with military sexual trauma. They may not get the support they need by being grouped with veterans or CF members with PTSD, and may not relate as well to sexual assault survivors without a military background. We need to bring men and women with MST together for healing.

Ultimately, that is what this is about. This is about healing those individuals who have given everything. This is about those who have set aside their lives and gambled on the promise that government was going to be there when they needed it, that government was going to somehow make sure their service was respected and honoured, that their suffering was understood, and that support would be there until the end of their lives.

However, we have military veterans in court against this government and the previous one for failure to make sure they have financial support. We now have a government that is making deals with the provinces and health ministries across this country. The government is saying that it will give them some money, but they have to accept that there will be less. “Oh yes, we'll give you a little bit of money for mental health, but the saw-off is that there is not going to be enough money to make sure that all Canadians are cared for.”

We are in this place to make sure and be absolutely confident that every Canadian who has given something important to this country has the support, services, and respect that we owe them. Our veterans are special, and we all know that. They are unique individuals. They go into the field and they are fearless, because they believe in this country. Let us not take away their hope when they return home. Let us not take away their families. Let us not take away the prospect of coming back to us with a place in our communities that is safe and secure. We have to make them safe and secure.

To conclude, I thank the member for bringing forward this private member's bill. However, again, I want this to be genuine. I am tired of the games. I am tired of playing. I am tired of having to beg for what should be there. We owe it to these folks.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

March 6th, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to sincerely thank my colleague, the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George, for bringing forward this bill to build a national framework on an issue that is critically important to Canadians, and in turn our national safety and national fabric. These are our first responders. They are military personnel, veterans, correctional officers, and police. These are the people who protect and defend us day in and day out and care for us in our most urgent times of need. It is our duty to care for them as they grapple with post-traumatic stress disorder.

While more is understood about PTSD, or as Veterans Affairs calls it, operational stress injuries, every day, there is much more work to be done. We owe it to our first responders to do everything in our legislative power to make this happen. That is why I am honoured to stand today in support of Bill C-211, an act respecting a federal framework on PTSD, the private member's bill brought forward by my hon. colleague.

One of the greatest privileges of being a member of Parliament is the opportunity that it affords us to interact with our veterans and military personnel. I have had the opportunity to spend time on Canadian navy vessels, HMCS Halifax and HMCS Montreal, to talk with veterans from coast to coast, and to spend time with the reservists and officers of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. I am proud to be a member of the officers' mess at John Weir Foote V.C. Armouries in my hometown of Hamilton.

Unfortunately, these brave women and men who gather at these armouries know PTSD and operational stress injuries all too well. That is because, tragically and regrettably, Corporal Justin Stark, a 22-year-old reservist with The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, took his own life in those armouries. It was October 2010, and he had returned to Canada just 10 months earlier from a deployment in Afghanistan.

Please also allow me to mention what many hon. members will know and recall, because I would be remiss in mentioning The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders without acknowledging a major tragedy that faced us. Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed in the attack on the National War Memorial in October of 2014, was also an Argyll. As we talk about the scourge of PTSD that plagues his former colleagues, we should always remember the courage and valour of all military personnel.

We were mindful of the tragic circumstances that led Corporal Justin Stark to such a dark place when we announced an operational stress injury clinic for downtown Hamilton in January 2015. I was pleased to join my colleague, the hon. member for Durham, then minister of Veterans Affairs, for that announcement. The clinic would serve the Hamilton and Niagara areas, as well as parts of southwestern Ontario. All of these areas were previously served by a clinic in Toronto, and this brought the resources, counselling, and therapy closer to home for many veterans and personnel. One has to imagine that when dealing with such complex issues as mental health, operational stress injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder, having these resources closer to home makes a huge difference in speedy diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and care.

This is a good and practical example of the kinds of things that Bill C-211 would help to facilitate. It would help to coordinate all of these resources at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels, and clinics such as this one that were funded by the federal government and operated by the province. Bill C-211 would set in motion a long-overdue and much-needed coordinated federal-provincial strategy, so that an inventory of such resources can be taken, gaps can be identified, and people in desperate need of help can be properly served.

Unfortunately, Corporal Stark is not an isolated example. When I chaired the veterans affairs committee, we heard expert testimony on post-traumatic stress disorder in our Canadian Armed Forces. What a tragedy that these brave women and men, who enlist to defend the freedoms we cherish and value so much as Canadians, are themselves imprisoned and thereby robbed of their own freedoms on their return from duty because of the psychological terror and devastating effects of PTSD. May this sadness move us to action.

While I have focused my examples thus far on military personnel and veterans, I know of many police officers, ambulance attendants, and firefighters in my community, the greater Hamilton area, who have been equally impacted by PTSD.

It is well known that among paramedics, the incidence of PTSD is very high. Almost a quarter will be impacted. Think about that. Almost a quarter of paramedics grapple with PTSD. These are the same people we count on in our hour of need. It is time we gave them the same priority they give us. It is time to take action as proposed by the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.

The only group of first responders for whom the rate of PTSD is worse than it is for paramedics is correctional officers, who have an incidence rate of 24% to 26%. When we talk about that, it is easy to understand the pressures they are under. When I researched my own private member's bill in the last Parliament, I encountered many correctional officers, and I have heard gut-wrenching accounts. Beneath the statistics, these are real stories, real people, real families, and real cries for help.

We know that what is stipulated in Bill C-211 is just a first step. It would require the Minister of Health to convene a conference with stakeholders from all relevant federal departments, provincial and territorial representatives, the medical community, and patient groups. It is a sound and logical step. Developing a framework is a necessary and needed result. It would be a step forward in addressing the challenges, recognizing the symptoms, and providing timely diagnosis, thereby speeding access to treatment for PTSD.

It is a complex problem. It is not going to be solved overnight. A federal framework would only go so far, but it would bring together initiatives and legislation at the provincial level in a coordinated and national strategy. Is it not time?

To me, this is a simple decision. There is only one right answer. For the sake of the mental health of people who care for and protect and defend us every single day, I urge all members of this chamber to wholeheartedly support and vote in favour of Bill C-211.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to one of the most important bills I have had to deal with since I was elected. God bless all our first responders, and God bless Canada.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

March 6th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for not only introducing this bill but for his tireless advocacy on this issue: the mental health of our veterans, public safety officers, and first responders. I would also like to thank the many people both here in the gallery and in our communities who have been advocates on this important issue.

The member's bill calls for a federal framework for post-traumatic stress disorder. It calls on the Minister of Health to work with the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Veterans Affairs, along with the provinces and territories, representatives of the medical community, and patient groups, to develop a federal framework to address the challenges of recognizing the symptoms and providing timely diagnosis and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.

I am very pleased that our government will be supporting this legislation, with some minor amendments. I will speak a little later about some of the concerns I personally have with the bill.

This is an issue that has actually touched this House, as we lost one of our own members to a post-traumatic stress injury. Lieutenant Colonel Sam Sharpe was first elected to the House of Commons in 1908 and re-elected in 1911 and 1917 as the member of Parliament for Ontario North. He was a sitting MP at the start of the First World War and helped raise the 116th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force and commanded the battalion during its operations on the fields of Europe. His unit was present for the assault on Vimy Ridge and fought at Avion and Passchendaele.

After suffering mental injuries on the front, what at the time was called shell shock, he was hospitalized in England and subsequently returned to Canada. Lieutenant Colonel Sharpe died by suicide on May 25, 1918. Thankfully, our armed forces have come a long way since then and now recognize that mental injuries can also occur on the battlefield.

Just a few weeks ago, I met with Syd Gravel and Brad McKay, who wrote a guide to help first responders in the creation of peer and trauma support programs, entitled Walk the Talk—First Responder Peer Support. The two former police officers commented about how far the conversation had come since they built their own peer support networks in secret in 1988.

There has been a lot of work done in many provinces across Canada, including in my province of Ontario. My colleague, the Minister of Labour for Ontario, led efforts last spring that made it easier for first responders in Ontario to get treatment, created an awareness campaign, and required first responders to have a prevention plan.

I believe that the federal government can help other provinces and territories learn about the various best practices that have been created. While stakeholders are applauding the fact that this conversation is taking place, they know that there is still a lot of work to be done. Mental health and healthy inclusive workplaces are two areas where I am hoping, and working hard, to make a difference as a member of Parliament.

With regard to the specifics of Bill C-211, I applaud the member's efforts and his genuine concern for the mental health of our military, veterans, public safety officers, and first responders.

I do have concerns about the limitations in this particular bill about the mental health of our first responders and public safety officers. The bill invites the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Veterans Affairs to a conference but leaves out the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The Minister of Public Safety has already been working, along with the Minister of Health, on creating a national strategy on this issue. Early last year, the Minister of Public Safety and his former parliamentary secretary held a national round table on post-traumatic stress injuries, or PTSI, and the effect on public safety officers.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I am extremely proud of our work last fall when we tabled the report, “Healthy Minds, Safe Communities: Supporting our Public Safety Officers through a National Strategy for Operational Stress Injuries”, recognizing the need for a national strategy on operational stress injuries, not just post-traumatic stress disorder.

Any framework we develop should include policies on prevention, screening, education, intervention, and treatment. We heard from witnesses who told us that mental health injuries suffered by first responders and public safety officers on the job were far more extensive than just PTSI and included broader operational stress injuries. We heard that though many will develop PTSI, they are far more likely to suffer from depression and substance abuse. Sadly, they are more likely die by suicide.

We heard from witnesses who told us that the research and data within the military context is 15 years ahead of what is available with respect to public safety officers and that very little is known about the incidence and prevalence of OSls among public safety officers.

During our study, we heard from the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, which is doing tremendous work to support our military personnel and veterans facing mental health issues.

Our committee called on the government to use our report to develop a national strategy; to create a Canadian institute for public safety officer health research, an advisory council, and an expert working group to develop policies; and to share research on prevention, screening, education, intervention, and treatment nationally. The committee also urged the government to study presumptive legislation for public safety officers, as several of our provincial cousins have.

That is why our committee recommended that PTSD be considered as falling within the broader health issue of operational stress injuries, defined as “persistent psychological difficulty resulting from operational duties performed while serving” as a public safety officer, along with other mental health problems, such as depression and substance abuse.

The committee heard from public safety officers regarding the uniqueness of their work environment and the fact that they see trauma in their own communities frequently. The officers could have connections and relationships with the people they serve.

Our committee called on the government to create a Canadian institute for public safety officer health research to “enhance the mental health and wellness of our Canadian public safety officers through evidence-based research, practices, policies and programs”.

I was pleased to read the Minister of Public Safety's response to our report, in which he said that the government recognized the need for many of our recommendations. I know that the Minister of Public Safety shares my concerns about the mental wellness of our public safety officers. After all, we need to take care of our public safety officers, because they take care of us. We have a responsibility to return our military personnel and public safety officers to their families as we received them, mentally well.

Caring for the health of our public safety officers, both mentally and physically, is not only important to their well-being but ensures that our communities are safe. RCMP, police, firefighters, corrections officers, paramedics, aboriginal firefighters, parole officers, and those who work alongside them told the committee that their members can suffer greatly from mental health illnesses because of their jobs.

I also have concerns about the terminology used in Bill C-211. Mental health issues faced by our veterans and public safety officers are much braoder than just post-traumatic stress disorder alone.

Since the public safety committee tabled our report, I have also heard from a number of nurses who have experienced operational stress inuries. One in particular stands out. An Oakville resident who had a long career as a nurse recently shared a personal story about a house fire that occurred more than 20 years ago, where a woman and her two children perished. The nurses who worked on the case faced severe psychological trauma. To those nurses, I want to recognize their injuries in this House and admit that we know very little about the impact of their jobs on their mental health, and we must do better.

I believe that a national strategy and the sharing of best practices by the federal government could benefit many employee groups who are suffering while recognizing the distinct differences in their work.

I know that the Minister of Health is aware of the effects traumatic events can have on our nurses. Recently, she wrote a letter outlining that she understands that caregivers and emergency staff who provide treatment are often dealing with difficult situations that may affect their own mental health and that there is a need to provide mental health support to our health care providers.

Finally, I believe that any conversation about this issue needs to include those stakeholders who have faced these issues, and they should be at the table as part of the discussion.

In conclusion, I am very pleased to support this bill. Bill C-211 has already raised, and will continue to raise, awareness on an important issue. Again, I applaud the hon. member on his efforts.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

March 6th, 2017 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-211, an act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder, well known as PTSD.

Last Saturday, I had the privilege to attend the annual first responders appreciation dinner in my riding. Having served as an RCMP officer, this topic is very close to my heart.

Bill C-211 seeks to establish a national framework to ensure that our first responders, whether it be military, paramedics, police personnel, firefighters, emergency dispatchers, veterans, and corrections officers, get the timely access to the resources they need to deal with PTSD.

PTSD is classified as a psychiatric stress-related disorder that develops as a result of a traumatic event. PTSD can develop following direct or indirect exposure to violence, accidents, war, death, or terror attacks. PTSD experienced by first responders and military personnel is the result of years of stressful job-related calls, witnessing distressing deaths, and repeated violence.

Episodes may cause an affected person to become angry, irritable, jumpy, agitated, depressed, or frightened. Many have used alcohol and drugs and have damaged relationships because of this.

The bill, if passed, will require the Minister of Health to convene a conference with the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, provincial and territorial counterparts, representatives of the medical community, and patient groups for the purpose of developing a comprehensive federal framework to address the challenges of recognizing the symptoms and providing timely diagnosis and treatment of PTSD.

Every day, thousands of men and women across Canada go to work, whether first responders, police, firefighters, or military personnel, and they willingly put their lives on the line to support and protect Canadians and their country.

Their jobs demand that they be prepared to show up to any scenario at any time, ready to face the challenges of their line of work. They treat our wounds, they protect our communities, some witness some of the worst that humanity has to offer. Then they return home to their families and try to live a normal life.

When most of us would head in the opposite direction, they are the ones who run toward danger. Their heroic efforts sometimes mean they are left to deal with the haunting images, sounds, and smells, which will stay with these men and women for life. Being a witness to human tragedy and suffering can become difficult to cope with in the days, months and years afterward.

We can look today at what is happening in B.C. Our first responders are dealing with the opioid problem and how it is affecting their jobs.

As a former RCMP officer for 35 years, I personally know what first responders go through, both emotionally and physically when they arrive at a scene.

Many years ago when I was a young air cadet, probably around the age of 12, I remember talking to a lot of different veterans on Remembrance Day, and there were a lot in those days, about their war experiences. I remember one particular gentleman from our community who drank a lot. I remember him telling me that he drank to hide the past and the horrors of war. This was probably the first time I was introduced to PTSD.

As I went through my working career as an RCMP officer, I remember in the sixties when a friend of mine came off an extended period of being undercover, where he intermixed with some pretty wild and dangerous individuals. He could not switch back to a regular life and suffered immensely, both mentally and physically. He eventually had to leave the force. This was PTSD, but we did not know what was wrong with him at the time.

I had a very good friend who I will call Mr. T. He was a lot like the guy on TV, but he suffered for many years with PTSD. He could not pull those hidden demons from within himself. As his commander, he came to me and talked about suicide. He received help and I worked with him closely over the next decade and even after we both left our careers in the RCMP. He could not get rid of the ugliness with which he had to deal.

As I am saying this, I thinking of Mr. T, as he is not here anymore. He committed suicide two years ago. I wish he had called me as I would have gone wherever he was to help.

I can think of a number of my colleagues who which I worked. A number of them drank too much, but were they doing this due to PTSD? Yes, they were. However, in all honesty, we did not know what it was. We did not know what to call it years ago.

I have to thank those members who have come forward in the last number of years, whether military, RCMP, paramedics, who were proud and strong enough to make public their problems and seek help.

It is out there among our first responders. As government we must work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to ensure that help is there for all first responders.

Unfortunately, there is a stigma around mental health issues, including PTSD. Those who are affected hate to admitting they need need assistance is showing weakness to their peers. Instead, they keep it to themselves, hidden, silently carrying a heavy weight until they can no longer bear it.

According to statistics by TEMA, an organization that supports people with PTSD through research, education, training and peer support, 188 Canadian public safety and military personnel have died by suicide since 2014. Five first responders and four military members have died by suicide in this year alone. That is nine people in only two months.

This is absolutely heartbreaking. These brave people risk their lives to serve their communities, so where are we when they need our help? They have served us, but we have not served them. This is why we so desperately need a national framework to address this issue.

The Prime Minister has already called on his ministers to act on PTSD and make the mental health of our men and women in uniform a priority, and I thank him for that.

In the mandate letter of the Minister of Heath, she is called to “make high quality mental health services more available to Canadians who need them.”

In the mandate letter of the Minister of Veterans Affairs, he is directed to “Provide greater education, counselling, and training for families who are providing care and support to veterans living with physical and/or mental health issues as a result of their service...Work with the Minister of National Defence to develop a suicide prevention strategy for Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans.”

In the the mandate letter of the Minister of Public Safety, he is directed to “Work with provinces and territories and the Minister of Health to develop a coordinated national action plan on post-traumatic stress disorder, which disproportionately affects public safety officers.”

If that is not a clear directive from the Prime Minister to support exactly what the bill seeks to achieve, I do not know what is.

This is not a Liberal issue. It is not a Conservative issue. It is not any single party's issue. This is something that crosses party lines and it should be supported by all sides of the House.

Bill C-211 is an opportunity for all parliamentarians to stand together and acknowledge the very real impact that PTSD has on the lives of our men and women in uniform. The federal government must show leadership on this issue. I urge everyone in the House to support the bill. If we do not, we fail these brave men and women.

Most important, I want to thank my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George for his private member's bill, Bill C-211.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

March 6th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for bringing forward Bill C-211 for bringing the matter to the attention of the House. I would also like to thank my good friend, the member for Yellowhead, for the work he has done and the passion he has for our military and our first responders, and the members of the NDP and the Liberal Party who have spoken about this. It is so important.

In the closing of this debate, as we get ready to again hear from the member for Cariboo—Prince George, I want to add a few comments about some of the things we see. So many of us, as we attend our Remembrance Day ceremonies, think about the importance of those who have gone before us to help protect us. I think of my wife's cousin, Everett Moore, who came back from the Second World War. He found it impossible to survive in the normal lifetime one would have expected. The war continued for him for 50 years, until he finally died. However, he did have good care. We had opportunities to visit. However, he was unable to come back and survive with that. At that time, people called it “shell shock”.

We have had so many opportunities to speak to people who are engaged in the military, so that brings it home for me. I really do understand what they go through and how difficult it is for families when such tragedies strike home. We have seen it. I think everyone in here has examples where that has happened, whether in the military, or with first responders.

The other experience I had was with the Pine Lake tornado in early 2000. As we were in it, we realized we had to be able to assist, and I was part of that. We saw the carnage that had taken place there. It was really difficult for individuals who were not trained to manage this. However, I think back to the great work done by our first responders in central Alberta. Every year, when we have the anniversary of that terrible natural disaster, we recognize the great work they did, as well as the seriousness of the loss of life.

We all recognize this. We see disasters happen, whether they are natural disasters or those that happen around the world where our men and women in our forces have to take charge or respond to terrible evils. We see it so often. What we have heard today is a great heartfelt response and support for those men and women who put their lives on the line daily and who bring it home to their families.

It is important that we recognize more can be done and that we have to go forward.

I would like to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George. I want to thank everyone in the House for recognizing how important this is. Hopefully, we can move forward with unanimous support of Bill C-211.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

March 6th, 2017 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Yellowhead and the member for Flamborough—Glanbrook for their passionate speeches in support of Bill C-211, and indeed our first responders, military members, and veterans. I also want to thank my good colleague from Barrie—Innisfil, who happened to sponsor this bill, and is a tireless champion of our first responders, veterans, and military. I also want to take a moment to pay tribute to and thank our colleague from Oakville North—Burlington. I know that this is a non-partisan issue, and she has done some incredible work championing for our first responders, veterans, and military.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge those who are with us on the Hill today, and those who are tuning in on the live stream. It is so important that this bill pass. A lot of thanks have been coming to us for bringing forth this bill, but I think all of us owe a debt of gratitude and thanks to those who are with us on the Hill, because they are the ones who really champion and stand up for us and our families moving forward and every day.

Bill C-211 seeks to establish a cohesive and coherent national framework to ensure our military, first responders, paramedics, police, veterans, and correctional officers get timely access to the resources they need to deal with PTSD. I welcome the revisions that will strengthen the intent of this bill.

I also want to caution all of us here that we should not be doing anything to weaken the intent of the bill, or allow the current or successive governments to not live up to the responsibility that is due to our first responders, veterans, and military.

The bill sends a message to our silent sentinels that this is not a battle they have to fight by themselves. It is up to all of us federal, provincial, and territorial legislators to come up with a plan to ensure no one is left behind, and that our terminology and laws are consistent across the country from the east coast to the west coast. The reality is that experiencing human tragedy affects all of us differently. These incidents and experiences cannot be erased from our memory. Most of us can never imagine what our warriors go through on a daily basis, the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the images. It affects their lives and the lives of friends and families of those who put themselves in harm's way.

We have an opportunity to give back in a small way today by ensuring that our protectors have the opportunity to receive a basic standard of treatment to deal with their post-traumatic stress disorder. A national framework would ensure that a national discussion is undertaken on this issue. To date, we have had a great discussion on mental health and mental health injuries, occupational stress injuries, OSIs, and PTSD that our first responders, veterans, and military face. It is on us to continue this discussion.

Every year, a conversation happens on best practices, on treatment options, and on how best we can help as a society. The intent of this bill is to ensure that there is always a line item in our federal books, because for far too long we have left our first responders, military, and veterans behind.

I am asking for the support of all members today to ensure that Bill C-211 makes it to third reading, so that no other person is told that he or she is being too sensitive, to suck it up, to get over it. Having a standard diagnosis of care for post-traumatic stress disorder would change lives. Having consistent care and terminology with respect to occupational stress injuries, PTSD, or even with respect to industry terms, a standard of care, diagnosis, treatment, and terminology would save lives.

Let us get this bill to committee where we can discuss and amend it. Let us strengthen it. Let us make it stronger for those who put their lives on the line for all of us.

In closing, as members from all sides of the House rise to cast their votes, I ask only that they remember those who put their lives on the line, often without thanks, to protect our Canadian values and our way of life, because freedom is not free. There is a cost to freedom, and that cost is a human cost. We can do better. Let us leave a legacy of doing better, and doing better for those who put their lives on the line for us every day.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

moved that Bill C-211, an act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-211. However, before I get into my speech, I want to first acknowledge and thank the first responders, the veterans, and the active military members who have emailed, called, and with whom I have met in person. Many of them are on the Hill with us today. I want to acknowledge their courage in coming forward, and their fight to break the stigma and the silence. These are brave men and women who have been ridiculed, shamed, told to “suck it up and move on”, told that they are making it up, that they are faking it, and, worse yet, that they are weak. I want to thank them for trusting me enough to share their stories with me.

I also want to thank the family and friends of those who could no longer fight for their strength, and their commitment to ensure their loved ones are remembered and that their fight was not in vain.

Moreover, I want to apologize to all for it taking so long to get to this point. I have had this speech prepared for a while now, and as I wrote it, I took time to reflect on the hundreds of individuals whom I had the privilege of meeting with over the last year, those who helped get this bill off the ground, and the thousands more who continue to live in silence.

Mr. Speaker, today is not about you or I, or our colleagues. This is not a Conservative, a Liberal or an NDP issue. Today is about the brave men and women who serve our communities and our country without hesitation and without fail.

I would like to read an email that I received about two weeks ago. It states:

“Our paramedics and other first responders in Canada are amazing. We demand they show up for anything, at any house [at any time] in any weather. They fix our injuries, treat our sickness, restart our hearts. Then they wash their hands, head for home, and rise again to answer the call of duty. They do this job...without thanks, because they want to heal and ease pain. They do this job without fanfare or pursual of fame, and then feel like they get tossed to the curb when the stress builds up too much. Our first responders across Canada need to be treated like the heros and humans they are. This Bill needs to pass.”

There is no rescue for the rescuers. This is just one email, one story, but there are thousands more like it across our country.

One week after being elected, on October 19, 2015, I arrived in Ottawa as a newly-elected MP for the riding of Cariboo—Prince George. I had with me two documents and a head filled with big ideas. The first document was an analysis of challenges and opportunities that existed in my riding. The second was the background for Bill C-211.

Over the course of the two years I spent campaigning, both to win the Conservative nomination and the general election, I met with people from all walks of life. I heard deeply personal and intimate stories of hardship and pain. Many of these individuals were struggling with PTSD themselves, or they knew a colleague, a friend, or a family member who had contemplated suicide or had taken his or her life. They experienced the pain and suffering that was a result of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bill C-211 was born out of these stories, because it was through these stories that I realized there was no standard of diagnosis, care, treatment, or even terminology for PTSD that was consistent from one end of our nation to another.

The outpouring of letters and phone calls that my office has received since the bill was first introduced last year has been overwhelming. The stories are overwhelming. I have worked hard to meet with individuals and organizations across the country. They are only asking for proper care to be made accessible to our front-line warriors, those who have dealt with the sights, sounds, and smells that average Canadians would find horrifying and heartbreaking.

Our brave men and women put their uniforms on every day, knowing full well that they may have to take the life of another person during the course of their service to our communities and our country, or that in their service and their dedication to our country, they may indeed make the ultimate sacrifice themselves.

Bill C-211 seeks to establish a cohesive and coherent national framework to ensure our military, first responders, paramedics, police personnel, firefighters, emergency dispatchers, veterans, and correctional officers get timely access to the resources they need to deal with PTSD.

The bill sends a message to our silent sentinels that this is not a battle they have to fight themselves, that someone is fighting for them. It is up to all of us, federal, provincial, and territorial legislators, to come up with a plan to ensure that no one is left behind; that our terminology and laws are consistent across the country, from the east coast to the west coast, so an RCMP member serving in Nova Scotia has consistent care with his or her colleagues across our nation; so a firefighter who is not well has the courage to come forward and say “I am not well”; that our veterans or current military know that just as they stood tall for our families, someone is fighting for them, that they know they are not alone, that they can get the care and attention they need when they need it, wherever they need it.

Bill C-211 is about being human. It is about taking a stand. It is not about assigning blame, not passing the buck, not turning a blind eye and saying that it is not our problem. Bill C-211 is about breaking the stigma of mental health injuries. It is about helping them build the courage to come forward and tell their story and seek help.

I have been told over the course of the last year that PTSD is a provincial matter, that this is an issue for the industry to solve. I have also been told that people should know what they are getting themselves into when they sign their job contracts and go into service. I want to reiterate that it is up to all of us to come up with solutions, because lives are being lost.

We are inundated in the media of stories of another veteran or another first responder who have taken their lives and lost the fight due to PTSD. This is unacceptable. Since I tabled my bill over a year ago, countless lives have been lost. This is shameful. We must do better. This begins with education and a willingness to listen without judgment, because less known to the general public are the mental demands that these occupations face. This includes working in a profession that regularly exposes them to graphic scenes and images that anyone would find disturbing and difficult to see.

My bill focuses on first responders, veterans, and military. Even in these three groups, we have differing terms, references, and sector inclusion. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with a gentleman by the name of Mark Farrant. He shared with me that jurors, who in accepting their civic duty swear an oath to the crown, in fulfilling their duty to the crown were subject to the horrific crimes committed. They bear witness to graphic details and images over the course of their duty, whether it is nine days, nine months, or 19 months. Then, just as they are sworn to secrecy, they are turned out in anonymity to somehow reconnect in our communities, void of the experience and human tragedy that they have witnessed. They are tossed aside.

While not part of this legislation, it is my hope that bringing this forward and speaking to it tonight, the Minister of Justice can perhaps review this issue, and it can be part of our national discussion regarding mental health. We can talk about those who are impacted by this.

The reality is that experiencing human tragedy affects us all differently. Just as one story is not the same, there is not a one-size-fits-all treatment. These incidents and experiences cannot be erased from our memory. One cannot just hit reset. Instead, the images, sights, sounds, and smells keep playing on a continual loop. Simple things can trigger anxiety attacks or severe depression.

Staff Sergeant Kent MacNeill of the Prince George RCMP told me recently that for over 16 years he has served as an RCMP in his community. Over eight of those years he has led serious crime investigations. Just in his daily commute, he passes by two sites of horrific crimes. A simple action of dropping his daughter off at school can trigger his PTSD.

Triggers can come at any time and any place, without warning. A noise, a sight, a sound, or a smell can trigger the debilitating effects of PTSD. Most of us can never imagine what our warriors go through on a daily basis. I know there are practical questions that members across the way may be asking. Will there be a cost for implementing a national framework for PTSD? The simple answer to this is yes, it will cost money, but I counter with this. What is the alternative? What is the cost of inaction? How many more lives are we willing to lose before the government, before we, step up to the plate?

If members on all sides choose to vote down Bill C-211, what then are we proposing as a substitute? What is the message we are sending to those who we trust to be there when we are in need, those who without hesitation answer when the world calls? The question we need to ask ourselves today is what value do we place on these brave men and women?

Right now, we have a piecemeal system of scattered provincial legislation. Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have all taken steps to rightfully adopt legislation to deal with PTSD. While we are making progress on this front and we have come a long way in recognizing PTSD, leadership is needed at the federal level. The standard of care varies from one province to the next, and we have people falling through the cracks. Individuals suffering from PTSD have an 80% higher risk of suffering from depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicidal thoughts. As a society and as legislators, we have failed to come up with solutions to help our heroes, our warriors, the families, and the survivors, because a hero in the east should be treated the same as a hero in the west. Let us get this bill to committee so that we can discuss it, and amend it if necessary. Even with this, we have studied this enough to recognize that much more needs to be done and action is required.

Last October, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security tabled the report, “Healthy Minds, Safe Communities: Supporting our Public Safety Officers through a National Strategy for Operational Stress Injuries”. Bill C-211 was tabled before this committee, and I had the opportunity to participate in that study also. The report echoes much of what I am saying today, and indeed the minister's own response to the committee report said:

...the Government acknowledges the needs articulated by Canada's public safety officers and agrees that, in recognition of the daily challenges that are unique to public safety officers in the community, national leadership and alignment are necessary in order to effectively address this multidisciplinary issue.

Bill C-211 is a perfect place to start and is in line with the government's own commitments. Therefore, it is my hope that we can move swiftly, because we will save lives. Every minute wasted, every hour wasted, and every day wasted, we are losing lives. Action is needed. We are at a crisis level.

As I near the end of what I know is a very long speech, I would like to acknowledge that I am the first one to admit when I stand up in this House that it is usually to act as a voice of opposition to the issue of the day, but Bill C-211 transcends party lines and partisan squabbles. It is an opportunity for all parliamentarians to stand together and acknowledge the very real impact that PTSD has had on the lives of our warriors. If members would bear with me, I just want to read an excerpt from another website:

I get up all hours of the night and check the house over and over. I don't even know what I am looking for. I was asleep about a month ago, and I just knew that someone had fired a gun in my living room. I hear people pound on my door in the middle of the night, when in fact there was never anyone there to my knowledge. One night I got up out of the bed.... I don't know what I was looking for, but on my way through the house, I cocked my weapon. On the way through the house, the .357 discharged and shot a hole through my floor.... I need help, but I have dealt with it for the past two years. It is getting harder to deal with.

By nature, our first responders are part of a culture that frowns upon weakness. The job comes first, and feelings, wellness, and family come second. When lives are affected by PTSD, families are left behind to pick up the pieces on their own. Families are forgotten. Only through bipartisan support and co-operation can we hope to achieve effective and viable strategies, terminology, and education to help deal with PTSD.

Through Bill C-211, we have the opportunity to recognize the sacrifices that our brave men and women have made so we can be here today. Our warriors are our silent sentinels protecting our Canadian values and our way of life. They ensure our maple leaf stands tall, that Canada remains the true north strong and free.

As parliamentarians, let us stand in solidarity in support for those who are willing to give their lives to protect ours. I am asking for the assistance of members today so that we can begin to work on a national framework, and I ask that all members in this House help in achieving this goal by voting for Bill C-211 at second reading, because lives are at stake.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I think it is really important that we do recognize that this is a very serious issue. I appreciate the many words the member has put on the record in introducing the bill. Whether it is members of our Canadian Forces, our first responders, the police, or many public safety officers, there are so many horrific acts that do occur that have had a significant impact on the individual in question.

There is no doubt that as a government we need to do more. We can always do better, as the Prime Minister has said. It is one of the reasons that, even when I was in opposition, I talked so passionately about the importance of a health care accord. It is one of the reasons why I think it is so important that we recognize how many hundreds of millions of dollars we are committing now, going into mental health services.

We need to start to take action where we can. I appreciate what the member is bringing forward for us today. My question is to maybe just ask him to emphasize how important it is that there is a holistic approach that does include multiple departments, different levels of government, and so forth. I think that is quite admirable and—

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my hon. colleague. I cannot help but hear perhaps, and maybe wrongly, a dismissive tone.

I absolutely agree that a holistic approach needs to be taken, that all departments need to be included in this, and that is why we called on the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Minister of National Defence to get together with our provincial legislators and territorial legislators as well as academics, the military, and the industry to have that holistic approach, to really take a look at what we are seeing, because right now people are hurting and people are struggling because there is not consistent care, consistent treatment, or consistent diagnosis, and if we fail today, I shudder to think where we will be.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his work on this file. I also want to thank a resident of Chambly, Patrick Dufresne, a paramedic from Quebec who is in Ottawa today to work on my colleague's bill. In fact, he was the one who alerted me to the importance of working on this matter.

As the NDP public safety critic, I was able to take part in the committee work and my colleague attended a few meetings with us. The committee issued a unanimous report on the need to take action on this matter.

Since this is more of a comment than a question, I will leave it to my colleague to talk in more detail about what needs to be done. Most of all, I want to thank him for his work, although much remains to be done on something like this.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are colleagues from all sides of the House who are passionate on this and who worked in the committee.

The terms “first responder”, the term “public safety officer”, and the terms “PTSD” and “OSI”: standard care and diagnosis need to be done. The report that was done by the public safety and security committee was a great report, because it identified exactly what we are talking about today, that there needs to be work done. We need to get people together.

I agree with my hon. colleague that there is much work to be done, but it has to start somewhere, and today is the day.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to sincerely thank my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George for all the work he has done on this file and his leadership. He is a very modest man, but to get this to where it is today, I know that he has garnered support from all over the country.

I do know he wants to take a moment just to thank some of the other people who really did help make this day come forth, and I would like to give him that opportunity right now.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I want to thank the public safety committee for tabling such a great report that specifically detailed the need for this.

I also want to thank Communities for Veterans, Paul and Terry Nichols, our Prince George Fire Fighters Union Local 1372, Badge of Life, Gary Rubie, Syd Gravel, Bill and Lynn Rusk, Natalie Harris, Jody Mitic, Vince Savoia of Tema Conter Memorial Trust, Dr. Katy Kamkar, Erin Alvarez, our own Hon. Erin O'Toole, John Brassard, Colin Carrie, Kent MacNeill, and Norm Robillard.

Many of those name are unknown, but they came forward to tell their story. They came forward to try to save a life, not just their own but they came forward. I want to acknowledge that there are many people here today on the Hill who have shared their story with me in the hopes of not just ending their own struggle but ensuring that those coming behind them do not have to struggle, that we can do everything in our power to put those pieces in place, to make sure that we do not lose another life.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for bringing this very important issue before the House, an issue that is silently affecting many Canadians every day.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a matter close to the hearts of many, even in the House, as the member has said. Some members have honourably served on the front lines of emergencies. Some have families and loved ones whose lives have been touched by those working tirelessly to protect them. In fact, my grandfather immigrated from England, serving the Royal Engineers in World War I, and spent many months in the Brandon sanatorium, being treated during a time when there was very little known about these disorders.

The government stands proudly behind our country's police officers, paramedics, and firefighters. We stand behind indigenous emergency managers, correctional officers, 911 dispatchers, and border guards. We stand, of course, behind the members of our armed forces and all of the brave women and men who have pursued the noble path of public service and put their safety and well-being at risk for the sake of their communities and their country.

In the Liberal platform, we committed to developing a national action plan on post-traumatic stress disorder and the Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness instructs him to “Work with provinces and territories and the Minister of Health to develop a coordinated national action plan on post-traumatic stress disorder, which disproportionately affects public safety officers”.

Indeed, the research shows that between 10% and 35% of first responders will develop post-traumatic stress injuries in their lifetime. An estimated 70,000 Canadian first responders have already been diagnosed. That is why I am proud to say that our government is hard at work developing the action plan to address post-traumatic stress disorder among public safety officers that we promised during our campaign.

Immediately after our government took office, Public Safety Canada launched an extensive consultation process, beginning with sessions in Ottawa and Regina, to hear from stakeholders about PTSD, other operational stress injuries, and about what kinds of supports they needed. As part of these consultations, we heard directly from public safety officers, as well as from health care practitioners, and all levels of government.

We heard about barriers people face when seeking assistance. We heard about cases of limited access to treatment options, the challenges of geographic isolation, and a general lack of awareness regarding operational stress injuries and PTSD, including a lack of awareness about the symptoms and available supports. We agree with the many voices who told us that much more needs to be done.

In particular, we heard about the need to address three key themes: research and data collection; prevention, early intervention, and stigma reduction; and support for care and treatment. Stakeholders' voices have recently been bolstered by a report from the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, as was mentioned. That committee also heard from a wide range of organizations and individuals, including the Canadian Police Association, the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, and many experts on psychiatry and mental health.

At this point, I want to mention that Mood Disorders Society of Canada is in my riding of Guelph. In fact, Phil Upshall, the society's executive director, has made it clear to me that our nation needs to do more to assist those who suffer from this condition, especially when so many who are afflicted by it are our nation's service members or first responders.

Another unique Guelph organization that is leading the nation in treating PTSD is Homewood Health Centre. Homewood has developed the program for traumatic stress recovery, one of the few in-patient programs of its kind in Canada. The program for traumatic stress recovery helps patients recover from the after-effects of trauma and creates a community that helps trauma patients through the healing process.

We have to look after those Canadians who have helped us in so many ways by providing safety for our communities, and in the process of so doing, have stood in the way of danger themselves.

The committee also received briefs from Badge of Life Canada, the Royal Ottawa Health Centre Group, and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, among many others. The final report affirms that the well-being of those who serve our communities is absolutely vital to the safety of all Canadians. The report makes 16 recommendations.

As the Minister of Public Safety wrote in the government's response:

The Committee's Report presents important considerations to inform the Government's approach to supporting those who have dedicated their lives to protecting our communities....

The Report will be a valuable resource as the Government moves forward with its commitment to supporting the well-being and resilience of Canada's public safety officers.

Through all this momentum and action, a clear consensus has emerged. National leadership and coordination are needed to address this issue effectively. Resilience and reintegration and the need for coordinated national research have all been identified as important themes.

There remains a broad view that a national plan must recognize that effective support demands coordinated national baseline research. An action plan must recognize the importance of collaboration in providing access to prevention, education, and training measures as well as to innovative care and effective treatment.

Finally, we have heard loud and clear that we must promote awareness for public safety officers and their families of both the symptoms to watch for and the treatment resources available to them.

Strengthened by all of these voices over the last year, we are moving this action plan forward, helping to bring post-traumatic disorder and operational stress injuries out of the shadows and into the light. I am pleased that our discussions in this chamber make that light even brighter. Indeed, over the course of the last year, members have had more opportunity than ever before to bring this issue to the forefront.

We are making sure that we are talking to the right people, moving forward in a way that reflects the voices we have heard, and are working closely with all partners as this plan develops.

We have reflected this priority every way we can, including through the budget process, with budget 2016 reflecting the government's commitment to an action plan. However, this goes beyond commitment. It is a responsibility of the government and all of us who represent our communities that rely on the tireless and selfless contributions of the brave women and men who keep us safe. To those men and women, we give our thanks.