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

Second reading (Senate), as of Dec. 14, 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, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, 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 / 11:45 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.

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

February 9th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of Bill C-211. I thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for bringing the bill forward. I also thank my colleague from Guelph for his thoughtful remarks.

This bill would create a federal framework for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. That is a mental condition that can devastate an individual, impacting the individual's family, his or her ability to work, and even his or her ability to perform simple tasks.

As is the case with other mental health conditions, public awareness has often grown in the wake of extreme events, such as wars or natural disasters. Sadly, this has been our experience in Canada as we have seen men and women in the Canadian Forces returning from Afghanistan and struggling for years with the burdens of their experiences there. However, we should not think that this is simply limited to those kinds of extreme events. A soldier returning from a distant combat zone may be the first image in our minds when we talk about PTSD, but more and more, we are learning that stress, trauma, and our body's complex responses to it are issues throughout society, far from battlefields or police precincts or emergency wards.

We see it on university campuses, where students are helping expand access to mental health services and offer more support for survivors of abuse, including sexual abuse.

We see it in workplaces, where employers and workers are finding ways to reduce the stigma of mental illness and encouraging those who once suffered in silence to find the help that they need.

Nearly a decade ago, one academic study pegged the lifetime incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder across the Canadian population at nearly one in 10. In most cases, this could be linked to a single event, such as the unexpected death of a loved one, sexual assault, or witnessing a violent death or injury.

While any Canadian can experience PTSD, certain Canadians are disproportionately likely to shoulder the burden. In particular, I am referring to front-line workers who volunteer for duties that expose them to extraordinary stress. They are police officers and firefighters. They are paramedics and prison guards. They are military personnel and others whose public service can take a great personal toll. Studies have found that members of these professions can experience PTSD at rates at least double that of the general population.

A number of provinces have moved forward on legislation to remove the barriers that Canadians in these professions may face. For instance, in my province of British Columbia, first responders who experience PTSD must prove that it is work-related in order to receive support and compensation.

Last year, in my home province, the NDP labour critic tried to amend a bill in the provincial legislature to fix that problem and make it easier for those first responders, police, firefighters, and others to get the help they need and deserve. It is absolutely shameful that the current Government of British Columbia declined to fix that problem.

Let me share just one story to illustrate why this is so important.

Lisa Jennings was a paramedic in Victoria. In the summer of 2014, Lisa suffered an assault while responding to a call. In the wake of the attack, she suffered flashbacks and suicidal thoughts. After consulting with a psychologist, she filed a claim for workers' compensation. Her claim was denied not once, not twice, but three times, because the board was able to argue that her condition was not the result of the trauma that she had experienced in that assault. In fact, because she had visited a psychologist after her parents and her brother had died in quick succession, she was labelled as having “a well-documented psychiatric history” and her claim was denied. Shameful.

Lisa fought back. With no financial support other than a small disability pension, she appealed the ruling. She even lived in her car while doing so. As Lisa said, “This is for all the first responders in B.C.”

I am happy to report that three weeks ago, Lisa Jennings won her battle. An appeal tribunal reversed the earlier decisions, clearing a path for other first responders to access the support they need after suffering trauma in the line of duty.

A story like that should shock all Canadians and should move us in this place to act. Luckily, we have before us a proposal that would take one step forward, providing the much-needed federal leadership in this context.

What would the bill do? It would instruct the Minister of Health to convene a conference with her colleagues in National Defence and Veterans Affairs, provincial and territorial governments, and stakeholders in the medical community to develop a comprehensive federal strategy framework on post traumatic stress disorder.

This framework would help illuminate the prevalence of PTSD across Canada, as well as its social and economic costs to Canadians, by facilitating better national tracking and data collection by the Public Health Agency of Canada. It would also seek to improve treatment by making it easier to share best practices and by establishing guidelines for diagnosis, treatment, and management of PTSD.

Last, it would broaden awareness of this condition by setting down guidelines for the creation and distribution of educational materials for public health providers across the country.

I want to raise one final issue.

Several months ago, I was contacted by Mark Farrant, a Toronto man who served as a jury foreman on a first degree murder trial. In the course of that trial, he and other jurors were exposed to graphic and disturbing visual evidence and testimony surrounding the brutal murder of a young woman. Jurors are sworn to secrecy, and the moment after the verdict is delivered, released back into their daily lives. In the wake of that experience, Mark began to experience symptoms that would later be diagnosed at PTSD. It would come to disrupt his personal life, his young family, and his successful business career.

Yet, as Mark discovered, jurors in Canada are uniquely unsupported by our justice system. There are supports for judges, court staff, and many others who are exposed to the same graphic evidence and stressful situations, but not for ordinary Canadians who are required to do their civic duty as jurors. It is time that changed. Canadians, no matter where they live, who do their civic duty and serve on a jury, ought to have the proper support services available.

To that end, I raised this issue with my colleagues on the justice committee last year and have written repeatedly to the Minister of Justice, asking that her department assess what steps it can take to address this gap. It is my hope that the justice committee will soon become the first parliamentary committee to study this problem during its upcoming review of the Criminal Code.

While, sadly, we are still waiting for any federal response, I am happy to report that as a result of Mark Farrant's tireless advocacy, and at great personal cost, his home province of Ontario just weeks ago launched a program to provide free counselling to jurors who needed it. Therefore, if Bill C-211 is referred to committee, I will be seeking to develop an amendment to ensure that the issue of juror support is considered in any federal framework on PTSD.

The bill before us today gives us a chance to stand beside Canadians like Mark Farrant in Toronto and Lisa Jennings in Victoria, who swam against the tide at personal cost to do us all a public service. In that spirit, I ask all members to support the bill.

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

February 9th, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Victoria for stating his unequivocal support for this private member's bill, and my hon. colleague from Guelph who made a speech although we have yet to hear whether his party, the government, will be supporting this legislation.

First responders, firefighters, military personnel, corrections officers, police officers, front-line health care workers, like our dedicated nurses, and countless others face traumatic situations in their day-to-day work, the work they do to serve their fellow citizens and to protect our great country. While the work that these men and women do is well known, what is less known is the mental demands that these occupations require.

In these professions, men and women are regularly exposed to graphic scenes and images that anyone would find difficult and sometimes even heartbreaking to see, making them exceedingly susceptible to PTSD. As the official opposition critic for Veterans Affairs and having spent over three decades as a firefighter, I am all too familiar with the devastating effects of PTSD, and how it plays on those who wear the uniform and the negative impacts on their families.

PTSD is a condition that is characterized by persistent emotional distress occurring as a result of physical injury or severe psychological shock. It typically involves disturbances of sleep, and constant, vivid recall of the traumatic experience with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by the onset of psychiatric symptoms after exposure to one or more of these traumatic events. The characteristics of PTSD develop in four domains: intrusion, avoidance, alterations in cognition and mood, alterations in arousal and reactivity. People can react in many different ways. They might feel nervous, have a hard time sleeping, or go over the details of the situation in their minds. Others have more serious symptoms and their lives can be seriously disrupted.

Our society requires that these people continue to do their job, so it is the government's job to ensure that they have the ability to seek the help, should they require it.

Bill C-211 will help ensure that men and women who are suffering from PTSD are able to get the help they so desperately need. We need to develop and implement a federal framework on PTSD that provides for best practices, research, education, awareness, and treatment.

We really need people to help. Military personnel, veterans, and police officers are expected to lend a hand when the need arises. The bill calls for a federal framework “to address the challenges of recognizing the symptoms and providing timely diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder”.

Bill C-211 is a private member's bill sponsored by the member for Cariboo—Prince George. I want to highlight and acknowledge all his hard work on this bill. Ever since we were elected to this Parliament, I have had the pleasure and the honour of working with the member on this, and I know how extremely invested he is to ensure that our first responders, our military personnel, and our front-line health care workers are looked after.

These brave men and women do so much for our society and give back in ways that cannot be expressed in words. They give their lives to serve our country. Bill C-211 would require the Minister of Health, the Minister of National Defence, and the Minister of Veterans Affairs to consult with the provinces and territories, as well as stakeholders from the medical community and patient groups, in order to develop a comprehensive federal framework to address the challenges of identifying the symptoms and providing a timely diagnosis for the treatment of these men and women who are suffering from PTSD.

There are some statistics that I would like to share in order to highlight the high PTSD rates among Canadian first responders: 24% to 26% of corrections officers suffer from PTSD, 22% to 24% of paramedics suffer from PTSD, 16% of firefighters suffer from PTSD, 10% to 12% of police officers suffer from PTSD, and 5.3% of military personnel suffer from PTSD.

We cannot forget those who serve on the front lines of the medical field, including doctors and our hard-working nurses. These statistics clearly highlight that large percentages of workers in these essential professions are suffering.

I want to share the story of Natalie Harris, a paramedic from my riding, who was on the front line and the first on the scene of a brutal double homicide. Natalie, who has become a friend and an inspiration to me throughout this process of supporting the member for Cariboo—Prince George, experienced unimaginable traumatic events while working a shift as a Simcoe County paramedic.

Rather than focus on the event and the effects it had on Natalie, I want to focus on her advocacy to help others who suffer from PTSD. Natalie began her road to recovery by simply telling her story. She told her story to a lot of people. In fact, it was at an event in Barrie that we first meet. That night, I told Natalie that I would help her raise the awareness of the issue at a national level, and here we are.

Shortly after the election, the member for Cariboo—Prince George and I talked about the work that he had done to that point and his plans to introduce this bill.

For Natalie, the work continued in spite of some lapses and triggers. She continued, and continues, to speak out, continues to support others suffering from PTSD through social media and a support group she calls Wings of Change. Recently, Natalie wrote a book, to reach even more people with her story. What an inspiration.

Mental health is important to talk about. Those who suffer from PTSD need better resources.

Bill Rusk of Badge of Life Canada stated:

...there’s more of a chance of [police officers] following through [with suicide] because they have the means readily available to them, as opposed to a member of the public, who might have the same feelings, but not the means readily available.

We have a problem here, and it needs government's attention.

Mental illness, like PTSD, can strike at any time, to anyone, regardless of one's age, race, gender, occupation, or income level. It does not discriminate, and it is non-partisan.

Vince Savoia of Tema shared the sad news from his research on PTSD that roughly 60% of first responders who committed suicide in 2015 were diagnosed with PTSD. These are great tragedies.

We need to give our servicemen and servicewomen the help they need and allow them to live their lives to the fullest, rather than be burdened by their illness. People who are in these professions wake up every single day and know that, when they go to work to support our country and their fellow Canadians, their life is at risk. They perform brave tasks day in and day out and are left with the haunting images, sounds, and smells for their lifetime. Bearing witness to the tragedies and suffering that they see often becomes difficult to cope with.

Through the work of this bill, meetings with stakeholders, and the development of this framework, it is my hope that the men and women who do so much for us are able to have the services they require and know that they are not alone in this fight. We owe it to these servicemen and servicewomen, who serve us relentlessly day in and day out, to address PTSD, as it can severely impact their lives and the lives of their families.

In a larger context, mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians, whether through a family member, a friend, or a colleague, and 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.

Our first responders, veterans, and front-line medical personnel are sick, not weak, and they need this country's help. Therefore, I ask all members in this House to support the bill that was brought forward by my friend and colleague, the member for Cariboo—Prince George.

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

February 9th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity today to debate the creation of a federal framework on PTSD through Bill C-211. I would like to thank the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George for shining light on this important issue, and for his very thoughtful remarks today. It is hard to do justice to an issue of this magnitude in a little less than 10 minutes, but certainly I will do my best.

Over the course of the next few minutes, I hope to highlight the importance of the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder, nationally and in my own community; the impact it has not just on the members of our military but on emergency service workers as well, as so many have alluded to; and the impact the bill could potentially have in collaboration with some other initiatives going on in communities across Canada and within the federal government today.

Beginning with the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder in our military, I have to commend anyone who has had the opportunity to serve. So many who go do so knowing that they may not return safely, or may not return at all. Far too many of those who do serve overseas and who are lucky enough to come home do so with physical or emotional scars that run so deep they may never be cured.

In my view, the cost of engaging our military in a mission that puts the lives of Canadians in danger includes the cost that it takes to ensure they are well. If we can afford to send our citizens to war, we can afford to take care of them when they come home, full stop.

The Canadian Forces are in a mental health crisis. The Afghanistan mission serves as a perfect example. Every member in the House knows well the turmoil that those who have served face today. Since the end of the mission, at least 71 members of the Canadian Forces have taken their own lives. By comparison, I believe the total who lost their lives in combat during the course of that mission was 138, and every one is a tragedy. The fact that we are now over the 50% loss of lives in the mission through veterans who have taken their lives by suicide is a statistic that should shock the conscience of every Canadian. We need to do something about this, and we have the capacity to do something.

This is a difficult issue for the region I represent because of some recent events that took place earlier in January in the community of Upper Big Tracadie. Just minutes away from the town that I was born in, an infantryman took his own life. When we hear members of his family speak about it, they speak about the inner demons he faced and was unable to overcome. What made the tragedy that much worse was that it was not just his life that was taken, but the lives of his family as well. His mother Brenda was killed. His wife Shanna, who recently graduated from St. Francis Xavier University, where I studied, and who worked in the hospital I was born in, as well as his 10-year old daughter, Aaliyah, were killed as a result of this horrific incident.

This bill may not have done something for that specific incident, and it may take a long time to make a difference. The initiatives we are trying to launch at the federal level may take a very long time to make a difference, but my father always told me the best day to plant a tree is today, so we may as well take the chance while we have it.

It is not just our military. So many others are impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder. Our emergency service workers go through turmoil, which I am so lucky to not have witnessed myself. Every member of the House who has not worked as an emergency service worker can probably not understand. I have been taking meetings with police officers, firefighters, and paramedics who have explained the unimaginable horrors they live through in the course of an ordinary day. As other members alluded to, they hear the sounds they have heard, the smells they have smelled, and relive the events time and time again. It keeps them up at night and interferes with their ability to enjoy life in their full capacity as a human being. That is not right. We need to offer them the services they so desperately need to be full and well.

This issue is not without hope, although I may have painted a bit of a desperate picture. There are things we can do. I commend the effort in Bill C-211 to bring together different ministries, like the Minister of Health, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Minister of Defence, along with medical service providers, and, importantly, patient organizations.

We know the answer is not simply to put money into a program, but to make sure that any investments are made wisely to see the outcomes that are actually going to improve the quality of life for people living in our communities.

When I look at initiatives that are going on with all parties, I look at the report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. I look at the multi-party committee on veterans affairs which has undertaken a study on mental health and the suicide crisis among veterans in Canada. I think this is a very positive thing.

Within a week of his being sworn in, I saw an article in The Globe and Mail saying that the Minister of National Defence had instructed the highest ranking members of the forces to make the suicide crisis a priority. I see investments with provincial governments like my own in Nova Scotia where dollars have been earmarked for mental health.

We can see in Canadian communities that this is a priority as well. We see organizations like TEMA that try to draw attention to the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder, but also help individuals who are trying to become well.

To those who defend our interests overseas, who keep us safe in our communities, and who respond when we are in need of emergency services, I would like to communicate that whatever I can do to ensure they have the mental health care they need to be whole and to do their jobs so my family and I can sleep safely at night, I will do what I can.

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

February 9th, 2017 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know I only have a short period of time to express something that is a very proud day for me and for the House. I have listened to speeches from across the aisle from each and every party, and I want to thank my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George, but also all members of the House who participated in this debate, because tonight we have done something very special. We have talked about this in a way that anyone watching this debate will realize that this is a non-partisan issue. This is an issue which back in 2004 when I was first elected to the House, we did not know a lot about it. I do not think I had ever heard of post-traumatic stress disorder.

I look at the effect this is having in our communities on the people we ask to protect our families and communities every single day, hourly, over and over again. This is a piece of legislation that is needed. I know my colleague said that in Canada we can do better, but tonight we realize that we will do better.

After listening to the comments from around the House, I am very proud of the system we have in this country. As I said, I have been here since 2004, and sometimes we do not get the opportunity to express our thanks and to be very proud of the people who sit in the House across the aisle, colleagues who come here who do want to make a difference. Tonight we are going to be making a difference with this legislation which is sorely needed.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActRoutine Proceedings

January 28th, 2016 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-211, An Act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce my private member's bill, seconded by the member for Barrie—Innisfil, who served as a firefighter for 33 years. This private member's bill would put in place a national framework on post-traumatic stress disorder for first responders, firefighters, military personnel, corrections officers, and members of police forces such as the RCMP. These are individuals who wake up every single day with the knowledge that when they go to work they may have to put their lives at risk to support and protect Canadians and their country.

It is my sincere hope that with this private member's bill, the men and women who are our silent sentinels know that they are not alone in this and just as they fight to protect our nation there is someone fighting for them. Heroes are human too.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)