An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against persons who provide health services and first responders)


Todd Doherty  Conservative

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


In committee (Senate), as of May 30, 2024

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-321.


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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to require a court to consider the fact that the victim of an assault is a person who provides health services or a first responder to be an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of sentencing.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Feb. 28, 2024 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against persons who provide health services and first responders)
Jan. 31, 2024 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against health care professionals and first responders)
June 21, 2023 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against health care professionals and first responders)

Department of Health—Main Estimates, 2024-25Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2024 / 10:25 p.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Chair, my bill would make it an aggravating factor during sentencing if the victim of an assault is a nurse or first responder. Can the minister tell this House what actions she can take to pass Bill C-321 today, tomorrow or anytime?

Department of Health—Main Estimates, 2024-25Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2024 / 10:20 p.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Chair, can the minister tell us what she has done to ensure that Bill C-321 passes in the Senate quickly?

Department of Health—Main Estimates, 2024-25Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2024 / 10:20 p.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Chair, can the minister tell the House how many days it has been since Bill C-321 was unanimously passed by the House of Commons?

Department of Health—Main Estimates, 2024-25Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2024 / 10:20 p.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Chair, is the minister aware that my bill, Bill C-321, is a direct result of the 2019 HESA recommendations on workplace violence?

OpioidsStatements By Members

May 21st, 2024 / 2:15 p.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, our nation is gripped in an opioid crisis, with over 42,000 Canadians dying from overdose since 2016, yet the Prime Minister still allowed hard drugs like cocaine, meth and heroin to be used in public spaces in my province of British Columbia. Our once-safe hospitals are being destroyed by these radical drug policies. The B.C. Nurses' Union is ringing the alarm bell, saying that vulnerable patients and staff are being exposed to illegal drugs, harmful weapons and increased violence.

Common-sense Conservatives will not allow this catastrophic experiment to come to the rest of Canada. Our safe hospitals bill would put the brakes on the insanity, punishing criminals who bring dangerous weapons, violence and illicit drugs into our hospitals. We would immediately pass my common sense Bill C-321, which would protect first responders and health care workers from the increased violence they face while serving our communities. A common-sense Conservative government would ban hard drugs and taxpayer-funded opioid handouts. Instead, we would invest in compassionate treatment and recovery for our loved ones.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 28th, 2024 / 3:50 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of C-321 under Private Members' Business.

The House resumed from February 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against persons who provide health services and first responders), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2024 / 2:25 p.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Calgary Heritage. I have known him only a short time, but I value his friendship and truly respect the work that he does alongside all of us in this House.

We had an opportunity here, from all sides of the House, at report stage, where all parties unanimously supported Bill C-321. The bill is not the be-all and end-all, but sends a clear message to the public and the judiciary that the protection of those who protect us is important. It sends a message that we need to be standing up for those who stand up for us.

We know that 83% of Canadians support making assault against first responders a more serious offence in the Criminal Code. Eight out of 10 Canadians believe that violence against paramedics is a problem in Canada, including 31% who believe it is a major problem.

Rates of violence against nurses, health care workers and first responders are growing at an alarming rate. Bill C-321 will provide much-needed support for those on our front lines. This legislation is a tangible way that we, as parliamentarians, can show those on the front lines that we care, that we respect them, that we do not condone violence in their workplace. We need to let them know that we have their backs. We need to let them know that we are listening. Bullying, abuse, racial or sexual harassment, and physical assault should never and can never be considered just part of their job. These workers care for us at our most vulnerable time and I think we have the responsibility to care for them in return. We need to send a message that violence is unacceptable.

I really hope we can get this passed as soon as possible. We do not need to have an extensive study in the Senate. We have heard from witnesses. We have studied the matter extensively at committee. What we need now is action.

A good friend of mine sent me a text this morning. Do members know that Australia has adopted a very similar law to what we have as Bill C-321, except it is making it even stronger? It is setting mandatory minimums when first responders are assaulted. This comes out of the violent machete attack on a paramedic in Australia. Obviously, we do not go that far yet. This bill is just a start. It sends a message that we are listening. It sends a message to the judiciary that we take violence against first responders and health care professionals seriously.

I hope Madam Speaker and all my hon. colleagues will support this bill at third reading when we get back from the constituency week so that we can get it passed as soon as possible.

Before I close, I want to thank my colleagues from all sides of this House who have offered their support and their feedback. I value it.

We need to send a message that violence is not acceptable. It is not part of the job description. They do everything in their power to save our lives, to keep us healthy, but they are exhausted and fear for their safety and their lives. They need to know that we have their backs, that someone is fighting for them. They need to know they are valued. Passing Bill C-321 and ensuring its swift passage through the Senate toward royal assent is the very least we can do.

I am going to end with this simple message. Our frontline heroes are there when we need them the most. They answer our calls for help. Should we not answer theirs?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2024 / 2:20 p.m.
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Shuv Majumdar Conservative Calgary Heritage, AB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-321, a bill which would amend the Criminal Code to protect and defend our men and women serving on the front lines.

The bill is led by my dear friend, a fierce advocate and the Conservative shadow minister for mental health and addictions, the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George. In my short time on Parliament Hill, I have seen his advocacy for the mental health and well-being of Canadians in action in our time at the health committee, from seeing him fight for Canadians with addiction issues to watching him bring in a life-changing program, the 988 suicide crisis line that will save thousands of lives. We know his legacy will be one of saving lives. I cannot think of anything more honourable or noble than that.

However, his work here is just beginning. Today he is bringing forward legislation to protect our nurses and paramedics, and all those on the front lines. They are the very people who risk their lives every day to protect us, and I could not be more proud to stand to shoulder to shoulder with him as co-sponsor of the legislation.

I have three reflections on the bill: the frontline heroes in Calgary, what the legislation brings to the table, and why it is needed now. In my city, there are thousands of people, from Bridlewood to Evergreen and all the way to Lakeview, who work in these jobs. Every day, they wake up and go to work, saving lives and supporting those who need it the most. Sometimes they have to endure the heartbreak of losing the people they care about. On top of that, these folks are barely scraping by due to an increasing cost of living and a gut-wrenching carbon tax. I know this because during my campaign and in the 24,000 conversations I had, I heard their stories. I saw the pain in their eyes. These are my neighbours, the heroes of Calgary Heritage. They work in some of the most honourable professions in our country, and Canada must do better in showing them how valuable they truly are.

This brings me to my next point: what the legislation brings to the table and how it would protect our heroes. The bill, if passed, would amend the Criminal Code to consider an assault against a nurse, paramedic, firefighter or other frontline worker, including health care staff, an aggravating circumstance upon sentencing. With this amendment, the legislation would give greater teeth to our prosecutors seeking justice for workers assaulted, abused or violated on the front lines. It would send a message to the bad actors thinking they can walk into an emergency room, an ambulance or a care home, and hurt our frontline workers. Finally, it would ensure that the perpetrators of these horrific acts are put behind bars.

What is the urgency behind passing the legislation? More and more of our people on the front lines are reporting increased abuse, violence and assault every year. In fact, we know from the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians that over half of emergency department nurses are physically or verbally abused in any given week, and 43% of hospital nurses will be sexually harassed or assaulted this year. The number of violence-related, lost-time claims for frontline health care workers has increased by almost 66% over the past decade.

The cost of this is absenteeism. Nurses often have to seek care or therapy because of the trauma they experience. This means that the people who care for us when we need it the most are unable to do so because of the abuse they have faced. We know that in 2016, the annual cost of absenteeism for nurses due to illness or disability was nearly $1 billion. For paramedics, 75% of them reported experiencing violence, many suffering from psychological wounds in the form of stress, anxiety and PTSD. Every time these heroes go to work, they know they may not come home. They should, at the very least, know they will not be subjected to violence or abuse from the people they serve, care for and protect.

It is time for us to do the same and serve them. Bill C-321 would do just that by protecting those who protect us. It is common-sense legislation and long overdue. To my colleagues across the chamber, this need not be a partisan undertaking. Let us come together to pass the legislation and change the lives of our heroes on the front lines.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2024 / 2:10 p.m.
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Lori Idlout NDP Nunavut, NU

Uqaqtittiji, I acknowledge we are on unceded Anishinabe Algonquin territory. I do so while representing my riding of Nunavut. I rise to speak to Bill C-321, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding assaults against health care professionals and first responders.

I thank the member for Cariboo-Prince George for tabling his private member's bill. Since I joined this house in 2021, I have observed that the member is passionate about mental health.

The content of Bill C-321 brings forward debate about the circumstances of health care workers and first responders. This amendment, if it passes, would require the courts to consider their position as an aggravating circumstance, therefore possibly impacting sentencing.

What does this mean? It means a few things. First, it means that there has already been a trial and the judge is now considering the length of a sentence according to an offence. In their considerations, the judge must consider both the aggravating and mitigating factors. There exist sentencing principles, including circumstances of the individual, evidence from different facts and similarity to other decisions. Much of these form the consideration in determining how long an offender may be sentenced for.

The other aspects of consideration are the mitigating factors, which are considerations to lower the sentences. These include, for example, if it is a first time offence or if there is an addiction or mental illness. If there are to be any amendments regarding aggravation in sentencing, there should be an equal consideration for mitigating factors.

Addressing violence must be improved. Using the courts is not the right approach. I question the potential effectiveness of this bill in protecting health care professionals and first responders. I question this bill and whether it addresses the increasing incidences in violence that we are told are occurring across Canada.

The criminal justice system in Canada is already flawed. It is a penal system that does not do justice for too many already. Currently, section 269 of the Criminal Code outlines the penalties for causing bodily harm to another person. The penalties can include, for example, imprisonment for up to 10 years, depending on the severity of the offence.

Before I begin the next part of my speech, I must first honour the memory, family and friends who knew Joyce Echaquan.

I struggle with this proposed amendment because there are too many stories like that of Joyce Echaquan's, an Atikamekw woman who livestreamed the abuse she experienced at the hands of hospital staff who should have been there to save her life, not abuse her. Later, it was learned that Joyce Echaquan died of pulmonary edema, an excess of fluid in the lungs. Ultimately, the Quebec coroner’s inquiry concluded that racism contributed to her death.

Joyce Echaquan's story is one of too many. According to the Government of Canada’s website, there are inequalities in health of racialized adults in Canada. The website says, “Racism influences access to health promoting resources. Populations who are racialized in relation to a 'white' or non-racialized social group experience stressors including inter-personal and systemic discrimination throughout the life course”.

In Canada, racialized people are more likely to be exposed as perpetrators in this system. According to the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, among those who were discriminated against, 21% of indigenous people and 16% of Black people said it was when they were dealing with police, compared with 4% of non-indigenous, non-visible minority people who experienced discrimination.

In his debate, the member for Cariboo—Prince George shared that some 92% of nurses have experienced physical violence during the course of their jobs. When I hear this, I hear the need for all of us to work better together to make overall improvements and to address violence as a preventative measure, not as a punitive one.

While I completely agree that health care workers and first responders must have a safer working environment, they, too, must play an active role in creating that safe space. The criminal justice system must not be the go-to for this solution.

I appreciate past attempts in addressing this area, including the work by the NDP. Unfortunately, those past attempts may not have been viewed from a trauma-informed lens. Those past attempts may not have considered that most of them enter the health care and the criminal justice system because of Canada's continued effects of Canada's genocidal policies. I do not disagree that health care professionals are not important. The criminal justice system protects them too. They are not excluded from protections through the criminal justice system.

Health care professionals and first responders can have any kind of reason to enter that workforce. They do so wanting to help people in pain and to help those who need treatment. As a caring field, we hope, as individuals, that all of us would be cared for. However, for racialized Canadians, unfortunately, this is not an automatic assumption.

When the House of Commons committee studied this area and tabled its report, “Violence Facing Health Care Workers in Canada”, I am not sure what contributing factors it explored that might be leading to the increases observed. I do not discredit any of its work, I only ask that there be closer attention paid to how Canada's lack of investment has led to increases in the exposure to these circumstances.

I only ask that there is an acknowledgement of how systemic racism might be perpetuated by accepting the bill before us. It would not address violence in the workplace, which is what the intent of the study tried to address. I would ask this Parliament and this government what they have done to implement the other recommendations made in the standing committee report.

I also highlight the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action, which has offered solutions, including calls to action 18 to 23. I would also remind parliamentarians about the MMIWG calls for justice. I highlight 10.1, which calls for the mandatory training of Crown attorneys, defence lawyers, court staff and all who participate in the criminal justice system.

I will conclude by sharing some quotes.

The Canadian Centre For Justice And Community Safety Statistics states, “Discrimination or victimization based on individual characteristics that are visible parts of identity can also have broader ramifications beyond the individual who is targeted.”

In a CBC article, the Minister of Indigenous Services said, “The systemic racism endured by Indigenous people in Canada's health care system exists because the system was designed that way.... Sadly this is not shocking to me.... Racism is not an accident. The system is not broken. It was created this way. And the people in the system are incentivized to stay the same.”

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2024 / 2 p.m.
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Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, my mother was a nurse, my father was a volunteer firefighter, and I have a son who wants to be a police officer. I have been personally aware of the violence that we are talking about my entire life, so the bill introduced by my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George is very important to me.

Bill C‑321 seeks to amend the Criminal Code to consider the fact that the victim of an assault or an act of violence is a health care worker or a first responder to be an aggravating circumstance.

The Bloc Québécois has amply demonstrated its support for such a measure. It is clear to us that health care workers and all those who work to keep us safe every day must be protected in the line of duty. If their job can be considered an aggravating circumstance during a crime, if it can help to prevent offenders from attacking them, if it can serve as a basis for harsher sentences for offenders or if it can serve to dissuade offenders from committing such acts of violence, then we are in favour of this solution. Although Bill C‑321 is a partial solution, it is solution nonetheless.

I would like to talk about the principle of prevention, which I believe should also be looked at as a primary measure, an essential measure for protecting health care providers and first responders before even considering the rise in assaults that we have seen against them—in the hope that the this rise is only incidental and will not continue any further—or before even talking about aggravating circumstances, as we are currently doing with the study on Bill C‑321. Prevention also has its place.

Like all my other colleagues who have spoken in the House, I think that all workers have the right to work safely. I am talking about the security that protects their physical integrity, but also their mental integrity because violence takes many forms and is not just physical. It might be wishful thinking on my part and on that of my colleagues, but I think that we need to reach for this goal and strive for workplaces that are free from any form of violence. In my opinion and that of the Bloc Québécois, that is the heart of the problem: We need to focus on eliminating all forms of violence instead of just punishing those who commit or perpetuate it.

It is true that eliminating violence is a massive undertaking if we consider, as I just mentioned, that it has been on the rise over the years. Studies show that since the pandemic, it has just kept increasing. The problem has been exacerbated.

I want to share a few figures from the field of health care. I will stick to health. For example, data from the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail, or CNESST, and the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, are unequivocal. They show that 933 assaults or violent acts were committed against health care personnel in 2012 and that 1,994 were reported in 2021 in health care workplaces across Quebec.

I would like to add, as many have, including my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George, that this is just the tip of the iceberg. These are the cases that have been reported. As in many situations of violence, including partner violence, we have the numbers that correspond to what people have been willing to share, but we do not have them all.

We talked about prevention. My colleague also talked about the idea of opening up the discussion, making this subject public. Perhaps putting it in the public arena would make people aware that they have experienced forms of violence. It might also help them report violent incidents. In short, we are seeing a steady increase. In the figures I just mentioned, the numbers have more than doubled in 10 years. That is a massive increase.

I would also like to mention the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, which studied the subject and published a report in 2019, if I am not mistaken, on the issue of violence in health care.

During that study, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions mentioned that 61% of its members who participated in the survey said they had experienced violence. That is just among those who took part in the survey. The percentage may be higher. Still, that is 61% of members who have experienced harassment, assault or violence.

In 2014, 1,676 paramedics responded to a similar survey, and 75% of them reported being victims of violence. In 2010, according to the College of Family Physicians of Canada, one-third of survey participants said they had experienced this kind of violence.

Whether it is one-third, three-quarters or two-thirds, it is too much. My colleague also talked about a case of violence. I would like to share a story that happened when I was younger and has always stayed with me. As I said, my mother was a nurse. Even little kids realize when something is not right. It makes us reflect on this violence in the workplace and on the fact that some jobs may be higher-risk. A nurse was dealing with a patient who was agitated and aggressive and became violent. He decided to kick her. He kicked her in the stomach. This violence was entirely unjustified. The nurse in question was pregnant. She did not lose her baby, but she had to be hospitalized. Guess what? She decided to stop working as a nurse after that incident.

I wanted to put that on the record. All incidents we could describe here are shocking. They amount to gratuitous violence. They may all seem similar in many ways. This story illustrates the impact they can have on people's lives, on their integrity, physical health and mental health. We talked about this earlier. They also have an impact on the profession overall and on society at large. It really is a domino effect. No one is spared the consequences of such violence. As a child aware that her parent was exposed to risks at work, I experienced those consequences myself to some degree.

Although this should not be the only argument, the shortage of health care workers in the sector is a factor worth considering. Health care professionals and first responders have better things to do than worry about their safety on the job. They should not feel that they have to protect themselves, or worry that they might encounter this type of situation. It is hard to promote a profession when we allow violent situations like this to continue. How can we say that we value a profession if we stand idly by while the people who practise it are at risk?

The statistics I quoted are very real. These are the folks who work in our hospitals and suffer the consequences of this violence. Of course, the quality of the environment has an impact on the quality of care. I was talking about prevention earlier. The government has a duty to transfer money to Quebec. That is not the only solution, but when it comes to prevention, we need a properly funded and subsidized environment to be able to give all health care workers a break. Here, again, I am focusing on health care. This is not a justification, but we need to reduce the level of frustration that patients in the health care system are feeling.

I see my time is running out. I think I could talk about this for another 10 minutes. I must have prepared for a 20-minute speech. I am really interested in this issue. All this to say that we support Bill C-321.

I would like to use the last few seconds of my speech to express my deepest gratitude to all health care workers, to those working behind the scenes, and to firefighters and paramedics. I want to thank those who are known as first responders, who do just about everything. I also want to thank our correctional officers, many of whom live on the north shore. I would like to thank them for the work they do. They deserve more than just recognition. They need to be valued, protected and supported, and I will see to that.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2024 / 1:50 p.m.
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Niagara Centre Ontario


Vance Badawey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, first I want to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for bringing the bill forward.

I am honoured to speak to Bill C-321, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to assaults against persons who provide health services and first responders, and to the amendments made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

I also want to thank the committee for its work in developing the bill into a more inclusive and robust legislative measure, one that reflects our collective commitment to the welfare of health care workers and first responders, who put their life on the line each and every day to keep Canadians and our communities safe.

Bill C-321 seeks to address the increase in violence against those who provide health services and against our first responders. It was originally tabled proposing to do so by enacting inclusion of an aggravating factor that would apply to assaults against health care professionals and first responders, as well as cases involving the uttering of threats to the same people.

As a result of its deliberations, the committee concluded that the scope of victims who would be protected by this bill needed to be expanded in recognition of the diversity within our health care services sector. Bill C-321 was amended to replace references to “a health care professional or a first responder” with “a person who provides health services, including personal care services, or a first responder”. This change was made to the proposed aggravating factor, as well as to the preamble and to the title of the bill. This is the same language from Bill C-3, which the Government passed in 2021.

This change in language would ensure that all individuals involved in providing health services, from nurses and doctors to personal care workers, abortion providers and administrative staff, benefit from the same protection against assaults and the uttering of threats while in the performance of their duties.

The committee's amendments also align with the changes brought about by our government's former Bill C-3, which received royal assent in 2021. The amendments ensured that it would be an aggravating factor for any offence of assault or uttering threats to be committed against a person who, in the performance of their duties and functions, was providing health services, including personal care services.

Former Bill C-3 also enacted new offences prohibiting intimidating and obstructing conduct directed at those providing or seeking health services. Bill C-321's proposed changes would expand criminal law measures to include first responders. This reflects our denunciation of workplace violence in these critical sectors, whose workers should never fear for their own safety or feel intimidated as they are coming from and going to work.

The changes are about recognizing the diverse roles of those individuals who contribute to our safety in our health care systems, and about our recognition that they deserve to work in an environment free from the threat of violence. They should never be the target of death threats, whether in person or through social media campaigns designed to intimidate and frighten them, yet this is happening each and every day.

The need for such comprehensive protection is based on the statistics and stories emerging from various sources. For instance, the 2019 report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health revealed that in just one year, 61% of nurses experienced abuse, harassment or assault.

Firefighters and other first responders have also reported an increase in acts of violence during emergency responses. Behind these numbers are real people facing real threats, impacting not only their physical safety but also their mental health and job satisfaction, as well as, may I add, their families and the people close to them, and their neighbourhoods.

Bill C-321's proposed amendment to the Criminal Code signals to the courts that sentences should be increased to further denounce assaults committed against persons who provide health services or who are first responders. It also acknowledges their invaluable service to society, which sometimes makes them vulnerable to violence while carrying out their duties.

Additionally, this bill, with a broader scope, would provide a clearer response to conduct that disproportionately impacts women and particularly racialized women. By extending protection to all health service providers, Bill C-321 also supports the larger goals of promoting gender equality and safeguarding the rights of minority groups.

The available information regarding violence against first responders, while not extensive, clearly indicates that women in these roles face a heightened risk of gender-specific violence, including instances of sexual harassment and assault.

Our first responders and those in health services are working selflessly in the most trying circumstances to save lives and care for critically ill patients. Their commitment to public service often comes at a personal cost, a cost that should not include violence.

I know that the government remains steadfast in its commitment to addressing the serious issue of violence against health service providers and first responders.

Supporting Bill C-321, as amended by the committee, is a demonstration of our commitment to protect the well-being and dignity of those who serve our communities.

I want to note that it is Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week. It is important to note that this legislation, as with the former bill, Bill C-3, will protect abortion providers. We have seen rises in attacks on abortion providers in various parts of the world and we want to avoid that here in Canada.

I am happy to see this bill provide another level of protection to those providers in Canada. Violence affects more than just the physical well-being of first responders and health care workers. It also has lasting consequences on their mental health. The challenges of the pandemic have intensified pre-existing problems, such as burnout and occupational stress injuries, which are often a result of traumatic experiences, including violence and abuse encountered in the workplace. These work conditions influence the decision of these crucial workers to remain in their jobs, and remain serving our communities.

This bill, in its amended form, is part of a broader conversation about how we, as a society, value and protect those who work in challenging and often dangerous environments. It challenges us to think about the kind of support and resources we provide and how to ensure that every worker in Canada can perform their duties without fear of violence or harm.

Let us honour the work of the people who provide health services, including personal care services and first responders, with actions that match their dedication.

We will continue to work to keep all Canadians safe. I urge all members to support Bill C-321 to pass, ensuring that our first responders and health care workers are protected, and that this goes to the Senate for its approval.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2024 / 1:45 p.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I do not think we can say thanks enough to those who put their uniforms on every day knowing full well they are going to experience absolutely the worst of society. They put their uniforms on to serve us and our families. With the increasing rates of violence, they now have to be worried whether they are actually going to be able to return home to their families. Imagine the traumatic toll it takes on someone to worry they are going to be violently attacked over the course of their day when they are just doing their duty, just doing the job they want to do and serving their country. That is what they face each and every day, and it is horrible. We need to pass BIll C-321.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2024 / 1:45 p.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, it is interesting our hon. colleague brings up transit workers and the issue of violence against them when there is legislation in place that does already protect transit workers. Whereas, Bill C-321 needs to be passed to protect those who protect us.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2024 / 1:30 p.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

moved that Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against persons who provide health services and first responders), be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to rise once again in this chamber to speak to a bill that is near and dear to my heart. I rise today to speak on behalf of the hundreds and thousands of brave men and women who are our hometown heroes; they are our nurses, our health care workers, our firefighters, our paramedics, our first responders and our correctional officers.

Bill C-321, an act to amend the Criminal Code, assaults against persons who provide health services and first responders, would amend the Criminal Code by adding section 269.02, which would make an offence against a health care provider or first responder an aggravating factor upon sentencing. Our health care providers and first responders need to be assured that if they are attacked, assaulted or harassed while on the job, there is a strong legal mechanism in place to deliver them justice. As it stands today, that protection simply does not exist.

Bill C-321 would serve three main purposes: one, it would be a powerful deterrent to those who seek to commit violence against our frontline heroes; two, it would signal to frontline workers that we value them, that we are looking out for them and that the justice system will protect them; and three, it would help throw weight behind a national conversation that needs to be had to start making these workplaces safer. To put it more simply, Bill C-321 is about protecting those who protect us. The importance of this legislation cannot be overstated.

Our health care providers and our first responders truly are Canadian heroes. They put their lives and their personal safety on the line each and every day. How many people can say that same? We have fallen far when it is okay to hunt and to target firefighters, who are just trying to save lives; to hunt and to target nurses and paramedics, who are simply trying to provide care to the sick and wounded? These are our frontline heroes, and the reality is that they have to deal with these traumatic occurrences each and every day.

Firefighters, police officers, correctional officers, nurses and doctors put on their uniforms each and very day to serve us and our families. They do so knowing and expecting that they are going to face violence and harassment. They heal our wounds. They run into burning buildings. They run toward danger when others run away. They dedicate their lives to protecting us and those we love: our neighbours, our friends, our families. Who protects them? Right now, there is no one.

Everyone deserves a workplace free from violence and abuse. When one starts a career in health care or as a first responder, one does so to serve one's community and to make a difference. Nowhere in the job description does it say that one should be signing on for a life of violence, abuse and harassment. When did violence in the workplace every become the norm? We cannot tolerate this any longer. We have to act.

Many of our great men and women, nurses and paramedics, firefighters and correctional officers have shared their personal stories with me, and I am sure they have done the same with many of our colleagues as well. We cannot turn on the TV or scroll through social media without seeing yet another story of a violent attack on a paramedic or a nurse.

Recently, I visited a medical facility, and I witnessed the aftermath of a bloody assault on a nurse. It was horrible to see this young nurse absolutely battered. All that nurse was trying to do was to take the temperature of a patient. When I spoke with the supervisor of that particular nurse, I was told that it was the second incident of violence in a month. It is crazy how far we have fallen when our paramedics have to put on bulletproof vests just to start their shifts and to make it through a shift.

When we hear those stories we do not know how to respond. It is difficult to imagine the things they go through. It is hard to hear. What I know is that we need to act. We need to do everything in our power to make a difference in these heroes' lives. Whether they are a nurse, a personal care worker, a paramedic, a firefighter, a correctional officer or a psychiatric nurse who is simply performing their duties, they are all facing increasing rates of violence on a daily basis. We need them to know that they are cherished and that someone is looking out for them. We need them to know that there is somebody who is fighting for them.

We as parliamentarians can be their champions. We have the sole constitutional power to create law, and we must use that power to demonstrate to the world that in Canada, violence perpetrated against health care providers and first responders is unacceptable. We will not stand for it. On the contrary, we will stand firmly against it.

To anyone watching or listening right now, I urge them to go look back at the witness testimony from when Bill C-321 was at the justice committee. Some of the stories these brave paramedics, nurses and firefighters have shared with us were absolutely horrific. I would like to highlight some of the testimony for my colleagues here now.

Testimony from Dr. Elizabeth Donnelly, associate professor at the University of Windsor and a member of the violence in paramedicine research group reads:

Violence against paramedics is wildly under-reported, primarily due to a culture of under-reporting and this idea that tolerating violence has become an expected professional competency.

Violence reporting [has been slowly] increasing, and while it's still under-reported, our research has found that paramedics are reporting violence every 18 hours, are assaulted every 46 hours and experience violence that results in physical harm every nine days.

Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union, said this:

The facts are shocking...In 2023, a pan-Canadian survey of nurses was done. Two-thirds reported incidents of physical assaults over the past year and 40% of those nurses reported physical abuse more than once a month while engaged in their duties.

She also said:

Exposure to violence predicts negative mental health outcomes, including PTSD...78.5% [of nurses] report symptoms of burnout. Similar data is seen with public safety personnel.

Danette Thomsen of the B.C. nurses union said:

What about the nurse in rural B.C. who, last January, entered a female patient's room and was attacked? Can you imagine being held over a chair, receiving punch after punch, with handfuls of your hair being pulled out, while waiting frantically for help to come from the RCMP?

Paul Hills, president of the Saskatoon Paramedics Association and a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters, speaking on the daily experience of paramedics across Canada, said this:

We normally start our 12-hour shift with a team briefing. We check our trucks and then it's go, go, go. We rarely have any breaks. That means no breakfast, no lunch and no supper as compared with the average worker, not to mention all while experiencing some of the most horrific and heart-wrenching situations that exist in society—incidents involving children being stabbed by their parents, or families tragically dying in motor vehicle [accidents].

He went on:

Personally, I've had my life and those of my family threatened by gang members. I've had machetes and knives pulled on me. I've removed guns from patients while attending to their medical needs.

Mr. Hills continued:

In Toronto just two weeks ago, a firefighter attempting to put out a fire in an encampment was attacked with a six-foot piece of PVC piping and hit in the face for no reason whatsoever.

In British Columbia, interactions with overdose patients have become violent or aggressive once we've rendered medical care to save their lives.

In Winnipeg, a firefighter got stabbed in the back while attending to a patient on a sidewalk.

I could spend the rest of the hour sharing real-life events—my partner here could as well—of violent acts or near misses, but the takeaway is that it's real. It's happening right now.

If that is not enough evidence, I am not sure what is, but the violence that our health care providers and first responders face on a daily basis has hidden consequences that go beyond the physical risks. There is a growing body of research showing that increased violence is correlated to higher rates of depression, anxiety, stress, suicidal ideation and burnout.

Critically, exposure to on-the-job violence has been strongly identified with a rising intent to leave the job. We live in a time when we need our health care providers and first responders more than ever, but our nurses, paramedics, firefighters and more are looking to leave their jobs rather than continuing to suffer the abuse they experience. The violence and abuse they constantly face leads to fear, to fatigue and to burnout; and it leads to serious morale and recruitment issues. Why would they not want to leave? How are employers going to recruit somebody with that type of job description, under those conditions? Why should we expect people to keep fighting, day in and day out, for us, with no thanks and no appreciation, if we cannot fight for them?

Our frontline heroes need our support. They need recognition. They need our help. Bill C-321 is the necessary first step to work toward those goals. Many parties have a role to play in addressing this crisis, and those actors and those parties need to step up to the plate. Talk is cheap. As parliamentarians, we are limited in offering solutions, but what we can do we should do. We can do our part by amending the Criminal Code and passing Bill C-321 into law now. I do not think it is a controversial debate. We all want to come together on this in a non-partisan fashion to get things done for our health care providers and our first responders.

We have already heard speeches and witness testimonies that Bill C-321 is complementary to the changes made in the earlier Bill C-3, and we know that Bill C-321 came out of the 2019 HESA recommendations from the report on violence against first responders. We know that the relevant stakeholder groups are overwhelmingly supportive of this legislation. If the status quo on an assault charge were a sufficient deterrent, this debate would be irrelevant, but clearly, as so many witnesses have testified before the justice committee, there is nothing currently in the law that acts as a strong enough deterrent for the increasing rates of violence experienced by health care providers and first responders.

That is why the International Association of Fire Fighters has publicly and vocally supported the legislation, and it is far from the only one. The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, the Paramedic Association of Canada, the Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, the Ontario Paramedic Association, the Paramedic Chiefs of Canada, the Manitoba Association of Fire Chiefs, the Saskatoon Paramedic Association, the British Columbia Nurses' Union and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions have all thrown their considerable weight behind this bill. It is imperative that we listen to what these stakeholders are telling us. They are asking us for help, and they are asking us to work toward a solution together.

There are countless regional, provincial, national and international organizations that have come on board, and we know that the Canadian public is highly supportive of this initiative as well, as was reported from an Abacus Data poll conducted in November, which showed that 83% of Canadians support making assault against health care providers and first responders a more serious offence in the Criminal Code.

We must take this first step toward showing our frontline heroes that we hear them, that we are here for them, that we value them immensely, that we will always have their backs, that we appreciate them and that we will fight to protect them. That is our duty. Our health care providers and our first responders need to know that Parliament, the House of elected officials and, more important, the justice system have their backs and will not let them slip through the cracks any longer.