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Evidence of meeting #29 for Health in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was purple.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Iris Elliott  Executive Director, Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia
Aurore Therrien  Member of the Board Directors, Executive Director, Épilepsie Montréal Métropolitain, Canadian Epilepsy Alliance
Sarah Ward  As an Individual

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

Mr. Lizon, you may go ahead.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, witnesses, for coming here this morning.

Actually, I would like to make a few comments on epilepsy in the workplace. I hear that some people are afraid to admit they have epilepsy, but we have to realize.... I supervise people, some of whom have epilepsy. It's very important that the employer know if a person has the condition, especially when the person performs work that can endanger him or her and others around them. It's very important that it be known, because if they have a seizure, it may be very dangerous for themselves and for others.

I have a very interesting point about silent seizures that I didn't know about, but my wife, who works with special needs kids, told me. A girl in her class has to be watched very carefully to see that she doesn't choke. I didn't know that existed.

I have a question: what suggestions do you have for training people to deal with seizures? I was trained in high school; it was part of the curriculum, among other things, as first aid in different cases. How would you suggest that we not only raise awareness, but train people properly to deal with cases of seizure?

9:25 a.m.

Member of the Board Directors, Executive Director, Épilepsie Montréal Métropolitain, Canadian Epilepsy Alliance

Aurore Therrien

I think it has to be done very simply. Actually, most seizures last only a few seconds and need very little intervention. What is much more important, as the hon. member said, is the attitude of people in the vicinity. That is what we work on most. Educating people is an important aspect of the work we do with associations. We have to educate people in the workplace, the people responsible for others.

When someone is having a seizure, the reaction counts for a lot. The person having the seizure is very vulnerable. You have to make sure that the person has fully regained consciousness, and not let them go if they have not completely recovered. The seizures and the recovery periods vary from person to person. It is probably important to train employees. In my opinion, companies that do so are already showing how open they are. The people with epilepsy working in those companies are affected, but also the people around them, or who spend time in public areas. I think that that is part of the education.

This year, we have a little card that gives clear explanations. I have some here. We give them out everywhere. Part of our approach to education is to provide a description of the first aid, of what to do in case of a seizure. It is very simple. This little card tells you everything you need.

Simply put, action and reaction are crucial.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

If you want to ask some more questions, you have about another minute.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

I would like to thank Mr. Regan for the introduction of this bill. It's very important that people be educated, because part of the reason people react in certain ways is that they don't know any better. That's why it's very important that people get educated and not get scared if they ever witness a seizure. That's my comment.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

Very good.

We'll now go to Dr. Fry.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I want to thank Mr. Regan for bringing this bill forward. I also want to congratulate him on the beautiful purple tie he's wearing today. He always has great ties, but today's is really stunning.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

Dr. Fry, don't you think he should have brought one for all of us? I'm just asking.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Yes, he should have, or a shirt or something like that.

Colin asked a question about children under 5. In fact, 50% of cases of epilepsy actually occur in early childhood or adolescence, with the majority within the first few months of life, which is a very high incidence. Then about 25% occur after age 60, which may be the result of little strokes, but no one really knows. Also, of course, in a huge number of cases, nobody knows the cause. Quite often, fevers will cause it in children. Sometimes a little bit of an injury during delivery can cause it, and then it will go away and won't remain with them.

With regard to the workplace, I don't know the percentage of people in the workplace who actually tell their employers, but I think Mr. Lizon was right in stressing that when we educate, it is especially important to educate employers. Because of the stigma and because people are afraid they won't be hired, they won't say it, yet if you are operating machinery or driving a bus or a car, or if you are an airline pilot, people need to know if you have epilepsy. Even though a lot of seizures are controlled, they're not necessarily cured, so they can occur at any time. We know there are triggers that may cause seizures; if you happen to be driving a vehicle, flashing lights coming at you can sometimes trigger a seizure.

This is really important. I can't say enough about how important this bill is, because the first thing is to de-stigmatize, but the second thing is that we also need to explain to people what the issue is and what to do when you have a seizure.

As a physician, I've seen people with seizures. I remember coming out of the lobby of a hotel about two years ago; a young man was standing talking to someone, and in the next moment he was on the ground having a seizure. I was just coming out of the elevator. All kinds of people were running to him, and they were trying to hold him down, which of course is the worst thing to do, and then they were asking if anybody had anything to stick in his mouth to keep his tongue from going.... They had all of those old-fashioned myths about what you're supposed to do, all of which can actually do more harm than good.

It's really important to deal with this issue. I'm glad to see that it was a young woman who started this movement and had the courage to move on it.

There is one thing that I wanted to ask. I didn't know if Madame Therrien might have the answer, or Dr. Ward.

Are you Dr. Ward yet?

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

She's soon to be, or eventually.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Okay. Let's pretend you're Dr. Ward.

9:30 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Here's the question. I know that brain injury can be one of the trigger causes. Does anyone know what the percentage is of persons with epilepsy as a result of brain trauma, of acquired brain injury due to some sort of head trauma? Do we know what that percentage is?

9:30 a.m.

Member of the Board Directors, Executive Director, Épilepsie Montréal Métropolitain, Canadian Epilepsy Alliance

Aurore Therrien

No, I do not know the exact percentage of people who have suffered brain trauma as a result of traffic accidents, workplace accidents, and so on.

We know that about 30% of people with epilepsy have more acute, more refractory seizures. We know that these refractory, more acute forms of epilepsy can in some cases be caused by underlying conditions such as brain problems related not only to accidents but also to infectious diseases in infancy. The percentage is about 30%, but I cannot tell you the exact number of people. That would be something important to consider.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Thank you.

That's actually—

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

Ms. Elliott, did you have a comment to make on this particular question that Dr. Fry asked?

9:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia

Iris Elliott

I don't have any statistics. The people I know either just had it happen to them or were born with it, but in a significant number it is a result of trauma. We can find that information and make sure Dr. Fry has it.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

If you send it to the clerk, I will make sure that everybody gets a copy.

9:35 a.m.

Executive Director, Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia

Iris Elliott

Yes, we'll do that.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

Thank you.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

That's an important question. It was asked of me by the Brain Injury Association of Canada. The cause is preventable, mainly because if we had appropriate CSA-approved helmets, we could prevent what we now know are concussions that go on and on as people play a sport—they ski, toboggan, or whatever. They think they may be protected by current helmets on the market, but we now know those helmets could be as useful as wearing a toque for the amount of protection they give.

I know we've seen it in the case of Sidney Crosby when we've looked at hockey. Everyone used to think it was machismo not to wear a helmet, and we now know that this is a preventable injury. We know acquired brain injury has something to do with Alzheimer's. I do know that it is one of the etiological factors in epileptic seizures.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

Thank you so much.

We're just about out of time, Dr. Fry, so I think I'll go to Mr. Brown and Mr. Strahl. You're sharing your time, I understand. We'll begin with Mr. Brown.

February 16th, 2012 / 9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Thank you.

As some of the other questions have said, Geoff, this bill is a great idea and I thank you for putting it forward. I think of Jeffrey White, who runs the local epilepsy chapter in my riding and has done some great work fundraising for epilepsy. I look forward to voting in favour of this bill on his behalf. I know you are a fellow hockey player; Jeffrey did a hockey fundraiser in Barrie to help raise awareness. Obviously, this bill will raise awareness, and that's why it's helpful.

Is there anything you wanted to add about the benefits of this bill that you haven't been able to mention so far in your allocated time?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Chair, I don't think so, but since Mr. Brown has mentioned our mutual enjoyment of hockey, I want to tell you that we obviously do wear helmets when we play. I'm sad to say that Mr. Brown gives the Conservative team a big advantage. I can recall the last time we played. I thought I had a two-on-oh; the other player and I were racing toward the net, when out of the blue from behind me, at some incredible speed, came Mr. Brown, and took the puck away. I did manage to get a couple of goals in that game, I think, but he usually scores a bunch, a handful of goals.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joy Smith

Mr. Brown, do you have anything epilepsy-related?