Evidence of meeting #52 for Health in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was ptsd.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

No. Time is up.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Kang.

May 4th, 2017 / 11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Darshan Singh Kang Liberal Calgary Skyview, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I may be sharing time with Mr. Lightbound, if I have some left.

Mr. Doherty, I want to congratulate you and thank you for your passion for the victims of PTSD. Thank you for bringing this bill forward. When you talk about PTSD and mental health issues and about the victims, I have personal experience. I'm dealing with a person with a mental health illness, and that's my better half. I've been dealing with this since 1979. I have the first-hand experience. With regard to people who are suffering from PTSD, I know what kind of hell they are going through. I'm still tragically dealing with this. I get emotional when I talk about what I have gone through and what I am going through.

I congratulate you on this. I've always said that our first responders, RCMP, police, people working on the front lines, should be treated better. I'm sorry to say that our veterans, our first responders—RCMP, police, you name it—haven't been given the treatment they should have had. I think they should receive gold-plated treatment, because they give so much to the community and to the country. I congratulate you for bringing this bill.

I will start where Mr. Davies left off. Because we are a diverse country, a multicultural country, different communities look at PTSD or mental illness differently. They have different approaches. They respond to mental health issues differently, including PTSD. I ask what steps we can take to ensure that any federal framework, including for indigenous people, for everybody else, can be broadened so that we can cover a lot more communities or different cultures under your bill.

Should we include the Department of Canadian Heritage? What else can you think of? You could have an approach where, once and for all, everybody is looked after under your bill. Have you given any thought to other...?

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

First off, I want to thank our honourable colleague for sharing his personal story. The biggest thing around mental health is the stigma attached to mental health, whether it's a family member, a colleague, or the person who is suffering at the time, to be able to say that they're sick or to admit that a loved one is sick and struggling with mental health injuries.

Through you Mr. Chair, I just want to say thank you to our colleague.

Our bill is about getting our ministers around the table so that they can design and develop a national framework with respect to PTSD and mental health injuries. It was our intent that they could decide the scope and who would be involved in that. There's a lot of discussion that has gone on over the last year, lots of groups we have met with over the last year as well, after writing the legislative report and putting our bill forward.

What this bill will do today, if passed, is mandate those ministers mentioned to convene a meeting and to build that national framework. Who's involved in that and that scope is up to them.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Darshan Singh Kang Liberal Calgary Skyview, AB

Bill C-211 relates to PTSD, while the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security examines operational stress injuries, which includes PTSD, as well as anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Have you considered broadening the scope of the bill to include OSIs more broadly, rather than just focusing on PTSD?

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

That's a great question, and it goes back to my earlier answer that there's much that we've learned even in the last year or in the 16 months or so after tabling our bill. Is it OSI? Is it PTSD? Is it a public safety officer? Is it a first responder? That's the reality, and that's why this bill is so important. It will develop a consistent terminology, a consistent diagnosis, a consistent treatment from one end of our country to another. Is it PTSI? A lot of people don't like the term “disorder”. The reality is that an occupational stress injury is what happens when you experience traumatic events, and a post-traumatic stress disorder is a symptom and a result of an occupational stress injury. We need to look at a lot of different things with regard to terms. PTSD is but one. Another term we use is “mental health injuries”.

Again, that's not for me to decide. As we move forward, I think we need to first have a mandate and a piece of legislation that then will allow our ministers to really dig in with their provincial and territorial colleagues, and with academics and industry as well. I think it's really important that we have people coming in with our ministers, if we're able to get this bill passed. The first step, with all due respect, is getting this passed to a point where we can then, as a House, mandate those ministers to get to work doing this.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Your time is up, Mr. Kang.

We'll now move to our five-minute sessions, starting with Mr. Webber.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Doherty, for all the work you've done on this bill and for your passion and dedication. It's really inspiring. Yes, we absolutely need a national framework on PTSD. I can't agree more. We all have family we worry about who serve, whether as first responders or in the military.

I have a 21-year-old nephew who just joined the U.S. Marines. He's a private first class. I went to his graduation down in San Diego about eight months ago. Now he's in the infantry division, waiting to be shipped off and stationed somewhere. I'm worried like hell about this young guy. I have a future son-in-law who is now a major with the British forces. He is in the heat of the action in Mosul right now, in Iraq. He's training Iraqi soldiers to go out and fight ISIS. I worry like crazy about him as well.

It is quite emotional for the family. We're worried, and we hope that when they return home, they do have timely access to any resources that are out there. So I can't thank you enough for pushing this forward.

With respect to the United States and Britain and such, have you any idea what other jurisdictions or other countries are doing with their warriors, their veterans, their first responders with respect to the effects of PTSD?

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

That's a great question, and I really appreciate your comments. There are countries that are actually leading the way in some sense. Australia has some great programs, and they are moving forward with theirs. I think the U.S. is struggling, as we are as well, although there are pockets within the U.S. that are doing some great work. I'll use a stat that I learned over the last year. Twenty-two veterans a day—and that's what we know—commit suicide in the U.S. It's unacceptable.

There are things that we need to do moving forward, and that's an opportunity for us here. I can tell you we've received messages from Australia applauding us, and I received a note from a gentleman who is in the British SAS just earlier this week who was applauding our bill. The world is watching. It's crazy that we're having that impact, being seen as a country legislating something, hopefully legislating something forward and putting those dollars in place.

I think it's really important for us around this table, and I think I've said before, to recognize that there is a price for freedom. Freedom isn't free, and it oftentimes comes at a human cost. We have brave men and women who are experiencing human tragedy and horrific events every day, whether it's in their service to their country or their service to their community. It impacts us all differently. The average individual will experience one or two traumatic events in their lifetime, but a police officer will experience up to 900 traumatic events in the term of their service.

I can't imagine. We hear all the time that we have these young, brave men and women who are coming back. The face of our veterans has changed. We only need to look in the House, and we have veterans there in their thirties. The veterans no longer are the Korean War veterans, the World War II, and the World War I, but we have youngsters that are coming back in their twenties, and they're dealing with it.

Canada can lead the way in that. We can learn the best practices that are out there. We have great groups even within this room. The Badge of Life and Tema Conter are doing some incredible work right here in Canada. We have the University of Regina and SFU doing some incredible work, but there's no coordinated effort, and there's no coordinated funding for this. That's why we have people who are slipping through, and that's why countries are seeing it too.

Canada can take an opportunity to really be a leader on this.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you.

Ms. Sidhu.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Doherty. You're doing a very good job on this bill. It's mental health awareness month, too. I know our Minister Philpott announced $5 million, which is great work our government has done.

Mental health is certainly an important issue for our government, as I said. I have had many meetings with stakeholders like CMHA, Canadian Counselling, the Physiotherapists Association, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and many more.

Can you please tell us which stakeholders you have met with?

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

I think the stakeholder list would be quite substantial, but we've met with those groups as well. We can supply you with the stakeholder list, if you'd like, but we have met with all of those and more.

In building this, we've spent a lot of time meeting with stakeholder groups that are mentioned even within this bill and those that are outside of the bill.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Did you meet with some youth associations or youth members because PTSD is also—

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

With all due respect, we didn't. We met with those that are part of this bill, primarily veterans, military, first responders, as well as health care professionals.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

When you met with those stakeholders, were they in support of this bill as it is, or did they have any alternative suggestions that you didn't include? Did they have any suggestions?

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Yes. There have been suggestions put forward after the fact, after we tabled our bill.

Again, it is not up to me to design what the look of this is. My message to them is always the same. It is that getting a piece of legislation through that mandates our ministers to get around the table to develop the scope and the intent of their mental health initiatives is really what the intent of this bill is, as well as making sure that we don't lose another first responder or another veteran or military member, and that we're providing the care and attention they need when and where they need it, whether it's on the east coast or the west coast, or wherever we can.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

What kinds of outcomes do you expect from the conference on PTSD? What are your comments?

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

I expect to see a national framework developed out of that. Our bill also mandates that we have an annual conference and discussion and that within five years the minister will come before the House and give an update on how this program has moved forward.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Do you think there are any research gaps? Have you noticed any research gaps? Have you noticed anything?

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

It's interesting that you should bring that up, because we had a number of academics in the public safety committee meeting who are far smarter than I am and who presented differing views in their study of PTSD and mental health injuries.

The one that I challenged the most was—I can't remember the name of the gentleman—the rule of the thirds. He said that 30% of those who are suffering with PTSD will recover 100%, and 30% will have an okay life; they'll be able to have a day-to-day life. He also said that 30% of them we're going to lose, regardless of what we do, so I took exception to that.

That was my first committee meeting, by the way, Mr. Chair. I took exception to that and took the whole seven minutes to grandstand and challenge this gentleman. I said that with all due respect, regardless of the letters that are behind the gentleman's name, a mental health injury—PTSD—is a traumatic brain injury. Much the same as alcoholism, you cannot erase that. You can be recovering for many, many years. You cannot erase those images from somebody. You can't simply hit reset.

On the fact that he said 30% are going to recover 100%, I challenged him on that, because at any given time there could be a smell, a sight, a sound, or even a colour that brings with it a flashback and could trigger an attack. He admitted it. You're right, he said, that's true.

There are gaps, and that's why this bill is so important. It's so we can get consistent care and diagnosis. As we all know, our health care funding and our direction come from the federal government. We need to make sure that we're mandating this for our provincial and territorial legislators and providing funds for research.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Your time is up. Thanks very much.

Ms. Harder.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you very much.

Mr. Doherty, thank you for the work you've done on this. You have done phenomenal work. Thank you for all the stakeholders who you've taken the time to reach out to and the stories you've taken an interest in.

Here's my first question for you. You've explained a bit about why you pursued this piece of legislation, this bill, but I'm wondering if you can expand on that. Why is it such a passion for you to move this forward?

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

No, I'm not going to.... Yes, I will. It's a very real and personal issue for us. I've stood in the House, and people know already that I worked with at-risk youth and at-risk adults in the late 1980s, in suicide counselling and in crisis intervention. Over the course of my lifetime, I counselled those who were having troubles. I've sat across the way with family members of those who don't see any option other than committing suicide, ending the battle. I've sat with family members who are asking why and whether there was something more that they could have done. You see, suicide is a pretty final task, and in my opinion, it's a selfish task, because those who are left behind are left wondering why. But those who are in the thick of their fog can't see any light beyond what is bothering them that day. Mental health injuries are all-encompassing and they don't enable those who are struggling with them the ability to see the light.

Without going into any more details than that, it is seeing those around us, whether in my community, whether in death by cop as we've seen, whether it is colleagues who have had friends or family members who have taken their lives, or whether it's just the personal experience of there being those who have ended their lives. As Mr. Davies mentioned, it's shameful that it's taken this long to actually have a coordinated plan in place. That's why I put so much emphasis on this. I've been working on this for three years. There was no guarantee that I would ever get the nomination for the Conservative Party in my riding. There was no guarantee that I'd win the election in 2015. But I knew that, given the opportunity, I wanted to try to move mountains and leave that legacy of action.

I think we've done some good work to this point. All we've done at this point though, really, is to create more hope, and I think we can do better.

Noon

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

You used the phrase “all we've done at this point is to create hope”. What would you hope this bill would accomplish? At the end of the day, if you could have your dream come to fruition, what would that look like? What would this bill accomplish on the other side after it had passed through the House?

Noon

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Ultimately, I would hope that it would be just like Mental Health Week and the Bell Let's Talk. Our colleague down the way, whether it is a first responder, whether it is a veteran, whether it is a military member, whether it's a nurse, whether it is a sexual assault victim, whether it is somebody suffering from a mental health injury, would know that they could come forward, and through the course of our discussion today and the work that ultimately will fall out of this, we could break that stigma and say, “You're not weak.” Those who are suffering would know that they're not alone and that they can ask for help and that when they ask for help, they will be believed and the help that they require will be there, and there would be the capacity for us to make sure that nobody takes their life.

Whether it is a first responder or a six-year-old on a first nations reserve, mental health and suicide are very real issues. I think what we're doing today is making sure we're having that conversation and providing the resources for all those who need them.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Time's up.

Dr. Eyolfson.