moved that Bill C-239, an act respecting the decade of the brain, be read the second time and referred to committee.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today.
I am pleased to introduce debate on Bill C-239, a bill that would declare the 1990s the decade of the brain. First, I would like to recognize and thank all the individuals and organizations that have since early in the decade assisted in this legislative endeavour.
The legislation I am speaking on today is the duplicate of a private member's bill introduced in 1992 by the previous member of Parliament for Niagara Falls. Private members' bills can take a number of years before they are debated in the House.
Given that we are already in 1994, members may ask what the purpose of the bill is and what will be accomplished by declaring the 1990s the decade of the brain.
My response is that the legislation will help to raise the awareness of Canadians and will help to focus attention on the prevention, research, treatment and rehabilitation of brain related diseases and disorders. I believe this to be a worthwhile, rewarding goal, as do many of my hon. colleagues.
We only have to look at numerous examples in the world community to see this is an important issue worthy of our attention as legislators. In 1986 at the 39th world health assembly, the World Health Organization called on member states to apply preventive measures with regard to mental, neurological and psychological disorders and to include these activities in their long term health strategies.
In 1991 Dr. Nakajima, director general of the World Health Organization, urged all governments to designate the 1990s as the decade of the brain. Our neighbours to the south did this in 1990. In 1992 the member states of the European community followed suit, forming an ad hoc task force.
The World Federation of Neurology proclaimed the 1990s to be the decade of the brain in 1992. As we speak, researchers from my riding are gathering with over 12,000 other professionals in Miami to discuss among other subjects advances made in the decade of the brain.
They have expressed to me their support of the bill before the House. Treatments that would have seemed miraculous 10 years ago are now reality and are being applied successfully. We can now look to a day when new drugs may free patients from their struggle with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Regeneration research is providing new expectations, new hopes for patients with spinal cord and various other brain injuries. In every riding in Canada research efforts and treatments continue, utilizing more and more advanced and ground breaking technology. In my own riding of London West a young scientist has recently commenced a new research project focusing on brain functioning. Currently magnetic resonance imaging shows brain anatomy clearly. Functional magnetic resonance imaging will allow us to view the working brain and will help map out the centres concerned with such aspects as speech and motor activity.
There is no doubt the human brain is a remarkable feature that distinguishes us from other living creatures. A mere 3-pound mass of interwoven neurons controls all our activities. The brain is the most complex and mysterious wonder of creation. It has been called the seat of human intelligence, the interpreter of senses, the keeper of memory, in essence the sanctum of the soul.
Ailments of the brain carry with them heart rending disabilities that can rob us of the very essence of personhood. A healthy mind is essential for living a full life with total liberty and independence. A great threat to the independence of the elderly are diseases of the brain. Cognitive mental stability enhances the ability to heal and recuperate, to cope and to overcome physical ailments.
Unfortunately like all things human the brain is not perfect, being subject to injury and disease, including the time of development in the youngest members of society. Diseases are
not limited by geographical borders. Nor do they recognize any difference in language, gender, race or economic status. Any human being in the world community is a potential victim of a brain related illness.
I would be very surprised if any member of the House had not been personally affected by such diseases and disorders. All of us have had a friend, relative or family member who has suffered the tragedy of brain related illness. At the beginning of the decade it was estimated that five million Canadians were affected by disorders of the brain ranging from congenital malformations, degenerative disorders, neurogenetic disorders, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and stroke, to problems with learning, hearing, language and speech.
I have been encouraged by the numerous physicians, individuals and associations that have given me support to work for the recognition of the decade of the brain. I am aware of many who fought for this long before I was involved. Many of these people devoted their careers to the treatment and elimination of brain related illnesses. Designating the 1990s as the decade of the brain would be an acknowledgement of their contributions and an encouragement for them to continue with their noble crusade.
Studying the brain has enormous potential for the health of Canadians, while decreasing the severe economic and emotional burdens placed on our society by brain disease and disorder. In efforts to see the legislation proclaimed, I have also been contacted by people who are right now directly affected, sometimes tragically. I have received scores of letters from parents whose children have died or are dying of brain tumours.
I have listened to people faced with the difficult task of caring for loved ones who suffer from brain disorders. There is more eloquence in their private struggles with adversity, more eloquence in their challenges and their grief than I could ever hope to bring to the Chamber today. It is because of these people that I encourage members to lend their support to the bill.
In 10 minutes it is impossible to speak on the full scope of the problems in research. I would like to highlight two forms of brain related illnesses as well as their effects.
Today over one-quarter of a million Canadians suffer from Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. By the year 2030 it is estimated that this figure will have increased to over three-quarters of a million. The social and human costs of Alzheimer's disease are devastating. A person's ability to understand, think, remember and communicate is affected. The process is always a progressive degenerative one that means the formerly self-reliant men and women slowly become dependent upon others.
The disease has a similarly devastating impact on the caregivers who are often family members. Family members must cope with long periods of emotional, financial and physical stress. Hence we see that the health and well-being of the family members become just as important a concern as that of the person with the disease.
Each year thousands of Canadians are diagnosed with a primary or secondary brain tumour. Since brain tumours are located at the various control centres of thought, emotion and physical function, they can cause serious impairment in motor functions, vision and language abilities and make treatment very difficult.
In 1982 in my home of London, the Brain Research Laboratory was established with both experimental and clinical research units. The Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada was also a founding member of the North American Brain Tumour Coalition, a network of brain tumour organizations dedicated to increasing public awareness of the nature of the brain tumour and of the availability of treatment options.
London has also seen the establishment in 1991 of the brain tumour tissue bank which acts as an international resource from which researchers from Canada, the United States and other nations are able to obtain tissue samples to carry out experiments.
Brain tumours were highlighted in the bill not because they are any more or less important than any other disorder or disability, but rather it was an association that I was involved with at the time when work began on the bill. I have also had some insight through other areas of my previous work into the devastation that mental illness can play in antisocial, violent acts. I can think of no other aspect of our criminal justice and health systems where everyone involved is a victim.
Measures can be taken to facilitate even more effective sharing of knowledge, information and resources to accelerate the research for effective prevention and treatment of brain related illnesses. Canadians must recognize the relationship between the health of the brain and the well-being and quality of life of individuals. Brain related illnesses exact a tremendous toll in human suffering, often during the most productive years in a person's life.
I have mentioned previously the effects that this can have on the individual and his or her immediate circle of family and friends. However we must acknowledge the tremendous financial cost of such illnesses.
Dr. John Evans in the November 1994 Flavelle lecture at the University of Western Ontario stated that neurological diseases require more people to be hospitalized than any other disease group and therefore consume a disproportionate share of scarce health resources. He stated that the staggering burden of the cost of treatment and rehabilitation is estimated to be approximately $300 billion annually for the United States and Canada. In the area of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia alone Cana-
dians spend approximately $3.3 billion a year providing care for afflicted individuals.
This debate should not be reduced to dollars and cents. To do so is to cheapen the humanity of all involved in the issue. We are talking about the health and happiness of our children, our parents, our friends, our partners and ourselves. No one can go through their lives untouched by brain related illnesses. We all age eventually and our independence will be linked to our physical and mental health.
I stated at the beginning of the speech that the legislation would help to raise the awareness of Canadians and would help focus attention on the importance of the research in this critical medical field. I am seeking approval today of an acknowledgement of that fact and action that will benefit Canadians today and into the future.