Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate our colleague who brought forward this motion. I would remind the House that we have debated this idea of an awareness month, which would be the month of May, on several occasions. If memory serves me well, last May the New Democratic Party proposed a motion to that effect.
I wish members of the government majority would have been just as enthusiastic about that motion. I wish they would have been just as enthusiastic when we studied the Krever report.
Members will recall that, after three years of inquiry, the first recommendation made by the Krever commission, which had the status of a royal commission, was that all hepatitis C victims would receive compensation regardless of when they contracted the disease.
We know the government agreed to compensate those hepatitis C victims who became contaminated through blood transfusions, but only between 1986 and 1990. Thousands of Canadians were ignored, particularly those who contracted the disease before 1986 or after 1990.
It is rather shameful that, despite a royal commission, despite representations made by several groups, despite the support of all opposition parties in this House and despite the fact that three provinces, namely Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, have put in place their own compensation schemes, the federal government has not yet followed up on the recommendation contained in the Krever report.
Is that not the role of the government? The government said that it did not have access to the kind of testing that would have enabled it to detect the presence of the virus. However when such a tragedy hits someone--and we know there are different levels of hepatitis C--and it is the result of a blood transfusion, which is a public responsibility, is it not the role of the government to compensate these people and to help them get through such ordeal?
The fact is that hepatitis C is affecting increasing numbers of people. Each year, year in and year out, between 8,000 and 10,000 people acquire hepatitis C, but only 25% to 30% of them are aware of it. These people could be made a bit more aware of precautions to be taken. They might be provided with health care and be able to eventually come to grips with this new reality in their lives.
When we say that only 25% to 30% of people are aware they are hepatitis C carriers, this means that 70% are not. With this disease, there must be a clear differentiation between those who are symptomatic and asymptomatic, those who are contagious and those who are not. That is why the whole matter of prevention and awareness is so important.
Most certainly, there is not much funding available. Reference has been made to $15 million for the five components of Canada's hepatitis C policy. Fifteen million is most certainly very little, considering the significance of the disease.
True, this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Hepatitis A has been known about for some years, and hepatitis B for several decades, but it was only in the early 1970s that we were able to understand the entire symptomology of hepatitis C, to understand its origins and to have a clearer medical and clinical picture of this medical reality.
Once again, we are in agreement with the principle of having an awareness month.
We want this awareness to involve all the partners, including the Government of Canada, because it has a responsibility in epidemioliogy and in certain research programs, the provinces, naturally, because they are the primary health care providers, and we must not forget, the various community groups.
In each of our communities, there are groups comprised of volunteers, people who assume responsibilities on boards or who, by providing volunteer support to others who are infected, can provide real comfort.
So a real battle, real hepatitis C awareness, involves a partnership between the governments, federal and provincial, and the various community groups and public bodies, such as CLSCs, hospitals and all care providers.
We will therefore vigorously support this motion. I hope that next May we will have a real public awareness campaign. I also hope that, in the short term, the government will really follow up on the Krever commission and that it will act on its first recommendation and ensure that those who need financial support, or drugs, may find comfort in the federal government, which has the means of its policies and that, as the first recommendation of the Krever report proposes, we may have a compensation plan without regard to chronology.