Mr. Speaker, I want to sincerely thank my colleague for her question. I know she cares about this deeply, as we all do.
It is a terrible disease that affects mostly young adults or is most often diagnosed in young adults, aged 15 to 40. Thousands of Canadians are currently affected by this debilitating disease and we probably all know someone. I know I do.
The disease does not just impact the patients. It also affects families, friends and colleagues and can take an emotional toll on all those surrounding the patient.
Many patients, as was said, obviously face difficulties at work as the disease can affect vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility, making it often impossible to continue active life in the workplace.
That is why the Government of Canada, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, has provided over $49 million in funding to date on MS research. CIHR has provided substantial funding to neurosciences and stem cell research, with many research initiatives focusing on MS.
CIHR also funds a great deal of research in related areas such as vascular disease.
All of these investments are building our overall understanding of multiple sclerosis toward more effective treatment and ultimately a cure.
One of the numerous research initiatives supported by CIHR is that of Dr. Brenda Banwell from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Dr. Banwell's research team has focused much of its research on the effects that MS has on the developing brain. It is trying to determine whether childhood MS attacks can create lasting deficits. So far, Dr. Banwell's research has revealed that 40% to 50% of children with MS have some cognitive difficulties, particularly when it comes to multi-tasking and accessing short-term memories.
Dr. Banwell also hopes that the research at the SickKids clinic can help untangle the complicated interaction of genetic and environmental factors that potentially cause MS.
The House of Commons subcommittee has heard many different witnesses debate the merits of the recently developed chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI, treatment brought forward by Italian researcher, Dr. Paolo Zamboni.
It should be noted, however, that just a week and a half ago, at an MS conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, Dr. Zamboni himself indicated very clearly that more research is needed before patients proceed with surgery.
The Minister of Health and CIHR's president, Dr. Alain Beaudet, have been publicly encouraging researchers to submit applications to CIHR funding programs.
In addition, through CIHR's Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction and CIHR's Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, the government has been consulting the research community on Canada's strengths and how to best contribute to the international effort to improve treatment of MS and evaluate CCSVI.
On October 19, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research announced the establishment of a working group of eminent scientists to review evidence and advise on a clinical trial. The first meeting is currently being planned for later this fall.
The government is committed to working with the provinces and territories to responsibly accelerate this scientific research. If the research shows that clinical trials are both appropriate and advisable, the government will work with the provinces and territories to ensure that they are fully funded.
Meanwhile, Health Canada and CIHR will continue to work with the MS Society of Canada to advance safe, evidence-based research and innovation on this devastating disease.