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House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was illness.

Topics

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will start with the last question first.

In terms of best practices, that is exactly what the motion today and Bill C-300 speak to, the fact that we do not know what all those best practices are. There are many groups doing excellent work. By having a central repository as well as the coordination of research and statistics we will do a better job of that.

I applaud the work of our government in funding the Mental Health Commission of Canada. In addition, it has provided the aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy with $75 million in funding over a five-year period I believe it is. There are 150 community-based projects that are being funded.

I must clarify that not all suicides are a result of mental health issues. People working in the field of suicide have underlined this fact. We must not miss this public health aspect and need to address that in our suicide prevention strategy with a desire to move forward on those issues.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will follow up on my colleague's last comments which clarify the issue of there being suicides that are related to mental illness and then another swathe of suicides.

When we look at the suicide epidemic--and “epidemic” is a horrific word to use in connection with suicide but I do not know what other word to use--in first nation communities, we must look at children in communities like Kashechewan who experience feelings of hopelessness. When I visited Attawapiskat and Fort Albany I spoke with children in grades 3 and 4 who said they were giving up hope. That is a staggering indictment.

We have seen a slate of suicides in northwestern Ontario where young people have been forced to go to school because there are no schools in their communities. They just disappear. They are missing for days, weeks and months. It seems as if there is a black hole.

What would my hon. colleague suggest to the first nation youth who are falling through the cracks at an astounding rate? What steps are needed to ensure that when a first nation child is in need, that child is not just left to die?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize that the government can do a lot in those situations. We have invested a lot of resources not just in terms of bricks and mortar but also in terms of personnel to help in that regard.

The primary thing we can do is offer hope and opportunity, especially economic opportunity, to these first nation communities that have often been left out of the loop. We can provide meaningful jobs for them so that the leader of the home, whether it be the husband or wife, can provide for their children.

The other aspect of the aboriginal question that I raised this morning when my colleague from the Liberal Party spoke is to recognize the importance of the spiritual aspect of suicide prevention as well. We talk about the psychological, physiological and biological aspects. However, too often in this chamber we are afraid to address the very real benefit of that spiritual foundation, regardless of what faith that is. For me it is my Christian faith. To allow these people to embrace that part of their culture as well is an important piece of this puzzle of suicide prevention.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Malpeque.

I want to commend the hon. member for Toronto Centre and the leader of my party for showing such vision, wisdom, compassion and humanity by making the urgent need for our government to establish a national suicide prevention strategy the topic of today's debate on this Liberal opposition day in the House of Commons.

I also want to commend all my colleagues who have contributed to this debate by sharing their accounts and allowing us to better grasp and understand this troubling problem, the scourge that is suicide. I would like in particular to acknowledge the very moving speech by the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood who made us think about the priorities we set as a society and as a government. We cannot help but think about the government's crime agenda and the resources it might take away from our efforts to combat suicide.

I would like to dedicate my speech to the memory of a young man whom I unfortunately never had the honour and pleasure to meet, but whose doings throughout his far too short life were known to me because his grandparents and parents are long-time friends of my own family.

This young, brilliant, athletic and talented man who was deeply loved by his family and friends was named Jack Windeler. He was in first year at the prestigious Queen's University in Kingston when tragically, at the age of 18, he took his own life. That was just under a year and a half ago, when his life was so full of potential.

Jack's tragic passing highlights a public and mental health problem that to date has received much too little attention, that being the vulnerability of our young people who, despite appearances, are often in a difficult transitional period from late high school to college or university and to independent living generally.

In his honour and memory, as well as to help others in trouble before it is too late, Jack's loving parents Sandra Hanington and Eric Windeler have launched the Jack Project. Its goal is to transform a painful personal loss into positive transformational action that helps our society achieve meaningful progress in combatting the scourge of youth suicide.

Before I go on, I would like to comment on the mental health of our young Canadians.

The image that we have of young people—the image portrayed by advertising and the media in general—is of a dynamic, fulfilled, connected generation that is open to the world and walking or even running toward a promising future. However, one-quarter of young Canadians are dealing with mental health problems.

In fact, 50% of mental health problems begin before the age of 14, and 75% begin before the age of 24. Based on objective measures, 6.5% of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 have experienced major depression in the past year. In addition, only 25% of young people with mental health problems were able to obtain the help they needed from a mental health professional.

Unfortunately, of all the age groups, 15- to 24-year-olds have the least access to the help they need to overcome their mental health problems and the pain that these problems cause them.

The mission of the Jack Project is to help our young people achieve and sustain their optimal mental health as they transition to independent living, which often occurs during the move from high school to college and university. The Jack Project is innovative. It does not work to reinvent the wheel. It focuses on two realms of particular relevance to young people: the online world and, of course, school.

There are many fragmented services available for those contemplating ending their lives. However, because of funding constraints, many are not available in the world where today's youth live: the world of computers and cyberspace.

First, the Jack Project works to interlink, and here I quote:

--Key youth-oriented and youth-servicing partners together in a coordinated online support system to pioneer e-mental health technologies in Canada. Invest in online chat and mobile applications linking teens and young adults to the trained professionals at the Kids Help Phone.

Second, the Jack Project is working with leading mental health organizations, namely, content developers, service providers, researchers and educational professionals, to create a mental health “model of care” and a best practices “toolbox” for transitioning teens and young adults across secondary and post-secondary environments. The goal is for this model of care to become a national standard to be introduced before too long in as many as 300 high schools and 30 colleges and universities.

I imagine that most of those would be in Ontario, but the potential for expanding this national standard, this model of care, beyond of Ontario to the rest of Canada is enormous. In fact, a national suicide strategy would probably help in the goal of making this model of care more widely available from coast to coast to coast.

To say suicide is a complex phenomenon is a profound understatement. Like all complex challenges we face as a society, preventing suicide requires a comprehensive, strategic and co-ordinated approach.

In Canada, that means federal leadership. It is leadership at the level of government that takes a national view of issues and that has the experience of bringing other levels of government together in common purpose to achieve goals of interest to all Canadians.

We need a national suicide prevention strategy in Canada to gather our resources and insights together for the purpose of saving lives threatened by mental health challenges, among others, that too often lead to the ultimate end.

Almost 17 years ago, at a conference held under the auspices of the United Nations in Calgary and Banff, held in these locations precisely because of Alberta's recognized leadership in the area of suicide prevention, a solemn commitment was made among nations, many of them G8 nations, to give priority to creating national suicide prevention strategies. Sadly, we still in Canada have not developed and implemented such a strategy.

The message of today's debate is that it is never too late. We lost Jack, but hopefully with greatly and urgently needed political will encouraged by the courageous and visionary work of his parents, Sandra and Eric, work further aided by this debate today, Jack's life and memory can help all of us save others.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis for his comments. He mentioned the Jack Project, which is an innovative approach to mental health, especially for our youth.

Given there has been significant investment by the federal government in risk factor reduction, such as the national drug strategy and the anti-stigma initiative of the Mental Health Commission, I was wondering if the member could clarify further the types of programs that are a priority for his national strategy. What does he see the federal government's role to be in his home province of Quebec?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

That is a very good question, Madam Speaker.

Indeed there are many good programs available. We all recognize that there are programs available in the provinces, at the grassroots level and in communities across the country, but what is needed is the coming together of people and programs in a directed approach. That really requires coordination, and it is only through the leadership of the federal government that we can have national coordination and the sharing of best practices from coast to coast to coast.

Of course there are good programs. We do not want to reinvent the wheel, but when we want to make progress on an issue, it is best to give particular attention to that issue. This is why Liberals are calling for a national suicide prevention strategy. It is not because measures do not exist in different government programs, but if one wants to champion an issue, one has to raise its profile, and the best way to do that is to focus particularly on that issue. That is why we want a national strategy.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague. He spoke generally about the issue of suicide, but I want to speak about the crisis that is affecting the children in my region, children who have been completely abandoned by the federal government. In fact, there are communities with no schools. I do not know if my hon. colleague read the suicide report from the coroner about the crisis in Pikangikum, which specifically identified the fact that children without schools have a sense of hopelessness.

I would like to bring the member's attention to the fact that the Shannen's Dream campaign, which has been fighting for equal rights for children, has been stonewalled time and time again by the government. This issue is actually being taken to the United Nations in February. There will be an unprecedented situation: children from northern reserves are going to challenge Canada at the international review of the Convention on the Rights of the Child for Canada's systemic negligence toward children. It is this systemic negligence that has led to hundreds and hundreds of suicides across the northern territories as well as children being incarcerated and dropping out.

I would like to ask the member what he thinks it says about a country when children have to take their fight to the United Nations to get attention to the fact that they are not even being provided with schools.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, in this case we see an urgent need that is falling through the cracks. When children have to take their country to the United Nations, obviously the ball has been dropped.

That is why we need a kind of national prism that a national strategy provides. Until we have a national vision, we do not see the picture as a whole, which means we cannot always see where the lacunas are that require some attention.

That is why a national strategy is so important. It would give us the tool we need to perceive the problem as a whole and to see the entire picture. It would prevent us from missing anything, which is apparently what has happened in this case.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, the leader's remarks in terms of the action component were that we need to establish and fund a national suicide prevention strategy, which among other measures would promote a comprehensive and evidence-driven approach to deal with this terrible loss of life by suicide.

The key point is that suicide is preventable. Our leader said in his remarks that the suicide rate is three times higher in Canada than in the United States. Many others here have expressed part of the reason for that difference. Those numbers are just plain unacceptable.

It has been moving to listen to the heartfelt remarks by members in the House today from all parties. Now we have to turn that emotion, that concern and that expression into action. We all say, when suicides happen, “If only...”. We do not want to be back here in a year after other situations occur and say, “If only...”.

Yes, we can talk about the numbers, but the numbers are a person whose death is so hard on families and friends. Such a loss is human, but it is a loss of social and economic potential.

We all know of people we have lost from our communities. I know of one who worked on my election campaign in May. A week after the victory celebration we heard the word that he had committed suicide. He was a farmer who left a family and two kids. He left 70-year-old parents whose hopes and dreams for their retirement were destroyed, because this young fellow in his late thirties was doing the farming. That was their future. That was their hopes and dreams.

There was much horror and destruction in that family. I can remember the night of the victory celebration and dance. Everyone was happy, and this happened a week later. We all asked the question, “Why? What did I miss? What did we miss as a whole?”

I recall vividly my days as a farm leader during the farm financial crisis of the 1980s, when interest rates were at 23%. Some of us in the House do not believe interest rates were ever that high. The minister of financial institutions certainly does. We were both in that movement together at the time, with an interest rate of 23.5%. Farm debt was coming out our ears, and we all felt that pain. That was the time of penny auctions, and farm suicides were at the highest they ever were.

Two friends of mine in Saskatchewan committed suicide. One, aged 27, committed suicide one day, and his 28-year-old friend committed suicide the next. What worked reasonably well was that we set up farm crisis hotlines through which people came together.

We all think we are tough. We can abuse people in the House and we can take abuse in the House, but during those times I would walk across the yard at 5:30 a.m. and say, “My pride is shot. I am the one who could potentially lose this farm. Is the world better off without me?” Those are the thoughts that go through one's mind, and those are the actions that some of our colleagues in the farm community took at the time.

What worked reasonably well was setting up farm crisis hotlines. They were in Ontario, the west and Atlantic Canada. People with some expertise came together to sit down, and people could sit down and talk about their problems. They would find out that their neighbours had pretty near the same problems that they did. It was being able to talk about it and be open that gave people the courage to face their problems and move ahead.

It is one of those things. When people with financial problems or mental problems are walking down the street, sometimes people will walk to the other side of the street. It is not like a physical ailment, for which people will come and offer support, and I think we have to recognize that. Understanding that reaction has to be part of a national strategy.

One other example I will give out of those times is of a friend I had in Alberta. I personally was working on his case with the farm finance issue. We were just a couple of weeks from a deal; through this restructuring, he was going to lose half his farm. He called me one night, late, and I happened to answer the phone at one o'clock in the morning P.E.I. time. I think it was ten or eleven o'clock in the province he was in.

He basically said, “Thanks for your effort, but that is it. I am packing it in.”

Now, I happened to answer the phone. I talked to him for a bit. I called a friend who was not an hour from his place. That guy did not do what he intended to do; he lost half his farm, but he has lived a pretty good life since that time.

It just shows the importance. It is not just mental issues. It is stress issues or family issues, and things happen quickly. We need to develop the understanding and the encouragement for people to talk and to accept help in those times of personal trauma that cause us to do things we otherwise would not think of doing.

The bottom line is, as my colleague previously said, we do need a national strategy. We are a federation, a country, and we can do much together. This is an area where I think we basically all agree in this House. Much more needs to be done.

As a country we have a history of doing much together, but what it requires to get to that action I talked about earlier is federal leadership. I encourage the federal government to not only support this motion today but to turn it into action, to call the necessary meetings with the appropriate people in the provinces across the country and to act on what the motion says. It is the action that at the end of the day will prevent us from having to say why we did not act.

I will close with this quote from Dr. Nizar Ladha, president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association. She says:

Canada stands alone as one of the few developed nations without a national strategy for the prevention of suicide. It is astonishing that more isn't being done to stop this serious yet often preventable public health problem. We need leadership from our federal leaders to advance good health policy. Many psychiatric disorders lead to untimely deaths by suicide in all ages. This can change if we tackle this complex problem with a nationally coordinated and multi-faceted approach.

That is the action we need to see as a result of this motion.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his comments. He and I, I suspect at that time, went through those. I remember those at the end of the 70s and early 80s. As much as we thought we were growing and expanding, there were some incredibly stressful times, and it is amazing what that will do to someone.

One of the things he talked about was the crisis hotline, but there were also debt review boards that were put in place. I only mention that because what it did is it gave an avenue to communicate and to talk. It gave an avenue where a person who had issues with finances was able to talk to someone who actually understood it. They had the opportunity to give people some options, to give them what we have been talking about today, hope about how they would continue to do their business.

One of the things that has always astounded me is, over time we have the brightest of doctors and medical researchers and we still do not understand the human body and the mind. With those complications in front of us, I would ask my colleague what he would do to help establish more communication? How can we go about that? Because I think communication is one of the key components.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, it may sound like a simple answer, but I really think it is just being open about the issue. This is not a situation that we should hide from.

In terms of the experience that both of us had in the farm crisis, with hotlines and the debt review boards, it was people recognizing that others had the same problem. It was recognizing that their neighbours, governments, and the community could come together to assist them in a number of ways. It was basically just being open about it, that this is not something to be afraid of, to admit there is a problem.

Stepping out that door and admitting they have a problem is the first step. We have to give people the encouragement to do that and the acceptance of society if they do.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his insightful comments.

Of the 307 people that are in the House today, many of us have spoken about the desire to see this move forward in a constructive way. What would the member suggest as far as the action that we could be taking following today, as parliamentarians of all parties, to be out there publicly talking?

I think today we have made a huge step forward by talking about this in the House of Commons. Where do we go after today and how do we move this forward tomorrow and the next day, given the fact that we all are very committed to the same issue? How do we get that public airing to start so that we can constructively move forward?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I think the leader of the party said that very vividly in his remarks when he opened this discussion, when he made the motion and that is, that this issue requires federal leadership. It could be any number of things. It could be utilizing one of the ministers, whether health or others, to set up a committee to look at a national strategy on suicide. It could be the Prime Minister, in what he should be doing anyway, calling a first ministers meeting on a number of issues and putting that down as one of the agenda items.

The key point I want to make is that under our system of government and the various constitutional responsibilities, and there are certainly split jurisdictions in this area, in order to get the kind of action that is needed, it will require leadership from the Prime Minister and executive council.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak on this topic today as it reminds me of one of those occasional days in the House when we do have meaningful debate that sets aside a lot of partisan-charged rhetoric. These kinds of debates allow us to have really good discussions and allow us to bring good ideas forward. That has happened today, and I want to commend the mover for bringing forward this motion.

Coming from an aboriginal family and living in an aboriginal community for much of my life, I have seen this issue unfortunately occur in many families. Others in the House have talked about that because we have all experienced the effect of suicide in our lives.

I do recall hearing a simple statement over the years and it is a simple statement that bears repeating, and that is that no one ever wants to commit suicide, he or she just wants the pain to end. So that is where I will start.

I would like to also extend my sympathies to all of the families that have been affected by suicide throughout the years. This tragedy exacts a terrible toll in grief and heartbreak, and leaves no one unaffected.

My hon. colleagues today have spoken about initiatives undertaken by the Public Health Agency of Canada regarding this issue. I want to speak a bit about how, through its initiatives and investments, our government is working with its partners to break the cycle of hopelessness and despair that still exists in some aboriginal communities.

Our government has invested in many programs and initiatives that are playing a critical role in improving the quality of life for aboriginal people, building safer, healthier and stronger communities. In the time I have today, I will only talk about a few of them.

We recognize that it takes more than bricks and mortar to build and sustain a healthy community. That is why our government is working with its partners to strengthen what is the cornerstone of any community, the family.

I would like to point out that we introduced just last week Bill S-2, family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act. This bill offers a balanced and effective solution to long-standing injustice that affects people living on reserves, particularly women and children.

In the event of a relationship breakdown, death of a spouse or common law partner or family violence, many of the legal rights and remedies relating to matrimonial interests in the family home that are available off reserve are not available to individuals who live on reserve, with potentially very serious consequences. I am looking forward to the passage of this important legislation because I truly believe all parties in this place would prefer to see women and children protected rather than being left vulnerable by this legal void.

In order to further support the family our government initiated and continues to be engaged in an ongoing reform of the first nations child and family services program with a focus on results. We are working with our partners in the provinces and first nations themselves to implement what is called an enhanced prevention focused approach aimed at providing better outcomes for children and their families.

This is a new model designed to ensure the best practices in prevention-based services are brought to first nations communities. It broadens the tool kit of culturally appropriate services, which will help first nations family and child services work with families during breakups and keep children in their homes.

We launched this model in 2007 with a signing of a tripartite agreement with the province of Alberta and Alberta first nations. Today, tripartite agreements are also in place with our first nation partners in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. With these six agreements in place, enhanced prevention services are reaching close to 70% of first nations children who live on reserves in Canada.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada also works with a broad range of stakeholders on the co-ordination of family violence programming to better protect the interests of first nations women, children and families.

Partners in this effort include the National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations and of course the provinces and territories as well as many of the departments within our federal government.

By providing family violence prevention and protection services, we can enhance the safety and security of first nation women and children, and achieve a more secure family environment for children on reserve.

We recognize, however, that even with the best efforts at prevention, crises can befall families, first nations families, all families in Canada. This is partly why Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development provides operational funding of some $18 million a year to support a network of 41 shelters, serving approximately 300 first nations communities.

Every year, approximately 1,900 women and 2,300 children access these services. We would prefer they were not needed, but it is a reality throughout society that we must face.

These are just a few examples of what our government is doing to protect the welfare of first nation children and families, to keep those children safe, to keep families together and build stronger, healthier communities.

This group of government programs I have described do not work in isolation. They are part of a much broader, co-ordinated effort by our government, developed in partnership with aboriginal people and organizations.

We continue to listen to aboriginal people and we have heard their concerns. We are taking action, and will continue to do so. For example, in June, the hon. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations announced a Canada-First Nations joint action plan. The goal of the action plan is simple: to improve the lives of first nations people across Canada, and in doing so, contribute to a stronger and more prosperous country.

The action plan is based on common goals and shared principles. It states our commitment to work together to achieve concrete and practical progress, to build effective, appropriate and fully accountable governance structures, which is important, and empower the success of individuals through access to education, opportunity and property. It reflects our commitment to implementing the programs and investments that enable strong, sustainable and self-sufficient communities, and to creating conditions to accelerate economic development opportunities for all Canadians.

Of equal importance, this action plan reflects our shared commitment to respect the role of first nations culture and language in our history and in our future. The plan also specifically has important goals in relation to four areas, education, accountability, transparency, economic development and negotiation, and implementation.

I would like to speak a bit more, though, about education, as I see it as a key and important area which will help alleviate much of the hopelessness that we see in first nations communities. This engagement process that I spoke of recommends a framework for providing modifications to the way we deliver K to 12 education in first nations communities.

The national panel is holding a series of round tables and other activities across the country to engage parents, students, teachers, elders, educators and anyone, in fact, who has an interest in improving first nations education. These round tables are enjoying strong participation.

The panel will make recommendations to the minister and to the national chief on options for positive change for first nations students. This could include the possibility of new legislation to improve the governance framework and clarify accountability for first nations elementary and secondary education. We look forward to receiving this panel's report and recommendations by the end of the year.

The action plan commits Canada and the Assembly of First Nations to pursue initiatives that increase the transparency and accountability of first nations government through their respective constituents. This would include initiatives to improve first nations electoral processes, such as those advanced at regional first nations organizations, such as, the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs, which has called for a common election day as well as a four year cycle. Changes such as this will greatly improve the transparency process of their electoral practices.

In many remote locations, first nations communities can be especially vulnerable to fire, flood and other natural disasters. The action plan also includes a joint commitment to continued development and implementation of emergency management frameworks.

Perhaps the most vivid illustration of our action and real improvement in the aboriginal quality of life is Canada's economic action plan. When the government unveiled the first action plan two years ago, we made sure that this comprehensive blueprint for economic renewal focused on priorities that were and remain foremost in the minds of Canadians: the construction of more reserve housing; improving on-reserve health; developing training and skills development opportunities for young people taking part in these construction activities; and accelerating ready to go projects in first nations communities in three key areas: schools, water and critical community services.

By means of the economic action plan, we invested $1.4 billion over the past two fiscal years on things that matter most to all Canadian families, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike. I believe all of these investments have made a difference in supporting our first nations communities and I look forward to the opportunity to see the fruits of all of this investment in the years to come. Unfortunately, though, it does take time.

I believe that our efforts as a government will continue to put aboriginal people's interests first and I look forward to being a part of that plan.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I hank the hon. member for sharing his government's plans.

Given the overwhelming number of suicides within first nations communities, I would think that must be an issue of grave concern to my hon. colleague. Following the adoption of today's motion, would you become one of what I hope to be 308 champions of mental health?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I would remind all members to direct their questions through the Speaker.

The hon. member for Winnipeg South.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Madam Speaker, I know the member is also very supportive of improved outcomes in aboriginal communities. I, of course, would be happy to champion this issue. I have in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, during his speech, my hon. colleague spent a great deal of time focusing on the particular challenges of mental health in first nations communities.

I am struck by the fact that the government proposed Bill C-10 in the House, a bill that consists of 152 pages and puts nine previous bills into one bill. We know the federal prison system is grossly and disproportionately represented by first nations, many of whom suffer from mental health issues and 80% of whom have addictions issues, which in itself is a mental health issue.

I am wondering how my hon. colleague from Winnipeg South squares his government's focus on legislation that does nothing to address mental health or addictions in our federal prison system when it is so clearly and profoundly a source of problems for our first nations.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Madam Speaker, I, of course, live in a province that has one of the most significant aboriginal populations and we also have a significant aboriginal population that is incarcerated. The flip side of that incarceration, unfortunately, is that much of the aboriginal crime has been committed against other aboriginal people. Aboriginal people deserve not to have crimes continuously foisted upon them. The aboriginal people in my province, unfortunately, have seen many of their community members become incarcerated. However, they also appreciate being safe from some people who become quite violent and want them incarcerated.

It is a challenging issue but at the same time the high crime rate is mostly against aboriginal people themselves. It is very concerning. I am not one who wants to create new laws that exempt aboriginal people from certain types of crime. I do not want a second set of laws for aboriginal people because I do not think that is at all fair in our country.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, our government has implemented a national youth suicide prevention plan and there have been so many positive things that have come out of that. Perhaps the member could outline a few of them to reassure this House about the good work we are doing.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Madam Speaker, I know the member has spent a lot of time on the health committee and has a number of things that she has already spoken of today.

I will go back to one part of my presentation that I did not get to develop as much as I would have liked. It is in relation to Bill S-2 and what we would be implementing in relation to matrimonial property rights. I think this would be a fundamental improvement to the lives of first nations people where women, in particular, when a marriage breaks up, would be able to have access to the family home via this new legal vehicle. I believe it is perhaps the first time in our history as a country that aboriginal people on reserve would be able to remedy situations that they find themselves in with this legal device so that they could actually retain a family home instead of perhaps having it simply taken from them in a marriage breakdown, even though they have young children and would prefer to live there.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

It being 6:15, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.