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.


Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to lay upon the table pursuant to subsection 23(5) of the Auditor General Act the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons for the year 2011.

This report is permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Library of ParliamentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament regarding quorum and the mandate of the committee.

National Strategy for Serious Injury Reduction in Amateur Sport ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-319, An Act respecting a national strategy to reduce the incidence of serious injury in amateur sport.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House to introduce this bill entitled, “National Strategy for Serious Injury Reduction in Amateur Sport Act”. This legislation would mandate that the federal government convene a conference of first ministers of health, as well as members of the athletic, medical and health communities in order to implement a strategy for tackling this growing public health concern.

Specifically, the bill outlines a strategy for the federal government to create a national sports injury surveillance and data collection system, establish substantive concussion guidelines, including a sufficient deterrent mechanism to ensure athletes are not being returned to play against expressed medical recommendations, create national training and educational standards for coaches and other persons involved in amateur sport, and institute incentivized funding guidelines to assist amateur sport organizations in implementing these protocols.

Since introducing a similar bill in the last Parliament, I have received overwhelming support from right across the country on this bill. It is my hope that my colleagues from across the aisle will assist me in getting the national sports injury reduction strategy passed as soon as possible.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Official Languages ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-320, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Mr. Speaker, as you certainly know, Quebec is a francophone nation, not a bilingual one. This nation has enacted legislation called Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language, which obviously applies to all the institutions under its jurisdiction as well as to most spheres of life.

This bill, an Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, would require the federal government to undertake not to obstruct the application of the Charter of the French Language in Quebec. In other words, it means that that Bill 101 would apply to all federal institutions in Quebec.

I encourage all my colleagues from Quebec to support this important bill to protect our language, be it in provincial, municipal, educational or federal institutions.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Post Corporation ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill, as I have in previous times in the House.

This bill moves to guarantee a postal rate for libraries for interchange and to provide books to Canadians at a reduced postal rate. It also moves to increase the access, including the definition of library material from books, magazines, records, CDs, CD-ROMs, audiovisual cassettes, DVDs and other audiovisual materials.

I would advise members of the House that this bill had been passed unanimously by all members of Parliament in the last session and had gone to the Senate just prior to the call of the election.

I look forward to moving this bill forward again.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 4th, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.


Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present a petition today from a number of residents of my riding, mostly from Olds, Alberta. They want to petition Parliament to recognize unborn children as separate victims when harmed or killed during attacks against their mothers.

AsbestosPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today signed by literally thousands of Canadians from all across Canada who call upon Parliament to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known.

The petitioners point out that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial and occupational causes combined and yet Canada continues to be one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world. They call upon Parliament to take note that Canada also spends millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry and blocking international efforts to curb its use.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon the government to ban asbestos in all of its forms and institute a just transition program for any displaced asbestos workers and the communities in which they live. They call upon the government to end all subsidies of asbestos both in Canada and abroad and to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam Convention.

FisheriesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from residents of Nova Scotia who draw the attention of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to the need for his department to fund a two year program to restock the Sackville River with salmon.

This request follows an act of vandalism in November 2009 when some idiot cut an oil line to an oil tank and caused the leakage of several hundred litres of furnace oil to run into the Little Sackville River. It was a terrible moment. It was a stupid thing to do.

After more than 20 years of work by residents and, in particular, the Sackville Rivers Association, the once polluted Sackville River could once again support fish life. This, of course, was a setback. That work has been undone by this oil spill.

Therefore, the petitioners ask the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to immediately fund a two year restocking program for the Sackville River and assist the Sackville Rivers Association in any remediation the river habitat may require.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a petition from Canadians across the country who are concerned about a large mega quarry in Melancthon Township in Dufferin County, Ontario, which will be the largest open pit quarry in Canada of over 2,300 acres. It will be about three miles across.

The petitioners are concerned about a number of things, one of which is based on the proposed mega quarry application. There are distinct issues relating to the use of water operations based on NAFTA considerations that may have a substantially negative financial implication federally and provincially.

These petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to conduct an environmental assessment under the authority of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act on a proposed Highland Companies mega quarry development.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.


Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON


That the House agree that suicide is more than a personal tragedy, but is also a serious public health issue and public policy priority; and, further, that the House urge the government to work cooperatively with the provinces, territories, representative organizations from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, and other stakeholders 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.

Madam Speaker, I think all of us in the House will recognize and understand that suicide is something that has touched all of us in one way or the other, either as family members or as friends. What we have also come to realize more and more is that this issue can no longer be regarded simply as one of a personal tragedy, which it undoubtedly is, but it also needs to be recognized as a political issue in the sense that it is an issue that the public needs to take notice of. The good news in all of this is that, if we take notice of it and take action, there are actually things we can do to reduce the number of people who lose their lives in this very tragic way.

The statistics, frankly, are overwhelming in the industrial world. We have a relatively high suicide rate in Canada. We are the only modern industrial country that does not have a national strategy to reduce the level of suicide, to save lives in a very significant way.

I think Canadians would be surprised to learn some of the statistics. The fact that over the last 30 years at least 100,000 Canadians have taken their own life, which is a truly remarkable number.

Today, the president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association told us that around the world last year nearly one million people took their own lives. We have developed this capacity as societies to take statistics and to get the numbers but it is important for us as a country to take the steps that will make a difference.

Clearly, if we demonstrate the political will to do something, we can find solutions. For example, non-partisan discussions were held in Quebec and people agreed that the number of young people taking their own lives was far too high and that it was completely unacceptable. The province decided to do something. Quebec insisted that the topic be discussed in schools in order to open the dialogue, fight the stigma and ensure that no subject would be taboo.

We must do everything we can to encourage youth to talk about their emotional health. It should be noted that in Quebec, the youth suicide rate has dropped dramatically in the past 10 years. However, the rest of Canada has not had the same kind of success and within federal jurisdiction we are seeing a completely unacceptable suicide rate among veterans, former soldiers and aboriginals—all in a society known for its compassion and openness.

I hope we can all agree that a good society is, among other things, a place where people care about each other. It is a place where, quite simply, we care about what happens to ourselves, we care about what happens to our families, we care about what happens to our friends. However, our compassion does not end at the end of our garden. Our compassion extends to our neighbours. Our understanding of what we in Canada face has to include the fact that there are a great many Canadians who today are in turmoil. Today, this day, as many as 10 people will take their own lives. We could all through a bit of imagination think about who those people are.

I think of a young girl living on a native reserve. Perhaps she has been abused as a child. Perhaps she is living in a house where there are as many as 10, 12 or 15 people sharing a room. She goes to school and on the computer at school she sees a very different world. She sees a world of wealth. She sees a world of opportunity. She sees a world of affluence. She looks around her community and she sees the opposite. She asks herself, “Where is the hope? What hope do I have?”.

I think of a young boy who discovers in his early adolescence that he is gay. He realizes that his sexual identity is not that of the majority of people in his classroom. He sees himself in a different way and is looking to find the ways in which he can be as much a person as the person sitting next to him at school. Because he is seen as different, he is bullied. Perhaps one of his classmates starts making fun of him on the Internet, starts singling him out.

I think of the young teenagers who are in turmoil for all kinds of reasons, all of the biological and hormonal and other changes that are happening and the bewildering world in which they live and in which they have to show themselves to be okay. They are not allowed to be anything other than okay. Perhaps they live in a house where it is hard for them to say, “I'm not okay”.

I think of the veterans who come back from the trauma of the battlefield in Afghanistan who are never allowed to show weakness on the battlefield, who are never allowed to show a moment of vulnerability. When they return, they find a world where they do not know how to be vulnerable. They do not know how to deal with the world in which they are now living, the mundane everyday world in which most of us live every day.

We cannot explain all of the circumstances.

The number of seniors, for example, who take their own lives is remarkably high, maybe for reasons that have to do with their loneliness, with their vulnerability, with their having felt that they have lived a life and now cannot find meaning or purpose to where they are.

Mental health issues affect one in five Canadians, yet it is an issue that is rarely discussed. We have fundraising drives for breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart conditions and all of the other physical maladies, as well we should, but we do not have a run for suicide. We do not do a walk for schizophrenia very often. We do not talk about depression a great deal. We let people suffer in silence. We pretend that it is not a problem.

We have made progress. It is not as bad as it was in days gone by. We have changed the legal structures. We have accepted as a society and have learned how to celebrate sexual identity. The Prime Minister gave a wonderful speech in the House, a statement of reconciliation with the first nations people. We have made some of the steps that we need to make to begin to create a climate of hope, a climate of mutual care, a climate of love, but our actions do not follow the words.

The motion that is before the House today is one which says let us talk about this. Let us have a conversation where we discuss frankly and candidly what should not be happening in this country.

Gay kids should not be bullied in school. Schools need to learn how to help kids celebrate who they are whatever their sexual identity. We should celebrate who we are. That is the meaning of dignity. If we are a society that believes in dignity, compassion and care, every child has to have pride in that identity and pride in who he or she is. And it goes well beyond childhood.

Having talked about the motion with some colleagues and having decided to put it forward as an opposition day motion, I hope we will have the support of the whole House. I hope we will have a good conversation today. I hope this will be an opportunity for the House to show itself as it can be when we want to talk about issues that are important. We are behind the public. The public is ahead of us.

Today I held a press conference with Stephanie Richardson, whose daughter took her own life last year in circumstances that are well known in the Ottawa area and which brought forward an incredible outpouring of emotion, compassion and feeling in the community. That family has done a remarkable thing in turning a terrible tragedy into a moment where they can perhaps teach people what this is all about.

We need to do this as a Parliament. The federal government runs the fifth largest health care system in the country. We are responsible constitutionally for aboriginal people, and we are responsible for veterans and for our armed forces. The federal government can be a leader in this field, but it has not been. People say to me, “What about your party when you were in government?” It did not do enough. Nobody can say from a partisan perspective, “We have done all we can”.

Speaking very personally, having lost some friends to suicide, I can tell the House about the sense of bewilderment one feels. What else could I have done? What else could I have said? What else could I have seen?

We know there are strategies that work. We know that if we start to talk about it, it makes a difference. We know that if we begin to create the architecture of support for people and for families, we know if we address the underlying mental health and social and economic issues, we will in fact reduce the level of suicide. We know that we can find a way to address this question, and we know that it is within our realm of responsibility to do so.

I am one of those people who thinks the national government has the responsibility to work with the provinces in a co-ordinated fashion, not to dictate to anyone, because seven out of the ten provinces already have developed strategies. However, none of them are sufficiently funded. None of them have enough grounding in this national conversation which needs to happen.

On behalf of the Liberal Party, supported by my colleague from Vancouver, I have moved this motion. However, we do not claim any monopoly of virtue on the motion. We do not claim that we somehow have achieved a breakthrough that others are not party to. There is no reason why any member of Parliament should feel that this is being put forward in some kind of a partisan way. It is not.

Yes, there will be questions about what could be done, and there will be issues about how we can allocate the funds we need to make sure the conversation happens, but we also understand there are at times issues that go beyond politics.

I have often wondered why it is that governments have such difficulty in accepting that mental illness is every bit as much an illness as is a physical illness. My own modest assessment is that there are two reasons.

The first reason is that there is a stigma and taboo with respect to mental illness that is still with us. We are not as deep and dark in the dark ages or Victorian times perhaps as before, but we still have to recognize and admit that it is not seen in the same way and it is not discussed in the same way as it should be. We have made some changes, but we need to make more.

The second reason is that people feel, and governments reflect this, that it is an illness but it is not like a physical illness, that it is something different. People feel there is not a whole lot they can do, that it is not something that can be easily or readily solved.

This ignores a very basic fact. We have made huge progress in the treatment of mental illness. Conditions that were a guarantee of a lifetime of incarceration as recently as 50 or 60 years ago are being treated today very effectively with medication and treatment that actually works.

We are behind in research. We are behind in funding. We are behind in support. We are behind in housing. We are behind in all the things that need to be done to integrate all of these services together. These things are solvable. These are matters of political will. These are not conditions which we cannot do anything about.

Over 120 years ago a very famous French sociologist, Émile Durkheim, wrote a text called Le Suicide.

This gentleman, one of sociology's pioneers, made an important observation. He said that an event such as suicide reflects a lack of solidarity within society. Until then, suicide was considered a personal act that had no social explanation. But Durkheim said that, on the contrary, it could be explained.

The love that each of us must show our neighbours is a permanent sign of our compassion and what it means to be a citizen and be part of a good society.

A good society is marked by how people care for each other and by solidarity. We are talking about what we owe each other and how our collective failure to reflect that sense of solidarity and connection in our actions contributes to the sense of alienation and bewilderment that is a prelude to a person's decision to commit suicide.

Not all of the explanations are easy. Many of them continue to baffle people. We all have friends who have died in this terrible way and we wonder what could have caused them to do so.

What we do know is there are things we can do. It is not a hopeless situation. We have to take what my grandmother used to call “the human footsteps”. Every day we need to move forward by taking the human footsteps that will lead us to the progress we must make as Canadians and as a society. This is a frontier we must cross together. We need to better understand this world of anger, self-anger, of violence that implodes or explodes. We need to share that understanding. We need to address it. We need to take the steps as a society to make a difference.

Hence, we need a strategy that will prevent people from taking their own lives, one that will allow them to return to living full, happy and productive lives. That is what it means to live in a country where we care for one another.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Toronto Centre for bringing this important issue forward. As he so eloquently stated in his speech, suicide is something that affects us all, our families and our friends. I am certain every member of the House believes that as a government we should be doing more in that regard.

The member is aware that the Minister of Health is from the north where there is an extremely high rate of suicide. She is committed to doing more.

He is also aware of the establishment of the Mental Health Commission of Canada that was endorsed by all of the provinces and territories except for Quebec.

As the member has a unique perspective, I would like him to discuss jurisdictional issues in his capacity as both a federal and provincial politician as well as having been a leader of two parties.

He is aware of the draft mental health strategy put forth by the Mental Health Commission that would likely address the elements of suicide prevention of which he speaks. The government is trying to work collaboratively with the provinces and territories within its jurisdiction.

Does my colleague think that the federal government should dictate how the provinces and territories deliver health care services within their jurisdictions? That has been a challenge with many of these national strategies. Could he comment on that?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, as I said in my speech, one of the areas in which the federal government could show leadership is by clearly understanding what it is responsible for. It is responsible for veterans, the armed forces and the RCMP. Many of those people are affected by significant mental health issues. The federal public service is an area where we can show leadership and do more work.

The member mentioned aboriginal issues and the minister has discussed this as well. We must recognize that we have been unable to do what is required without programs in place at the federal level. We need to be leaders in the field.

I appreciate the member's relatively kind remarks, which I am not used to from the other side, with respect to my previous provincial experience. The provinces are sensitive to the federal government telling them what it is they must do. However, that is not how it works.

I hope that the mental health issue will be front and centre on the table during the government's next round of discussions with the provinces. I believe the provinces will be ready and willing to discuss it. Of course, the provinces will want to deal with the issue of funding. However, the federal government could lead with best practices as the provinces have been doing better than others in that regard and have shown some success at reducing the number of incidents.

We have a universal problem with inaccessibility to necessary services across the country particularly by adolescents. We cannot look in the mirror and say that we have done enough. There have been many instances of kids running away from home with nowhere to go. We do not have the treatment centres we require in Canada at the provincial level.

Those are some ideas. I would be happy to discuss others. If one were to enter into discussions with--

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I am sure the hon. member will have more time to elaborate.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Vancouver East.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Toronto Centre for bringing this important motion forward. It is good that all parties are having this debate and that we are focusing our attention on this enormously important public health issue. This goes beyond the issue of personal tragedy. It is a public health issue.

The motion speaks to establishing a fund for a national suicide prevention strategy. To follow up on the parliamentary secretary's comments, I believe there is a great vacuum and dearth of federal leadership. We have seen some work done by the Mental Health Commission, but there has not been any focus on a suicide prevention strategy. Rather than suggest that the provinces and territories would have their toes stepped on, I think there would be a welcoming and opening of debate and dialogue if the motion were to pass in the House and the federal government were to act upon it.

Would the member speak more to what he envisions in terms of establishing a national suicide prevention strategy fund?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I have visited the member's riding on many occasions and think that our ridings share many qualities in terms of some of the social challenges they both face.

The reason we discussed a fund is quite simple. It is not about dictating to the provinces. We are saying we do not regard the Mental Health Commission as a boutique project. If it is to succeed it must be followed by a serious commitment to move these programs forward.

To be fair, I believe that the mental health initiative, which I have certainly supported, is an area wherein the Prime Minister actually has recognized that governments have not done enough. There is a lot that we must do. We need to sit down with the provinces and talk about what steps need to be taken, how a fund could be put in place, what it would be used for and how the provinces would draw upon it.

I will use a phrase I have used in another place at another time. We do not need another federal boutique project. We need a serious exercise in partnership. We must recognize that the federal government runs the fifth largest health care system in the country. It is not a bit player; it is a major player and it must take its responsibilities seriously as we move forward.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I will pick up on the word used by the leader in terms of partnerships.

As an MLA for 18 years in the province of Manitoba and as a health care critic I am aware that trying to get stakeholders together is an issue. I am talking specifically about stakeholders from the different school divisions and to a certain degree the municipal governments. I do recognize there are stakeholders at the government level, the non-profit level and those individuals who have a vested interest.

Could the leader comment in terms of why that leadership to bring stakeholders together to draft the overall strategy must come from Ottawa?

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, we have done it before. It has been done regarding cancer. There are a number of issues where the federal government has played a useful role.

We are way behind the experts in the field in psychiatric hospitals, in community-based care systems and associations across the country, and those who have been clients of the mental health care system and are part of very active patient groups in provinces and cities across the country. There is a huge network of people working in this field.

I am not suggesting for a moment that somehow we are inventing answers. As we speak, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention is meeting in Vancouver. The association has come forward with a strategy it wants to recommend to government.

We do not need to reinvent anything. We are not imposing anything. We are using this debate to point to specific actions the government can take. We hope that will be the outcome of this debate.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to the importance this government places on mental health of Canadians and in particular on the prevention of suicide.

What is the face of suicide? Suicide is preventable. Many of those who attempt suicide want to live, but are overcome with grief or emotional pain and cannot find any other way to handle a situation that has become impossible to bear.

Most people who commit suicide give warning signs or hints of their intentions. Community-based organizations across our country help people in their jurisdictions learn how to recognize these signs and how to respond to them. Four out of five people who die by suicide have made at least one previous attempt. Suicide occurs across all age, economic, social and ethnic boundaries.

Statistics Canada's 2007 figures regarding suicide in Canada show it as one of the top 10 leading causes of death in our country, accounting for over 3,700 deaths. Males die by suicide more than three times as often as females, but females are three times more likely to attempt it than males. As well, the survey revealed that over 14% of Canadians have thought about suicide and more than 3% of Canadians have attempted suicide in their lifetimes.

Although suicide rates have traditionally been highest among elderly males, the current impact of suicide on society shows its increasing frequency among our youth. Worldwide it is now one of the top five leading causes of death among young people aged 15 to 34. In Canada in 2005, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals aged 15 to 34, second only to accidents and unintentional injuries.

We are keenly aware that suicide rates are higher among certain populations, including aboriginal youth and Inuit living in northern Canada. That is why this government is investing in programs that address this important issue, such as the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy.

Too many Canadian families have to deal with the anguish of losing a loved one to suicide. There is the social impact of losing a loved one to suicide as well. Suicide and suicide attempts have significant impacts on individuals, families and all of our communities. We can also see some similarities between mental health and suicide, as many of the risk and protective factors of suicide are the same as the problems and illnesses associated with mental health. Both have stigma attached to them that tend to curb open discussions and prevention efforts.

Suicide is caused by a number of medical and social factors including mental disorders, family violence and social isolation. These factors increase the likelihood of poor mental health which in turn can lead to suicidal behaviour. Because suicide has many faces and can impact society in a variety of ways, its prevention must involve all sectors including governments, non-government organizations, academia and the private sector.

There are many levels of government that work in various ways with suicide prevention. Several federal organizations including Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Veterans Affairs, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and the Canadian Forces are working to address suicide and mental health issues.

In the delivery of health care in their own jurisdictions provinces and territories are also tailoring programs and services that respond to the needs of their citizens. Collectively we need to promote positive mental health, intervene early and prevent risk factors for mental health problems which often lead to suicide and suicide attempts.

I am very proud that this government is taking leadership and fostering the partnerships with our multiple stakeholders. For example, in September 2010, the hon. Minister of Health, along with provincial and territorial ministers of health, endorsed the declaration on prevention and promotion. Through this endorsement our governments recognized positive mental health as a foundation for optimal overall health and well-being throughout a person's life. In addition to this agreement, the work of the federal, provincial and territorial Public Health Network places a priority on mental health promotion and mental illness prevention.

One of our government's accomplishments, one of the health sectors that I am particularly proud of, is the establishment of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Collaborating with governments, academia, business and other organizations to mobilize leadership and action is central to the commission's mandate.

The commission is presently working on a national mental health strategy. This strategy is expected to speak to suicide prevention as part of a comprehensive approach to mental health promotion and mental illness prevention in our country.

The Government of Canada also funds the commission to address the stigma associated with mental illness through their Opening Minds campaign. This initiative is meant to enhance the public's education through the mental health first aid initiative.

Through the mental health first aid strategy is a belief that it is critical to deal with physical emergencies quickly, but it is just as important not to neglect a mental health emergency. Mental health first aid refers to the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.

For over four years the program has taught Canadians how to respond to mental health emergencies, enabling them to better manage potential or developing mental health problems in themselves, a family member, a friend or a colleague.

To date, well over 42,000 people have been trained across Canada. The program is available to anyone interested in learning mental health first aid, including employees such as human resource managers, teachers, counsellors, transit workers, nurses and police officers.

This initiative does not teach people how to be therapists, but it does teach how to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health problems, provide initial help and guide a person towards appropriate professional help.

A basic instructor course is also offered, designed to equip those who want to train others in mental health first aid. An instructor course is specifically designed for people who work directly with our youth. Originating in Australia, the program has 505 instructors across Canada and is now available in 17 countries.

I am pleased to have the opportunity today to recognize some of the important and significant programs and activities in the country that are making a real difference in the lives of Canadians. Notably, several provinces and territorial governments, such as Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick, have established strategies to promote mental health and prevent mental illness and suicide.

The Nunavut suicide prevention strategy outlines plans and a common direction for the suicide prevention efforts of communities, organizations and governments in Nunavut. Demonstrating the need for and the value of working together, the strategy is a result of a partnership between the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Embrace Life Council and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Another important example is New Brunswick's provincial suicide prevention program. Connecting to Life is a strategy that coordinates suicide prevention activities and intervention services in the province. Community action, continuous education and inter-agency collaboration are central goals of this program.

The Alberta suicide prevention strategy is a 10-year plan that includes actions targeted both at the general populations and at identified priority groups.

In British Columbia, suicide prevention forms a key part of the province's 10-year plan to address mental health and substance abuse.

The government also recognizes, in addition to the provincial and territorial initiatives, the important contribution made by civil organizations such as the Centre for Suicide Prevention. The centre provides resources and training, including workshops and online courses, for professionals, caregivers and community members.

As well, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention plays a role in facilitating information sharing, advocating for policy development and supporting excellence in research and in service. The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention is currently in the middle of its three-day national conference.

A broad array of community organizations also support individuals and families dealing with suicide and mental health problems. Notably, the Canadian Mental Health Association is a national network, with local and provincial branches carrying out public education and providing local support to individuals with mental health problems. Their mandate is to develop a mental health strategy for Canada, and through this the creation of opportunities such that the protective factors are enhanced and the risk factors of suicide are diminished.

There is a belief that by doing this, good mental health can be fostered and, wherever possible, the onset of mental health problems and illnesses can be prevented, thus reducing the number of suicides.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada works with key stakeholders and partners such as the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention to address the issue of suicide. The work includes a focus on target populations that have high levels of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide. It also pays particular attention to youth suicide and suicide in the senior population. It works together with families and caregivers in recognition of the impact of suicide on families and communities.

The commission, whose members are currently developing their strategy, aims to reduce the number of suicides by improving suicide prevention training for front-line workers such as teachers, police and family doctors and by reducing mortality rates for people living with mental health problems and illnesses.

Through our government's funding, the Mental Health Commission of Canada has established a knowledge exchange centre to provide all sectors, stakeholders and the public with the information they need to address mental health and the risk factors that lead to mental health problems, such as suicide. It is working with the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention to enhance its work in areas such as establishing community practices; developing tools and resources for health care professionals, including crisis centre staff; overcoming challenges and barriers; and providing a space where health professionals are able to offer each other support.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada recognizes that suicide is a tragedy that leaves scars on families and communities.

There are many common risk factors. Over 90% of Canadians who die by suicide have experienced mental health problems and illnesses.

At a more fundamental level, our government also collects data on suicide through Statistics Canada. We use it to analyze and share information on mortality and morbidity, including figures on mental health in general.

The government also funds, along with the provinces and territories, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which produces reports on mental health and suicide-related topics.

Our government, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, is pleased to support the work of the McGill Group for Suicide Studies, along with other government-supported research. This leading-edge multidisciplinary team is making a significant contribution to the understanding of suicide and its risk factors.

Suicide is also an issue of global concern, and our government also monitors interesting developments at the international level in order to identify success stories that will further encourage and inspire our Canadian stakeholders at home. One particularly significant example is coming out of Scotland. Choose Life is a program in Scotland that has been implemented in a partnership with national and local bodies. This framework focuses on training and building skills while improving knowledge of good suicide prevention practices. It is similar to the Government of Canada's federal role in research and knowledge development and its related investments in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Statistics Canada.

Our government believes that the promotion of positive mental health and the prevention of health problems and illnesses are critical to suicide prevention. We also recognize the need to continue to share knowledge and information and to work collaboratively to make a difference in the mental health of Canadians and the prevention of suicide.

This is an important dialogue and an important issue, one that touches all of us and one in which we can all play a very important role.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for expressing the same concerns that we have. I also want to bring to the attention of the House a special individual.

Mental illness and suicide certainly play as important factors in all levels of life. In this House, we are probably among the strongest people, in that we keep very heavy schedules, we go back and forth to our ridings, and there is a lot of demand on our time.

Not too long ago a member of my colleague's caucus, the late Dave Batters, who was elected in Moose Jaw, said that he would not be running for election in 2008. In June 2009, he committed suicide. It also affects us in this House that we also are probably one of the toughest breeds of people in existence.

I wonder if my colleague would, in memory of his caucus colleague, agree with me that we need not only methods and best practices but also cash and a program in order to ensure that we have a national strategy, and that we need to put resources to it in order to prevent suicide in all levels of our society, even among the strongest here in the House of Commons.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for bringing back the memory of one of our colleagues, Dave Batters, who unfortunately died from suicide a few years back. He was a friend of mine and a friend of all colleagues here in the House. That emphasizes the fact that suicide affects all of us.

As my colleague said, it is important that we as legislators put resources toward this important issue. Today in this debate we are building awareness of this important topic. All of us sitting in the House today are committed to bringing this issue to the forefront.

As I mentioned earlier, I am most proud of the Mental Health Commission. It will be bringing forth a strategy for mental illness in 2012, which will likely address suicide prevention and the things that my colleagues are bringing forward today. All of us are looking forward to that. I am also looking forward to a very good debate today.

Opposition Motion--National Suicide Prevention StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Madam Speaker, my background is in the manufacturing sector, where we organized within the union with support workers. Committees followed up on such matters.

As we know, many people taking care of this are volunteers. There are support meetings in offices on the weekend and in the evening, and people are trained, but there are not enough volunteers.

Does the government have a plan to find people to work in this area and follow up with people with mental illness and regarding suicide prevention?