Mr. Speaker, it is easy to give a speech full of statistics, but in this case, we must look at the facts, which are so shocking.
There are about 10 suicides a day or over 3,500 suicides a year in Canada. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24. Imagine that; we have statistics on children as young as 10. Suicide rates are four to six times higher for aboriginal youth than for non-aboriginal youth. The Inuit suicide rate is more than 10 times higher than the rate for the rest of the population of Canada. Furthermore, in 2002, the WHO reported that nearly one million people had committed suicide that year, which exceeded the total number of deaths by war, homicide and civil conflicts.
Shocking does not even begin to describe those statistics. That is why last Parliament I actually introduced a bill for a national suicide prevention strategy, Bill C-297, as it is known in this Parliament.
I started working on the bill after I received a call from a man in Nunavut, Jack Hicks. He is a suicide prevention educator and researcher. He called our office and said, “You need to know what is happening in my community” and he told us about what was happening in his community. He talked about suicide and suicide prevention, and we realized we could do something legislatively. We could have a legislative answer to that. He talked about the fact that there is good work being done in provinces, in communities. In the smallest of communities and large cities there is good working being done on suicide prevention, but the problem is that it is not connected. We are not sharing best practices. We are not talking about what is working in different communities. There is no way to connect these things. So, we thought about the fact that we need a co-ordinated approach in Canada and put together this bill for a suicide prevention strategy.
In doing that, I had the great pleasure and privilege of working with the people from CASP, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. They worked so hard on this issue of suicide prevention, generally, but also in helping us with our bill and bringing it forward. I am so grateful to them for their work on suicide prevention and our bill.
When we introduce a bill on suicide prevention, an issue like that, I can tell members that we get a lot of attention from media. For example, when a particular issue arises or a particular event in a community, we are asked to do some public speaking. That has been a journey for me. It has been an amazing experience. Unfortunately, we get to really become immersed in the issue of suicide but, fortunately, it means we get to hear about the stories around Canada and realize that this is such a terrible problem in our country but that there are solutions.
Last year, I was asked by APTN, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, to do an interview because a boy, eight years old, in a small town in northern Saskatchewan died by suicide.
Can members even imagine an eight-year-old boy knowing that is an option, having seen it in his community, knowing that it was something he could do, thinking it was an answer and, frankly, knowing how to do it?
This is happening in our communities across Canada. It is something we cannot avoid. It is something we cannot hide from any more.
Another incredible experience I have had working on my own bill is being able to work across party lines on this issue. I am thrilled that the Liberals have brought forward this motion today and that we are in this House, in this amazing, wonderful place, debating this incredibly important issue. I am thrilled that we are working on the issue of suicide prevention.
I have also worked closely with the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, on the government side of the House. He is truly a champion for suicide prevention in his own community and across Canada.
In fact, this week, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention is holding a conference in Vancouver. It has actually honoured the two of us, both myself and the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, for our work on suicide prevention. We were both very sorry that we were not there personally to accept the award, but it has been a privilege to work with CASP and we were both so honoured to be given this award for our work.
I have also had the opportunity to work with amazing community groups who have endorsed the bill that I introduced, and I presume they would be very supportive of this motion, organizations like the Canadian Psychiatric Association. We have had municipalities come forward and endorse the bill from all around Canada. Also, individuals, mental health workers, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Assembly of First Nations. It has been, really, overwhelming and so wonderful.
I also had the chance to work with a young man in my riding, named Scott Chisholm. He is actually now living in the riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River. He put together a photo exhibit called “Collateral Damage”. They are photos and excerpts from people talking about how suicide has touched their lives. We hosted an art show, actually, in my riding office of these photos. They are stunning. Many of the folks are from Nova Scotia.
It was really a profound experience to walk through the exhibit and see people I knew from my community sharing their stories, people who I had no idea their lives had been touched by suicide. One of the lines or one of the tag lines Scott uses to describe his project is, “Not talking about it is not working.” He is right.
Everybody who is featured in his photo exhibit talks about that, how they have never talked about how suicide has touched their lives, how they have never shared with anybody. It is an amazing experience. He is actually touring the show around Nova Scotia and hopefully will get to some other provinces as well.
In bringing forward a private member's bill, I have often been asked if it is ever going to pass or if it has any hope of being debated in the House of Commons. I have always responded that it is part of a process, it is part of building a movement around suicide prevention. A bill can be a touchstone that people can look at and rally around.
I think that is evidenced here today. When we start talking about issues in the House of Commons, when we bring forward motions or private members' bills, we never know what is next. I could never have predicted, for example, that there would be an opposition day motion on this issue where politicians across the House would have to stand and talk about the issue of suicide prevention.
When it comes to the private member's bill, as well, I have said publicly that I will pull it if it means there is a solution. If the government says it is going to specifically mandate the Mental Health Commission to take on suicide prevention, I will pull the bill. If the government says it is actually going to put this under public health's realm, that it is going to give the jurisdiction to them, I will pull the bill. If the government says it is going to bring forward a bill for a national suicide prevention strategy, I will pull mine.
This is not a partisan issue. This is about prevention. Suicide is a preventable death. If we all work together across party lines, we can prevent suicides in this country. A suicide prevention strategy is exactly what educators and advocates around the country have been asking for. It is all they have been asking for.
The motion is a wonderful step in that direction. I really hope that together we can make it a reality.