House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sector.


Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, with all due respect for the member from Calgary Centre-North, she is obviously contradicting herself. She says openly that the last recession was caused by the financial sector, that it was catastrophic in the United States and resulted in major spending to support a financial sector that had not been prudent and honest enough. Now, when we say the global financial sector is an enemy, that it is solely responsible for the last economic recession, we are told we should not talk about it that way. We are not blind; we have memories. What we remember and what we see are the reasons we say that the financial sector has to be regulated and not left to go its own way, as the government seems to prefer.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my esteemed colleague on his very interesting speech. Like him, I condemn the fact that we have forgotten who was really responsible for this situation, that they have not been punished severely enough, and that workers and taxpayers ended up paying the price. What does my esteemed colleague think we can do to minimize that burden?

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, the first thing we have to do is make sure that the financial sector answers to Canada, not the other way around. That is critical. Once we have established that, we will be able to tell the financial sector to stop taking advantage of Canadians with usurious credit card interest rates and freezing people's funds for no reason to apply new administrative charges. Most importantly, we have to ensure that the emerging economic sector is as well regulated as the old one so that people who invest in pooled registered pension plans can count on better protection than Canadians had during the latest economic recession.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his speech and on his work as a member of the Standing Committee on Finance. He was a tax lawyer before becoming an MP, and I know that he has extensive knowledge and experience. This bill does nothing to prevent speculation. It does not deal with that problem. What does my colleague think should be done about that?

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, Canada's industrial sector has lost 400,000 jobs. When that sector is in need of investments, there are none to be found. Yet right now in Canada, there is $500 billion tied up in the financial sector that is used only for takeovers, speculation and other purely financial purposes, not investment.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill S-5, the Financial System Review Act. However, before I begin, I would like to express my displeasure at the fact that this bill was examined by the other place before being studied here. I think it shows a complete lack of respect for this House, especially since the other place studied it for only three weeks. I will come back to all the procedures involved in that.

On the other hand, we do support this bill, the Financial System Review Act. We know that the financial services industry employs many Canadians. This sector is very important to the NDP. However, it is not necessarily straightforward. It is rather complex; it is not an ordinary sector for the economy. Banks and financial institutions have several ways of influencing politicians—this is more obvious if one looks at the other side of the House—and the economy. This very important sector forms part of the foundation of our country and our economy.

We know that the legislation must be reviewed every five years. The last review was in 2007. We find it deplorable that, when the opportunity arises to review such legislation, the review is done so quickly, without giving members the opportunity to closely examine the bill and without consulting the public.

With regard to procedures, we know that the bill was examined by the unelected members of the Senate for three weeks. Moreover, after hearing Senator Boisvenu's comments, we are of the opinion that the Senate's judgment may sometimes leave something to be desired. Why not examine a bill as important as this one here in the House of Commons? Why not discuss it and find real solutions?

On this side of the House, we would like to abolish the Senate. Thus, we do not necessarily agree that this bill should have been examined there. This is an important bill since financial institutions really have an impact. We also find it deplorable that there were only 30 Internet submissions, 27 of which were anonymous. That was the basis for the study. Only three people dared to say where they were from and what their suggestions were. We do not feel as though the study was very thorough. We would definitely like to examine this bill more closely when it is sent to the Standing Committee on Finance. We must take the time to examine it.

No public consultations were held. We do not know what the procedures were and who was able to discuss them. The government did not really look at what consumers and the public had to say. That is why we think that the members opposite are lacking courage when it comes to this bill. They should have looked at how to protect the public and consumers. The banks are making record profits. And what is the government doing? It is giving them tax breaks. The public has to pay increasingly high bank fees. Banks are increasing customer fees. People have to pay more to withdraw their own money. It is completely unacceptable. We think that the members opposite lack courage because they did not consider all the options and did not look at how to protect consumers. It was—

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but it is 1:30 p.m. He will have about five minutes when the bill returns on the order paper.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from November 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-278, An Act respecting a day to increase public awareness about epilepsy, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of the member for Halifax West, who introduced Bill C-278.

The bill is designed to make March 26 Purple Day all across Canada every year. The purpose is to raise awareness of epilepsy and to help epilepsy sufferers, their families, friends and communities recognize that there are many among us who suffer from epilepsy, but they are a part of us. Awareness will help all of us recognize how to help epilepsy sufferers during seizures and reduce the stigma attached to epilepsy.

I will start by mentioning the presence here of Susan Harrison, executive director of the Epilepsy and Seizure Disorder Resource Centre in my riding of Kingston and the Islands.

I am not standing on debate today because I am an expert on epilepsy. I am relatively ignorant of epilepsy. I am standing today because of a young woman who is a friend, a constituent and a resident of Kingston. She told me during the last election campaign that I really had to go to an event called Purple Day. At first I did not know what it was, but I attended it. I sat and listened and really realized that I did not understand epilepsy at all.

I want to start off by thanking this young woman, Kim McFarlane, who is the secretary of the Epilepsy and Seizure Disorder Resource Centres of Southeastern Ontario, for inviting me to the event and also for sharing a lot of her own personal experiences, which I will relate in my speech today.

I did not know that, for example, one in a hundred people suffer from epilepsy. That means about 300,000 Canadians. Probably a couple of members of the House of Commons are epilepsy sufferers.

What is very important is I did not realize how many different types of epilepsy there were and that there were stereotypes, mostly in our visual entertainment, of what it meant to have an epilepsy seizure. That means we do not often recognize it in our daily lives. We may confuse it and think that something else is happening, when really we have to recognize that epilepsy is a possibility and deal with it accordingly.

I would like to quote from my friend Kim, who talks about her own type of epilepsy. She says:

I apparently look spaced out with a glazed look over my face for 15 seconds to a minute. However, when I come around, I don't remember anything and usually I'm pretty tired. I could walk from point A to point B, but I won't remember how I got there. I could even have a conversation with someone, yet I won't remember a word of it. One moment, I'm working away, the next thing I know that there's a lapse of time I can't account for and I'm trying to piece together what happened. Of course, I'll never remember that brief period. All seizures are different and not everyone will have the exact same every single time. Sometimes I “space out”, sometimes I'll mumble, and other times well, even carry on what I was doing. This is just a snapshot of two of the many different types of seizures that exist.

If somebody told me about those symptoms a year ago, I would not have associated them with epilepsy at all.

In recognition of a day like Purple Day, giving it official recognition across the country will help with that awareness, and every bit of awareness of fellow members of our community will help bring us closer and allow us to help each other better.

Another aspect of awareness of different kinds of seizures is to help people who are suffering from seizures with safety during the seizure and also help support them when they come out of a seizure. Often when people come out of seizures, they are confused. They might be scared because they do not remember what happened and they have to figure out where they are now that the seizure is over.

I would like to again quote from my friend, Kim, about the stigma that is connected with seizures. This is the second thing about awareness, not only when somebody is having a seizure or right afterward and learning what to do, but learning how to live with other members of the community who have epilepsy and recognizing that they are just like everybody else. There is a couple of things they cannot do. They need special care for a few minutes sometimes, or longer, but we really have to avoid the stigma.

To understand what that stigma can mean, I would like to quote from Kim McFarlane again. She suffered from epilepsy as a young child, just like the person who is responsible for this bill, Cassidy Megan, a resident of the constituency of Halifax West.

My friend, Kim, also was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was a child. She said:

I remember the first time I ever directly felt the stigma attached to epilepsy. I was in grade 6 rehearsing for our spring play, when at the moment that it was my turn to say my lines; I had an absence seizure in front of everyone. Since I wasn't saying my lines, my teacher thought I must have been defiant. She threatened to send me to the office if I didn't answer her....[T]hat day still sticks with me. There have been many other instances, too, where I've heard comments over the years, including more recently, which one could describe as ignorant. Imagine if you will hearing someone refer to the second hand of a clock as something that looks like it's having a seizure; or standing in Dundas Square in Toronto watching hip hop/breakdancers and hearing 2 guys behind you say they “look like they are having seizures”; or watching one of your favourite reality shows, and a judge refers to a contestant's dance piece as though he's having a seizure because the body movements were a little crazy and all over the place. This is only a smidgen of things I've heard, and I'm only one person. Other times people just automatically assume that because I said the word “epilepsy” or the word “seizure”--they start panicking and think I must have tonic-clonic seizures and that I will convulse on the ground because this is the only type of seizure that is typically portrayed on primetime shows. However, the reality is I'd rather someone stop and ask me questions, than just make assumptions. It's better to become educated than to remain ignorant. The point of Purple Day is about raising awareness, about education, and about eliminating the stigma that is attached to epilepsy. As long as that stigma remains, many with the disorder will not disclose or talk about it for fear of backlash and prejudice.

That is one of the purposes of designating March 26 as Purple Day, to deal with the stigma and to educate people. It is also an opportunity to tell people about some famous people who have also suffered from epilepsy. I draw today from a speech which my hon. colleague from Halifax West gave. He mentioned a number of famous people who suffered from epilepsy: Dostoevsky and Neil Young, artists; FloJo, Florence Griffith Joyner, the athlete; Margaux Hemingway and Danny Glover, actors; and Pope Pius IX.

Purple Day is a chance to tell children especially that there are many very accomplished people in history and in the world who are co-sufferers of epilepsy. Maybe even “suffering” is the wrong word to use in some cases; it is just part of who they are. They are not somebody different; they are not outside the mainstream of society. That is another opportunity we would have, if we were to make Purple Day a national day of recognition and awareness.

I would like to conclude with a statement from my friend Kim who has been working to support and help people become more aware of epilepsy for a long time. She said:

Everyone is all unique and has their own special talents. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and fairly and not threatened by backlash or prejudged in any way. If 1 in 100 Canadians have epilepsy, statistically speaking, how many Members of Parliament, Senators, staff members, and all of their family and friends, have this neurological disorder? Help bring epilepsy out of the shadows by not only supporting Bill C-278 and asking questions instead of making assumptions, but by encouraging discussion, dialogue, and awareness not only here on Parliament Hill, but also in your own constituencies.

Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his eloquent speech. I am grateful to speak in support of Bill C-278, introduced by the hon. member for Halifax West, which promotes epilepsy awareness.

The bill calls on the Government of Canada to establish each March 26 as Purple Day in Canada. Every year on March 26, people would be encouraged to wear the colour purple to indicate their support for those living with epilepsy and to raise awareness of this serious condition. Any opportunity we have to raise awareness of this important health issue and its causes is worthy of consideration. There are many reasons for this.

Almost 190,000 Canadians are living with epilepsy, a number growing by almost 15,000 every year, many of whom are in my home riding of Oshawa.

I was diagnosed and grew up with petit mal epilepsy. I know what it is like to deal with this condition. People living with epilepsy experience brief recurring seizures that can pose serious harm. Epilepsy can begin at any age, but new cases are most common among children and older adults. While many strides have been made in addressing epilepsy, much remains to be done.

Socially, people with epilepsy can suffer from the stigma associated with it because there is little understanding about the nature of the disease. At times, people with epilepsy can also face difficulty finding employment or even obtaining private health insurance.

To underscore the challenges of living with epilepsy, we need only listen to the stories of our fellow Canadians, like Norm Beam from Niagara Falls, Ontario. Mr. Beam said:

Suffering from so many seizures due to having epilepsy was a really rough time in my life as well as my wife, Janet....

Many nights my wife and I would lay in bed in tears, feeling so helpless. We had no one to turn to. No one really understood what my epilepsy was doing to me. Friends and family weren't there for they just didn't understand. I lost a few friends after they witnessed me having a seizure.

As well, there is the case of Adam Cunningham from Burlington, Ontario. Mr. Cunningham started having seizures at eight years of age. He would have as many as 10 a day. Mr. Cunningham said these seizures felt like “somebody was bashing my head in with a baseball bat”.

As a result of his epilepsy, Mr. Cunningham lost out on hockey and lacrosse scholarships. As a result of his condition, he was not able to live alone or to drive. He even underwent brain surgery in the hopes of reducing the seizures. When referring to his epilepsy, he said:

It has been a terrible impact on my life and I don't want this to happen to anyone else.

Mr. Beam's and Mr. Cunningham's stories are but two examples of the countless challenges that Canadians with epilepsy face every day. As such, we must do more to raise awareness about epilepsy. In doing so, we can decrease the stigma faced by epileptics.

Epileptic seizures are classified as a neurological condition caused by sudden, brief electrical discharges in a group of brain cells. This condition can be separated into two types, idiopathic epilepsy and symptomatic epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy accounts for 60% of cases. It cannot be prevented. Its cause is unknown. Symptomatic epilepsy, also known as secondary epilepsy, the kind I was diagnosed with, can be caused by brain damage during birth, strokes, brain infections, brain tumours and severe brain injuries caused by accidents. All of these factors can contribute to epileptic seizures.

Research shows greater occurrences of epilepsy in children and seniors. For example, nearly a quarter of new seizure cases occur after the age of 60. One contributing factor in this case is a greater risk of injuries stemming from falls.

Studies show that children and seniors have a greater chance of incurring head injuries, which as I mentioned can cause secondary epilepsy. As such, activities that address supportive environments and injury prevention must be embraced. The Government of Canada is doing just that. For example, the government supports initiatives that enable both young and old to live safely and actively. It promotes active and safe routes to school, age-friendly communities and a broad range of injury prevention efforts.

The government has also provided $5 million to address sports and recreational injuries among children and youth through the active and safe injury prevention initiative.

This initiative draws attention to the importance of safety and precaution in recreational activities while encouraging children and youth to be active. While these positive initiatives are making a difference from a prevention perspective, there remains a lack of information about epilepsy that must be addressed.

That is why, in collaboration with Canada's major neurological charities, the government has implemented a four year $15 million population study. This study will determine the rates of neurological conditions in Canada and the effects of these conditions on individuals, families and caregivers.

The study involves the assistance of 25 neurological health charities, including Neurological Health Charities Canada and the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance. Data from the study will be used to better understand and meet the needs of Canadians affected by these conditions.

In addition, the government has invested more than $44 million in epilepsy-specific research since 2006, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, CIHR. Funding for this research comes through the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, as well as the Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health.

This research is crucial. It helps create new understanding about how we can build understanding and awareness of the impact of genetics on epilepsy, how epilepsy affects brain development, and what types of interventions can improve the quality of care and well-being for those living with epilepsy.

This knowledge is filling the gaps related to epilepsy that can be used to inform policies and programs and to help improve the health of Canadians. While research is key, continued action from all sectors is also critical. Right now, communities across Canada are taking action to raise awareness about epilepsy and injury prevention.

Our international partners are also taking a higher profile stance on this issue. The World Health Organization is leading a global campaign to raise awareness and provide better information about epilepsy. Together, global partners, including Canada, are building a stronger evidence base. We are strengthening and sharing our knowledge. Collectively, we are making great strides in advancing these efforts. But we can do even more.

The Canadian Epilepsy Alliance, CEA, a national support and information network, has been leading efforts to gain Canadian and international support for Purple Day. Last March, the Minister of Health recognized March as National Epilepsy Month. By drawing further attention to this issue and by declaring March 26 as Purple Day, the government will take a leadership role in these awareness raising efforts.

Before I close, I want to take a moment to offer some considerations.

The best possible path for all Canadians is to take precautions in prevention and treatment. First, proper health care and treatment is essential. Individuals with epilepsy need to ensure they seek medical advice and take their medications as directed. Even missing a dose can cause a seizure.

Additionally, those with other medical complications compounding their epilepsy must take care to ensure their medications and dosages are well managed. For people living with epilepsy, it is important to ensure their family, friends and colleagues know how to respond appropriately in the event of a seizure.

Taking precautions to prevent injuries is a shared role. We can all help to provide a safe environment. Whether we are driving, swimming, or at home, we should always be mindful of potential dangers such as falls. We would do well to remember that it is possible to prevent some forms of epilepsy by taking precautions. For example, wearing helmets helps prevent head injuries, which in turn can prevent secondary epilepsy.

For those with epilepsy, managing it well can help ensure a full life and the ability to participate in many activities. There is hope for a cure and there is hope for those living with this condition. I am evidence of that.

Bill C-278 represents a progressive step forward in raising awareness of epilepsy. It also lets epileptics know that they are not alone. By supporting this bill, we would officially enshrine in law every March 26 as Purple Day. This would increase Canadians' awareness of epilepsy and its causes. It would enable us to better support people living with epilepsy and to better understand the link between epilepsy and injury prevention.

I encourage all members to support the bill. I am confident it would make great strides toward improving the quality of life for those living with epilepsy and their families. I know this bill is extremely important to many families in Oshawa who have loved ones who suffer from epilepsy.

Again, I thank the hon. member for bringing this important issue forward for our consideration so that we can all ensure that this happens.

Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak to bill C-278, which was introduced by the member for Halifax West, for the same reasons mentioned by the member for Kingston and the Islands.

I was not very familiar with this issue. In preparing to address the House, I realized that I did not know very much about epilepsy. Other members may also lack awareness, as I did. This proves that this bill and a day to raise awareness are important.

March 26, the day proposed to this House for raising public awareness, would be called Purple Day. We often hear criticism of awareness campaigns. Some supporters say that raising awareness does not solve the problem and is merely a symbolic gesture that could seem meaningless. I would argue otherwise and stress the importance of raising awareness. That is why we support this bill.

I said at the outset that there is a lack of understanding of illnesses such as epilepsy. This proves that it is important to raise awareness. This illness is not well understood and is also unpredictable. It is the unpredictability of the seizures that makes it so difficult for people to understand this illness. The unpredictable nature of epilepsy also makes it hard for caregivers, for example. I will come back to this point a little later.

I would like to start with a very simple suggestion. The NDP members will make this suggestion in committee. I am talking about very minor changes that are backed by the organization Épilepsie Montréal métropolitain. These are changes to the French version that will improve the French. We would like to substitute “Journée lavande” for “Journée pourpre”. Thus, “couleur pourpre” would become “couleur lavande”. In addition, the term “condition” would be used instead of “maladie” in describing epilepsy in order to better represent the situation of people who suffer from epilepsy. As I mentioned, these changes are supported by Épilepsie Montréal métropolitain, more specifically Aurore Therrien, the executive director of this organization.

It seems obvious to me that the epilepsy community and the various agencies that work in this field support this bill. I am thinking about the director of the epilepsy clinic and epilepsy research group at the Sainte-Justine Hospital, Lionel Carmant. He fully supports Purple Day and he does not see anything else wrong with the bill. He thinks there are many other opportunities. He adds that the bill should receive media coverage and that we should address the discrimination that people with epilepsy suffer at work and in many other areas of society.

I think this shows once again the importance of awareness and the impact it can have in society. Even though this is a symbolic gesture, it launches very important work that can result in major progress and breakthroughs.

I think all parties in the House support bills on work toward possible medical breakthroughs. I think we all consider matters of health to be important. These are non-partisan issues. Here we are looking not only at raising awareness, but also at medical initiatives that could result in treatments. I am no expert, but based on what I have learned in the past few days, this illness is not properly understood according to current data. For example, there are surgeries available, but very few people with this illness undergo surgery, even though in many cases it would improve matters.

The same is true of the various medications available. That is a more general and very important issue that MPs have tried to grapple with recently.

Let us talk about medication shortages and availability. Epilepsy medications are less readily available because companies make relatively little money on them. That makes them harder to come by. This situation has made people more aware of this problem, and they want solutions.

There is no doubt that the House would be willing to consider the problem of medication availability. If society were aware of this problem, that would help us deal with the issue. Members of the House, including parliamentary secretaries, ministers and committee members, could keep working on this issue. That is another important reason to support this bill.

With respect to raising awareness, consider family caregivers. I had a very touching, very interesting conversation that was very difficult for me. My colleagues will understand why. While I was at a grocery store in my riding over the holidays, I ran into a family friend who lives in my riding. His wife, a family friend, passed away in September. She had a malignant brain tumour. During the final months of her life, the family had a very hard time dealing with the situation. Their experience is relevant to this discussion because we are talking about the problems that people with neurological diseases face. Of course, the severity of the disease varies from one person to the next—cancer is not the same thing as epilepsy, but it does affect neurological functions, which can be very difficult for loved ones. People with cancer and those with epilepsy have somewhat similar experiences.

Out of respect for this man, who is one of my constituents and also a friend and a friend of my family, I will not name him. During our conversation, he spoke at length about the importance of family caregivers. He talked about how much a bill like this could have helped not only his wife, but also him and his family, who made sacrifices in terms of their jobs and the time they spent trying to create a positive environment for their loved one. In this case, they were trying to make the most of her final days. In my opinion, it is just as relevant in non-terminal cases, as with epilepsy for instance, to create an environment in which the person can function normally and feel less stigmatized, which is one of the consequences of living with an illness that not everyone understands. In such cases, awareness is very important and can be a first step towards financing and understanding family caregivers, who are a very important part of health care.

Family caregivers and the resources available to them are at the crux of the matter. People often lack resources and are misunderstood. Medication can help people live day to day, support them at work and enhance their emotional or social well-being, but it starts with public awareness. I cannot emphasize this enough. It is an important gesture that may seem symbolic from the outside, but it is a first step in the right direction for our society and all Canadians, in order to improve the living conditions of people who are living with a very difficult illness. I commend them and congratulate them because, from what I have read over the past few days, life is not easy for them. They are working very hard to get legislation like this passed.

Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Bill C-278, which promotes awareness about epilepsy.

I would like to commend and thank the member for Halifax West who brought this bill forward. He probably had a dozen other choices that he could have debated in a private member's bill or motion, but he chose this issue because he felt it was important. I commend him for that.

Bill C-278 seeks to establish March 26 each year in Canada as Purple Day. As part of Purple Day, Canadians would be encouraged to wear something purple to indicate their support for people living with epilepsy. By supporting Bill C-278, we can show our dedication to raising awareness of epilepsy, which would lead to a greater acceptance and understanding of this condition. This increase in information and awareness could lead, and often does lead, to greater action taken by governments, by individuals, by society in general to help make life just a bit better for those with a certain condition, in this case, epilepsy.

I tabled a motion, and the second hour of debate on it is coming up, which deals with making more information available for those who are in the advanced stages of MS, multiple sclerosis, and are considering whether to go somewhere to have the so-called liberation therapy treatment. Because it is not available in Canada, my motion seeks to provide information about other places people could go to have this treatment and to provide information about what the process involves.

One of the benefits of my motion, perhaps its greatest benefit, would be to raise awareness, as the member's private member's bill raises awareness, and to garner support and in the end, help make people's lives a bit easier. I commend the member for that.

Credit for Purple Day and this bill is owed to a special young Canadian. Her noble efforts should be applauded. Cassidy Megan, a young girl from Nova Scotia, was seven years old when she had her first epileptic attack. Her own questions and struggles with this condition led her to suggest that countries worldwide should take steps to recognize the many challenges of living with epilepsy.

As a way of doing this, Cassidy came up with the idea of Purple Day. The choice of the colour purple has a broad significance. The lavender flower, representing purple on the colour spectrum, is internationally recognized as the symbol of epilepsy. It represents the feelings of isolation that many people affected with epilepsy and seizure disorders often feel.

I can say very honestly that I know very little about epilepsy. That is part of the reason I commend the member for bringing this bill forward, in that I have learned a little. However, I know about having a child who has lived with a lot of isolation because of a condition that the child is living with.

Our youngest daughter was born with a moderate hearing impairment. All through her life in many situations she simply did not know what was going on around her. Even in a crowd she was isolated because she just did not know. Our daughter never complained about that. She never let it hold her back. She became an engineer. She has a great job. She got married last summer. She is doing very well in spite of this condition. However, as a parent, seeing the isolation and the pain that this caused her certainly has led me to understand the importance of trying to help those who have conditions that really do make them feel isolated.

I believe that the greater understanding brought about because of this bill will, through understanding and acceptance, lead to a little less isolation on the part of people suffering from epilepsy.

Back to Cassidy and epilepsy. Cassidy's motivation for starting Purple Day is inspiring and her own personal story is making an impact. For instance, the Canadian Epilepsy Association is now working to have Purple Day endorsed by the World Health Organization and the United Nations.

Purple Day is a way to get people to talk about epilepsy. We must do all we can to recognize this condition and raise awareness of its associated challenges. By doing so, we are letting people living with epilepsy know that they are really not alone.

For anyone unfamiliar with epilepsy, let me take a few moments to explain what it is and why it needs our attention.

Epilepsy is one of the most common chronic neurological conditions in Canada. Epilepsy affects more than 50 million Canadians worldwide. In Canada, nearly 190,000 people live with epilepsy. This number grows by more than 50,000 every year. The World Health Organization has declared that epilepsy is the most common serious brain disorder globally.

One of the hallmarks of this disease is the brief recurring seizures experienced by epileptics. These mild to severe seizures often occur when nerve cells or neurons in the brain send out the wrong signals. When having a seizure, an epileptic may have violent muscle spasms or lose consciousness. Due to the perceived stigma associated with epilepsy, many with the disorder are reluctant to report having it or to seek treatment, so the number of those affected may be even higher than the reported numbers.

The most common known causes of epilepsy result from injuries resulting from a brain tumour, head trauma, substance abuse or serious infection. However, in more than half of all epileptic cases, the cause simply remains unknown. That said, many Canadians living with epilepsy enjoy productive lives, but living with this condition still presents challenges for patients, their families and for society.

Some of these challenges include physical hazards related to unpredictable seizures, social exclusion and other forms of stigma. It can also affect participation in key aspects of life, including communities, schools, employment and leisure. Raising awareness about epilepsy is part of confronting the condition and its challenges.

By supporting this bill and enshrining Purple Day into law, we build on initiatives already in place to enhance the understanding of epilepsy in Canada. For example, March is recognized as National Epilepsy Month. In March Canadians are encouraged to learn more about epilepsy and to help foster a national focus on a discussion of the condition.

In addition, the Government of Canada works in tandem with its key partners to help us better prepare to meet the needs of those living with neurological conditions, including epilepsy. Furthermore, I am pleased to say that the Government of Canada has invested $15 million over four years in a national population study of neurological conditions, working with major neurological health charities in Canada.

Raising awareness about epilepsy is exactly what Bill C-278 is all about and I have talked about why that is important.

On a final note, I would like to close with some words from Cassidy Megan. As Cassidy said in a recent public message:

I started Purple Day because when I first found out that I had epilepsy I was afraid and embarrassed of what other people would think. I also thought I was the only kid in the world with epilepsy. I wanted to have one day where everyone in the world could show support for people with epilepsy and teach people about epilepsy.

Educating people about epilepsy is so important because people need to know what to do if they see someone having a seizure and they need to know that there are different types of seizures...

I would like to commend Cassidy Megan and the member for Halifax West for what they have done to help with awareness and to make things just a little better for people with epilepsy.

Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to commend the hon. member for Halifax West for introducing this very important bill and, particularly the founder of Purple Day, Cassidy Megan, and her family for their excellent work. This is a great example of involvement and commitment that can bring about change.

I am pleased to participate in a debate on an issue as important as a condition that has such a major impact on Canadians and their families. Unfortunately, I must apologize to those who suffer from epilepsy because our government and we politicians have not done enough.

Let us look at the situation. Today, in 2012, 30% of patients do not respond to the treatments that are currently available. This figure shows how necessary it is to produce new anti-epileptic drugs, improve access to global epilepsy assessment and treatment programs and increase funding for research in this area.

One in four people has seizures that cannot be controlled with anti-epileptic drugs. Surgery is an option for nearly half of these people. Dr. Valiente noted that, in Ontario, 10,000 people with epilepsy could benefit from brain surgery but only 2% have the operation.

According to a briefing note about anti-epileptic drug shortages by the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance, drug manufacturers are not in any rush to address the current shortages, which largely affect lower-cost generic drugs with small profit margins. That is shameful. The shortage of drugs used to treat epilepsy can have serious consequences that can reduce the quality of life of those with the condition and even put their lives at risk.

I sympathize with the people who have this illness because this situation is unacceptable and even deplorable. We must take action and that is why I support this bill. Even though this bill does not necessarily focus on access to medication, I support it because it will make Canadians more aware of epilepsy. However, my party is still calling upon the government to deliver concrete results for Canadians in matters of health. Canadians deserve more than empty words. The government can and must do more to help Canadians with epilepsy and their loved ones. The NDP is advocating and asking for this.

Indeed, members opposite and all members of this Parliament are speaking eloquently about the challenges people with epilepsy face, but previous governments had no plan to help these people. I wonder if all members are going to pressure this government to implement measures such as help for caregivers and employment assistance measures for people in difficult situations. We know that a number of people with epilepsy are also under-employed.

Is this government going to take the drug shortage seriously? This shortage has devastating effects on people with epilepsy. Previous Liberal governments were no better. The Liberals were in power for 13 years and had a majority government for 11 of those years. They did not increase public awareness about epilepsy and did not help those with epilepsy fight discrimination, which is still far too common. Purple Day was created in 2008, when the Liberals no longer formed the government.

We know that this condition affects many Canadians and has serious repercussions on their lives and their families' lives. Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological diseases in the world and affects almost 300,000 people in Canada and 50 million people worldwide. Epilepsy can also have profound physical, psychological and social repercussions and its impact on quality of life is sometimes worse than other chronic diseases. It is believed that certain factors can contribute to this situation, including the unpredictability of the episodes and the social stigma associated with epilepsy.

People with epilepsy are more likely to have low self-esteem, to be depressed and even to commit suicide. This illness can also have repercussions on a person's education, job opportunities, independence, and the ability to drive or get a driver's licence. These very difficult conditions have to be taken into account by this government and future governments.

More than 30% of patients do not respond to current treatments and suffer unpredictable seizures. This highlights the need to manufacture new anti-epileptic drugs, improve access to comprehensive programs to fight this condition and increase funding for research. We cannot eradicate this illness without research. That is what we on this side of the House and the experts who agree with us are asking for.

Together with the experts, I fully support Purple Day to raise public awareness of epilepsy. The Canadian Epilepsy Alliance and its 25 member organizations are strong supporters of Bill C-278. Dr. Lionel Carmant, director of the epilepsy clinic and the epilepsy research group at Sainte-Justine Hospital and a professor in the pediatrics department at Université de Montreal, fully supports Purple Day. He does not see any other errors in the bill. He also believes that there other opportunities: obtain media coverage for the bill and tackle discrimination against people with epilepsy in the workplace and in other areas of society.

I completely agree with that. The Epilepsy Support Centre in London, Ontario, said that it is critical to build public awareness of epilepsy because people with the illness can face social stigmatization. Information is still the best way to raise public awareness.

Épilepsie Montréal Métropolitain also supports the bill wholeheartedly.

Lastly, I would like to remind Canadians of the NDP's position. We support this bill because it would raise awareness among Canadians. We are asking the government to take responsibility for delivering real results for people with epilepsy. The government can and should do more to ensure that medications are available. Let us end the stigmatization of Canadians suffering from this illness.

Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Before I recognize the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, I would like to inform her that she will have only three minutes to make a few remarks.

Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for bringing up this important legislation. More awareness is needed for people dealing with epilepsy. If we choose to look the other way on this important issue, we will be turning our backs on 300,000 Canadians who live with epilepsy every day.

A young girl from Nova Scotia took it upon herself to create purple day in 2008. She was only nine years-old, but she was motivated by her own struggles with epilepsy. In 2009, the day was created internationally, and now 35 countries recognize the importance of raising awareness of this condition.

Epilepsy is not a small issue: it affects about 1 in every 100 people in Canada. That makes this condition the second most common neurological disorder after migraines. It is more common than muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and Parkinson's disease combined. Epilepsy may begin at any age, but the most common occurrence is in young children and the elderly over 65. They are our most vulnerable citizens and should not be forgotten.

Purple day helps remove the stigma of a very common condition. In the developing countries of our planet, 60% to 90% of people living with epilepsy receive no treatment due to social stigma. Our country must set an example with people wearing purple on March 26 in order to remove the stigma of this common condition.

People with epilepsy have been shown to have an increased risk of poor self-esteem, leading to depression, which can lead to higher rates of suicide. The House has been debating suicide prevention for some time now, and it is time to take concrete actions to undo the stigma and provide further health care for those who need it.

Epilepsy also adversely affects an individual's education and employment opportunities. As a government, we need to create possibilities for job growth in our country. Under this government, employment opportunities have been getting worse for average Canadians, so the disadvantaged are less likely to be employed and are more likely to sink into depression. Measures should be taken to fight discrimination against any Canadian.

Raising awareness to overcome stigmas is extremely important, but raising awareness also means speaking about the shortages in health care. An important point is that about 70% of people with epilepsy respond to current treatments. That is a good thing, but it also means that 30% do not respond to the currently available treatments. These people continue to experience uncontrollable seizures.

This is clearly the time to highlight the need for anti-epileptic drugs and improve the access to comprehensive epilepsy programs for evaluation and treatment. We need to--

Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please.

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but I must go to the sponsor of the bill, the hon. member for Halifax West, for his right of reply.

Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I regret the fact the mover of the bill gets the last five minutes and ends up taking time from the last speaker. I certainly appreciate the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine's comments, and I will say a little more about them later.

I want to talk about some of the other comments we heard today. I am really grateful for the support of all members, as I am sure Cassidy Megan is as well, the young lady from my riding of Halifax West, who was spoken of so often today.

I enjoyed all of the speeches today. My colleague from Kingston and the Islands spoke of a young woman from his riding who came to him to talk about this issue. For her it was an issue of overcoming the stigma of having seizures and people's reactions to, and lack of understanding of, them. He, like all of us, I think, has learned more about epilepsy from hearing about it and speaking on this topic.

My colleague from Oshawa, the parliamentary secretary for health, spoke very touchingly about his personal experience with epilepsy, because he has petit mal epilepsy. He also spoke of a person he talked to who had lost friends because of their seizures when he was a kid and who talked of the impact of that. Imagine what that would be like, how awful that would be for a young person.

I also appreciated the comments made by the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas, who spoke about the importance of making people aware of epilepsy and how it works.

I also thought that my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright spoke very touchingly and powerfully. He said that greater awareness, we hope, will lead to greater action, greater government action, greater action from all of us. That is very much the idea of this bill. He also talked about the personal experience of his own child and the isolation that she has sometimes felt because of a hearing impairment. I appreciate that, as looking forward to his motion on MS, which I congratulate him for moving.

The member for Pontiac spoke about the difficult situation that people with epilepsy are in and of the lack of resources and support. He also spoke about the discrimination and stigmatization that they face.

The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine said let us not turn our backs on the 300,000 Canadians living with epilepsy. It is valuable for us to be reminded of how many Canadians actually are affected by this and what it can mean for all of them.

I want to close, though, with my thoughts and my appreciation of all members, but particularly to Cassidy Megan, the young girl who started all this, of whom I am so proud. This means a great deal to all of us and I look forward to this bill succeeding and I appreciate the support of members.

Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

It being 2:30, the time provided for debate has expired.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Purple Day ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

It being 2:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)