Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this evening and speak to this bill. I cannot say that about a lot of bills that I have spoken to. I would like to spend a few minutes to praise the author of this bill, the member for Kitchener—Conestoga.
The member's work on this has been exemplary. We were fortunate enough to co-chair an ad hoc committee that we put together on palliative and compassionate care. He was clearly a leader on that study. We were able to produce a substantive report that contained several chapters addressing the issue of suicide and suicide prevention.
I say, proudly, all parties contributed both their time and effort in the hearings that we conducted, in gathering witnesses together, taking the evidence and funding the committee. We did it all from our parliamentary budgets outside the regular course of events. Again, he was a stalwart in leading in all those areas. He did it from a core within his own soul, with the passion and caring that needs to be drawn to this issue in order to accomplish what he has accomplished. As a result of that, we have this private member's bill, Bill C-300, that very clearly sets out a framework from which Canada can finally address this scourge on our society.
I want to recognize the contents of the bill. It would create a framework for suicide prevention. It would recognize suicide as both a mental health and a public health issue. That was interesting. From some of the new evidence, he and I learned during the course of this that it was both a mental health issue and a public health issue. It would designate the appropriate entity within the Government of Canada to deal with and assume responsibility for the program.
The program would be designed to improve public awareness, disseminate information on suicide and on suicide prevention, and make statistics publicly available so that we would be more knowledgeable on the issue. It would define best practices for prevention. We saw that in Canada in a number of areas, but they tended to be isolated.
The agency would be designed in such a way as to promote collaboration and knowledge exchange within the NGO community, the health community, the provinces and the territories. More specifically, it would require the Government of Canada to enter into negotiations with the NGOs and the provinces and territories within 100 days of the bill receiving royal assent. It would set up an ongoing collaboration with all levels of government, along with the NGOs.
Within four years there would be a report back and every two years after that so that we could see what progress had been made. Perhaps if there were any changes to be made, we would address those.
The member and I were both taken aback by the fact that what came out in the course of those hearings was that Canada was in a very strange position. We had led the way. This is testimony from all sorts of experts we have in the country, including one from my own riding. I want to acknowledge the work that Dr. Antoon Leenaars has done in the area of suicide and suicide prevention. He is a psychologist in the Windsor area and a recognized expert in this area, not only in Canada, but across the globe. He has worked for a number of other governments in helping them implement the program that we developed in Canada and then never implemented.
We started working on this in 1993. We developed it. It is a model for the world. All of the other G8 countries have adopted and implemented it. They have reduced the suicide rates in their countries. We did not. To some degree it is a shame that we have not. All levels of government assume some responsibility for that. I want to repeat that the United States, England, Ireland, Scotland, Finland, Australia, and a number of other countries beyond the G8 have adopted it.
I want to also acknowledge the work of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. It has been a stalwart for a number of years in helping develop that program. Initially, it was an integral part and is continuing to push to finally get it into place.
I want to single out the province of Quebec. Its provincial government, I think I am safe in saying, has moved extensively in implementing this national program that the Canadian government was instrumental in developing but never implemented. In the course of its implementation over the years, Quebec has actually reduced its suicide rate by 50%. That is not unique but reflects what happened in other countries, where we saw similar reduction rates in suicide. Rates of 25%, 40% and 50% were very common in all of the countries that implemented the program that was developed in Canada. They saw a very successful response within their communities and a very substantial reduction in suicides.
The program also works in Canada. It was implemented in the province of Quebec fairly extensively. Quebec still wants to do more and if this program is put into place at the federal level, it will complete the work it wants to do. Again, there was a 50% reduction. On an approximate basis, there are 4,000 suicides every year. If we implemented this across the whole country, we would be talking about saving 2,000 lives on an annual basis. The faster this bill gets through the process, receives royal assent and is implemented, the faster we will begin to reduce these deaths in our society. These deaths are so tragic not only for the victims but their families, friends and communities more generally.
I want to finish by again congratulating and acknowledging the work of the member for Kitchener—Conestoga. We need more parliamentarians like him.