Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to join the discussion or, as my hon. friend from Kitchener—Conestoga has appropriately called it, this parliamentary show of unity on Bill C-300, the federal framework for suicide prevention act.
Having just celebrated Mother's Day, a day when we all recognize the unfailing love, support and guidance of mothers, and thinking about this discussion today, I cannot help but imagine the sheer anguish that a mother who lost her daughter or son to suicide this past year must feel on Mother's Day. It is utterly heart-wrenching to think about it.
Over 4,000 families, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins, had their lives irreversibly impacted by suicide in this past year. We do not even have a good handle on a true number, something that the bill would fix.
I had the privilege of rising in the House 19 days ago, on April 25, to make a member's statement in support of the bill. In the 19 days since then, there have likely been 190 deaths by suicide, 19,000 suicide attempts and 4,180 visits to the emergency rooms of hospitals across the country due to suicide behaviours. I say likely, because we do not have accurate suicide statistics in our country. Once again, this is very important, and Bill C-300 would correct that.
However, the real tragedy is the story behind each one of these numbers. It is a tragedy because each one of those who attempted suicide had lost hope, or, as the member for Kitchener—Conestoga has already said, the fuel of the human spirit. In doing so, their tragedy was, and is compounded, on their families, friends and the communities of our nation.
We know suicide is a very complex confluence of a number of factors. We know some groups and circumstances are more vulnerable to the threat of suicide than the general population. Veterans and aboriginal Canadians have been noted already this morning. However, we struggle to develop a suitable evidence-based response. There is no doubt this a public health issue in Canada. We have a duty in defence of the sanctity of life to act.
According to the testimony that Dr. David Goldbloom, of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, presented to the health committee, over 90% of the Canadians who died from suicide were experiencing some sort of mental health issue. By the very nature of the complexity of the problem of suicide, approaching suicide prevention is complex in and of itself.
Teachers in a position to recognize suicidal behaviours are rarely trained to do so. It is even uncommon for medical doctors and nurses to receive specific training in this area. That is where the bill would help. Many suicide prevention groups in Canada do outstanding work. They are on the front lines. They are there when people need them. They help refuel that hope, and even if it is for a short period of time, it gives them another chance.
That is why setting up a federal framework to better coordinate these efforts makes so much sense. Great work is being done by so many groups from coast to coast. I mentioned one such group 19 days ago in this chamber, called the “Jack Project”. This initiative was spawned by the tragic death by suicide of young Jack Windeler. The project's school-based outreach program is now being piloted for a full rollout next year, and I know all of my colleagues would wish them all a great success.
Let us leverage and share information and resources, share successes and ensure we can share accurate statistics as well. That is national leadership and it is a message of hope to vulnerable Canadians.
Let me reflect on two of the statements made to the health committee on this bill, which will sum it well.
One was Dr. David Goldbloom, who I referenced a couple of minutes ago, who spoke on behalf of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. He said:
The federal framework that's under consideration today will definitely advance the strategy's recommendations to mobilize leadership, to strengthen collaboration, and to strengthen the infrastructure that's required to improve mental health outcomes in Canada with a particular focus on suicide prevention.
This view from a medical professional speaks volumes, and so does the other statement I want to highlight, a view from the very front lines of suicide prevention.
Tana Nash, from the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council, which is located in a community just a few minutes up the highway from my constituency, remarked on how the federal framework could be the catalyst for a hub of resources and evidence-based information and programs which would be a godsend for organizations that were cash-strapped yet were doing so much in local communities.
I can tell you from a grassroots organization that this is essential. We are all operating on shoestring and non-existent budgets, but we imagine a hub where all of us working across Canada can access tools, brochures, and ideas, and where we can simply add our own local crisis information, instead of reinventing the wheel.
What is most encouraging was the example she gave of how a groundbreaking program, run by her organization, was unknown in my community of Hamilton, an excellent program that takes place at the grassroots level to help prevent suicides in the most practical and direct way possible, and how the federal framework proposed by this bill could help make that connection and save lives.
These are the words of Tana Nash of the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council:
One example from the Waterloo region is the Skills for Safer Living group. This is a 20-week psychosocial, psycho-educational support group, but it's specifically for folks who have had suicide attempts and are still wrestling with wanting to die. This group was developed at St. Michael's Hospital with much evidence behind it that proves its success. It teaches things like emotional and coping skills, and how to gauge your own behaviour on a sliding scale, so that you know when you're escalating and how to reach out for help.
We are fortunate that this now runs in the Waterloo region, but when I talked to the Suicide Prevention Community Council of Hamilton last week, they hadn't heard about this great program. They are hungry to have such practical training in their region as well. It's another proven practice that can be rolled out across Canada
There are a number of experts who contributed to this discussion of Bill C-300 and the federal framework for suicide prevention at the committee level. We thank them for their time and expertise. We especially thank them for all the work they do on a daily basis in communities across Canada to help prevent suicides, and the anguish and heartbreak that suicide creates.
I believe Bill C-300 serves as a useful instrument to promote dialogue, education and awareness among federal partners. I believe the development of a federal framework on suicide prevention will also carve the way for a greater federal integration of initiatives, programs and services and will assist in greater collaboration among partners, as my colleague for Kitchener—Conestoga mentioned earlier, not only federal partners but provincial, territorial and municipal partners and all of the great NGOs that do such great work.
It has been a privilege to speak to the bill. I thank the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga and all members from both sides who have advanced this discussion so fewer parents next year may suffer a Mother's Day under such excruciating circumstance of loss.