moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, during my comments when the House discussed Bill C-300 at second reading, I thanked the many individuals and organizations who helped in its development. Today I would like to begin my comments by extending my gratitude to all of the witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Health. Their expertise was invaluable.
I was not able to attend all of the hearings in person, but I have reviewed the evidence and I have learned a lot. I learned that national leadership of the type called for by Bill C-300 could reduce the number of deaths by suicide in Canada by more than 450. Professor Brian Mishara of the University of Quebec's Centre for Research and Intervention on Suicide and Euthanasia made this and many other excellent points during his testimony.
From the University of Western Ontario's Dr. Marnin Heisel I learned that the cost of suicide and self-harm in Canada is more than $2.4 billion each year and that this number will only grow as our society ages. While this is an emotional issue for me, a moral imperative based on my experiences, faith and the value I place on human life, I also learned that there is a strong economic case for the coordination of suicide prevention efforts across this great country. I learned that Canada is an exporter of knowledge and expertise in suicide prevention and that other countries are often earlier adopters of Canadian-built solutions than we are ourselves. I also learned new ways to describe the role that Bill C-300 will play in providing that coordination, a vacuum that must be filled in order to bring hope to our most vulnerable.
Dammy Damstrom-Albach, president of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, noted the significance of the federal role, saying:
It must function as both catalyst and glue to stimulate and cement the needed connections. Suicide prevention requires all levels of government to unite in support of the community groups, survivors, those with lived experience and the thousands of volunteers who have long done the lion's share of this work. The national government must step forward to do its portion.
Catalyst, glue, stimulate, cement: this is a high-level view of what I believe Bill C-300 seeks to accomplish.
Tana Nash, of the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council, provided a view from the front lines. She told the health committee that Bill C-300:
...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 we can simply add our own local crisis information instead of reinventing the wheel.
Of course, it should be clear that it is not the intent of Bill C-300 to tell communities how to do suicide prevention. Each community will need to contextualize its own approach based on the wealth of ideas and resources that are available, but there should be no community group that needs to start from scratch ever again.
Through my work developing Bill C-300, I have enjoyed meeting many passionate individuals who are champions of mental health and suicide prevent. Scott Chisholm, of Thunder Bay, founded the collateral damage project. Scott spoke on Parliament Hill about the need to do more. He reminded parliamentarians that “Our first responders don't have the tools and skills needed to evaluate risk.... Our teachers and doctors don't have the training to recognize and react to the warning signs.... We can do better with just a bit of leadership.”
He went on to say, “I believe Parliament can save lives. Better information sharing, better statistics, better translation of research into practice, all promised by Bill C-300, will save lives.”
Mr. Chisholm has closely followed Bill C-300's progress through the House. Several times after I thanked hon. members for their willingness to speak frankly on this issue, I would find a comment from Scott on Facebook thanking me for encouraging this open dialogue. His thanks usually ended with “...because not talking about it isn't working”.
And not talking about it is not working. I have commented several times through this process that the conversation we are having is just as important as the legislation. This is reflected in the thrust of Canada's new mental health strategy, which was launched by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, another great initiative of this government, just last week.
The word “stigma” is used dozens of times throughout this strategy. It is pointed out that only one in three Canadians experiencing mental health difficulties will seek help. Stigma and the fear of being labelled prevent many people from seeking help. Bill C-300 will foster the conversations in which Canada must engage if we are to save more lives. Bill C-300 will foster hope.
I have mentioned this quotation several times, and some hon. members might actually be able to say it out loud with me, but Margaret Somerville of McGill University said it best, I believe:
Hope is dependent on having a sense of connection to the future, even if that future is very short-term.... Hope is the oxygen of the human spirit; without it our spirit dies.
Mr. Speaker, you and I both have hopes for the future, but some Canadians, whether due to distress, overwhelming circumstances or medical challenges, lose hope. Each day, on average, 1,000 Canadians lose hope so completely that they attempt that final irreversible step; each day, ten Canadians complete the attempt. Ten Canadians' lives are lost each day to suicide.
As hon. members shared during second reading, we all know someone. Some have struggled to help school-aged children cope with the suicide of a classmate. Most of us have dealt with death by suicide of friends or colleagues. Some, in fact—altogether too many—have faced the aftermath of suicide even more closely.
Any of us who have ever grieved the loss of a family member or a close friend will know the feelings of doubt and sorrow that can overwhelm even the strongest of us. Members of this House are aware of my life's journey over this past year. I lost my wife and best friend to an undiagnosed medical condition within hours of last year's election victory. Once again I thank hon. members from all sides of the House for the compassion they demonstrated and continue to show to this very day.
I will admit that after losing Betty, I felt overwhelmed. There were points were I doubted I would be able to continue my role in service to the people of Kitchener—Conestoga. In fact, there were some times when I doubted if I wanted to.
However, while I missed her, while I continue to miss her every day, I have never felt alone. My family members were there with me, and I was there with them. We had each other. My caucus colleagues, and indeed all hon. members, provided me a strong support network. Even today at events across the Waterloo region, it is not uncommon for someone to take the time to offer their condolences.
I am grateful to God for these heartfelt responses that remind me that I am not alone in my pain, and I am grateful to God for the gift of life and allowing me to continue to enjoy his gift despite my loss.
I share my personal experience because it is related to hope and to community. First, I never felt alone. I gained new appreciation for the blessings of family, friends and faith. They have kept me focused on the future and on hope. I cannot imagine standing in this House today were any of these elements lacking in my life.
While I can never picture myself falling victim to suicidal behaviours, I do understand how easy it could be for someone to temporarily lose hope and in the process take actions with permanent, fatal consequences.
Second, death always provides challenges to the survivors. The challenges I faced after Betty's death were profound. All those who walked those agonizing days with us, though—family, friends and staff—understood that there was simply nothing anyone could have done to change the outcome. Her condition was undiagnosed and inoperable.
Those left behind by suicide face everything I faced, but with the added complications of false guilt and blame that exist because of the stigma of suicide. While our family has drawn strength from open conversations about Betty with friends and strangers alike, those left behind by suicide too often feel uncomfortable sharing their story. That is part of the problem.
We simply cannot face a problem, let alone solve it, if we are afraid to talk about it. That is why Bill C-300 calls for the recognition of suicide as more than a mental health issue. Suicide is also a public health issue. The Mental Health Commission of Canada notes that the elements of Bill C-300 fit well within their overall mental health strategy.
Bill C-300 calls for knowledge exchange and the use of evidence-based practices, moving Canada toward the information hub called for by Tana Nash and the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council.
I do not stand today to claim Bill C-300 is a magic wand. More would still need to be done. However, I truly believe that Bill C-300 is the first step on that journey.
Were it in my power and ability, I would reach out, myself, to comfort each and every one of those coping with suicidal thoughts. If it were in my power, no volunteer currently making those heroic efforts would feel under-resourced or unappreciated by society. However, these actions are beyond me. They are in fact beyond any government that must balance the relative benefit of every request for funding and contemplate the opportunity costs of funding project A at the expense of project B.
I have the honour of serving the good people of Kitchener—Conestoga as their member of Parliament. My constituents and members of this House are familiar with my beliefs as they relate to the value and importance of human life. I will continue to promote a culture of life for those struggling, for those who can no longer speak for themselves, and for those who cannot yet speak for themselves. I believe that every life is precious.
Passing Bill C-300 would deliver a message of hope to those working in communities across Canada. In time, that hope would be delivered to the tens of thousands of Canadians who engage in suicidal behaviours each year. The implementation of Bill C-300 would enable Canadians to engage in the conversations that are required for understanding and healing. Those who have suffered from suicidal thoughts or suffered the death by suicide of a loved one would have a connection to the resources that could help restore hope.
Mr. Speaker, through you, I thank all hon. members for standing with vulnerable Canadians on this journey toward hope. Hope: the oxygen of the human spirit. Without it, our spirit dies.