Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today and add a few thoughts to what is an important issue for all Canadians.
Suicide and attempted suicide affects all Canadians in one way or another. It is with that in mind that I do believe this debate is an important one. This issue crosses all political party lines and there is wide support for initiatives that take on this serious issue.
In the last number of months, we have had other debates on this subject. Members will recall that back in October the Liberal Party had an opposition day. I want to make reference to that because last fall other issues were facing Parliament and the Liberal Party had to come up with an important opposition day subject. Parties in the House are given a limited number of days in any given year for opposition days. In making a presentation to our caucus, the leader of the Liberal Party indicated that the issue of suicide had to be addressed. This is an area in which we need to see stronger unified leadership coming from the House of Commons and spreading out to different levels of government. We made the decision back then that we had to raise the profile of this important public issue.
I would like to read to the House the motion that was introduced by the leader of the Liberal Party on October 4. The motion reads:
That the House agree that suicide is more than a personal tragedy, but is also a serious public health issue and public policy priority; and, further, that the House urge the government to work co-operatively with the provinces, territories, representative organizations from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, and other stakeholders to establish and fund a National Suicide Prevention Strategy, which among other measures would promote a comprehensive and evidence-driven approach to deal with this terrible loss of life.
Many members of the House will recall that particular debate. A vote occurred at the end of that debate and the motion was passed unanimously, thereby acknowledging that suicide was a national issue that needed to be addressed.
Our motion called for the clear identification of funding so we could establish a national suicide prevention strategy. A major part of that involved looking at the stakeholders and ensuring that those stakeholders were incorporated into the development of a national strategy. The Liberal Party believes that there needs to be a national strategy to take on this issue.
There is one stakeholder more than any other stakeholder in our country that should be playing a leadership role and that is the national government. We look to the government, not only to support opposition motions, such as the one we introduced back in October, or bills such as the bill before us today that the Liberal Party supports, but we also look to the federal government to take tangible action to deal with these issues. There is a multitude of different ways in which we could do that.
The member who introduced this motion mentioned volunteers and our communities. We underestimate what those volunteers and those community organizations can do to have a tangible impact on decreasing the suicide rate here in Canada. Through that coordinated effort, we need to be able to share our ideas with the different community groups.
I will give an example. In some provinces, there is more of an active approach to encouraging discussions in our schools on suicide. I understand the Province of Quebec has a more proactive approach to educating its student population in comparison to other provinces. We need to look at having that open dialogue where we have our young people being aware of suicide. There is nothing wrong with talking about some of those issues, such as peer pressure, bullying, gays and so much more that is impacting our young people and the amount of stress that is there. That is one reason we have so many young people considering suicide. Fortunately, most suicide attempts fail. However, at the end of the day, everyday there are 10 Canadians who have been successful in committing suicide.
When we talk to our young people, what can we as a community say to encourage them to feel comfortable in talking about, to understand that life has its ups and downs days and that even though they might be experiencing a great deal of pressure, those days will go away and positive days will come? We want our youth to know there are individuals out there who truly care. There are organizations out there, whether they are local counsellors within the school or a community health facility where there are professionals and volunteers, they can assist with some of the pressures that are put on young people.
We also need to deal in a more tangible way with the serious issue of suicide among seniors. We have organizations and stakeholders that focus virtually 100% of their time on senior related issues. To what degree are we providing the leadership that is necessary to share ideas on what works and what does not work? Maybe we need to go to seniors' homes or talk with 55-plus groups about the issue of being alone and that sense of loneliness. What kind of policy decisions can we make that will deal with those types of issues?
I talked with the Garden City Mall Walkers Group, a group of seniors in my constituency. and they asked me why they could not ride the bus for free during off-peak hours. They said that it would get them out of their home and into their community.
I want to make reference to our veterans and the whole idea of PTSD. We have attempted to raise that issue because it affects many individuals who fought in Afghanistan, those who represented Canada so well in ensuring that our forces were there making us all proud. We need to invest in a very real and tangible way so we are taking care of those issues that are causing far too many of our members within our forces to commit suicide.
The bottom line is the Liberal Party of Canada is prepared to put party politics aside in order to deal with this issue. We believe this is a crisis situation with which we need to deal.
We support the bill, as the government supported our motion to deal with a national strategy, because we believe in it. We look forward to its eventual passage. We thank the members for the opportunity to say these few words.