Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak, today, to what no one can doubt to be an incredibly important and urgent issue: the need for a pan-Canadian suicide prevention strategy.
The House of Commons demonstrated its commitment to developing a national strategy in October of last year. The hon. member for Toronto Centre, the interim leader of the Liberal Party, introduced an important and powerful motion passed by this House almost unanimously when we agreed that suicide is more than a personal tragedy; it is also a serious public health issue and public policy priority. As a government and as national representatives, we must work with our counterparts in the provinces and territories and with representatives from non-governmental organizations, first nations, Inuit and Métis people, to establish and fund a comprehensive, evidence-driven national suicide prevention strategy.
I was proud to stand along with nearly every other member in this House to support that motion.
This issue with other mental health and end-of-life concerns has been forefront in my mind for more than two years, both here and as a member of the all-party parliamentary palliative and compassionate care committee, which I helped form with Bill C-300 sponsor, the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar and the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis.
What brought us together goes back to our initial reactions to a private member's bill dealing with end-of-life issues. At that time I felt, and still feel, that if people are given a reason to live, feel their lives are relevant and significant and truly do not feel that they are a burden on society and are able to live pain-free, they just might be less inclined to turn to more desperate measures as a relief from the emotional, mental or physical pain from which they suffer.
Over the course of our hearings, we travelled widely and Canadians from across the country came to Ottawa, at their own expense, to share their stories and experiences with us. These were men and women, parents, siblings and families who were directly affected by mental health issues and suicide, as well as experts who deal with mental health and suicide prevention daily.
Our committee ultimately concluded and recommended that the federal government establish a suicide prevention secretariat and that it provide the secretariat with adequate funding so that it might conduct and support research and act as a conduit between the provincial and municipal governments and community stakeholders to accomplish these goals.
The result of this federally directed collaboration would be the development and implementation of a national suicide prevention strategy, similar to the one we are discussing today. By working together, the various levels of government and stakeholders could develop and implement a program with nationally recognized and accepted standards for the training of suicide intervention personnel. By providing a nationally directed body to coordinate with other levels of government and groups, research and information could be more easily shared instead of being isolated in a series of silos across the country.
More important, it would enable the development of a national public awareness program on suicide and suicide prevention, as well as facilitate social media around reducing the stigma associated with suicide and mental health issues.
We have all heard various notable figures speak out and tell marginalized youth that it gets better; an important and valuable lesson that too many Canadians do not hear in time. However, our efforts to reach youth and others in need more effectively must be better coordinated across the country.
The facts behind suicide are staggering. Ten Canadians take their own life every day. By the time we wrap up here tonight, 10 more Canadians will have committed suicide because they are struggling with pain and hopelessness, depression and desperation. By the end of today, 10 more Canadian families will be devastated by the loss of a loved one. For every Canadian who commits suicide, there are 100 who attempt to kill or deliberately harm themselves. That is 1,000 Canadians a day, hundreds of thousands a year. Many of those Canadians will be men aged 25 to 29 or 40 to 44, or women aged 30 to 34. Suicide is the leading cause of death in those age groups. It is the second leading cause for young men and women between 10 and 24 years old. It may be one of our veterans, where the suicide rate is nearly three times higher than in the general population.
Suicide rates among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, intersexed and two-spirited youth is seven times the rate of heterosexual youth. The leading cause of death for aboriginal males aged 10 to 19 is suicide and the rate for Inuit youth is among the highest in the world, at 11 times higher than the national average. Yet, in the face of these staggering statistics, and for not one good reason, we remain hostage to our inability to appropriately deal with the crisis, which affects us from coast to coast to coast. We are one of two countries in the G8 without a national suicide prevention strategy.
We also know that suicide intervention works. Countless lives are saved every year through intervention. We know that so much more can be done and so many more can be saved with the appropriate public funding of research and a national direction to guide the response in each of our provinces. Many organizations have called for a national suicide prevention strategy. In October 2004, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, known as CASP, issued the first edition of the CASP blueprint for a Canadian national suicide prevention strategy, a document that was later revised in 2009. The CASP blueprint called for an awareness and understanding of suicide, so that we might all understand this tragedy better, and so that fewer Canadian families would be needlessly victimized. It called for prevention and intervention that not only features community-based programs which address the specific needs of at-risk sections of our population, but that can be implemented more broadly. In order to adequately address these needs, the call for funding and support, as well as a more coherent approach to the gathering of information, must be answered.
A month ago, the Mental Health Commission of Canada reported on its mental health strategy for Canada, once again calling for a national suicide prevention strategy. It stated, “Despite the fact that pan-Canadian initiatives could help all jurisdictions to improve mental health outcomes, planning documents that address these matters from the perspective of the country as a whole are rare.”
The testimony is voluminous, the statistics are clear. Suicide is so much more than a personal and sudden decision made in a time of great pain, angst or isolation. It is a terrible scourge that affects nearly every family across the country.
In closing, all of us here want to see this national tragedy end, and we have yet another opportunity with this step forward. We came together in October to pass a motion calling for a national strategy for suicide prevention. We came together as members of an all-party committee to advocate a national strategy for suicide prevention, outlined in the committee's report, “Not to be Forgotten”. Now we can come together again and support Bill C-300.