Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this afternoon to speak to the motion.
There are three pieces to the motion, but the important point of the motion is to protect and respect the rights and dignity of people, and ensure they can live the next number of decades with support and respect.
There is obviously a financial component to the support, but there is also the emotional component as well as support throughout the disabled communities.
I was not around in the fifties of sixties, but we see how technology has changed through the years. There is a wealth of information for young mothers and young families today. Before an individual is even thinking of having a child, there is a wealth of information available. There are unlimited books, but there are obviously online resources available today outlining what individuals should do and not do, what they should take and not take. These resources were not as readily available decades ago, certainly not in the late fifties and early sixties, and it is truly unfortunate they were not.
Young couples in the late fifties, early sixties, thinking about starting families would listen to their families, their family doctors and take their advice. For an expectant mother having morning sickness or trouble sleeping, the doctor would have prescribed thalidomide to try to alleviate the symptoms so being pregnant would be a little more tolerable. That expectant mother would have taken the doctor's advice, which would have been based on the evidence that doctor had at the time to try to alleviate the symptoms of the expectant mother.
These families put their trust in the system over 50 years ago. Unfortunately for over 100 families in our country and thousands around the world, there were some pretty serious consequences. In some cases, the families faced these consequences their entire life.
Victims of thalidomide are now in their fifties and have faced a lifetime of making adjustments. They have spent a lifetime trying to compensate for their disabilities and continue on with their lives.
The Thalidomide Survivors Association of Canada did a study a few years ago. One was commissioned in 2011 and one in 1998. One of the remarkable pieces of the study was how many victims of thalidomide were motivated to have as normal a life as they could in Canada. The rate of employment among these individuals was around 73% in 1998.
However, as I said, I am sure thalidomide victims spent their entire lives trying to compensate for their disabilities and have had to overuse parts of their bodies that an average person would not have to use. Now that they are in their fifties, they are faced with a lot of pain. This report identifies the pain in all the different joints that victims of thalidomide experience.
When the motion talks about support, this is one of the components we need to recognize. The reports that came forward from the study in 2011 also indicated that the employment rate among thalidomide victims was in decline, so we need to recognize that when we talk about support. In addition, we also need to recognize the fact that these people are in physical pain. The report notes this. We can just imagine the rigour they have gone through to have a normal life.
Obviously there are a lot of extra costs associated with being disabled and trying to have a normal life, which a person such as myself may not experience, such as a device to reach something, a device to shower or a device to operate a vehicle. These all cost extra dollars and that needs to be recognized.
When we talk about respect and dignity and allowing people to lead dignified lives, not only in their younger years, but as they age into their fifties, sixties and seventies, that is also what this motion is about. Parliamentarians and Canadians support this.
Another component that is worth mentioning is timeframes. This product was on the West German market in the late 1950s, and went off the market in 1961. In Canada, it was a different story. It was not off the market until late 1962, so there was a bit of a timeframe there. That leads to the next point that I would like to talk about, which is the regulatory monitoring and recall, all the components that are the responsibility of Health Canada.
After this event, Health Canada swept through with changes that would revolutionize Canada and allow it to become one of the leading countries in areas such as this. However, the point of Health Canada's mandate is looking at the regulation and efficacy of drugs, monitoring and recall, all the issues involved in that. It could not just be changed in 1962, 1963, or 1964, and then be forgotten for 100 years; it needed to be continually looked at, changed, and monitored.
That is why I was so proud in November when a bill put forward by my colleague from Oakville, which he had spent many years of his life working on, received royal assent. On November 5, the member for Oakville saw Vanessa's law come into effect.
Aside from components such as monitoring, recall, adverse reactions, fines, and jail times for pharmaceutical companies that fail to do their jobs in performing due diligence, another component is the reporting of adverse reactions. We know that very few adverse reactions are actually reported. It is under 15%. Vanessa's law will ensure that adverse reactions are reported, so that Canadians will know and Health Canada will have a better understanding.
Frances Oldham Kelsey has been in the news recently. She worked with the FDA in the 1960s, and many years prior to that. Her comment was that there was not enough data or research to allow the product to enter the market in the United States. That was one of the failings of almost 50 of the other countries around the world that allowed this product into the market. She is a hero. This may not have been reported in the news, but there were samples distributed throughout the United States. Therefore, in spite of what she was able to accomplish, pharmaceutical companies were still able to give samples to doctors to give to their patients, young mothers.
The motion is timely. People watching at home and members of Parliament recognize that this is a great debate. This is one where all parliamentarians can have a good debate, in a very collegial manner, to benefit the Canadians who have had a lot of tough times in their lives. If we take a look at this report, we can see that they have worked very hard and tried very hard throughout their lives. We should all be proud of them for what they have been able to achieve, considering the options they had starting out.
I am very happy to speak about this today. I thank the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada for continuing to push forward for these people, to bring it to the forefront and get it to the House of Commons for debate, so we can continue to support these people in any way that we can.