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House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was employers.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Temporary Foreign Worker ProgramBusiness of SupplyOral Questions

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion—Temporary Foreign Worker ProgramBusiness of SupplyOral Questions

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion—Temporary Foreign Worker ProgramBusiness of SupplyOral Questions

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Opposition Motion—Temporary Foreign Worker ProgramBusiness of SupplyOral Questions

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP would like the division to be deferred until tomorrow, Wednesday, April 30, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Opposition Motion—Temporary Foreign Worker ProgramBusiness of SupplyOral Questions

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The division on the motion stands deferred until Wednesday, April 30, at the end of government orders.

Opposition Motion—Temporary Foreign Worker ProgramBusiness of SupplyOral Questions

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that we see the clock at 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion—Temporary Foreign Worker ProgramBusiness of SupplyOral Questions

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Is that agreed?

Opposition Motion—Temporary Foreign Worker ProgramBusiness of SupplyOral Questions

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Temporary Foreign Worker ProgramBusiness of SupplyOral Questions

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from March 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-442, An Act respecting a National Lyme Disease Strategy, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Lyme Disease Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.

NDP

Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-442, An Act respecting a National Lyme Disease Strategy, which has been tabled by my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands and seconded by my colleague from Vancouver East.

It is worthwhile noting that the House has looked at the question of Lyme disease in incremental steps since at least 2008. At that time, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who is a former member of Parliament from Winnipeg North, called for a national strategy and by 2009 she was submitting order paper questions to find out more from the government about what it was doing, or perhaps better put, not doing.

As the successor to Jack Layton in Toronto—Danforth, it was of some interest to have discovered in correspondence provided to me by a constituent that on January 17, 2008, Mr. Layton had written to the Conservative minister of health at the time outlining the life circumstances of David Leggett, one of my constituents, who I rely on heavily in terms of his counsel on this issue.

To cut a long story short, Mr. Layton indicated to the minister that he had issued an information request under the Access to Information Act requesting results on the proficiency tests of a federal laboratory with respect to the ability to identify Lyme indicators in blood. The whole point was that the ability to do so was the key to early detection and therefore to effective treatment. There is this wonderful line in the letter, “The request for information was denied on the basis of national security. Neither Mr. Leggett nor I can understand the basis for this response”.

Although I am not here to explain or to talk further about why such a bizarre response to an information request on Lyme disease would have been received, it is rather indicative of the climate that patients, advocates and supporters have faced for a good number of years. There seems to be this bunker mentality in various quarters, and maybe as far back as 2008, that was shared by the Conservative government. I realize that things are moving ahead and that the Public Health Agency of Canada can be counted on more as an ally in this struggle. I hope that will lead to all members of the House supporting the bill from my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Time is marching on. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has upped its estimate using a whole set of methods to approximately 300,000 Americans a year being diagnosed with Lyme disease. This is a 2013 analysis. From that, apart from the high incidence, it concludes that the CDC and other researchers must continue to identify novel methods to kill ticks and prevent illness in people. Lyle Petersen of the CDC said, “We need to move to a broader approach to tick reduction, involving entire communities, to combat this public health problem”. That is all well and good.

It is important to note the preventative angle. However, it is also, through my interactions with constituents, the whole question of diagnosis. Once people are unlucky enough to get infected, early diagnosis leads to them, potentially so early, to actually being able to prevent any effects, but within a short period of time that will be impossible. Therefore, to receive effective treatment has to be as much at the top of our agenda as the broader prevention.

It is also the case from recent research that it is very clear that the relevant ticks are moving north and that at some point in the next number of years the large majority of Canadians will live in high incidence zones. As I said, time is marching on.

My colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands has devised something that is very much of a process, a process that will achieve something.

The first, or the central, pillar of the bill is the convening of a conference with all stakeholders within six months of the bill receiving royal assent to come up with a series of strategic outcomes, including, for example, establishing guidelines for prevention, diagnostics and treatment.

What I like in particular, and what I know people in the anti-Lyme disease advocacy community like most, about the strategy is how it makes sure to include the representatives of patient groups along with other experts in the medical community. From experience grows experience. I can attest to that in many conversations with David Leggett. From experience, he has insights that almost no member of the medical profession could hope to bring to the table.

I would like to share the stories of two of my constituents by way of bringing that home.

Alison says:

I am one of your constituents, living in the Danforth area, who has been battling Lyme for the last 7.5 years.

It took 5 years to receive a diagnosis, and now over 2 years of treatment to become more functionally stable. In 2011, I had to make the decision to go into massive medical debt in order to receive treatment - my Lyme literate doctor is located in New York.

I lost the ability to work 4 years ago. And, at this point, I'm quite scared about my future. I'm only 38. I've watched my 30s just rush by. I know that if I had received an earlier diagnosis, I wouldn't have had to experience such difficulty recovering.

I really don't want this to happen to any other Canadian. Lyme or no Lyme, all of us deserve medical care In our own country, and we deserve proper diagnostic tests and treatment. The current treatment guidelines for Lyme Disease in Canada, set by the College of Physicians, is an absolute joke. 30-days of antibiotic therapy is woefully inadequate: especially if a patient has been exposed to the Lyme bacteria for years. Personally, I didn't experience any noticeable, long-lasting symptom improvement until 13-months into antibiotic treatment.....

I recently calculated how much money I've had to spend on medical care in the last 7-years, and the total came to approximately $42,000. .... I want all MPs to know how incredibly expensive it is for Canadian Lyme patients to receive treatment. It never ceases to surprise me that I pay into a universal medical system (through taxes) that I have no access to. How crazy is that?

Donna also writes:

I am a Toronto-Danforth resident who knows only too well of the devastating (physically, emotionally and financially) impacts that lyme disease has on a person. I am also proof that there is a need for proper diagnosis and that extended treatment can be effective. I lost 5+ years of my life, and approximately $250,000 to the disease. I am (mostly) well again and have been very fortunate to have completed a successful return to work.

With respect to my (conservative) estimate of the cost, I don't want to mislead you...I was treated in the U.S., but those costs were only a small part of the actual costs.

I would end now by drawing on my constituent David Leggett whose insights I always welcome. He does say that when it comes to a strategy, something the NDP always emphasizes within the framework of collaborative federalism. In a recent note to me, he said:

Something to stress is the importance of working in lockstep with provincial government health ministries. To be truly effective, a national framework based on objective discovery, research, effective testing tools...training for doctors...and effective treatment regimes and timelines have to be set up and maintained.

Also, he says, echoing the other two constituents I just quoted:

—the fact that many lymies have had to rely on US laboratories and doctors for proper diagnosis and treatment. Without this support from beyond our borders (and mostly paid for out of pocket), the problem here would be borderline catastrophic.

The tabling of this bill is timely. It is needed. I congratulate and thank my colleague, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, for doing so. I fully intend to support it. I hope the strategy that does emerge from this, because I do have great hope that colleagues from across the way will also support it, will in fact make a big difference in what is likely to be a growing health issue for Canada in the years ahead.

National Lyme Disease Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer my thoughts on Bill C-442. The subject is a national Lyme disease strategy.

I am very pleased to second the adoption of this bill by Parliament to address the urgent needs of victims of this disease. I congratulate the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for this initiative. I totally support the important principle of this bill and our government's efforts to amend the legislation at the health committee, of which I am a member.

As my colleagues on both sides of the House have recognized, Lyme disease is an emerging infectious disease in Canada. It is caused by a bacterium transmitted by ticks, now increasingly found in southern Canada, including in the greater Toronto area.

Like the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, I have a friend who suffers from Lyme disease. In 2006, I received a call from my long-time friend, Janet Mitchell, a former Oakville town councillor, who had recently, after years of confusion and misdiagnosis, been diagnosed with Lyme disease.

Janet told me a hair-raising story. She had in previous years lost the feeling in and control of her lower extremities and had difficulty walking. She was naturally deeply engaged with and worried about what was happening. She had great trouble getting up and down steps and ended up using a walker to get around. She and her husband had to move to a condominium that had no steps. She had a fear that she would end up needing a wheelchair due to a disease that she had previously never even heard of.

Then Janet told me that she had heard that her condition could have come from the bite of an insect, which is very frightening. A deer tick had bitten Janet, and unlike most victims of such bites, she did not develop a visible target-like rash, so she had never noticed. This is not that rare. That tick had deposited a kind of poison in her bloodstream, bacteria that over time can hide in the human body and cause those symptoms. It finds places in our joints and elsewhere where antibiotics cannot easily reach. It is like a scary movie.

Reported Lyme disease cases in Canada increased from 30 in 2003 to over 300 in 2012, and these numbers are expected to rise even further as ticks responsible for Lyme disease move into Canada's most densely populated areas. These numbers will also rise as conditions thought to be something else or diagnosed to be something else are increasingly correctly diagnosed as Lyme disease. Indeed, based on current rates in the U.S., Canada is likely to experience a marked increase in Lyme disease cases in the coming 10 years. Some estimates report that by 2020, the economic cost of reported Lyme disease cases in Canada could reach $8 million annually, for cases diagnosed early, in medical costs alone.

Being from Oakville, in southern Ontario, I understand that it is my part of the country that will most likely see the sharpest spike in Lyme disease cases over the next decade. That is why it is so important to my constituents that we address this issue sooner rather than later, and it is why I thank Janet Mitchell for educating me about this nasty and insidious disease.

These unsettling statistics are some of the chief reasons I am supportive of this legislation before the House today and why I have also been pleased to hear of our government's work in addressing Lyme disease. In recent years, our government has committed to working with the provinces and territories to address these risks to Canadians. The Public Health Agency of Canada has undertaken enhanced stakeholder engagement, public and clinical education, enhanced surveillance, and research to improve diagnostic integrity, which is one of the key problems.

The Public Health Agency's work has focused on surveillance, prevention, and control as the first step. The second step is research and diagnosis, and the third step is engagement, education, and awareness. This work has demonstrated positive first steps to address an emerging yet serious disease, and Bill C-442 promises to further add to this drive. Additionally, our government has devoted funding dollars in support of Lyme disease research, primarily through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Indeed, since 2006, we have invested approximately $4.6 million in Lyme disease research.

Our government has also been diligently working in concert with the provinces and territories on surveillance and on prevention and control activities. Provinces and territories report Lyme disease as a national reportable disease, and these data are contributing to the Public Health Agency of Canada's ability to monitor and report on the disease's progress.

Of course, the reality is why I am supportive of our government's proposed amendments to the bill, as outlined in the above facts.

Janet Mitchell was originally told by her doctor that she had MS, a disease that is somewhat more common in Canada than in other countries. She was told, like many others across Canada, that she could not possibly have Lyme disease, because we do not have Lyme disease in Canada. That was the best diagnosis she could get at the time. I shudder to think of how frightening that false diagnosis would have been for her and other Canadians who may have been diagnosed in a similar way.

However, Janet studied her condition on her own. She had spent a lot of time camping and hiking. Absent a visible rash, she had all the described symptoms of Lyme disease she found on the Internet. Janet found a new doctor, who advised her that the only test done in Ontario was not that reliable. She paid to have her own blood sample sent to the U.S. for a test called IGeneX, otherwise referred to as Western Blot, which is far more reliable. That test told her that she had the Lyme spirochete in her bloodstream. She had Lyme disease.

The theory that we do not have Lyme disease in Canada was actually never really true. We just did not have very much of it. Yet our specialists misdiagnosed many Canadians with Lyme disease as having other conditions, preventing them from getting the treatment they needed, as if deer and birds do not cross international borders, because both carry the ticks.

If caught early, Lyme disease can be cured. The bacteria can be eliminated with common antibiotics like erythromycin. However, once the spirochetes invade the cells, it is difficult to kill them, requiring, in some cases, months of treatment with more powerful antibiotics. An early and accurate diagnosis is key.

It is clearly important to respond to emerging diseases such as Lyme, but as the federal government, we still maintain the responsibility to respect jurisdictional boundaries, especially with regard to health care.

I have been very pleased to see that our government has been delivering historic funding dollars in support of health care to be delivered by the provinces and territories. They are projected to reach $40 billion annually by the end of the decade, which is, of course, a new record.

Provinces and territories are responsible for health care delivery, and it is important that the bill reflect that reality. At the federal level, we do our part by supporting research and sharing best practices across jurisdictions. Indeed, we are the single largest investor in health research, with support of nearly $1 billion annually. These research dollars will deliver the resources necessary to support medical experts in developing the research necessary to adequately respond to new and emerging diseases.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a member of the Standing Committee on Health and very much look forward to further review of Bill C-442 when it is referred to us in the coming months.

In the course of the committee's work, I hope to hear from various stakeholder groups on the current and possible future impacts of Lyme disease, not the least of which will be medical experts on the subject. Their input will help contribute to the committee's understanding of this emerging disease and further inform our work going forward.

I would be pleased to work with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands on the bill, which promises to further build upon the good work our government has been doing to address Lyme disease in Canada. I think her commitment to this evolving issue and her willingness to work with our government demonstrates a spirit of co-operation that will be important going forward.

As we look to proceed on the bill at its current stage, I anticipate a good and full discussion on its merits and on ways it can be further improved.

I thank my hon. colleagues from all parties for their attention, and I urge them to support Bill C-442 at this stage so that we may work to improve its recognition of jurisdictional responsibilities and the proper role the federal government plays in addressing emerging diseases.

I look forward to the health committee's proceedings on the bill and the testimony we will hear on the subject of Lyme disease.

National Lyme Disease Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to rise in this House today to speak to Bill C-442, because like many other members in this House, I have constituents who have suffered from Lyme disease. Sadly, for many constituents, it has taken them months if not years to get an adequate diagnosis. In the meantime, their lives have been lives of misery, as they simply have not been correctly diagnosed or have not received the proper treatment.

Bill C-442 aims to track the incidence rates, create educational materials to raise awareness about Lyme disease, establish testing and treatment guidelines, and track the related economic impacts of Lyme disease. It would also support the research and implementation of better and more reliable diagnostic testing and increased education and awareness among physicians.

I want to turn for a moment to a Globe and Mail article that was in the paper on April 27. The headline was “Lyme disease on the rise in Canada, linked to ticks”. The subheading is, “This is the first in a series examining health repercussions for Canadians due to a changing climate. First up: Lyme disease”. In the article, the writer notes:

Most Canadians think of Lyme disease as a rare illness that afflicts hikers bitten by ticks in the deep woods. Infected individuals develop a bull's-eye rash and go on antibiotics for a few weeks to clear it up. Problem solved.

The trouble with this picture—promoted for years by Canadian health authorities—is that it does not begin to capture the true threat of Lyme disease, which in its chronic form can turn into a life sentence of debilitating joint pain and neurological problems. Disease-carrying ticks in Canada have increased tenfold in the past two decades, spread by migratory birds and nurtured by warming climates that allow them to thrive in our own backyards. While reported cases jumped 146 per cent between 2009 and 2012, advocates say that testing is inadequate and doctors lack awareness of Lyme, resulting in gross underreporting and under-diagnosis of this rapidly emerging infectious disease.

I can certainly say that on Vancouver Island, some of the response from the medical community has been that Lyme disease does not exist on Vancouver Island, so someone could not possibly have Lyme disease. Of course, when some of the constituents were able to get the testing, outside of Canada, sadly, spending thousands of dollars, it was demonstrated that they did in fact have Lyme disease and then needed to be on prolonged courses of antibiotics to deal with it.

Later in the article, it says:

Detecting Lyme disease is an evolving science, however. Recent studies have shown that different strains of Borrelia, the bacteria that causes Lyme, may target different organ systems, triggering a variety of immune responses. While the responses vary, one strain alone can affect skin, joints, the heart and nervous system.

Canadian health authorities recognize the need to detect different strains of the bacteria, the PHAC [the Public Health Agency of Canada] said in a statement, adding that Canadian labs are using “updated screening tests that are reactive to a much broader range of Borrelia strains”.

Mr. Wilson is with a not-for-profit organization that has been trying to raise awareness. The article continues:

But Wilson said that from what he has heard in the Lyme community, Canadian patients are still being offered the same old tests. The standard Western blot test detects only a lab strain of Borrelia and its close cousin.

The second test, known as the ELISA, isn't sensitive enough to distinguish Lyme from such illnesses as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, according to Dr. Brian Fallon, director of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center at Columbia University.

Both are known to have “significant limitations,” Fallon said.

Newer tests available at private U.S. labs can detect all strains and species of Borrelia bacteria. Although these tests have their own pitfalls, “they're really an improvement on the standard tests,” said Fallon, who saw no reason why they should not be widely used in Canada.

The article concluded by stating:

Unless Canada starts doing a better job at detecting Lyme disease..., “we're going to continue to have most people in the chronic category, because they're just not being picked up.”

This has a devastating effect. Certain people talk about the economy, but it has a devastating effect on people and their lives and on their families.

Part of the challenge with this is that, as I mentioned, in Canada, many patients report issues with the testing and treatment for Lyme disease. The different types of blood tests performed to identify Lyme disease often yield inaccurate results. This may mean that patients who in fact have Lyme disease are not diagnosed, or even more worrying, are misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis or chronic fatigue syndrome and do not receive the appropriate treatment, exacerbating their symptoms. Some patients even have to travel to other countries to receive treatment, because it is inadequate in Canada.

The NDP believes that this bill would improve the treatment and outcome for Lyme disease sufferers. Canadians need a national strategy on Lyme disease to ensure that the testing and treatment options in Canada are improved. Therefore, we support this bill and believe it lays out a concise plan for educating Canadians about the disease and, more importantly, providing a better quality of life for Lyme disease sufferers.

To provide a bit of background on it, this disease is spread by tick bites. Ticks are small parasites that feed on the blood of animals and humans. They pass on Lyme disease when they feed on mice, squirrels, birds, or other animals who carry the bacterium and then bite humans.

Ticks are most common during the warmer months, from spring through to late autumn. Canadians who live in areas that have mild winter temperatures and minimal snowfall have an increased risk of coming into contact with ticks, which is a description of the climate on Vancouver Island. Climate change is one of the factors causing more regions to be at risk, with warmer weather increasing tick distribution across many parts of Canada.

I have been working on this file for a number of years. Back in 2010, I had written a letter to the then minister. We had a back and forth with a number of letters. I had written a follow-up letter asking for further clarification and action because part of the response from the government was that treatment and diagnosis is a provincial responsibility so there is really not much role for the government. I was trying to argue that of course there is a role for the federal government, and part of that role is around leadership. However, I reminded the minister that the federal government has a clear role to play in establishing the guidelines and that it is within this area that most action needs be taken.

I went on to remind the minister that the Canada Health Act's principle of reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers is an important aspect of what Canadians expect in our publicly funded, publicly delivered health care system and that when we were seeing unequal access or seeing Canadians have to go out of the country in order to get adequate testing, that is absolutely a financial barrier.

I went on in the letter to say:

A number of studies have concluded that the tick vector is spreading rapidly in Canada, a process likely to be accelerated by climate change. Without current, up-to-date information about the geographical distribution of tick vector populations, doctors may falsely discount a possible Lyme disease diagnosis, and thus deny serological testing. In addition, the tick vector is also carried by migratory birds, and is therefore not isolated to any geographical region.

I quoted from an article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2009, entitled, “The emergence of Lyme disease in Canada”, stating:

...“effective enhanced surveillance involving federal and provincial agencies needs to be instigated and that clinician awareness of Lyme disease will be crucial in minimizing its impact”…as it is an emerging disease in Canada.

Further on I state:

Ultimately, Canadians are receiving inadequate care or no care at all when it comes to Lyme disease, forcing them to leave the country to seek medical attention. This is a direct denial of their rights. New national guidelines must be put in place to address this serious contravention of the Canada Health Act. Canadians should have confidence in their health care system.

Based on recent studies, the current Guidelines simply do not take into account that Lyme disease is emerging in Canada and that geography cannot be relied upon to diagnose Lyme disease. In addition, the two-tiered testing is fundamentally problematic as it excludes many patients who have Lyme disease from the more sensitive...testing...

In the response from the minister of September 15, 2011, it was interesting that the she indicated this in the letter:

Climate change is anticipated to accelerate the emergence of Lyme disease in Canada. Endemic Lyme disease risk occurs in much of southern British Columbia, but the vector here is less efficient, and risk is relatively low.

Therefore, even a couple of years ago the minister is indicating at that point that the risk was relatively low. I would argue that, because the government was not doing the kind of surveillance and follow-up that was required in order to determine the real incidence, people were simply being excluded.

There have been some changes. Although the government has moved to look at making this a nationally reportable disease in Canada, many people simply do not trust those numbers. Therefore, I will certainly be supporting Bill C-442. I want to commend the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for bringing this matter forward. It is a very important matter for us in Nanaimo—Cowichan and the rest of Canada. I would encourage all members of this House to support this bill and let us get on with developing that national strategy that is so important for our constituents.

National Lyme Disease Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to join in the debate on Bill C-442, an act respecting a national Lyme disease strategy. I commend my friend, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for bringing forward this important bill that proposes the development of a national strategy in response to a growing issue of national concern.

I cannot overly stress how important this debate is, as well as its personal significance for me. As some members of this place may recall, a few years ago my daughter became ill. She had unexplained pains and symptoms of the kind and character that have been described by other members in the House in this debate that led her from doctor to doctor and diagnosis to diagnosis without any relief in sight.

It was a stressful and traumatic time for our entire family, a period and sense of both hopelessness and helplessness. Hopelessness on the one hand because it was unclear what the correct diagnosis was in the place of competing diagnoses, or the absence of any diagnosis at all, and helplessness because it was difficult to watch my daughter struggle and not be able to help in any way.

As is too often the case, one only learns the intricacies of a disease when one is confronted with it. That was my experience with Lyme. When my daughter's purported diagnosis came I read as much as I could about the disease and was shocked at the Canadian experience with the disease when compared to the American one. Indeed, at the time I learned that there was already a U.S. Congressional caucus discussing this issue, and that there had already been proposed legislation introduced south of the border, while the debate had hardly begun in this House at all.

While many statistics have been quoted in the debate here, I would like to take a slight step back to note how Canada has been behind when it comes to Lyme disease. Here, I refer everyone to a response tabled by the government on November 15, 2011, in response to an order paper question from my colleague and friend, the member of Parliament for Etobicoke North. In that answer the government said:

The percentage of Lyme disease cases thought to be reported is unknown at present as Lyme disease has only recently become reportable.

Recall that was in 2011. Now less than three years later we know the reported cases of Lyme in Canada jumped 146% between 2009 and 2012. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 315 cases of Lyme disease were reported in 2012. According to CanLyme President Jim Wilson, the actual number is likely to be in the thousands given the massive under-diagnosis and under-reporting of the disease. The first reported case of Lyme disease in Quebec was in 2004. It was not until 2008 that the first case was confirmed inside the province.

Referred to as the “great imitator”, Lyme poses great difficulties for medical practitioners because it presents symptoms that are quite nebulous. Indeed, symptoms include joint pain, headache, and fatigue and these can easily be mistaken, and often are, for other illnesses.

Moreover, tick bites often go unnoticed and it is therefore difficult for doctors to recognize early stage Lyme based on initial symptoms that are generally associated with more benign conditions like the flu. It can also be very difficult to diagnose Lyme in children, who may not notice or communicate that they have been bitten by a tick. Indeed, in one recent study published by the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology, the first such study to identify the effects of untreated Lyme infection in children, researchers found that 76% of patients did not recall even having a tick bite.

If diagnosed early and treated with antibiotics within the first six weeks of an infection, the chances are high that a Lyme disease patient can achieve a full recovery. However, if left undiagnosed, the disease can quickly escalate: patients can develop a variety of neurological symptoms and are much more likely to develop debilitating and chronic conditions including arthritis and even facial paralysis. Currently, researchers at a new Lyme disease research facility, funded in part by the non-profit organization CanLyme, are preparing to use genetic testing to determine the extent to which some chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and Alzheimer's may in fact be the result of Lyme or other tick-borne infections.

It is clear that my background is not in medicine. Yet I understand as others in the House have said that much research remains to be done and the medical community itself is engaged in a debate over Lyme disease and its impacts over the long term.

This is in part what makes the bill so important. It allows medical professionals to share with each other and with policy-makers across the country at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels their evidence and best practices in order to facilitate a standardized approach to diagnosing and treating this disease.

In particular, the bill would require the Minister of Health to convene a conference bringing together his or her counterparts, representatives of the medical community, patients' groups, and other stakeholders to discuss this important issue. Through collaboration with the provinces and territories and medical professionals, this bill would result in the development of a national strategy to address the challenges posed by the growing risk of exposure to Lyme disease in Canada. As has been acknowledged during previous debate on this bill, Lyme disease poses a major health problem about which Canadians are not sufficiently aware and for which we remain still ill-prepared.

Other members in this place have acknowledged the laudable intent of this bill, which the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands detailed in her remarks and has spoken to as eloquently as one could. As she explained, this is a bill that would deal with the threat of Lyme disease by creating a national surveillance system to address the problems of under-reporting and misdiagnosis, which we know can have severe consequences. It would also strive to achieve the sharing of best practices by medical professionals and ministers of health in the provinces and territories.

Before I close, I would like to draw attention to one other aspect of this national health crisis, which is the extent to which communicable diseases are inextricably intertwined with our natural environment. The recent explosion of the incidence of Lyme disease is tied to changes in climate and land use that can be difficult to track and may be overlooked by both medical practitioners and policy-makers. Indeed, the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change specifically noted:

Substantial warming in higher-latitude regions will open up new terrain for some infectious diseases that are limited at present by low temperature boundaries, as already evidenced by the northward extensions in Canada...of tick populations...the vectors for Lyme disease...

Indeed, there are myriad unforseeable ways that climate change and other environmental concerns may affect public health. While this example is apparent now, there will be other such occurrences and we need to make sure that we take a holistic approach to understanding and responding to these types of threats.

Public health concerns of this kind, which require collaboration and education to achieve prevention, are perfectly suited for a co-ordinated federal framework to achieve, as the bill before us expressly sets out, increased public awareness, consensus for best practices, and an up-to-date understanding of emerging evidence regarding how this disease operates.

I trust that the members in this place will join in supporting this initiative by voting for this bill, thereby sending a clear message to Canadians that we are listening to their concerns, we are seeking to do what we can, and that we will act.

In closing, may I add that the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands' initiative in this regard is already having a positive influence. Indeed, just by debating this bill in a multipartisan matter, we are raising awareness and signalling to Canadians that this is a public health issue of national concern that deserves urgent attention and action.

I further trust that we will all join in supporting this bill so that we can take action to find the necessary solutions for the suffering of thousands of Canadians. It is a sad reality, as I indicated at the outset, that Lyme disease remains massively under-diagnosed and largely misunderstood, with the U.S. and Canadian experience differing in this regard. Cases have been skyrocketing along the U.S. side of the Vermont, New York, and Maine border with Quebec, though it should be clear that ticks do not stop at the border, as it has been said in this debate. Indeed, the prevalence of disease-carrying ticks in Canada has increased tenfold over the past two decades and there is just cause for great concern.

I am hopeful that in working together to address the situation, and with excellent bills like this going in the right direction, we will succeed in a common cause. May I conclude, again, by thanking the leader of the Green Party for this important initiative. I join again with all members in this place in expressing our sympathy and solidarity with those suffering from Lyme disease, as well as our support and appreciation to the doctors, nurses, and researchers seeking to combat Lyme disease and treat those afflicted with it.

National Lyme Disease Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak to an issue as important as Lyme disease. I would like to acknowledge the work of my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands in bringing forward this very important initiative.

This disease is spreading in Canada, and it is expected to continue to spread in years to come. That is why we have to act quickly. Bill C-442, the bill introduced by my colleague, is a step in that direction.

As was said before, Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, is transmitted through tick bites. In addition to causing serious symptoms, the disease can cause serious health consequences, affecting the joints, the heart and even the nervous system.

In Canada, ticks that can transmit Lyme disease are found in the southern parts of Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia, as well as in some regions in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec. In Quebec, ticks that carry the bacterium are found in the Montérégie region in particular.

The Bulletin québécois de vigie et d'intervention des maladies infectieuses, produced by the Bureau de surveillance et de vigie of the Direction de la protection de la santé publique, shows that there has been a significant increase in the number of Lyme disease cases in Montérégie.

In 2012, the number of cases increased considerably, going from 16 in 2007 to 43 in 2011. My riding is in that region, and I am greatly concerned by Health Canada's inaction in containing the spread of the bacterium.

Today, Mont-Saint-Bruno is a risk area, where many ticks spreading the disease can be found. We must start a national campaign to warn Canadians that these ticks exist in their region.

As early as 2008, a New Democratic member of Parliament, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, was asking the minister of health to implement a strategy to protect Canadians against an increase in the number of cases of Lyme disease. Her requests fell on deaf ears. However, five years later, we are seeing the disease progress exponentially.

At the time, the government turned a deaf ear. Now it can no longer deny the urgency of the situation. Lyme disease will continue to spread, because it goes hand in hand with global warming. Winters are not as cold as they once were, allowing the ticks to survive more easily. Inevitably, more places will become risk areas.

We must therefore be proactive in establishing a national medical surveillance program to track incidence rates, a solution proposed in Bill C-442.

Since 2009, Lyme disease has been a nationally reportable disease. That means that all medical professionals must report cases of Lyme disease to the Public Health Agency of Canada through the provincial public health system. This imperative must go hand in hand with preventive measures and programs tailored to public health needs. However, nothing specific has been done to date.

We have heard testimony from those suffering from Lyme disease who have had to deal with ignorance of the disease on the part of some doctors. The observation is alarming, but doctors are overlooking the disease because the blood tests used to diagnose it are very unreliable.

Existing diagnostic tests are effective when Lyme disease is spread, but not when it is in the early stages. Furthermore, people with Lyme disease are often misdiagnosed.

A number of specialists believe that the ELISA tests used in Canada are inadequate. A recent study at Johns Hopkins University, one of the most prestigious medical schools in the United States, showed that the ELISA test protocol for Lyme disease could not even detect the disease in 75% of patients. That is not right. The federal government needs to show some leadership on health care and needs to find ways to better protect Canadians' health by coming up with more effective and efficient solutions.

Canadians need a national Lyme disease strategy, which is why I strongly support Bill C-442, which was introduced by my colleague. This bill is effective. It proposes some guidelines for preventing, diagnosing, treating and managing the disease, as well as for creating and distributing educational material for health care professionals.

There is little documentation on people affected by Lyme disease, and their health care is often mismanaged. Research to improve the diagnostic process should be a priority so that we can prevent incorrect diagnoses.

Such a strategy has been needed for a long time. Canadians' health cannot take a back seat. The government needs to roll up its sleeves and work with the provinces to adopt measures to control this pandemic. Now is the time to take action. I fully support Bill C-442, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

National Lyme Disease Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of my House of Commons colleagues. It is a great honour for me because this bill has received support from all of the parties in the House.

I am quite overwhelmed with gratitude for this effort to bring forward something in a non-partisan spirit to help people across Canada who have been exposed to bacteria-bearing ticks and who have, as a result, suffered from Lyme disease. They are going to have help.

The fact I brought forward the bill in a non-partisan fashion has been received in equal measure as a non-partisan effort, as was evidenced by the speeches we heard here today and earlier. I will mention particularly the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, himself a parliamentary secretary and part of cabinet as a result, who spoke so passionately about why we need to act on Lyme disease, and equally so the members today for Oakville, Toronto—Danforth, Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, and Nanaimo—Cowichan. I was particularly struck by the member for Mount Royal. For him the experience of Lyme disease is very personal, because his daughter was exposed to it and suffered from it.

I am probably most grateful, more than to any other individual, to someone who has not spoken to the bill. That is the hon. Minister of Health. Without her support it would be much harder to imagine that we would see the bill leave this place and go quickly to the health committee, where I hope we will have constructive amendments, which I have already discussed with the Minister of Health, to avoid any interjurisdictional problems with the provinces.

I hope to see the bill passed in the House of Commons and go directly to the Senate. Right now I think it is not a question of if the bill is passed, but when, and how quickly we can get help to the people who are suffering from Lyme disease.

My thanks go also to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and to the Canadian Medical Association for their quite clear stand in support of the bill to bring the support and the help people need at the level of prevention through greater public awareness, adequate treatment, quick diagnosis, and further research.

To have all these things happen through the sharing of best practices, we need all the players around the table: provincial, federal, and medical experts, as well as the people in the Lyme disease community themselves, who have rallied around the bill, collected thousands and thousands of names on petitions, and delivered them to their MPs.

My thanks go out to all. Let us see the bill passed, and quickly.

National Lyme Disease Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

National Lyme Disease Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Lyme Disease Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I declare the motion carried.

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to order made on Monday, April 28, the House shall now resolve itself into committee of the whole to consider Motion No. 9 under Government Business.

Pursuant to Standing Order 100, I do now leave the chair for the House to go into committee of the whole.

(House in committee of the whole on Government Business No. 9, Mr. Bruce Stanton in the chair)

Situation in the Republic of South SudanGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Assistant Deputy Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we begin this evening's debate, I would like to remind hon. members how the proceedings will unfold. Members will recall that each member speaking will be allotted 10 minutes for debate, followed by 10 minutes for questions and comments.

Members may share their time with another member.

The debate will end after four hours or when no member rises to speak.

Pursuant to the order adopted Monday, April 28, the Chair will receive no dilatory motions, no quorum calls, and no requests for unanimous consent.

I will remind all hon. members that, as the Standing Orders permit during take note debates, members will be recognized from the seat of their choice in the chamber.

We will now begin tonight's take note debate.

Situation in the Republic of South SudanGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That this Committee take note of the situation in the Republic of South Sudan.

Situation in the Republic of South SudanGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights

Mr. Chair, it is indeed a very important issue that has been brought forward for discussion today, the situation in South Sudan.

Before I begin, let me just give a brief breakdown on the situation in South Sudan. I was born in that part of the region, in East Africa. I am well aware of the situation when the colonial powers left Africa. The winds of change were blowing on the continent, and African countries became independent.

Before that, one of the tragedies was that during the colonial power, the boundaries that were made in that part of the world were boundaries that did not take into account many of the ethnic and tribal customs and tribes living together. The borders had been made, but at that given time, we did not have much conflict; however, as the situation arose and as the countries became independent, these tensions began, the tribal tension that has been hitting the African continent very regularly.

In the earlier years, the Organization of African Unity passed a resolution to say all borders must be recognized so that there would not be conflict. Unfortunately, that did not work.

In the case of Sudan, South Sudan was joined with Sudan, one of the largest countries in the African continent. We had upper Sudan and lower Sudan, the lower Sudan being people of black origin and the upper Sudan people of Arab nature. This led to a conflict that had been there for many, many years with thousands of people, leading to rebellion.

Canada, at that given time, played a role in the comprehensive peace plan with the world community, with the United Nation, many of which sessions I attended. We brought the parties together for a comprehensive settlement. In the process, Canada being very generous with refugee claimants from these countries, we took quite a lot of refugees who were displaced from South Sudan due to the war that was taking place between north and south.

Subsequently, with Canada also being enrolled very heavily politically in the comprehensive peace plan, providing logistic support and working with our allies—the U.S.A. and all the others—pressure was put on the north and the south to come to the table, which they did. Out of that was born a new nation in the continent of Africa called South Sudan.

I had the honour and the privilege to represent Canada at the birth of this new nation in Africa. There was a huge amount of excitement when this nation was born, including on my part. Coming from the region, I found it quite historical to see a nation being born that rightfully should have been independent. As this nation was born, with it came the issue of responsibility.

In my riding of Calgary East, I have a large South Sudanese community with whom I interface quite a lot, as we continue to see how best we could build this country. Many of the ideas were that we could provide assistance, and during my visit to Juba prior to independence, Canada was giving assistance in building up democratic institutions. However, in talking to my constituents, I learned that many Canadian South Sudanese went back to rebuild this nation.

I remember at one time meeting President Kiir; half the people at the table told President Kiir that they had voted for me in the last election.

Canada played a very active role in building this new country. The country, as it was born, had great expectations for the people of South Sudan. Unfortunately, as things have progressed, as things move forward, tribalism has reared its ugly head in South Sudan, as it has everywhere else in other African countries.

Just recently, I wanted to bring in the ICC to Kenya. There was a tribal war as well in Kenya and other countries.

What is happening in the Central African Republic is very concerning. People are being killed due to ethnic and religious tensions.

We see what is happening.

I was in Rwanda two weeks ago to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide of one tribe against the other, the Hutu as well as the Tutsis who were being killed by extremist Hutus. It was all based on tribalism. The same is taking place in Congo.

It is with great dismay and shock that we see South Sudan disintegrating into a tribal war. The problem is that, while the political leaders indulge in this, the poor people, the citizens, are ultimately paying the heaviest price. In South Sudan at this time the people are paying the heaviest price by being displaced.

We were sad when we learned of the attack at the United Nations. We strongly condemned the attack. People were seeking refuge from violence and ultimately lost their lives, including some peacekeepers.

This displacement is a very worrying factor to Canada. Canada calls upon both parties to return to the peace table and work toward building a nation, since they have just become independent.

IGAD is working hard under the chairmanship of Kenya and Ethiopia, and the peace talks are going on. Regrettably, those peace talks up to now have not brought any peaceful settlement, and the war and the displacement continue. The poor people are suffering.

Later in the evening, my colleagues will talk about how much development assistance Canada has provided and continues to provide to South Sudan.

We here in Canada are calling on both sides of South Sudan to return to the table as quickly as possible and work together toward ensuring that the unity government belonging to all of the tribes of South Sudan does not fall. They should look at examples of other countries in Africa and how much they have lost in the way of development. They must recognize that ordinary people are paying the biggest price. They are suffering and being displaced. More to the point, these bands are seeking all the so-called power, when in reality their people are being displaced by the thousands.

I am sorry to say it, but South Sudan currently has gone back 10 to 15 years in development due to this war. South Sudan has a lot of potential as it is one of the rich countries, with its oil. The diaspora of South Sudanese in Canada and other countries like the U.S.A. can assist in building this country.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I again call very strongly on both sides of the conflict to go back to the table, to go back to what IGAD is doing, and sign a peace treaty and work for the people of South Sudan to build the country the people of Sudan had huge expectations for, as did I at the time it was born.

Situation in the Republic of South SudanGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Chair, I heard the hon. member say that our Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke with conviction about the peace process in Ethiopia, which is on hold right now, as we know.

Perhaps the hon. member is aware that many members of the international community are saying that Canada speaks loudly and yells a lot, but that its actions are not always as convincing.

What is Canada doing to support the peace process?