Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking after my colleagues, particularly our health and environment critics. Every speech teaches us a little bit more about Lyme disease. I am pleased to also say a few words about Bill C-442, An Act respecting a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease.
I must say that this bill is of interest to me, as are so many other bills. We have heard some stories, and last February I received a letter from a constituent about this bill:
I am one of your constituents and on behalf of the thousands of Canadians suffering from Lyme disease, I am asking you to support Bill C-442 respecting a national strategy on Lyme disease. Debate on the bill begins on March 4.
Later on in the letter, she wrote:
We need to support Bill C-442 so that we can develop a national strategy to fight this serious disease.
The person who wrote me asked me to meet with her, which is what I did. The meeting was truly amazing for me. I was there with the mother of someone with Lyme disease.
She told me about the ordeal that she and her child, now an adult, had to go through before getting a diagnosis. Finally, after several years, it was discovered that this person was afflicted with this terrible disease. The child experienced a number of symptoms, got several diagnoses, and underwent numerous tests before being accurately diagnosed. Despite numerous doctors’ appointments and hospital tests, they were faced with more questions than answers. Over this time, the disease took its toll, and became chronic. This person will have to live with the chronic symptoms of Lyme disease.
Finally, thanks to a test in the United States—not in Canada—a clear diagnosis was obtained. In spite of the trials and tribulations, and an established diagnosis, the parents told me that it was actually a relief for the person with the disease to know what the diagnosis was. Indeed, once the disease becomes chronic, many of the symptoms of Lyme disease closely resemble chronic fatigue syndrome.
What happens when a person has symptoms but no clear diagnosis? Often, those afflicted get depressed because they do not know what has caused the symptoms. Their family and friends are left wondering what to do. They do not know how to help people with the fuzzy diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. When a diagnosis was established in this case, the family was able to support the person with Lyme disease and at that point they could come together to develop a plan of action as to how to cope with the disease.
The parent in question also praised the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, commonly known as CanLyme. The Foundation carries out very important work to raise awareness about the symptoms, diagnoses and ways to prevent Lyme disease. CanLyme is also a not-for-profit organization, and its website contains a great deal of information dispelling a number of myths and misconceptions around the disease.
I would like to commend the foundation on its extraordinary work. I would also like to salute the courage of this parent who came to meet with me to talk about their story and the plight of their loved one with Lyme disease, who had to go through quite an ordeal before getting a diagnosis.
The bill calls on the government to develop a national strategy to combat Lyme disease. I think that the government has to understand not only the need to put a strategy in place, but also the need for resources and financial backing. Parks Canada needs tools to advise people visiting our national parks on how to recognize the infamous insect that infects people with Lyme disease and the steps they should take if they are bitten, to ensure that the illness does not become chronic.
If it can be done for poison ivy, I do not understand why it cannot be done for Lyme disease. Moreover, a national strategy would help us work together with the provinces to develop tools to prevent this disease.
It is important to understand what is happening. Why is this disease spreading? It was previously a little known disease because it did not occur in Canada, where many insects die in our frigid winters and therefore do not cause a problem. However, climate change and global warming are having an effect on us as a Nordic country.
I am an agronomist by training. I got my training not so long ago. In class, we were told that Canada needed to adapt to changes in agriculture and prevent diseases that will emerge as insects head a little further north. The government must tackle these problems head on.
That is why the An Act respecting a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease is a step in the right direction, and that is why I support it. I also support it on behalf of a parent who came to meet me in my office to tell me about Lyme disease and make me more aware of it.