House of Commons Hansard #207 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-51.


Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin, of course, by thanking all parties in this place and all members. If even one voice had said no, I would not have had this opportunity to speak to Bill C-51 at third reading. I am genuinely grateful for the generosity of spirit in accepting this as a motion by unanimous consent.

Having participated in the debates on Bill C-51 from the very beginning, and having been the first member of Parliament to declare firm opposition to the bill, I am enormously concerned that we have made such little progress in addressing those concerns.

Let me acknowledge at the outset that one of the first concerns I had was the use of the word “lawful” as a modifier for protests and actions in civil society. That word “lawful” has been removed, and that is a small improvement, but it is insufficient to deal with the dangers that are embedded in this act.

Sitting here today through third reading, I heard a great number of propositions from Conservative members of Parliament. I have no doubt that they believe those propositions in their speaking notes to be true, but they are consistently repeating fallacies that I would like to try to explain and deconstruct so that Canadians will understand why these repeated bromides are just not true.

The three fallacies I want to address in the time I have are the following. One notion is that information-sharing, which is part one of the bill, is designed to ensure that our security services, which are the RCMP, CSIS, Canada Border Services Agency, and CSEC, the agencies of policing and intelligence, share information with each other. That was put forward earlier today several times, and that, indeed, is something that must be done, but this bill does not do it.

The second fallacy is that there is judicial oversight in this bill, because judges are involved in one section. I want to deal with that one as well.

The other fallacy is that the terrorism and propaganda sections in the amendments to the Criminal Code in this omnibus bill would actually make it more likely that we could stop youth from being radicalized.

There are some things that are not in this bill, and I want to mention those, because I do not understand why, if the Conservative Party and administration were serious about avoiding radicalization, they would not have followed the example of the United Kingdom. Not everything the U.K. is doing in this area do I endorse. However, in December of last year, the U.K. came up with a very specific anti-terrorism bill, with proactive programs to go into schools and prisons to find those people at risk of radicalization and stop them, prevent them, dissuade them. We know that the horrific attacks recently in Europe were by people who were allegedly radicalized in prison. Why do we have nothing in Canada to deal with that?

On the other hand, and I will get to this by starting with my last point first in terms of fallacies, the fallacy that the provisions in the act to take terrorist propaganda off the Internet will in fact stop radicalization needs to be understood in the context of a legal analysis of the words that are used. In the section of the bill that deals with the Criminal Code and what I now call the thought-chill section in part three of the act, what it says is that this bill would deal with something called promoting terrorism “in general”, which is not a defined term. Terrorism and general propaganda would include any visual image or general language.

Legal experts have looked at this and are concerned about a couple of things. This business of getting things off the Internet is not brand new to Canadians. We have hate speech laws that take things off the Internet, and we have child pornography laws that take things off the Internet. In what way have we constructed these provisions on terrorism in general that are fundamentally different from what we did about hate speech and child pornography, which I think we would all agree we take very seriously? Those kinds of laws have statutory defences, and more significantly, those laws specifically exclude private conversations. This one does not.

A person could be arrested and go to jail for a private conversation, for discussing things that, in general, and it is very vague, could be seen to promote terrorism or might be reckless as to whether they promoted terrorism or not. Legal experts are concerned that this chill provision would make it harder for a community to continue to converse with people who are at risk of radicalization to stop them, to argue with them, to say that their understanding of Quran is entirely wrong and that they need to talk about this.

By failing to exclude private conversations, we increase the likelihood that no one will reach out to that person, and we have no programs to deal with it.

The second fallacy, going backward, is the notion that we have judicial oversight. We have no judicial oversight in the bill. First, one needs to understand what oversight means. For this, I quote from a paper by the very dedicated law professors who took this bill on and have published hundreds of pages on it, Professor Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, who wrote the following:

“Review” and “oversight” are often confused. Oversight is a real-time (or close to real time) operational command and control strategy. Review is a retrospective performance audit....

We can say that SIRC provides review, although it has part-time employees and part-time members of the SIRC board and a very inadequate structure, but there is no oversight. We used to have an inspector general for CSIS. The inspector general for CSIS was done away with in omnibus Bill C-38 in spring of 2012.

The term “judicial oversight”, as used by members of the Conservative Party in this debate, is truly a perversion of reality. It is one of the most offensive sections of the whole bill. It is the notion in part 4 that CSIS agents with an operational role now, what Roach and Forcese describe as “kinetic” functions, would go from collecting the data in the information to taking up disruptive activities themselves. If they thought they were going to break a domestic law or violate the charter, they would go to a judge in a secret hearing and ask for permission to violate the charter. Do not take it from me. Every legal expert who testified before the committee said that this was outrageous and that no other government, and certainly none of our Five Eyes partners, allows their spy agencies to violate the Constitution through the simple expedient of going to a federal court judge in a secret hearing.

Earlier today, the parliamentary secretary for public safety ridiculed a speech from the official opposition when it pointed out that no one would be there. How could anyone be there, she asked.

That brings me to a brief from a group that was excluded from giving testimony to the committee, the special advocates. Special advocates are security cleared lawyers who operate in secret hearings, usually on security matters, to ensure that the public interest is protected. These experts who were not heard before committee did submit written evidence urging that the bill be changed to ensure that we do not have secret hearings with no one present other than the minister and CSIS.

This kind of secret hearing, by the way, is particularly egregious, because it is very unlikely to ever be subjected to judicial challenge. It would be hard to ever find out what happened in a secret hearing. It would not come before the Supreme Court of Canada and be struck down. Establishing standing, for instance, for a civil liberties organization to challenge this would be nearly impossible. That is why my position is so firm that the bill must be repealed if it should ever pass.

The last fallacy is the really large one. It is part 1, about information-sharing making us safer. First, another witness who was not allowed to testify was the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Daniel Therrien. He was very clear. He said that he was:

...concerned with the breadth of the new authorities to be conferred by the proposed new Security of Canada Information Sharing Act. This Act would seemingly allow departments and agencies to share the personal information of all individuals, including ordinary Canadians who may not be suspected of terrorist activities....

This is an important point. However, what the information-sharing section does not do, which is critical if we want safety, if we want to ensure that Air India does not happen again, is ensure that the spy agencies and the policing agencies are talking to each other so that they are not letting critical information be hoarded.

By the way, Joe Fogarty, a U.K. expert in security, testified before the Senate about recent examples, on the public record, where CSIS found out that the RCMP was tracking the wrong people and decided not to tell it, or where CSIS found out there was a training camp for terrorists and decided not to tell the RCMP. We need to ensure that these agencies share the information.

Part 1 of the bill would allow agencies of government to share information about individual Canadians, but there is no requirement and no pinnacle control to ensure that an RCMP operation tracking terrorists has information and the benefit of information from CSIS. As a structural matter, experts, from John Major, who was the chair of the Air India inquiry, to former heads of CSIS and former heads of SIRC, have all urged that the bill not be passed as is.

It is not too late. I ask my colleagues to vote no to Bill C-51.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments and the assessment she has made on the bill. Previously I spoke in the House after the member for Vancouver Quadra gave her remarks saying that when I was 21 years old and voted in 1968, I stressed I did not vote for Pierre Trudeau, but later when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into place, I really respected the effort that was made to bring that to Canada.

At this juncture, when we have four former prime ministers saying no to the bill, when we have 100 law professors and lawyers from across the country saying that this bill is a shambles and should not be proceeded with at all, the warnings of court challenges and a number of things, would the member agree with me that this perhaps has gone much further than even the Conservative members understand in the damage it could potentially do to Canadians?

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do indeed agree. I would like to point out to members, as I did not have time in a 10-minute speech, but so often we have heard that those of us on this side of the House who oppose Bill C-51 and oppose it passionately somehow are ideologically opposed to the agenda or come from a place where we have never agreed with the Conservatives ever. However, I remind them of the editorial pages of the National Post and The Globe and Mail, articles and columns by people whether it is Rex Murphy or Conrad Black which say that if we do not stop this bill, we will wake up in an unrecognizable despotism. The opposition to the bill is widespread, non-ideological and is based on the fact that the bill is badly drafted and will make Canada a less safe place.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for my colleague. I want to commend her for remarks.

The member made reference to the absence of judicial oversight. Is there any oversight capacity in this legislation?

The second question has to do with the provision regarding the seizure of terrorist propaganda. There is an offence just before that in the Criminal Code which criminalizes the promotion and advocacy of terrorist acts. I ask the member whether that also seeks to criminalize private conversations, et cetera.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has about a minute and 15 seconds.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief and I appreciate the questions from my hon. colleague from Mount Royal.

First of all, is there any oversight in the bill? It is a short answer, no. There is no oversight in the bill. We have oversight again being specific operational knowledge of what agencies are doing. By the way, there is no supervisory agency for the Canada Border Services Agency. The RCMP does have a review agency, but no oversight. CSIS has review, but no oversight. CSEC has no oversight. Now we are giving CSIS brand new powers that could interfere with and actually derail RCMP operations with no oversight. As one security expert who testified before the Senate recently said, we will be “sitting on top of a tragedy waiting to happen”.

The second question is very different. The section that we find on page 26 of Bill C-51, proposed section 83.221, as amended, changes very definitely what propaganda is, what terrorist propaganda is. We have now enough law and jurisprudence to understand the meaning of the word “terrorism”. It is well defined. There is no definition provided for this new term “terrorism in general”. Neither is there any adequate explanation because none was offered at all as to why private conversations are not excluded. Nor does it make sense to say that terrorist propaganda means any writings, signs, visual representation or audio recording that promotes terrorist offences in general. No one will know how to operationalize this act and as a result, it could actually allow people to be prevented from stopping someone from engaging in terrorist activity.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion for third reading of Bill C-51 are deemed put and the recorded division is deemed to have been demanded and deferred until Wednesday, May 6, 2015, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

It being 5:32 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 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-356, an act respecting a national strategy for dementia, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to participate in the debate on Bill C-356, an act respecting a national strategy for dementia.

I want to begin by commending my hon. colleague, the member for Nickel Belt, for bringing this important issue before the House. The member has spoken about his family's personal connection to Alzheimer's, and we can all acknowledge the good work he has done to bring attention to what is a very pressing health issue for many Canadians.

Dementia is not a normal part of aging. It knows no social, economic, ethnic, or geographical boundaries. The effects of dementia are wide-reaching, affecting those diagnosed with it, their families, friends, and all of our communities.

While evidence about the causes of dementia is limited, we are learning that risks may be reduced through early diagnosis and by promoting healthy living. Research has pointed to possible risk factors, such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, environmental, genetic and gender factors, as well as traumatic brain injury. Some of these possible risk factors are things we can change in our lifestyles, such as physical inactivity and unhealthy eating. This is one of the reasons that our government has been so focused on encouraging healthy, active lifestyles.

No family should have to lose a parent or another loved one to a terrible disease like Alzheimer's, so it is important we are working to raise awareness of these things as the research continues to evolve. That said, we know that we cannot be focused on prevention alone. We must also consider those who have already received the devastating diagnosis of dementia. We must prepare for the future while also providing support for those currently living with this disease.

Over the past year and a half, we have seen unprecedented international attention focused on dementia. Last fall, the Government of Canada co-hosted the Canada-France Global Dementia Legacy Event. This event was built upon the momentum that began with our Minister of Health's participation in the 2013 G8 dementia summit. The focus of the legacy event was on developing new approaches to research, working with both the public and private sectors to bring all efforts together.

It was at this event that the Minister of Health announced work under way with the Alzheimer Society of Canada to implement a program called dementia friends Canada across our country. I would like to provide some further details on this program as it is an international model that is proving to be very successful and is highly supported by key stakeholders.

This unique program was originally launched in Japan as Dementia Supporters and more recently in the United Kingdom as Dementia Friends.

The idea behind the program is a community-based awareness and training program that would help to build dementia-friendly communities.

For individuals living with dementia, simple routine tasks such as shopping for groceries or paying bills become increasingly challenging over time. These individuals need understanding and patience. People living with dementia want to carry on with their daily lives and feel included in their communities, but they may need a bit of help and sometimes may not know how to ask. They also need support so they can continue to be engaged in their communities comfortably and confidently.

We believe that dementia friends Canada would help individuals, communities, and businesses better understand the needs of those living with dementia in order to take action and make a difference in their quality of life. It would empower communities, large and small, to create a positive change.

Through this program, the government would support those living with dementia today by removing the stigma surrounding this devastating disease and creating a culture of understanding, tolerance, and patience.

I am sure we can all agree that supporting these attributes is essential in helping those living with dementia stay connected to their communities.

Members may be interested to know that when the United Kingdom launched its Dementia Friends program just one year ago, it set a goal of one million dementia friends. Becoming a dementia friend is not as simple as a Facebook click. These one million residents of the U.K. have taken training to better understand the needs of people living with dementia and have committed to supporting them in the community.

The U.K. program is working to go even beyond one million registered participants and has now set a new goal of three million dementia friends by 2020. I know that Canadians will be just as excited to make a real difference for those here at home when we are able to bring this program to Canada.

Through a partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Canada, our government is adapting the United Kingdom's successful initiative to the Canadian context, and we would implement our dementia friends Canada program nationally. As part of this program, we are developing a national website which would provide information on dementia, suggest simple ways people can help someone living with dementia, and encourage Canadians to sign up to become dementia friends.

Canadians of all ages would be able to turn their new understanding into action. By learning a bit more about what it would be like to live with dementia and what they can do to help, Canadians would be able to better support those living with the disease.

Dementia champions are another important component to this program. These volunteers would be trained and equipped with resources to answer people's questions about dementia, suggest sources for further information, and support and provide training to dementia friends.

We have heard today about the alarming rate at which dementia is affecting Canadians and we know that sadly over time that rate will increase. It can make a huge difference to the people living with this disease if the people around them know what dementia is and how it may be affecting them. While we remain committed to research on prevention and a cure so that fewer Canadians ever have to struggle with this disease in the long run, I am proud we are also taking real action to make a difference for those who need our help here and now. I believe that dementia friends Canada would complement the significant investments our government is making in research.

I hope that my remarks today demonstrate the commitment of our government in taking action to make a difference for Canadians and their families. As I am sure members are already well aware, our government is already committed to developing a national dementia plan. In fact, it was included in this year's economic action plan, and we will continue to work with the provinces and territories to do exactly that.

When it comes to research, we have been taking undeniable leadership through our participation in G8 and World Health Organization efforts. We have been supporting Canadian expertise focused ultimately on finding a cure, and would also be taking real action to better support those who are living with the disease.

Importantly, all of these activities have been done while respecting provincial and territorial jurisdiction over health care. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I know that the member for Nickel Belt is well intentioned with this bill, but unfortunately, it does infringe on provincial jurisdiction in a number of areas. I think it would be unfortunate to have federal legislation interfere in an area where we already have such strong co-operation.

Members have also mentioned a motion which was brought forward by my colleague, the member for Huron—Bruce. I look forward to debate on that motion, as it calls on the government to take strong action while respecting the jurisdiction of the provinces over health care delivery.

It is clear that Canadians living with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia need our support. Our government recognizes this and has taken a number of steps already. We are committed to doing even more through the dementia friends program and our co-operative work with the provinces on a national plan. We will get the job done, working within our federal role.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today in support of Bill C-356, An Act respecting a National Strategy for Dementia.

The Liberals have long called for federal leadership in establishing a pan-Canadian dementia strategy and we believe the federal government must work with the provinces to establish such a strategy.

Families throughout our country are having to deal with loved ones who have dementia and they need our help and our support. They need that national strategy so they can cope, and this private member's bill aims to do that.

According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, in 2011, 747,000 Canadians were living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. That means, 14.9% of Canadians 65 and older were living with cognitive impairment. Without intervention, the society projects that figure will increase to 1.4 million Canadians by 2031.

The demographic population of Newfoundland and Labrador is aging at a faster rate than the rest of Canada, which means this increase will hit my home province particularly hard. In 2011, 16% of the population was 65 years or older, a number expected to increase to 20% by 2016. Unfortunately, as the age of the population increases, research has shown that the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia does as well.

The Canadian Medical Association raised this issue in its 2013 paper, “Toward a Dementia Strategy for Canada”. It said:

Given the terrible toll that dementia currently takes on Canadians and their health care, and given the certainty that this toll will grow more severe in coming decades, the CMA believes that it is vital for Canada to develop a focused strategy to address it.

Clearly this is a pressing problem requiring urgent action. Yet, despite pledging in 2013 to find a cure or treatment for Alzheimer's by 2025, we remain one of the only G7 countries without a strategy. Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom all have national strategies to address this growing problem, but Canada does not. This is unacceptable, especially given our aging population.

Alzheimer's disease puts enormous emotional stress on millions of families in Canada. One in five Canadians 45 and older provide some sort of care to seniors living with long-term health problems. In 2011, that amounted to 444 million unpaid hours spent by family caregivers looking after someone with cognitive impairment such as dementia.

From an economic perspective, this amounts to $11 billion in lost income and a loss of 227,760 full-time equivalent employees in the Canadian workforce. The impact to the Canadian economy is matched only by the enormous strain on those family members who provide care for their loved ones.

The emotional stress caregivers face was highlighted in a recent report by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, as well as a report from the World Health Organization, which stated that between 15% and 32% of caregivers would experience depression and up to 75% would develop psychological illnesses as a result of caring for others. These family members are doing what they can, but they need our help.

One of the major reasons patients end up in long-term care is because their caregivers are simply overwhelmed. According to Dr. Roger Butler of Memorial University Faculty of Medicine, “If you’ve got a well-educated, trained caregiver feeling supported in their community they won’t burn out as quickly as if they’re left to their own devices.”

A comprehensive strategy that supports caregivers is essential for the well-being of both the patient and the caregiver. A truly comprehensive pan-Canadian dementia strategy would not only have a positive impact on patients and their families, but delaying onset of Alzheimer's by two years could save our health care system $219 billion over a 30 year period.

Patients with dementia often occupy acute care hospital beds, while waiting for placement at long-term care facilities. This only serves to exacerbate the problem of waiting lists and increased health care costs. Without action, this problem will continue to grow.

During the 2011 federal election, the Liberal Party of Canada laid out a clear, comprehensive dementia strategy, including support for research, families, patients and communities. The plan called for increased funding for research to target new treatments and therapy, and to accelerate our progress in understanding, treating and preventing brain diseases.

It called for increased awareness, education and prevention programs to support families and combat the social stigma of dementia. It also called for stronger support for home and long-term care, as well as protection of income security for families struggling to cope with the cost of caring for a loved one with dementia.

Another key element of that strategy was the introduction of legislation that would prohibit denial of life, mortgage and disability insurance, and rejected employment based on genetic testing that showed risk of future illnesses.

Canada is the only G7 country without legal restrictions on access to genetic test results. This forces many Canadians to make an impossible choice: obtain genetic testing results for illnesses, including Alzheimer's, and face discrimination, or avoid testing and taking steps that could prevent or mitigate illness in the hope of obtaining things like life insurance.

This regulatory void perversely promotes the avoidance of potentially life-saving tests. Action is needed urgently, yet despite pledging action in the 2013 throne speech, the only action the Conservative government has taken is to block efforts on this front in the Senate.

Despite government inaction, individual Canadians are working together to develop treatment and prevention protocols and to improve the lives of patients and their families.

This year, volunteers across Newfoundland and Labrador will be participating in seven “Walks for Alzheimer's” to raise money for support programs and services for those living with dementia in their communities.

Families are also helping other families by participating in province-wide family support groups, accessible by phone and Skype, reducing isolation and providing much-needed support to caregivers in remote communities like those in my riding of Random—Burin—St. George's. This is one way of ensuring that families are able to cope. We need to ensure more of that happens.

The things is that it needs to be part of a national strategy so it is not left to those who are caregivers to do things to help those who they and others love who are hit with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

I take pleasure in raising awareness of the important work being done on dementia treatment and prevention in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dr. Anne Sclater, professor of medicine at Memorial University, has done incredible work on the development of provincial strategies on healthy aging and Alzheimer's disease, as well as on the prevention of elder abuse.

Elders with dementia have the highest incident of mistreatment and abuse in long term care, and the prevention of this sort of terrible abuse is a topic on which Dr. Roger Butler, associate professor of family medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland, has worked extensively. He is also currently engaged in a new project using telegerontology as a novel approach to optimize health and safety among people with dementia in Newfoundland and Labrador. For his work as a teacher, family physician and on behalf of the Alzheimer's Society, he was recognized by the College of Family Physicians of Canada as Newfoundland and Labrador's family physician for the year in 2013.

Drs. Sclater and Butler, along with some of their colleagues throughout the country, are making incredible progress on this important and increasingly prevalent issue. Imagine what they could do with more resources and support.

What we need is coordinated support from the top. Federal leadership is needed to develop a truly pan-Canadian dementia strategy to support the important work of these individual researchers.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to speak to the bill introduced by my colleague from Nickel Belt, which seeks to establish a national strategy for dementia. This is particularly important for me as a nurse. I believe that this bill reflects a reality that we will have to face.

In order to understand how vitally important it is to have a national strategy for dementia, we need to understand that the population is aging. The number of Canadians with dementia is growing in tandem with the growing number of seniors. Although there is such a thing as early onset dementia, this disease mainly affects the elderly.

Right now in Canada, 740,000 people have Alzheimer's or a dementia-related disease. However, by 2031, this figure is expected to double to 1.4 million Canadians. In my region of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, 15.8% of the population was 65 or older in 2013. In 2031, 28.8% of the population will fall into that age category. Obviously, Alzheimer's and other types of dementia will be more widespread in a region like mine. It is therefore vital that we combine our efforts to develop a strategy to address this phenomenon, since it will take up a large share of regional health budgets and will become a growing concern for regional authorities.

Furthermore, it is important to better recognize the importance of prevention in order to identify early symptoms and intervene quickly. A strategy for dementia should be based on maintaining brain health and on preventing the illness among those who are particularly susceptible to it. Many studies have shown that some memory exercises can slow the disease's progression. However, if we wait too long to intervene such measures are not as effective.

The health system currently does not have the resources required to address this phenomenon. The problem could become overwhelming if we do not change our approach and if the federal government continues to neglect provincial transfers.

Direct and indirect medical expenses, such as the loss of income, currently total $33 billion a year. This could rise to $293 billion a year. We must create an integrated health system where we implement best practices to ensure that we treat these illnesses and provide community support.

The phenomenon of dementia is unique because those who suffer from this disease are primarily looked after by family caregivers. In 2011, family caregivers spent 444 million unpaid working hours providing care. This translates to $11 billion in lost income, or the equivalent of 227,760 full-time employees. It is therefore vital, when considering a national dementia strategy, to consider the circumstances of family caregivers. In many cases, dementia is an illness that develops slowly. People remain in their surrounding environment for a very long time.

The person's family members end up having to spend more and more time keeping him or her healthy and safe in his or her environment. This is extremely exhausting. Spouses can easily spend 10 to 15 years caring for a sick loved one, and regularly do, before health problems get too serious for them to handle. We need to make sure that family caregivers can keep doing this job and that they get support from their community to help their loved ones.

What people need when they are trying to help their loved ones, and what they often lack, is access to respite services. Caregivers often get worn out. Having someone who can take over every now and then for a day or a weekend enables caregivers to keep doing their amazing work caring for people with dementia.

The strategy must include mechanisms to ensure that staff have the necessary knowledge about the disease and the skills to deal with it. This means that people have to share information. The purpose of a national strategy is to share information. People should not be working in isolation. We have to find a way to make sure that everything we learn, everything that might be useful, such as best practices, is communicated to people struggling with the same problems. It is essential for people to have ways to talk to each other. The goal is not to step in for the provinces but to ensure that communication channels remain open and people work together. Real collaboration needs to happen so that people can share best practices. We have to make sure that nursing staff, doctors and other professionals have the right knowledge and skills to work with people with dementia and provide them with quality care that is appropriate for their situation.

They are often forgotten, but the volunteers who work in this field need to be able to understand the reality of a person living with dementia. It is not always an easy thing to do. There are certain situations that are very difficult to go through on a daily basis and it is hard to know how to intervene. The volunteers who work at these centres must have access to the knowledge and skills they need to properly understand the reality of the field they have chosen to work in.

As far as research is concerned, we have extraordinary Canadian researchers, but we could also form international partnerships to further our knowledge. In my opinion, the quality of daily life for people with dementia is an essential area of research. Lately, a lot of research has been done on daily life. In Quebec at least, there has been a shift from a very medically based approach to one focusing on the daily experience of dementia sufferers. The goal is for the transfer to long-term care centres to go as smoothly as possible. For that to happen, the person with dementia needs to create reference points. A lot of advances have been made because of these various approaches that focus on the quality of life and ways of providing care and intervention. Not only is this helping those living with dementia to live much more happily, but it is also enabling the families to be an integral part of the care process.

There is a lot to do. With the challenges this will present in the coming years, it is essential to share information in order to adopt an effective national strategy for dementia.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the subject of dementia and the private member's bill from the hon. member for Nickel Belt. We can all acknowledge that the member has been doing good work to raise awareness of the important issues faced by Canadians with Alzheimer's or other dementias.

Dementia poses a significant challenge to the health of Canadians. We probably all have a personal story about the impact and burden dementia can have on the individuals and families who are affected by it. Therefore, I want to start by sharing some of what we know about this disease.

Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia can affect many aspects of an individual's life. Most often, symptoms include loss of memory, impaired judgment and reasoning, changes in mood and behaviour, and impaired ability to communicate. Over time, individuals living with these conditions become unable to perform the activities of daily living that so many of us take for granted. Although medications can sometimes slow down or delay dementia, there is no cure. There is also a limited understanding of the causes of dementia. However, early research is pointing to possible risk factors such as physical inactivity; unhealthy diets; environmental, genetic, and gender factors; and traumatic brain injury.

I would also like to update the House on a number of the activities that our government has been taking since we had the first hour of debate. In March, the government participated in the World Health Organization's Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia in Geneva, Switzerland. This conference followed the 2013 G8 summit on dementia, where Canada also participated and where ministers made a number of commitments to address the challenges of dementia. This included a commitment to working toward identifying a cure for dementia by 2025. At the most recent conference in Geneva, these commitments were reinforced and Canada was among 80 countries that adopted a call to action to advance efforts on dementia and maintain it as a priority issue on national and international agendas. Discussions are currently under way on how to build on and sustain the momentum that has been generated over the past year and a half to meet the challenges of dementia.

Within Canada, there have been several investments to address dementia at the national level. As members will know, a primary federal role in regard to Alzheimer's disease and other dementias is supporting research. Economic action plan 2015 would do exactly that. Our government would provide up to $42 million over five years, starting in 2015-2016, to Baycrest Health Sciences to support the establishment of the Canadian centre for aging and brain health innovation. Funding for the centre includes $32 million in support from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, and it will support new research and the development of products and services to support brain health and aging. This is the latest in a series of government investments in dementia-related research.

Also, the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging was launched in September 2014. This initiative is working on transformative research ideas to improve the lives of Canadians living with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. It is supported with government funding of $22.6 million, with an additional $9.9 million over five years from a group of external public and private partners. Research is also being conducted at the international level.

As a global leader, our government is working with international partners on global dementia efforts through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The research goals are to prevent or delay the onset and progression of the disease, improve the quality of life for those afflicted and their caregivers, improve access to quality care, and enable the care system to deal effectively with the rising number of affected individuals.

Our government is also supporting projects to make sure our experts have the latest information on how this disease is affecting Canadians. A national population study was just completed last year so that we have up-to-date monitoring of who is affected and what care they require.

There are a lot of activities already under way at the federal level in terms of research, surveillance, and international leadership toward a cure. However, when we get into a discussion about health care, we always need to remain mindful of our partners, as laid out by the Constitution. The provinces and territories are responsible for the delivery of health care, and we need to ensure we are working with them in a co-operative way.

When it comes to this kind of co-operation, our government has been driving the agenda. At the last meeting of federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of health, our federal minister began a discussion with all of her counterparts regarding a national dementia plan. In fact, she was able to secure an agreement to begin working on a pan-Canadian dementia strategy. Since that meeting, the government has worked with its partners to continue making progress. The provinces and territories have expressed their support for federal research to advance policy development on dementia, while they are leading work on assessing best practices through the Council of the Federation. An update on these efforts will be presented to the health ministers for consideration and further direction at their next meetings.

As much as I know that the member for Nickel Belt was well intentioned in bringing forward this bill, to a large extent it has been overtaken by events. The key accomplishment of it is to establish a national strategy for dementia, and our government has already begun to work on doing exactly that. In fact, this commitment is also included in economic action plan 2015. There is no planning document more important than the budget, so Canadians can be confident that we are working to get this done.

I also think it is important to point out the realities of private members' legislation at the stage in this calendar. As I am sure the member knows well, private members' bills have quite a long process to undergo before they make it through royal assent and become law. This bill would still have to be reviewed at committee, be scheduled for third reading in the House, and then be referred to the other place so its members can go through the entire process again from first to third reading. Most members in the House would agree that this is quite a lot of hurdles for a bill, with only a few sitting weeks remaining.

That is why I was happy to see the hon. member for Huron—Bruce bring forward a motion of his own, Motion No. 575, which also calls on the government to take strong actions to tackle the issues of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. I know that the government is carefully reviewing this motion, and I look forward to seeing it debated in this place. As we all know, motions can be passed much more quickly than bills. Motion No. 575 is one way that Parliament could take real action and call on the government to bring about changes that would work to improve the lives of Canadians with dementia. At the end of the day, our constituents want real results and real action to address this important issue.

I am pleased that our government has accomplished so much already, and I know we will continue working hard for all Canadians who have been affected by dementia.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to support Bill C-356, an act respecting a national strategy for dementia, introduced by the member of Parliament for Nickel Belt.

This is proof that the NDP is standing for our future. Right now, the increased cases of dementia among older Canadians is having a huge impact in Canada. Our current system needs support if it is going to grapple with the social, health and economic impacts of dementia, which affect patients, their caregivers and their communities.

We know this is a growing crisis because if we do not develop a comprehensive set of supports to address this issue now, it will then be 10 times worse as the baby boomer generation enters the senior years.

I remember being a delegate at the 2012 NDP convention, and our delegates passed a resolution calling for a national dementia strategy. We found strong support among organized labour, seniors and our NDP members in electoral districts across the country.

Their interest is personal, coming from knowing someone who is living with the disease or a caregiver who is caring for a loved one with the disease. We introduced Bill C-356 in late 2011. Since then, over 75 petitions supporting this idea have been tabled here in Parliament. Over 300 municipalities have passed supporting resolutions.

There is strong support from seniors, heath care, labour, faith and many other networks. A national dementia strategy also links well to the NDP seniors strategy. Our seniors need our support, especially when dementia makes them vulnerable and disoriented, and in need of care.

According to the benchmark study, Rising Tide by the Alzheimer Society of Canada, the number of Canadians living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementia now stands at 747,000 and will double to 1.5 million by 2031.

Canada's health care system is ill equipped to deal with the staggering costs. The combined direct medical and indirect lost earnings costs of dementia total $33 billion per year. By 2040, this figure will skyrocket to $293 billion per year. Pressures on family caregivers continue to mount.

In 2011, family caregivers spent 444 million unpaid hours per year looking after someone with dementia, representing $11 billion in lost income and 227,760 full-time equivalent employees in the work force. By 2040, they will be devoting a staggering 1.2 billion unpaid hours per year. Lost in those numbers, perhaps, is the real human face of the disease, the moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbours and work colleagues. While an elderly face typifies most people living and dealing with dementia, 15% of all who are living with Alzheimer's or related dementia diseases are actually under 60 years old. Dementia cuts across every demographic in our communities.

I want to share an example. Matt Dineen, who is 44, is a Catholic high school teacher in Ottawa whose wife, Lisa, 45, is already in secure long-term care with frontal-temporal dementia. Matt is helped by grandparents and siblings in looking after the three children he has with Lisa.

We need increased support for informal caregivers. Caregivers need to be recognized as individuals with rights to their own services and supports. This could take several forms. On financial support, the non-refundable family caregiver tax credit of up to $300 a year introduced in 2011 is really not enough. This does not adequately reimburse the cost of a caregiver's time, which studies have shown is much higher.

Programs are needed to relieve the stress experienced by caregivers. This can include education and skill-building, and the provision of respite care and other support services for the caregivers.

I want to read an account from Tanya Levesque, who lives here in Ottawa, which reflects the experience of many caregivers in Canada. Ms. Levesque states, “We need a national dementia plan to help caregivers. Following is a list of financial barriers I have experienced during my journey as my mother's caregiver: Unable to access my El benefits; I've been unable to qualify for social assistance; unable to claim the caregiver amount on my income tax, since my mother's net income is a few thousand more than what is listed; lack of subsidies for expenses which keep increasing (i.e. property tax, parking fees at hospitals for appointments, gas for travelling to appointments, hydro, water and sewage fees ... etc); I've changed my eating habits to save money, due to the increased cost of food, so my mother can eat well; and because of a lack of future job security, my retirement security is in question, I can't save, because I've chosen to care for my mother, who took care of me. Other difficulties I've encountered: No one-stop shop for information; lack of education of front line emergency room workers regarding the difficulty of long waiting times for a person with dementia; lack of funding for organizations that provide Day Program services .i.e. not being able to provide various activities to clients due to associated costs (i.e. pet therapy). I not only provide love, a peaceful environment, stability and familiarity to my mother - who has now stabilized with her disease - I also provide the government with health care cost savings.

She is clearly doing a lot for our community by helping her mother.

Supporting a national condition-specific strategy is something I think that we should look into for dementia. It is not a new thing. It is not a new idea for the federal government. It is just an an idea that the Conservative government is actually really dragging its feet on.

The Canadian diabetes strategy, for example, supports collaborating and developing community models to raise awareness, invest in tools and share information.

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, in 2011, received a renewal of funding totalling $250 million over five years. CPAC is implementing a coordinated, comprehensive approach to managing cancer care in Canada.

Using the Canadian heart health strategy and action plan as a guide, Canada is addressing cardiovascular disease through investments in health promotion and disease prevention.

Clearly, we know how to do this. It has been established. Dementia should be a disease, a condition for which we can have a specific strategy nationally.

In 2007, the Government of Canada established the Mental Health Commission by providing $130 million over 10 years, with a mandate to facilitate the development of a national mental health strategy.

Instead of a national strategy, what we are seeing is that the Conservative government has proposed research.

As important as research is, it is not the same as the comprehensive approach that the bill would promote: help for patients, caregivers, the dementia workforce; early diagnoses and prevention; and a continuum of care for people in their homes, in the community and in formal care.

The national dementia strategy proposed by my colleague from Nickel Belt, in Bill C-356, would provide leadership from Parliament that would work with and respect the lead jurisdiction for health care delivery for the provinces and territories; increase funding for research into all aspects of dementia; promote earlier diagnosis and intervention; strengthen the integration of primary, home and community care; enhance skills and training of the dementia workforce; and recognize the need and improve support for caregivers.

We respect that provinces and territories have jurisdiction over health care delivery; however, municipalities, patients and caregivers are calling upon Ottawa to show some leadership. Ottawa needs to take the lead on a pan-Canadian dementia strategy that could immediately help millions of Canadians affected by Alzheimer's and related dementia diseases: the patients, families, caregivers and the dementia workforce. This would free scarce acute-care beds in hospitals and help caregivers, who often must give up their work in order to care for loved ones.

I shared the example of Ms. Levesque with members earlier.

Also, Mimi Lowi-Young, the CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Canada, stated the following:

In a recent Nanos survey, 83% of Canadians reported they believe Canada needs a national dementia plan. As our population ages, Canadians will be at an increased risk of developing dementia or caring for someone with it. Everyone owns this disease.

The approach we're proposing has worked for the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It can work for dementia and ensure that we get the best return on investment and available resources.

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons, CARP, and the Canadian Medical Association both echo the sentiment of Ms. Lowi-Young.

In conclusion, instead of putting forward a non-binding motion, Motion No. 575, the government brought forward that would not lead to a study in committee and support research when our country is actually calling out for a plan, a real plan, a strategy, the government needs to really take action to build a national strategy for dementia and and support Bill C-356 proposed by my colleague from Nickel Belt.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Resuming debate.

I must inform the hon. member for Trois-Rivières that he has only six minutes for his speech so that the member for Nickel Belt can have his right of reply.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this discussion, but I find it unfortunate that I have so little time to speak about such an important issue.

Obviously there are many issues where partisanship should be set aside so that a broad consensus can be reached. Clearly, one of those issues is dementia and treatment for those who are living with one form or another of this disease. For that reason, I am proud to be part of this discussion and to support Bill C-356, which was introduced by my colleague from Nickel Belt.

I wanted to provide some background and statistics to show how serious this situation is, but since I already know that I will not have enough time, I would like to instead focus on something extraordinary that was achieved in my riding of Trois-Rivières and that has now spread outside the riding, outside Quebec and even outside Canada. The knowledge and skills developed by Maison Carpe Diem, under the direction of Nicole Poirier, have made this organization an international source of expertise. Clearly, the national strategy that my colleague wants to establish with his bill could help Maison Carpe Diem and this organization could use its expertise to help with this strategy.

This organization, known as Carpe Diem, comprises a home and a foundation. My colleagues probably remember the well-known film Dead Poets Society, which popularized this expression. Carpe diem is usually translated as “seize the day”, in other words, seize the present moment and make the best of it. With its home and its foundation, the organization is a perfect example of the efforts that the Trois-Rivières community has already devoted to supporting and helping people living with Alzheimer's.

Maison Carpe Diem's mission is to provide services and resources tailored to the specific needs of people with Alzheimer's disease and their loved ones. Maison Carpe Diem has decided to take a bold, innovative approach. The organization realizes that research results are rarely conclusive. That is not to take anything away from the importance of research and the need for investments in research, but simply to say that from the moment a study begins until conclusive results are reached, it is important to find ways to make life bearable for those living with this disease. With that in mind, members and administrators at Maison Carpe Diem decided to focus their approach on supporting patients and their families during these difficult times.

The approach taken by Maison Carpe Diem is so effective because of its perspective on those living with this disease. More specifically, the staff uses language in such a way as to ensure that residents there do not feel like simple patients. Instead of defining them as patients or clients, the staff creates an environment in which people living with this disease are able to feel comfortable and feel at home. This approach is original in that Maison Carpe Diem views and addresses this disease from a social perspective. Internationally renowned neurologists have validated the methods used by this organization.

On February 12, 2015, a conference focusing on supporting people with Alzheimer's was held at the Trois-Rivières conference centre. More than 400 people attended, including foreign scientists who are interested in the approach taken by the staff at Maison Carpe Diem. The founder of this organization, Nicole Poirier, drew the interest of participants because of her novel approach to the disease. The organization takes an overall perspective that helps staff identify the different aspects of Alzheimer's and that focuses on both the disease and the person living with it. This organization and its approach are now seen as a model, both within the grassroots movement and in the public health network.

What I want to say is that by being part of a national strategy, this organization could easily share its best practices and more effectively assist those suffering from dementia and their family members. My hope is that a national strategy will lead to an increase in the number of organizations like the one in my riding across the country and around the world. Furthermore, public health networks could further benefit from this expertise and share what they learn with their partners.

I was going to cite some statistics, but it seems to me that 100% is the most convincing one.

In my opinion, at some point, when we cannot remember an expression we want to use, 100% of us will wonder if that is the onset of Alzheimer's. Even though we often joke about it, these words are always on our lips.

I will conclude with a quote from the website of Maison Carpe Diem, the organization I spoke about:

If Alzheimer's is marked by forgetfulness, the discussion around it often forgets about those most concerned, the people suffering from it.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Nickel Belt will have five minutes for his right of reply.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, for my closing remarks I would like to read parts of two letters. The first one was sent to the Hill Times by Matthew Dineen, who writes:

As Canadian delegates left for the G8 Summit on Dementia in England in late 2013, I made the following comment concerning our country’s lack of a national dementia plan: “We must act. A national dementia strategy is imperative for Lisa, Justin, Rebecca, Peter and so many others,” (The Hill Times, Dec. 9, 2013). A little over a year later, as my 46-year old wife’s frontotemporal dementia condition continues to advance, my message has become far more urgent for her, our children, and millions of Canadians.


Three weeks ago, the Conservative government announced it opposes Bill C-356, a bill for a national dementia strategy introduced by NDP MP [for Nickel Belt]. It is concrete legislation that, if passed, will mandate action for a national plan. Largely ignored in the mainstream media, this government decision is bound to harm aging Canadians and their caregivers unless enough Conservative MPs do the right thing and support this private member’s bill.

I remain hopeful this can happen.

On March 13, [the MP for Nickel Belt] noted in second reading debate that an agreement was in place to pass the bill with Conservative support, given the NDP had accepted in discussions the government’s proposed amendments.

Just to clarify, every amendment that the Minister of Health wanted added to the bill was added, and every article that she wanted removed from the bill was removed, and we are not infringing on provincial matters.

He goes on to say:

Sadly, the Conservatives backed away, introducing instead a motion by MP [from Bruce—Huron], which captures the government’s work on dementia and uses language and issues named in C-356....But what the Conservatives call their national dementia strategy is in fact a research strategy alone, a plan that does not immediately help patients, caregivers, and the dementia workforce. As important as research is, it does not help keep our loved ones with Alzheimer’s or related dementia diseases in the home.

A “feel good” motion might get unanimous approval in Parliament with no referral to committee, no hearing from stakeholders, [doctors, caregivers and, most important, the person with dementia] and especially no binding law to enforce the plan.

Work by many key stakeholders this past year has ignited a discussion about the impending dementia tsunami in Canada—750,000 people currently diagnosed (a figure that will double in a generation) plus the three to four caregivers (on average) each patient has—meaning the disease directly affects more than three million Canadians....A real plan would help caregivers like Tanya Levesque of Ottawa....

A motion doesn’t help our caregivers.

It goes without saying that the issue of dementia should be non-partisan....I believe individual MPs looking at the evidence and hearing from constituents will do the right thing.

The second letter that I want to read from was written by Bill Heibein of the Ontario Dementia Advisory Group of Kakabeka Falls. It states:

Group urges passage of MP’s dementia bill

We are a group of people living with dementia in Ontario. Our group was formed in the fall of 2014 with the purpose of influencing policies, practices, and people to ensure that we, people living with dementia, are included in every decision that affects our lives.

Our vision is for people living with dementia in Ontario to be directly involved as experts and at the centre of our own care. Our first of three goals is to be involved in the development and implementation of public policy that will affect people living with dementia across Ontario....When you have dementia, you worry about the time. How much time do you have before you get worse, are moved into a long-term care facility and die.

Yes, research is important. But so is our current living ability. We need an integrated national strategy, which will help drive our provincial strategy

In closing, I urge all MPs to support this bill. It is too late for my mom, but it may not be too late for their parents, their brothers, their sisters, their spouse, their children and for the person sitting beside them today. However, most important, it is not too late for the members themselves. It is also not too late for them to do the right thing for many Canadians living with dementia.

I thank all of the people who supported and helped me to bring dementia to the forefront and on the minds of many Canadians. Matthew Dineen, Fran Linton, Lorraine Leblanc from the Alzheimer Society of Sudbury, Manitoulin, the Alzheimer Society of BC, the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, Alzheimer Society of Canada, my assistant Rick Prashaw and many more. I thank them very much.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

It being 6:31 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly the question is as follows.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members



National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


National Strategy for Dementia ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 6, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Pursuant to order made on Friday, May 1, the House will now resolve itself into committee of the whole to consider Motion No. 20 under government business.

[For continuation of proceedings see Part B]

[Continuation of proceedings from part A]

(House in committee of the whole on Government Business No. 20, Mr. Joe Comartin in the chair)