Mr. Speaker, I rise pursuant to Standing Order 52(2) to seek leave to propose an emergency debate on Canada's response to the Zika virus in the western hemisphere.
An emergency debate is required in order to allow parliamentarians to address national and international implications of the outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus; its potential linkage to the birth defect known as “microcephaly”; and the implications for the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Department of Global Affairs, and Canadian Blood Services. Canadian travellers are at risk of contracting the virus while travelling in Zika-endemic regions. In fact, several cases of Zika infection have already been confirmed in Canada. According to the World Health Organization, the Zika virus has spread explosively through the Americas, affecting over 23 countries so far. The WHO estimates that some four million cases of Zika infection are expected to occur and have labelled this outbreak a “public health emergency of global concern”.
Recent reports have emerged of the possibility of sexual transmission of the virus in the United States. Out of concern for blood safety, blood supply authorities in the U.S. and Canada have now stopped accepting blood donations from travellers returning from Zika-endemic regions. Yesterday, Hawaii declared a public state of emergency over the outbreak of dengue fever, which is carried by the same mosquito as carries the Zika virus. With the 2016 Olympics scheduled for this summer in Brazil, which will attract many athletes and travellers including a large contingent from Canada, the health implications for Canadians are real and urgent.
Canadians still lack information about the nature of the risks posed by the Zika virus and the availability of health services, particularly for pregnant women and women considering pregnancy. In early February, a pregnant Canadian woman was denied a Zika test in Ontario following her return from Brazil. She was forced to go public with her case in order to receive the testing she required. This case underscores the need for the Canadian health care system to respond more effectively to the Zika outbreak. With millions of cases expected in the Americas over the next year, the Canadian government must be prepared to respond effectively to keep Canadians safe.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I call your attention to the emergency debate requested in September 2014 on the Ebola outbreak, which was granted by the former Speaker of the House of Commons, the hon. Andrew Scheer. Similar to Ebola, the Zika outbreak requires parliamentarians to respond through a timely and constructive debate to determine the best way forward to keep Canadians safe.
As always, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your careful consideration of this application, and I apologize for mentioning the name of the previous Speaker.