House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parks.


11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

It being 11:05 a.m., pursuant to order made Tuesday, February 14, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON


That, in light of the death of over 1000 Canadians each year, including the tragic loss of the Honourable Mauril Bélanger, former MP for Ottawa—Vanier on August 16, 2016, as a consequence of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), the House: (a) reiterate its desire and commitment to, in collaboration with provincial and territorial stakeholders, combat ALS via research and awareness; and (b) call upon the government to increase funding for ALS research, and to substantially increase national efforts to develop and launch a comprehensive strategy to assist with the eradication of ALS at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, to paraphrase the great Lou Gehrig, today I feel like the luckiest person in the world. I say this because for the first time in my 18-year federal legislative career, I am rising to debate a private member's motion in my own name. It took a long time to get here, and I am excited by the opportunity to use this legislative tool to shine a light on something as important as ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease.

It is with humility and honour that I rise to launch the debate on Motion No. 105. In doing so, it is my hope that all members in this place will stand together and pass Motion No. 105 without delay. I appreciate that the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell has seconded this motion, and I am hopeful that members in all parties will support the motion as a way of standing with all those suffering with ALS.

We see more than 1,000 Canadians die each year because of ALS. All are robbed of their freedom, while being slowly trapped within their own bodies. Their physical decline is dramatic, and their families can do little but sit back and wait for the end.

Certainly, members in the House have known many with ALS, and we have watched as these brave men and women have done battle with a relentless foe.

It was less than a year ago that the hon. Mauril Bélanger, suffering the effects of ALS, presided over this House as an honorary Speaker. He had been diagnosed with ALS in the fall of 2015. What should have been a time of celebration for him and his family turned out to be a sombre realization that his world was about to change profoundly and that his time was running out. Worse yet, his wife Catherine and their children were forced to sit back and watch as Mauril first lost his voice, then his strength, and eventually his fight against ALS.

Mauril was not alone. Many of us in this place will remember Richard Wackid, Brian Parsons, and even our former clerk, William Corbett. Each of these people contributed so much to this place and to Canada, yet they were struck down without warning or reason and without mercy.

In the wake of these tragic losses, and hundreds of others, colleagues, such as the member for Dufferin—Caledon, the member for Cape Breton—Canso, and even the Prime Minister, have made emotional statements in the House in support of the fight against ALS. I can even confirm that our Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the NDP, the MP for Portage—Lisgar, the President of the Treasury Board, and many more accepted the ALS ice bucket challenge and took the plunge against ALS. Together we helped raise more than $19 million for ALS research, a significant accomplishment, but we need to think longer term.

Put another way, our parliamentary family has been deeply touched by ALS, and all members and all parties in the House have responded by raising awareness and money. Motion No. 105 is the next step in our fight against ALS.

We know that ALS is an unforgiving and brutal disease that gradually paralyses the body. Someone in otherwise good health will gradually lose the ability to talk, to move, to eat, to swallow, and eventually to breathe. Right now there are approximately 3,000 Canadians living with ALS, and the reason that number is not bigger is because 80% of the people with ALS die within two to five years of diagnosis. As we saw in Mauril's case, sometimes it is significantly less than that.

Let us talk about Mauril for a moment. Mauril's journey with ALS was highly visible due to his role as a member of Parliament, but it shone a light on not only what it looks like to have the disease but on the circle of family members, friends, and colleagues affected when someone is diagnosed with ALS.

The mobility and communication needs of someone diagnosed with ALS are great and are a tremendous financial burden on everyone involved. It is estimated that ALS has a minimum cost, for families, of somewhere between $150,000 and $250,000. This does not include the loss of salary that often comes about when a family member leaves a job to care for a loved one full time, which is usually required.

Families faced with an ALS diagnosis must make difficult decisions in the attempt to balance the desire for a good quality of life with the cost of achieving it. For example, many people diagnosed with ALS prefer to live at home rather than in a care facility. However, staying at home frequently requires modifications to accommodate wheelchairs, bathroom aids, lifts, and beds, not to mention the nursing care required for someone who is increasingly paralyzed. For a family whose loved one has ALS, these decisions have financial and emotional implications that last long after ALS has taken that person's life.

While there are about 3,000 Canadians living with ALS at any one time, the broader circle of people affected is much larger. It is fair to say that in each of our ridings, people are dying of ALS, and their family members' lives are changed forever, because ALS has a lasting financial and emotional impact.

ALS kills nearly 1,000 Canadians each year, and a similar number are diagnosed with ALS each year. This creates a revolving door of people who have a disease with no cure and no effective treatment, a disease that limits their remaining days in more ways than one. Not only have their lives been significantly shortened, they have been changed by a host of new needs as mobility has declined and the ability to communicate has lessened.

Canadians with ALS have said that their experience with the disease is like being buried alive or dying in slow motion. It is hard to believe that today, in 2017, there is still no cure. There are also no effective treatments, and the causes of the disease are unknown.

Fewer than 10% of ALS cases are inherited from a family member, meaning that at least nine out of 10 people diagnosed with ALS develop it seemingly at random. Each one of us in this room has a one-in-400 chance of being diagnosed with ALS over the course of our lives, which brings me to why research is so important. It is one of the few things people and families affected by ALS can be hopeful about. Research may not change their own path, but they fervently hope that it will change the path for others who will be diagnosed in the future.

Globally there has been more progress in ALS research in the last five years than in the last 100 years. Most leading researchers and clinicians in the field believe that we have the tools today to at least understand how ALS is caused. This means that there is tremendous potential for the development of effective treatments for the first time ever. The limitation in developing these treatments, of course, is resources, resources in the form of research investment.

Historically, in Canada, ALS research has been funded at approximately $1.5 million to $2 million per year through the ALS Society of Canada. There are no other significant Canadian funding mechanisms that focus exclusively on ALS research.

As I have already mentioned, the ice bucket challenge was a huge success, but without an ongoing and sustainable funding mechanism, Canada's ALS research efforts will soon return to traditional funding levels. That means that we are at risk of losing the research momentum at a time when ALS research holds more promise than ever before. Many members participated in that challenge, and in doing so, were part of a tremendous movement that is helping to advance ALS research and provide support and care to people living with the disease.

Motion No. 105, as I said earlier, is the next step.

On the day Mauril presided over this House, our Prime Minister and the other party leaders all encouraged Canadians to support the organizations that are working to find a cure for ALS. Since then, an all-party ALS caucus has been created to better understand the care and research challenges ALS presents, as well as opportunities to address them.

Today I am calling on all members to live up to that promise. The first part of my motion asks that the House continue its commitment to ALS research and awareness, working with stakeholders in our provinces and territories. Besides being the only significant funding mechanism dedicated to ALS research across Canada, ALS Society of Canada is part of a network of ALS societies with a provincial presence. I support the government's ongoing work with ALS societies across Canada, especially as it strives to maximize our impact toward making ALS a treatable, non-terminal disease.

So often things that we debate here in this place are divisive. Motion No. 105, of course, is not divisive. It is not complex. It does not place one party over another. Imagine the ability for Canadians to be part of a global legacy that could change the meaning of an ALS diagnosis. By investing in ALS research, we could help make that change happen. Families coping with an ALS diagnosis deserve so much more and so much better than the reality that they are currently facing. As Canadians, we simply cannot afford to lose any momentum for ALS research.

I urge every member of this House to give this motion their full support. Members' commitment to ALS awareness, research funding, and a comprehensive strategy for the disease will give hope to many people in all of our constituencies. We are so very close to treatment breakthroughs for ALS. I ask members to help Canada be a leader in changing the outcome of an ALS diagnosis from terminal to treatable.

Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, I do not really have a question, but I want to congratulate the member for an excellent summary of the problems of people who have ALS. As the member may know, I have a private member's bill outstanding to make June amyotrophic lateral sclerosis month. If I ever get a chance, I hope to do that.

The member gave an excellent summary of the problems and how we have an obligation to make the public aware of this terrible disease. We saw Mauril and the problems he had. I have never seen the disease move so fast as it did with him. On the average, the disease takes about four years, but for him it seemed to just come out of nowhere.

Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to say for the member that if I can be of any help in somehow getting his bill moved up, it would be wonderful, as would anything we could do to designate June as ALS month, to try to bring awareness. That is what it is about. The $19 million from the ice bucket challenge went a long way in helping research, in partnership with so many other places. Israel and the U.S. are making significant strides with this, but it needs more money, more help, and more leadership.

Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my hon. colleague on both a very important motion and a passionate and well-thought-out speech. My question, though, is going to focus on action that we can take.

In the 2017 pre-budget submission, ALS Society of Canada made some specific recommendations to the current government for the 2017 budget, which will be coming up in a matter of weeks. The society asked that the federal government invest $25 million over five years to maintain the momentum built through the ice-budget challenge and partnership with Brain Canada and the Canada brain research fund. The society also asked the federal government to invest $10 million to allow every Canadian currently living with ALS, which is about 3,000 Canadians, and every stored sample from those who have passed, to have an opportunity to contribute the samples to project MinE, which is an independent large-scale genome research project. It hopes to find the genetic mutations linked to ALS and identify possible treatments.

Can my hon. colleague tell me whether she is confident that her Liberal government will actually make these recommendations and that we will see those commitments in this budget coming up, so that we can back these words with action?

Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his commitment to issues like this, which I know he cares very much about.

There has been more progress made in the last five years than in the last 100 years; this has come as a result of exactly what we have done in the House, raising awareness, things like the ice bucket challenge, personal support and donations made in our ridings to ALS societies, and the continued focus on finding a cure. I am confident that, as we continue to work together on this, we will move forward.

This is an important issue that has affected some of us specifically. Mauril was my seat mate and colleague for many years. The disease attacked him, as my colleague said previously, with a devastating timeline. We saw him deteriorate in the House to an enormous degree, very quickly, and I doubt that any of us will ever forget that. I hope all of us will keep that in mind as we move forward.

Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to start off my comments today by thanking not only the member for Humber River—Black Creek for bringing this issue forward but also my colleague from Dufferin—Caledon for raising awareness.

This is a devastating disease, affecting approximately 2,500 to 3,000 Canadians over the age of 18 who are currently living with ALS, and more than 200,000 individuals worldwide. These individuals experience a loss of mobility, a decline in breathing, difficulty eating and drinking, and slurred speech or sometimes even the complete loss of speech. While some suffering with this incurable disease may live longer than others, ALS is usually fatal within two to five years after diagnosis.

There is still so much work and research to be done to help reverse this disease. Ultimately, what we would all like to see is that a cure is found. I think I speak for most people when I say that the ALS ice bucket challenge in 2014 played a massive role in raising awareness about the disease. As a chiropractor, my first experience with ALS was in the early 1990s. I served with a friend at the St. Mary's Knights of Columbus. We shared an Irish background, so we had some good fellowship over the years. He married late in life, so he had a young family and a wife. When I heard about his being diagnosed with ALS, it really brought it home. We hear about Lou Gehrig's disease, but to see it first hand, and personally see how fast, how real, and how devastating the condition is, and the real effect it has on family and community, really brings it home.

Public awareness from the ice bucket challenge campaign went viral on social media, with celebrities, athletes, politicians, and all of our friends and neighbours taking part. I bring this up because prior to the 2014 ALS ice bucket challenge, the awareness of ALS really was quite limited. Those who did know about the disease referred to it as Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the famous New York Yankees player who came out publicly with his battle in 1939. The importance of raising awareness through social media proved effective because, following the ice bucket challenge, the ALS Association raised an additional $100 million, and the ALS Society of Canada raised an additional $26 million. This additional research funding has led to some extremely valuable research. As my colleague said, in the last five years it has been really accelerated. Recently, a third gene has been identified as a cause for the disease, which goes to show that, by raising public awareness and ensuring that funding is made available to researchers, progress can be made to find a cure.

In 2013, project MinE was initiated by two ALS patients. It is a research project that aims to map the full DNA profiles of approximately 15,000 individuals with ALS and 7,500 control subjects, with the hopes of identifying genes that are associated with ALS, ultimately leading to the development of a treatment. This large-scale genetic research is unprecedented and will require both public awareness and, of course, important funding. On January 10, 2017, Canada became the 17th country to join this research project.

The ALS Society of Canada is leading fundraising efforts and seeking to sequence up to 1,000 genomes, with four of Canada's leading ALS geneticists coming together in their first ever cross-country collaboration. Four other Canadian ALS clinics have also come together to collect and store blood samples being used for research, including the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre's ALS centre in Vancouver, the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre ALS clinic in Toronto, the ALS program at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, and the ALS clinic at the CHU de Québec.

As of today, 7% of Canada's goal has been reached. While 62 DNA profiles are good for a month's work, it is vital that this important research initiative be discussed publicly so that more people, especially Canadians, can participate or donate. As for the status of the project as a whole, 7,963 DNA profiles have been collected so far, with the goal of collecting 22,500 DNA profiles.

There is still a lot of work to be done. However, as we can all see, countries around the world are coming together to find a cure.

I am happy to support Motion No. 105. I believe that we should be using our resources to help advance research for diseases such as ALS.

Our Conservative Party has always been a strong advocate for neurological research, and we have always supported the need for more ALS research. In 2011, Brain Canada was created, with the previous Conservative government investing $100 million over seven years. This includes $10 million to the ALS Society of Canada through Brain Canada to stimulate research relevant to ALS. I was so happy to see the Minister of Finance invest up to $20 million in additional matching funds to Brain Canada in budget 2016. I hope that it will continue to be a national non-profit organization that the government invests in.

We parliamentarians saw how rapidly this disease can progress. Our colleague, the late member for Ottawa—Vanier, was diagnosed with ALS in November 2015. We saw his courage. We saw him try to persevere and remain in the House of Commons as much as he could to represent his constituents. We saw him live out a day as Speaker of the House, a moment which I think brought us all closer. We saw this awful disease rapidly take over his body and his speech. I do not think there is a member in the House who would not agree that action needs to be taken to ensure that a cure for ALS is found.

There is hope. Living with ALS should not be the end. We know that progress has been made and is still being made every single day.

There are 400,000 people around the world who are affected by the disease, with more than 100,000 dying every single year. We need to understand that while millions have been raised for ALS, portions of these funds are allocated to help patients and their families who typically spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to care for a loved one, and this is a struggle for families. ALS Canada's provincial chapters use a portion of donations to help these families access care in their community and provide specialized equipment to ALS patients.

We must all remember that ALS does not just affect the individuals, but it affects the families and friends as well. There is nothing worse than watching a person one loves and cares about progressively get weaker, lose his or her speech, and eventually become immobilized.

Unfortunately, unlike many other diseases, there is no survivorship. There are currently no anniversaries to celebrate the day that an individual beats ALS. As Dr. Lorne Zinman, a neurologist who is the head of the ALS clinic at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, stated:

...there are so many smart people working on this disease now and it has the necessary attention, and all the community is really excited about a breakthrough in the hopefully not too distant future.

The day for a cure is not an impossible expectation. We have seen breakthroughs with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and many other once-fatal diseases. These diseases have become manageable thanks to research, commitment, and government investment. I believe that researchers are on the right path. If we as a country continue to support projects, such as project MinE, and continue to support our researchers, I believe that ALS will be a disease of the past.

Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise today as health critic for the New Democratic Party and on behalf of all my New Democrat colleagues to stand in support of Motion No. 105 and to speak to the importance of addressing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS.

I also want to express again my congratulations and thanks to the member for Humber River—Black Creek for her support in this area and her hard work in bringing this important issue before the House.

ALS has devastating effects on the many individuals it affects directly, on their families and caregivers, and on our entire public health care system. It is a disease that does not discriminate. In its most common form, it arrives unexpectedly and can affect anyone, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or age.

Its impacts are keenly felt by all Canadian communities, including our very own here on Parliament Hill. All of us remember our colleague Mauril Bélanger's courageous public struggle with ALS. Mr. Bélanger was diagnosed with ALS following the 2015 federal election, and it was especially difficult to know that at the very moment he hoped to live out his dream of being elected Speaker of this chamber, he was struggling to find his voice.

He sent a note to his colleagues announcing he had been diagnosed in the fall of 2015, and he passed away last August. This shows how sudden and rapid the pathology of this disease can be. However, Mr. Bélanger did not go quickly, in terms of the impact he made, nor was he silenced.

Mr. Bélanger was the first MP to use a voice generator on the job. He took advantage of the tool in January 2016 to introduce a private member's bill to make the English lyrics to O Canada gender neutral. He also used the computerized voice from his iPad in March 2016 to carry his remarks when he served as honorary Speaker of the House. By that time, Mr. Bélanger needed assistance to walk. He thanked his colleagues for the great privilege before he was helped out of the Speaker's chair. My colleague, the member for Outremont, called this “a rare moment of grace in our parliamentary institutions.”

Let us seize this moment to commemorate Mr. Bélanger's passionate voice and to work together towards finding a cure for this deadly disease. Let us honour our colleague and ensure that all Canadians have access to high-quality, compassionate, and effective care.

This motion calls on the House to reiterate its commitment to combat ALS, to increase funding for medical research and awareness campaigns, and to develop a comprehensive national strategy to assist with the eradication of this disease.

New Democrats support this motion. We have a long, proud tradition of advocating for federal leadership on health care issues. Indeed, among our party's foundational pillars stands a commitment to expanding health care and ensuring that all Canadians have access to treatments and medicines they need, when they need them, no matter where they live, no matter their economic circumstance, and no matter their background.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease which destroys nerve cells that control muscles, leading to disability. The living wires which connect the brain to the patient's muscles degenerate leading to a loss of mobility, speech, and to the gradual paralysis of the muscles of the throat and diaphragm as the patient loses the ability to swallow, cough, and breathe.

ALS is a terminal disease. It does not have a cure nor an effective treatment. Currently, approximately 3,000 Canadians are living with ALS. Every year, 1,000 will succumb to the disease and 1,000 will be newly diagnosed. The lifespan after diagnosis is, on average, two to five years.

ALS is inherited in 5% to 10% of cases. In most people with familial ALS, their children have a fifty-fifty chance of developing the disease. In its most common form, there is no known cause. ALS can affect anyone, with many people being struck down by the disease in the prime of their life. However, the risk increases as individuals grow older.

As Canada's population ages, it is becoming increasingly more important that we prepare our health care system and our communities for the inevitable rise in the number of Canadians suffering from ALS and other age-related illnesses. Some of the early signs and symptoms of ALS include: difficulty walking or doing normal activities; weakness in legs, feet, ankles, and hands; trouble swallowing and eating; muscle cramps and twitching in arms, shoulders, and tongue.

Most people with ALS will also develop trouble speaking over time. This usually starts as occasional mild slurring of words but progresses to become more severe. Speech eventually becomes more difficult for others to understand and people with ALS must rely on other communication technologies to communicate. For many with the disease, losing their voice is closely connected with the loss of autonomy and self-identity.

Most of us will recall the 2014 ice bucket challenge co-funded by Pete Frates in part to raise awareness of these impacts. Through broad public initiatives such as that, Canadians came together in an unprecedented way to support ALS research and care, resulting in $17 million being raised. Of those funds, $11.5 million were dedicated to research and then matched with $10 million by Brain Canada, a conduit of the federal government's Canada brain research fund.

Due to a Canada brain research fund allocation deadline of March 2017, the funds from the current ALS Canada partnership will be fully invested by 2016 and the momentum that we have created will become difficult to maintain. Continuing these programs is critical to creating a world where ALS is a treatable disease, perhaps even prevented. The programs currently operating this partnership with Brain Canada consist of Hudson grants, discovery grants, and career transition awards.

In its submission to the 2017 pre-budget consultations, the ALS Society of Canada recommended to the government some concrete action it would like to see taken.

First, it asked that the federal government invest $25 million over five years, which is $5 million per year, to maintain the momentum built through the ice bucket challenge and partnership with Brain Canada and the Canada brain research fund.

Second, the ALS Society of Canada asked the federal government to invest $10 million to allow every Canadian living with ALS an opportunity to contribute a sample, and to allow the contribution of every stored sample from those who have passed, to project MinE, an independent large-scale whole genome research project.

A prominent Canadian-backed initiative, project MinE plans to map the complete DNA profiles of 15,000 people with ALS along with 7,500 people who do not have ALS, being a control group, to create a database of genetic information on the disease. They will then compare that data from the ALS participants and the non-ALS participants and hopefully find the genetic mutations linked to ALS. Once they find those, hopefully we can find possible treatments.

The Canadian component of project MinE brings together four of Canada's leading ALS geneticists from Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City for their first ever cross-country collaboration. Each has led or been a part of international consortia that have resulted in some of the most important genetic discoveries in the field. They also represent a geographical balance that provides a collaborative set of Canadian samples representative of ALS cases across the country. Dr. Nicholas Dupré, Dr. Ian Mackenzie, Dr. Ekaterina Rogaeva, and Dr. Guy Rouleau are leading this research.

Other collaborators in Canada's project MinE effort are the ALS clinics that will collect and in some cases store the blood samples being used for the initiative. Potential ALS clinic partners that have been identified to date are the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre's ALS centre in Vancouver, the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre ALS clinic in Toronto, the ALS program at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, and the ALS clinic at CHU de Québec.

In essence, ALS research has come further in the last five to seven years than in the previous century, and researchers are hopeful for a continued acceleration of knowledge leading to an effective treatment. As of 2017, most of the leading researchers and clinicians in the field believe they now have the tools required to understand how ALS is caused, which will ultimately lead to treatments for this fatal disease. They are waiting for the Liberal government to help them by committing those funds in the budget.

We have to do more. Just as Mr. Bélanger's work in this Parliament continues to this day, we must commit ourselves to working together to find a cure for this deadly disease.

Finally, for those who have lost a loved one to ALS, we grieve with them. We remain steadfast in our commitment to ending ALS. We pledge to support those supporting a loved one living with ALS. For those living with ALS, we are with them. We will not give up until we find an effective treatment and make ALS a disease of the past. New Democrats will do everything we can to make these three objectives a reality.

Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House this morning to discuss the motion moved by my colleague, the member for Humber River—Black Creek. The purpose of the motion is to cast light on a terrible disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. All of us here in the House have witnessed what this disease can do to human beings because we all saw what it did to our former colleague, the Hon. Mauril Bélanger.

I will always remember the meetings we had during the election campaign at Mauril's place every Monday at 9 p.m. Mauril made sure to feed us because he knew we had spent long days knocking on doors. Those who knew him know that Mauril was not afraid to speak his mind. Back at the beginning, he was the Mauril we had always known, with his powerful, authoritative voice. Towards the end, Mauril spoke less and less. His voice was no longer as powerful or as authoritative. I told myself that a 78-day campaign takes its toll, even on veterans of the campaign trail.

After the campaign, I saw Maurice at an event. He had completely lost his voice, and I told myself that he had been losing his voice towards the end of the campaign and probably lost it entirely because he must have made a lot of noise the night of the 19th. I found 1,001 excuses to believe that nothing was seriously wrong with Mauril.

We all know how the story ended, but it was because of him that I witnessed what ALS can to to human beings.

Before Mauril had the courage to share his journey with all of us in the chamber, I did not know much about this disease, except that Professor Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS and somehow managed to survive. Sadly, this was the only exposure to ALS I had much of my life. Then a few years back, the ice bucket challenge happened. We participated, gave money, and then the ALS issue faded.

We have an all-party ALS caucus, which I proudly chair. I was interested in this issue because I witnessed what happened to our friend and thought I needed to make a difference. I was even more determined when ALS Society of Canada informed me that its community was always 3,000 individuals diagnosed with ALS. Nearly 1,000 die each year in Canada. This fact makes it hard for ALS Society of Canada to raise funds and cultivate champions within its community as they will most likely die of the disease within two to five years. Unlike cancer, there are no survivors.

Speaking of champions, I want to acknowledge Mrs. Carol Skinner, who was at our first ALS meeting. I want to thank her for sharing her story with us and for not giving up. I also want to acknowledge her husband and the 2,999 other families out there that are supporting their loved ones. We know that 80% of the burden of care is shouldered by a family member. The cost on families can range from $150,000 to $250,000, and that is not counting the loss of revenues should the diagnoses result in a loss of employment.

We know that 80% of those diagnosed with ALS will die within two to five years. I now know that Stephen Hawking is part of the lucky 10% who get to survive 10 years or longer. We also know that only 10% of those diagnosed with ALS is attributed to family genes. Sadly, that is all we know about the cause of ALS. Doctors can determine the cause of ALS for only 5% to 10% of patients. The rest we do not know, for now.

Research is the most significant lever we have to give a chance for those who are diagnosed with ALS to survive. That is why I support the motion. Research is the only way to increase the likelihood of finding a cure and increasing survival rates. We know this is true. For example, cancer survival rates for all cancers went up from 53% to 60% in approximately 15 years, and that is not factoring in all the progress that has been made over the past century. That is all because of research.

Furthermore, the leading experts and clinicians believe they have the tools required to effectively understand how ALS is caused because of the research done in the past five years. That is more research combined in the last 100 years. However, more needs to be done. For example, project MinE, which aims to profile 15,000 individuals with ALS and 7,500 control subjects worldwide, will provide targets to researchers. Essentially, it will allow researchers to adapt a ready, aim, fire strategy as opposed to a ready, fire strategy. If we do not know the cause, it is extremely hard to identify the cure or provide targeted medicine.

Most ALS researchers believe that limitation to developing treatments is resources in the form of research investments. Of the 30-plus genes known to play a role in the development of ALS, very few have been examined in detail by more than one research facility in the world.

Leading experts in ALS research know there are multiple genetic factors that contribute to people developing ALS, and it is often a combination of these factors that leads to the diagnosis. They also know it is possible for the genetic mutations to show up in healthy individuals, but they never lead to developing ALS. It is for this reason that project MinE will look into the genetic profiles of 15,000 ALS patients worldwide. This would allow us to get a better understanding of the genetic difference in mutations that have a strong causal effect on individuals developing ALS, therefore increasing the chance of identifying the specific cause and eventually a cure.

I want to applaud the ALS Society of Canada for taking part in this study. It is a global effort and I am glad to see that Canada will be participating. Our diversity in Canada will provide better sampling in this global initiative. The project in Canada is currently funded at 36%. All the funding comes from grassroots fund raising campaigns. I hope governments will come to the table to at least bring the total project cost to 50%. This would greatly accelerate Canada's participation. The project worldwide was officially launched in 2013. It is up to us to decide how quickly we get this done in Canada.

I want to take this opportunity to elaborate on a subject that members of Parliament have been lobbied on for quite some months now in regard to ALS. and that is the right to try legislation.

I want to thank the member of Parliament for Humber River—Black Creek for not including this in her motion as this would have caused me to rethink my support. I agree with the objectives in the proposed bill we have seen. Essentially, we need to find a better way to get pharmaceutical research to market to ensure that patients can benefit from it. However, the no liability clause in the proposed bill, which would effectively remove all responsibility from the sponsor of the drug, is certainly not the proper way to move forward on this. The sponsor must continue to bear responsibility. There is a better path forward and that path involves more dollars for research. That is the reason why I support the motion.

I know it can be easy for me to say as I do not face a terminal illness. In fact, if I were in that position, I would try every avenue to find a cure. However, I am also cognizant of the fact that many terminally ill patients have been taken advantage of in the past. In many cases, it killed them before their time or caused even more illness. Furthermore, some of the false hopes that are given to certain communities because of the so-called miracle treatment are despicable. We only have to think of the recent example with those diagnosed with MS and CCSVI treatment.

Having said this, I want to applaud the work Jeff Perrault of Adaptive Canuck ALS Foundation has done and his determination to advocate for the rest of his life for what he believes is right. He is, in my mind, a great advocate for those who have been diagnosed with ALS. I do recognize that we need to find a better way to access innovative medicine wherever it may become available in the world. We just need to ensure the patient is always front and centre in these decisions.

We are close to finding a positive path for those who are diagnosed with ALS. For this to happen, we need to continue to advocate for more research investment dollars, raise awareness and provide a leadership role in Canada. We need a coordinated approach in Canada that rewards horizontal information sharing.

Once again, I want to thank my hon. colleague for bringing this important motion forward. This is our ice bucket challenge and I encourage and challenge all members of the House to support the motion.

Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of the motion by the member for Humber River—Black Creek, Motion No. 105, which calls on the House to not only reiterate support for ALS research and awareness, but also for the government to increase funding for ALS research and develop a national strategy for the eradication of ALS.

We all know someone who has been struck by this disease. In the House, we watched ALS take one of our, the Hon. Mauril Bélanger, just last year. I would be remiss if I did not take time in this debate to send our thoughts and prayers to Mr. Bélanger's family and our colleagues across the way. I still look back at Mr. Bélanger's day as Speaker as one of the more memorable moments I have spent in the House, with the cheers from all sides of the House and, of course, the pride Mr. Bélanger displayed as he took his place in the Speaker's chair.

A dear of friend of mine lost her father to ALS years back. He was a justice of the peace in Edmonton and served his community without fail in that role. Despite running across a rogue's gallery of Edmontonians appearing before him for bail hearings every day, he never had a bad word to say about his service to the city. In the early 1990s, when I left Edmonton to hunt for work, he helped take care of my home in my absence, mowing the lawn and taking care my dog without any expectation of a favour in return. After the disease had taken its toll and he knew it was his time, his final request was simply to be brought back to his home to pass surrounded by family.

Debilitating diseases like ALS affect our communities in various ways. Health care is always a hot button issue, particularly health transfers. As we know, they have been at the forefront of political discussions in the last few months. From accessibility to community support to program funding and resources, we hear from people at all levels. I know my office, no doubt like many other MPs here, work with constituents who need access to caregiving and are seeking help to find regional resources, and, as is often the case, are looking for more support from a system that may not be best equipped to handle changing demographics and demand.

Discussions like the one we are having today are essential for establishing an action plan for community organizations that serve those who live with debilitating conditions. Approximately 3,000 Canadians live with ALS, a disease with no known cause, no genetic predispositions, and, upon diagnosis, gives a sufferer an average life expectancy of just two to five years. ALS can hit anyone at any time in his or her life. While the average onset is 40 to 60 years, there are people under the age of 20 being diagnosed.

It is important that we ensure organizations serving the communities we represent have the best information, the right experts, and the appropriate tools to help the people who rely on them for their help. Despite knowing what we do about the disease, there is still much to learn. There is no way to detect the disease early, no treatment to delay the development of the disease, and while new drugs emerge constantly, there is no cure.

Further research into neurological disorders, brain injuries, and general brain sciences may open new doors to how we approach ALS treatment and maybe even detection. A report done a few years ago out of Boston University noted a potential connection between brain injury and ALS. It was found that some former athletes all shared an abnormal protein in their brains and spinal cords, all had a history of repeated brain trauma, and several had been diagnosed with ALS before death.

When I read of this study, I could not help but think of a friend and former work colleague of mine who we lost to ALS. He had played college football at Brigham Young University with future NFL star Steve Young as his teammate. My friend was always quick to point out he was a third stringer and that Steve Young was too busy with the attention of fans and young women, which came with being a starting quarterback, to even talk to my friend.

Upon diagnosis, my colleague decided to live out his years to the fullest. He remarried, attended several, and I note several, Super Bowls, and travelled the world to golf. He never let his condition change him or get him down, ensuring his golfing buddies still razzed him when he made a bad swing or fell over in a sand trap. I am always left to wonder if his years of college football played a part in the disease that took him.

More research in these areas may help us determine what lifestyle factors, if any, contribute to a higher risk of developing this disease. In 2013, our previous government launched funding for concussion and brain injury research. This is a good start, and it is my hope the current government continues on this path for the sake of our kids, our friends, even my friends across the aisle, who still play contact sports.

This kind of research also helps organizations like the ALS Society of Canada determine what areas they need to focus on for the people who look to them for help. For parents, spouses, and family members who are living with and/or supporting someone with ALS, it can be a struggle to find the resources and community support they need to help their loved ones.

Caregivers can be struck with various challenges when caring for someone who needs full-time support. These challenges include stress, social withdrawal, depression, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, as well as financial strain and job insecurity. Caregivers are expected to power through some of the most emotionally and physically exhausting situations, all while making sure they are giving a high standard of care to the person they love.

ALS comes with many challenges, one being the family caregivers, who are often young themselves, being forced to take a leave of absence or quit their jobs to care for a loved one. Without the appropriate resources, or at least without knowing where to get those resources, the financial burden on a family caregiver can rapidly increase.

The ALS Society of Alberta notes that, “A person with ALS can require equipment and care valued at more than $240,000”. For someone who is overwhelmed with these new care responsibilities, the new financial realities for health equipment and nursing and the question of how they will be able to pay day-to-day expenses, like rent, mortgages, and bills, can be devastating.

It can be argued that these issues are the jurisdiction of provincial health policy, but we still have a duty to help our constituents when they come to our office, looking for help, to bring these concerns forward and, hopefully, develop evidence-based policies as a response to the needs of the people we hear it from.

Private members' business is an essential part of our parliamentary process, which is why, historically, votes on matters like this motion before us today are free votes left to the discretion of the individual member, regardless of political stripe.

It is here within this legislative and procedural framework that we can seek and find support for issues like this in a non-partisan and supportive manner. It allows for co-operation. It lets us, as individual members, branch off beyond our respective parties' interests and serve the interests of the people who elected us.

We have numerous motions, like Motion No. 105, that are before us in the House right now. One motion, in particular, from the member for Niagara Falls, who is working in partnership with the member for Don Valley West, calls for developing a national Alzheimer's and dementia strategy.

We had one introduced by the member for Edmonton Manning that, unfortunately, did not pass for what I can only imagine were political reasons, given the bill would have helped thousands, if not millions, of Canadians present and future in accessing safe and efficient organ donation. The member for Edmonton Manning has himself saved a life by donating an organ, so he knows what a national donor registry could have meant for those in need. He had the support of many national organizations, but his worthy bill was voted down in a whipped vote.

Just last week, the government voted down a private member's bill put forward by a member for the NDP. The bill would have allowed small business owners passing down the business to family to be treated the same tax-wise as if they had sold to a complete stranger. it was a worthy bill that would have supported small family farms and businesses that had the support of the Conservatives, the NDP, and the Bloc, yet was voted down.

I hope members on the government side will take note of the support given by members of both the Conservative and the NDP opposition to Motion No. 105 and other worthy private members' business and, in the future, vote for what is right and not for what is just politically expedient.

I know constituents in my riding agree with enhancing research and awareness for ALS and other debilitating conditions.

The ice bucket challenge, perhaps of the first viral fundraising campaigns of its kind, raised enough money to fund numerous ALS studies. One of those studies managed to uncover a gene present in both inherited and sporadic forms of ALS. This is one example of how community-based campaigns can fund and drive research. If the ice bucket challenge is any indication, we have hundreds of thousands of Canadians who are ready to get involved and help eradicate ALS.

I want to thank the member for Humber River—Black Creek for introducing the motion that I know most, if not all, members of the House can get behind.

Hopefully, during this session, we can strive to achieve the same level of respect and understanding from each other on this government member's motion as we do for other members' private members' business moving forward.

Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisPrivate Members' Business


Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, first, I applaud my colleague from Humber River—Black Creek, who has done a phenomenal job not only on issues such as this, but many others. I often reflect on her efforts in terms of Canadian seniors. I believe she approaches the issue with a caring heart. Once again we have a motion before us dealing with ALS, a brutal disease that affects in a dramatic way many Canadians in all regions of our country. I acknowledge the fact that once again, the member has her heart in the right place as we try to move forward on dealing with another very important issue to Canadians.

We are wearing blue cornflowers today as a symbol of support. We need to recognize that there are hundreds if not thousands of people in our communities who are directly or indirectly affected. As has been pointed out, we all know some individuals who have been impacted after being diagnosed with ALS.

One of the most visible ones for us recently was the late Mauril Bélanger, a man who after the federal election in my discussions with him talked about running for the position of Speaker of this chamber and how quickly things deteriorated. I was absolutely shocked, as all of us in the chamber were. The previous speaker made reference to the late Mauril sitting in the chair as an honorary Speaker for the day and the impact that had, or the private member's bill. It is a sad story. Unfortunately, there are too many sad stories.

The good news is that we have a community and a support system with different organizations and stakeholders that are there to support individuals who have been diagnosed with ALS and their families. We recognize the challenges in health care today. What role should the national government play in dealing with this? I have often taken the approach when I was the health care critic in the province of Manitoba that we need to do more in terms of spending on research.

There are many different diseases and disorders and the government needs to be more proactive in looking at ways in which we can have a tangible impact, save lives, and be there for families. That is one of the reasons we are supportive in terms of acknowledging, and in certain areas providing funding for, organizations that help in the long term to look for cures and support research, studies and so forth.

As the national government we can provide national leadership. It is important that we recognize who does what in our health care system. As I said, there are great organizations that have led the fight, especially in the areas of research, public awareness, and so forth. Provincial governments are the administrators of health care. I would suggest that through the national government we need national leadership to ensure what is happening in one province is being spread out, that good things that take place in one region of the country are being shared in all regions of the country. I believe all members want to look at ways in which we can have a more tangible impact and want to see a national government that has a perspective, that is going to look at the different stakeholders including provinces and others.

Amyotrophic Lateral SclerosisPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member will have five and a half minutes to complete his speech the next time that this issue is before the House.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House resumed from February 17 consideration of the motion that Bill C-18, an act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act, be read the third time and passed.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak once again to the Rouge park bill. When I say, “once again”, it is probably my fourth, fifth, or even sixth time speaking about this national enterprise, the Rouge park. I have spoken on this side of the House about the park, I have spoken on that side of the House about the park, and I am somewhat pleased that we are finally inching our way toward a conclusion of speaking about the park. I remember as clearly as today standing on that side of the House and saying for the member for Wellington—Halton Hills that we could solve this dispute over ecological integrity in a heartbeat simply by the insertion of a minor amendment, and then we could unanimously support the creation of the park. But for reasons best known to that member's party, rather than that member, the Conservatives decided that clause would not be inserted. The consequence was that the members from the environment community and the members from the farm community could not see their way clear to be jointly supportive. Thankfully, that roadblock has been cleared up. I and the member for Davenport, with whom I will be splitting my time, will elucidate somewhat on the significance of the insertion of an ecological integrity clause, the main effect of which is to bring all of the players into the tent, in order to have a truly national park.

The last time I spoke about this park was shortly after Thanksgiving, and I described to the chamber that my family and I, along with our kids and grandkids and respective spouses, etc., had taken a post-Thanksgiving walk in the park on a glorious fall day. I have to recognize the way in which my wife will make sure that we are all out the door enjoying the beauty of this park. It really is a magnificent asset for the eastern GTA, for Ontario, and indeed nationally.

I also feel that we should recognize the Herculean efforts of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and her staff for worrying this file along, making sure that it does not simply fall off the legislative agenda. I want to publicly thank the minister for her efforts in making sure this file continues to move. I also think that Minister Duguid in the provincial legislature needs to be recognized once again for his willingness and his efforts in bringing again all the parties together: the environmentalists, the community leaders, and the farmers. Finally, the Minister of Health needs to be recognized, again for her conciliation efforts among all of the various parties. I also need to recognize the committee that dealt with the file expeditiously after second reading and submitted a unanimous report, which I think is close to where we are in this chamber at this time. I am rather hoping that once this chamber deals with this bill, the Senate in turn will deal with it expeditiously. It is after all the year 2017, our sesquicentennial, and it is a glorious way that we can celebrate the great natural but also aboriginal heritage that we have in this part of the eastern GTA.

As members know, if we do not preserve this it just simply disappears. It is not as if there are not enormous pressures on this part of this land mass to have it just simply disappear because of the population pressures in the Toronto areas, the ever-escalating land prices, and also the transportation corridors, etc. If we do not preserve the space it will be lost, and with it our heritage will be lost.

Sir John A. Macdonald, in 1885, designated Banff a reserve. It was the initial effort on his part to start the national parks system, which formally commenced in 1917. It was 100 years ago that we started the national parks system, with Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal, in Nova Scotia. We now have a network of 46 parks and 171 national historic sites.

It is our heritage, and it is something the government has recognized by making access to our national parks free to all Canadians for the year 2017. I am hoping that Canadians take advantage of this. It is, after all, their heritage.

In this particular area, something in the order of five to seven million people have, within an hour or an hour and a half, access to the park.

Because we have prioritized ecological integrity, there is a real chance that we could be world leaders in reconciling the natural heritage, the aboriginal heritage, the pressures of a modern economy, and the pressures of an expansionary real estate market and the 1,700 species of animals and plants that are in this park as we speak.

The Rouge National Urban Park features an incredible array of plants and animals. It is one of the most biologically diverse places in Canada. Within an area with five to seven million people, we have one of the most biologically diverse places in Canada.

The park also features ecosystems that are increasingly rare, namely Carolinian forests, along with wetlands, meadows, and marshes. In addition to its compelling natural heritage, Rouge National Urban Park is also incredibly rich in its cultural and agricultural heritage. For millennia, indigenous peoples gathered, farmed, and traded on lands that now lie within the boundaries of the Rouge. The region includes some of the busiest and most important indigenous sites in North America. Centuries ago, European settlers and their descendants began to farm here, and many parts of the park have been farmed continuously ever since.

As the greater Toronto area grew during the last century, the Rouge came to attract people eager to escape the city to hike, canoe, camp, and swim. I would put myself and my family among those people.

We are in the process of celebrating 150 years of our Confederation and 100 years since designating our first national heritage site. Both anniversaries are very much worth celebrating, because they help us understand how far Canada has come and what our country can achieve.

By supporting the efforts of Parks Canada to protect and present our treasured places, Bill C-18 would increase public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of this country's heritage. I am hoping that hon. colleagues will join me in supporting this bill, and I am hoping for unanimous support so that it will go to the Senate with a forceful message that all members indeed support this bill.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I am thankful that this bill has been put forward, and we will support it at third reading.

The current Rouge Park area has long been protected, first and foremost by community groups keeping an eye on it and by the provincial government under its legislation. As part of the land transfer agreement with the Government of Ontario, the federal government has committed to meeting or exceeding the ecological protections that have been in place in the past. How will the government ensure that this commitment is met in this legislation and ultimately in the parks management plan?

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I know that my hon. colleague sits on the environment committee and has made significant contributions.

The issue of support for this bill has come up because of the existence of the ecological integrity clause. The ecological integrity clause will enable the park management to make ecological integrity the priority in all its decisions. There will be decisions that will be very difficult, such as when there is a need to expand a highway. How will ecological integrity be handled when a highway is expanded, or some other commercial development of some kind or another?

The Government of Ontario is satisfied at this point that this clause, along with its contribution to the management plan, will enable the protection it is looking for so that those standards remain at the highest possible level.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member recalled how many times he has spoken on this issue. I started working on protecting the Rouge in 1986, and by 1989, the minister of state for the environment, Pauline Browes, was doing something about it.

This has taken a long time. We are almost there. However, with all due respect to the hon. member, does he not agree with the people from Friends of the Rouge, who have been fighting this battle for decades? This is not, strictly speaking, an urban park. It is near a city, but it is a wild area. It does need protection, building on existing agreements. They have been asking, even at this point, that we raise their concern that we should include a subsection that says that this entire bill “is intended to support and complement the implementation of the pre-existing Ontario Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, Rouge Park, and Watershed Conservation Plans.”

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her work on this park and for her obvious commitment to all things green. Indeed, this park would not exist without the organizational and motivational efforts of people like Friends of the Rouge and a whole bunch of others.

The issue here is to bring various communities of disparate interests into the same tent. With the commitment to ecological integrity, the Government of Ontario is satisfied that we will meet the highest possible standards of ecological integrity, notwithstanding the existence of various management plans that currently exist and that will, in fact, be referenced and incorporated in some manner into the overall park management plan.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Shaun Chen Liberal Scarborough North, ON

Madam Speaker, I commend my friend and colleague, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, for his advocacy.

This park, once established, will be within one hour's travel time for seven million Canadians. Can the member please describe how this will be a huge benefit for youth and students in the area?

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, this will be an enormous benefit for all of us: youth, students, non-youth, and non-students.

It is a marvellous jewel that we will be able to preserve in the year 2017, after many years, as the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has described, of working on this. As I say, it is a real testament to advocacy on the part of civil society.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I am so pleased to speak in support of Bill C-18, an act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act.

Parks are very important to the residents of my downtown Toronto riding of Davenport, because we are an inner city riding and green space is at a premium. We have a few small parks in our riding, such as Earlscourt Park, Dufferin Grove Park, and even smaller ones, like McGregor Park and McCormick Park. We turn pretty much every green space into a parkette, because green space is so needed. We have places like the Bartlett Parkette, Chandos Park North, and the Beaver Lightbourn Parkette. Every piece of green space we can find we turn into some sort of parkette, because that is how much we love our green space in downtown Toronto. That is why the residents of Davenport are particularly excited about Rouge National Urban Park. It is a national park that is accessible to Davenport residents, and indeed seven million residents in the GTA, and everyone can get there by public transit. We are so excited.

The proposed legislation has been debated in the chamber and was reviewed by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The standing committee heard the testimony of many witnesses, studied a number of briefs, and considered several proposed amendments. The committee concluded its work by endorsing the proposed legislation with no changes.

The primary objective of Bill C-18 is to ensure that Parks Canada integrates the principle of ecological integrity in its management of Rouge National Urban Park. The introduction of ecological integrity as the first priority in park management is consistent with the way Parks Canada has been managing the park since it was officially established in 2015. I actually looked up the definition of “ecological integrity”, because I wanted to make sure I understood what that actually means. What it means is that the park is managed in a way that human activity does not impair the ecosystem of the park, that the natural ecological processes are intact and self-sustaining, and that the park is managed in a way that the ecosystem can continue to evolve naturally and have the capacity to renew itself so we can enjoy this national park not only today but for generations to come.

Parks Canada has had decades of experience applying ecological integrity in a variety of protected areas, each with its own unique needs and sets of circumstances. Rouge National Urban Park will be no different. Ecological integrity will be applied in respect of the park's urban setting and in support of its reason for establishment: to protect and present for current and future generations the natural and cultural heritage of the park and its diverse landscapes, to promote a vibrant farming community, and to encourage Canadians to discover and connect with their national protected heritage areas.

For more than a century, Canadians have entrusted the management of our cherished places to Parks Canada. The agency has responded by continually establishing and meeting the highest standards for conservation and restoration while balancing the delivery of internationally celebrated educational and visitor programs, without compromising the ecological integrity of the parks. Today Parks Canada manages 46 national parks, four national marine conservation areas, and 171 national historic sites. These are essential components of our heritage. They are places that define us, inspire us, and reinvigorate us.

The amendments proposed in Bill C-18 would support Parks Canada's plan to realize the full potential of Rouge National Urban Park. By amending the Rouge National Urban Park Act to add ecological integrity as the first priority in Parks Canada's management of Rouge National Urban Park, the government would not only be able to meet its mandate commitment in working with Ontario to enhance the country's first national urban park but would be able to protect this important ecosystem and provide greater certainty for park farmers, who will be able to continue carrying out agricultural activities within the park. I am convinced that this is particularly important for Rouge National Urban Park because of its composition and close proximity to Canada's largest city and metropolitan area.

Rouge National Urban Park comprises a rich assembly of natural, cultural, and agricultural landscapes, with many remarkable features, including an abundance of flora and fauna. Indeed, with over 1,700 species of plants and animals, the park is one of the most biologically diverse places in Canada.

Managing and protecting such incredible natural heritage, when some six million people live within easy commuting distance, represents a formidable challenge.

For millennia, people have lived, hunted, fished, and farmed on the land that today forms Rouge National Urban Park. In the last century, the Rouge became increasingly important to city dwellers eager to experience nature, to hike, to canoe, to camp, and to swim. The area has long inspired naturalists and even artists, like Group of Seven artist F.H. Varley, who painted scenes of the Rouge River late into his career.

Working farms are a unique feature of the Rouge National Urban Park, and their presence is essential to achieving the park vision, having been farmed continuously for centuries. In a day and age when many people, particularly those who live in the urban city, say that we are disconnected from nature, that we need to find ways to make sure we do not forget how food is made and the efforts that go into it, the Rouge National Urban Park allows not only the residents of Davenport but all of those in the surrounding areas to be able to find a place to see how food is made, and to help us make sure we continue to reconnect with nature, the green space, and the world around us.

Preserving all of these elements in such a populous area requires special care. The government understands what is at stake in Rouge National Urban Park, and Parks Canada has already completed several important conservation projects to support its ecological integrity. Many more projects are either under way or in the planning stage. For instance, Parks Canada is working on restoration projects with the municipalities, environmental groups, and local farmers by reintroducing threatened turtles, making it easier for wildlife to cross park roads, and enhancing the health of agricultural wetlands. Other projects aim to protect existing wildlife, control invasive species, and enhance visitor experiences. Parks Canada is also working to enhance farmland, promote a vibrant farming community, and ensure a long-term future of agriculture on the Rouge.

I want to add that I used to love taking my nephew to Riverdale Farm, which is also in downtown Toronto. I know that he would have loved to have known that a place like the Rouge National Urban Park existed, because it would have helped inspire his creativity and joy of learning about bird species and animals. He just loves green space in general. I think it will cause a lot of happiness for a lot of children in days to come.

Placing the first priority on ecological integrity entails a broad, holistic approach. It involves acknowledging that ecosystems change continuously due to complex interrelated processes. The landscapes that make up Rouge National Urban Park and the plants and animals that live there are in a constant state of flux. They are not the same as they were a century ago, and they will be different again in the future.

Parks Canada has the experience and expertise needed to fulfill the full potential of Rouge National Urban Park. Delivering a consistently excellent visitor experience is an important element of this. Research indicates that people who visit one member of Canada's family of protected areas are likely to visit others. This magnifies the importance of the excellent visitor programming at the Rouge National Urban Park.

Among the many potential visitors who live nearby are large populations of newcomers to this country. Many of them are in my riding. Many of the people who come to the Rouge are visiting a nationally protected area for the very first time. Ensuring that they enjoy a rich, fulfilling experience is a powerful way to nurture and share Canada's heritage through the agency's excellent visitor programming. The learn to camp program is a prime example of this. Guided by Parks Canada staff and volunteers, program participants learn how to set up camp, roast the perfect marshmallow, and experience the many other joys of the great outdoors. This is just one of the many high-quality visitor programs that Parks Canada delivers in Rouge National Urban Park.

Visitor experiences at Canada's heritage places are designed to provide visitors with meaningful experiences while discovering Canada's natural and cultural heritage.

Bill C-18 also proposes to amend statutes not related to Rouge National Urban Park. One such amendment is that the government would be allowed to expand or complete existing protected heritage areas that have already obtained operational status. Therefore, one of—

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I am sorry, but the member's time is up.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I myself have worked for probably over four decades trying to protect the North Saskatchewan River valley.

I absolutely give acclaim to the federal government, initially the Conservative government, for looking toward a new kind of park in Canada, national urban parks. Most of our population in this country are moving toward urban areas, and they need green spaces. They often tell my colleague the Minister of Infrastructure that infrastructure should also include our green spaces, and have asked what efforts the government is taking toward the protection of those areas.

Would the member support my recommendation that this should not be a one-off, that it is important that the current federal government put resources aside to establish similar parks across this country, so that those living in urban areas can also enjoy nature?

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12:30 p.m.


Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I am sorry that I ran out of time.

I am a huge supporter of parks. I come from an inner city, so a park is my lifeline to connecting with nature and the world around us. I am very supportive of anything that would continue to support and enhance parks and connect Canadians with green space in Canada in general.

My colleague mentioned first nations and our parks. I did not get to mention in my comments that indigenous peoples do play a strong role in our national parks and our national marine conservation areas. In many cases they co-operatively manage these protected areas. We need to continue to promote and enhance that as we build that strong new nation-to-nation relationship moving forward.

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12:30 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, once the Rouge National Urban Park deficits are corrected from the first version of the bill, I wonder if government members would be willing to take another look at the Sable Island National Park Reserve. Seismic testing is allowed inside the park, as is directional drilling for oil and gas under the park. It really is an atrocity within the system of national parks in Canada to allow industrial activity, thereby violating the primary concepts and precepts of ecological integrity first and foremost.