Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a great honour to rise in this House today to debate this important bill brought forward by my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Niagara Falls. I do want to thank the member for Niagara Falls not only for bringing forward this bill, but for his years of service in this place. I think his service to this august chamber is a testament to his hard work. Certainly as a new and younger MP, it is a great honour to receive guidance from people like the member for Niagara Falls. I thank him for his great service to this institution and for bringing forward the bill.
The bill, an act respecting a national strategy for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, is an extremely important bill. I think all Canadians, no matter where they may live, will be in one way or another affected by Alzheimer's disease or other dementias. Certainly this is true for places like Perth—Wellington.
In Perth—Wellington we are lucky and quite privileged to have great organizations like the Alzheimer Society of Perth County and the Alzheimer Society of Waterloo Wellington. These organizations provide great opportunities and services to individuals suffering from Alzheimer's and other dementias, and also to their families and their loved ones.
Just last night, in fact, I was speaking with my sister who works at a long-term care home in the small town of Milverton in my riding. She told me about a program at that facility called iPods for Memories. It is a great program that provides an individual with Alzheimer's or dementia with an Ipod that has music and memories from the individual's younger days which the person can listen to and have a spark of memory. To see the smiles on their faces, to see the laughter of those individuals who all of a sudden have a happy recollection, a happy memory of their younger days is so important. My sister said that anything we can do as a federal Parliament to encourage programs like that, to encourage the ability of those suffering with this terrible disease to have that spark of memory, to have that opportunity to go back to some of those great memories from their younger days is so important.
Just last month I met with board members from the Alzheimer Society of Perth County. We talked about the importance of the bill and the importance of other opportunities that we as parliamentarians and as Canadians can do to help those who suffer from Alzheimer's and help those whose families are also suffering from the effects of having a loved one with this terrible disease.
One way I am hoping to help, and my office is helping, is by becoming a dementia friend. My office staff and I will be undertaking training to make us more aware of the challenges of dementia and how we can serve our constituents that much better by being aware of the challenges of individuals who may come to our office for service who may be suffering from dementia.
We think about the challenges of Canadians who are suffering from Alzheimer's, and also their loved ones. I think we are all impacted by it in one way or another, to see a loved one slowly slipping away, losing their memories, and almost losing a sense of themselves as well.
The unfortunate thing is that each and every year, as many as 25,000 more Canadians will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. While we as individuals often assume this is a disease that affects only seniors, unfortunately, we are seeing a growing trend of younger and younger Canadians being affected and being diagnosed with early onset dementia and Alzheimer's and the unique challenges that face younger Canadians, whether it be a loved one, whether it be a husband, a wife, or a parent, who is being robbed of those years of fellowship and comradeship and family that they are no longer able to experience because of the impacts of this terrible disease.
In fact, as many as 747,000 Canadians are currently suffering from Alzheimer's or some form of dementia. I think of Canadian seniors, those who built our country, those who are often referred to as the greatest generation, who have developed so much of our history and who, within themselves, have such great memories, such wisdom, but who, because of the tragedy of this disease, are having these memories, this wisdom stolen from them, taken away from them. When they lose those memories, when they lose that wisdom, we all lose something.
I am very proud to speak in favour of this important bill. I know the Alzheimer's Society of Canada has encouraged all members of Parliament to support the bill, and I am extremely heartened to hear members on all sides of this House speak in favour of the bill.
It is a testament to not only the work that the hon. member for Niagara Falls did on this bill, but to all Canadians and all members of this House who are impacted, and who listened to their constituents and loved ones who suffer from this disease.
Therefore, I am proud to speak and to vote in favour of this bill.