House of Commons Hansard #137 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was system.


Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my hon. colleague. I cannot help but hear perhaps, and maybe wrongly, a dismissive tone.

I absolutely agree that a holistic approach needs to be taken, that all departments need to be included in this, and that is why we called on the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Minister of National Defence to get together with our provincial legislators and territorial legislators as well as academics, the military, and the industry to have that holistic approach, to really take a look at what we are seeing, because right now people are hurting and people are struggling because there is not consistent care, consistent treatment, or consistent diagnosis, and if we fail today, I shudder to think where we will be.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his work on this file. I also want to thank a resident of Chambly, Patrick Dufresne, a paramedic from Quebec who is in Ottawa today to work on my colleague's bill. In fact, he was the one who alerted me to the importance of working on this matter.

As the NDP public safety critic, I was able to take part in the committee work and my colleague attended a few meetings with us. The committee issued a unanimous report on the need to take action on this matter.

Since this is more of a comment than a question, I will leave it to my colleague to talk in more detail about what needs to be done. Most of all, I want to thank him for his work, although much remains to be done on something like this.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are colleagues from all sides of the House who are passionate on this and who worked in the committee.

The terms “first responder”, the term “public safety officer”, and the terms “PTSD” and “OSI”: standard care and diagnosis need to be done. The report that was done by the public safety and security committee was a great report, because it identified exactly what we are talking about today, that there needs to be work done. We need to get people together.

I agree with my hon. colleague that there is much work to be done, but it has to start somewhere, and today is the day.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to sincerely thank my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George for all the work he has done on this file and his leadership. He is a very modest man, but to get this to where it is today, I know that he has garnered support from all over the country.

I do know he wants to take a moment just to thank some of the other people who really did help make this day come forth, and I would like to give him that opportunity right now.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I want to thank the public safety committee for tabling such a great report that specifically detailed the need for this.

I also want to thank Communities for Veterans, Paul and Terry Nichols, our Prince George Fire Fighters Union Local 1372, Badge of Life, Gary Rubie, Syd Gravel, Bill and Lynn Rusk, Natalie Harris, Jody Mitic, Vince Savoia of Tema Conter Memorial Trust, Dr. Katy Kamkar, Erin Alvarez, our own Hon. Erin O'Toole, John Brassard, Colin Carrie, Kent MacNeill, and Norm Robillard.

Many of those name are unknown, but they came forward to tell their story. They came forward to try to save a life, not just their own but they came forward. I want to acknowledge that there are many people here today on the Hill who have shared their story with me in the hopes of not just ending their own struggle but ensuring that those coming behind them do not have to struggle, that we can do everything in our power to put those pieces in place, to make sure that we do not lose another life.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for bringing this very important issue before the House, an issue that is silently affecting many Canadians every day.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a matter close to the hearts of many, even in the House, as the member has said. Some members have honourably served on the front lines of emergencies. Some have families and loved ones whose lives have been touched by those working tirelessly to protect them. In fact, my grandfather immigrated from England, serving the Royal Engineers in World War I, and spent many months in the Brandon sanatorium, being treated during a time when there was very little known about these disorders.

The government stands proudly behind our country's police officers, paramedics, and firefighters. We stand behind indigenous emergency managers, correctional officers, 911 dispatchers, and border guards. We stand, of course, behind the members of our armed forces and all of the brave women and men who have pursued the noble path of public service and put their safety and well-being at risk for the sake of their communities and their country.

In the Liberal platform, we committed to developing a national action plan on post-traumatic stress disorder and the Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness instructs him to “Work with provinces and territories and the Minister of Health to develop a coordinated national action plan on post-traumatic stress disorder, which disproportionately affects public safety officers”.

Indeed, the research shows that between 10% and 35% of first responders will develop post-traumatic stress injuries in their lifetime. An estimated 70,000 Canadian first responders have already been diagnosed. That is why I am proud to say that our government is hard at work developing the action plan to address post-traumatic stress disorder among public safety officers that we promised during our campaign.

Immediately after our government took office, Public Safety Canada launched an extensive consultation process, beginning with sessions in Ottawa and Regina, to hear from stakeholders about PTSD, other operational stress injuries, and about what kinds of supports they needed. As part of these consultations, we heard directly from public safety officers, as well as from health care practitioners, and all levels of government.

We heard about barriers people face when seeking assistance. We heard about cases of limited access to treatment options, the challenges of geographic isolation, and a general lack of awareness regarding operational stress injuries and PTSD, including a lack of awareness about the symptoms and available supports. We agree with the many voices who told us that much more needs to be done.

In particular, we heard about the need to address three key themes: research and data collection; prevention, early intervention, and stigma reduction; and support for care and treatment. Stakeholders' voices have recently been bolstered by a report from the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, as was mentioned. That committee also heard from a wide range of organizations and individuals, including the Canadian Police Association, the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, and many experts on psychiatry and mental health.

At this point, I want to mention that Mood Disorders Society of Canada is in my riding of Guelph. In fact, Phil Upshall, the society's executive director, has made it clear to me that our nation needs to do more to assist those who suffer from this condition, especially when so many who are afflicted by it are our nation's service members or first responders.

Another unique Guelph organization that is leading the nation in treating PTSD is Homewood Health Centre. Homewood has developed the program for traumatic stress recovery, one of the few in-patient programs of its kind in Canada. The program for traumatic stress recovery helps patients recover from the after-effects of trauma and creates a community that helps trauma patients through the healing process.

We have to look after those Canadians who have helped us in so many ways by providing safety for our communities, and in the process of so doing, have stood in the way of danger themselves.

The committee also received briefs from Badge of Life Canada, the Royal Ottawa Health Centre Group, and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, among many others. The final report affirms that the well-being of those who serve our communities is absolutely vital to the safety of all Canadians. The report makes 16 recommendations.

As the Minister of Public Safety wrote in the government's response:

The Committee's Report presents important considerations to inform the Government's approach to supporting those who have dedicated their lives to protecting our communities....

The Report will be a valuable resource as the Government moves forward with its commitment to supporting the well-being and resilience of Canada's public safety officers.

Through all this momentum and action, a clear consensus has emerged. National leadership and coordination are needed to address this issue effectively. Resilience and reintegration and the need for coordinated national research have all been identified as important themes.

There remains a broad view that a national plan must recognize that effective support demands coordinated national baseline research. An action plan must recognize the importance of collaboration in providing access to prevention, education, and training measures as well as to innovative care and effective treatment.

Finally, we have heard loud and clear that we must promote awareness for public safety officers and their families of both the symptoms to watch for and the treatment resources available to them.

Strengthened by all of these voices over the last year, we are moving this action plan forward, helping to bring post-traumatic disorder and operational stress injuries out of the shadows and into the light. I am pleased that our discussions in this chamber make that light even brighter. Indeed, over the course of the last year, members have had more opportunity than ever before to bring this issue to the forefront.

We are making sure that we are talking to the right people, moving forward in a way that reflects the voices we have heard, and are working closely with all partners as this plan develops.

We have reflected this priority every way we can, including through the budget process, with budget 2016 reflecting the government's commitment to an action plan. However, this goes beyond commitment. It is a responsibility of the government and all of us who represent our communities that rely on the tireless and selfless contributions of the brave women and men who keep us safe. To those men and women, we give our thanks.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of Bill C-211. I thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for bringing the bill forward. I also thank my colleague from Guelph for his thoughtful remarks.

This bill would create a federal framework for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. That is a mental condition that can devastate an individual, impacting the individual's family, his or her ability to work, and even his or her ability to perform simple tasks.

As is the case with other mental health conditions, public awareness has often grown in the wake of extreme events, such as wars or natural disasters. Sadly, this has been our experience in Canada as we have seen men and women in the Canadian Forces returning from Afghanistan and struggling for years with the burdens of their experiences there. However, we should not think that this is simply limited to those kinds of extreme events. A soldier returning from a distant combat zone may be the first image in our minds when we talk about PTSD, but more and more, we are learning that stress, trauma, and our body's complex responses to it are issues throughout society, far from battlefields or police precincts or emergency wards.

We see it on university campuses, where students are helping expand access to mental health services and offer more support for survivors of abuse, including sexual abuse.

We see it in workplaces, where employers and workers are finding ways to reduce the stigma of mental illness and encouraging those who once suffered in silence to find the help that they need.

Nearly a decade ago, one academic study pegged the lifetime incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder across the Canadian population at nearly one in 10. In most cases, this could be linked to a single event, such as the unexpected death of a loved one, sexual assault, or witnessing a violent death or injury.

While any Canadian can experience PTSD, certain Canadians are disproportionately likely to shoulder the burden. In particular, I am referring to front-line workers who volunteer for duties that expose them to extraordinary stress. They are police officers and firefighters. They are paramedics and prison guards. They are military personnel and others whose public service can take a great personal toll. Studies have found that members of these professions can experience PTSD at rates at least double that of the general population.

A number of provinces have moved forward on legislation to remove the barriers that Canadians in these professions may face. For instance, in my province of British Columbia, first responders who experience PTSD must prove that it is work-related in order to receive support and compensation.

Last year, in my home province, the NDP labour critic tried to amend a bill in the provincial legislature to fix that problem and make it easier for those first responders, police, firefighters, and others to get the help they need and deserve. It is absolutely shameful that the current Government of British Columbia declined to fix that problem.

Let me share just one story to illustrate why this is so important.

Lisa Jennings was a paramedic in Victoria. In the summer of 2014, Lisa suffered an assault while responding to a call. In the wake of the attack, she suffered flashbacks and suicidal thoughts. After consulting with a psychologist, she filed a claim for workers' compensation. Her claim was denied not once, not twice, but three times, because the board was able to argue that her condition was not the result of the trauma that she had experienced in that assault. In fact, because she had visited a psychologist after her parents and her brother had died in quick succession, she was labelled as having “a well-documented psychiatric history” and her claim was denied. Shameful.

Lisa fought back. With no financial support other than a small disability pension, she appealed the ruling. She even lived in her car while doing so. As Lisa said, “This is for all the first responders in B.C.”

I am happy to report that three weeks ago, Lisa Jennings won her battle. An appeal tribunal reversed the earlier decisions, clearing a path for other first responders to access the support they need after suffering trauma in the line of duty.

A story like that should shock all Canadians and should move us in this place to act. Luckily, we have before us a proposal that would take one step forward, providing the much-needed federal leadership in this context.

What would the bill do? It would instruct the Minister of Health to convene a conference with her colleagues in National Defence and Veterans Affairs, provincial and territorial governments, and stakeholders in the medical community to develop a comprehensive federal strategy framework on post traumatic stress disorder.

This framework would help illuminate the prevalence of PTSD across Canada, as well as its social and economic costs to Canadians, by facilitating better national tracking and data collection by the Public Health Agency of Canada. It would also seek to improve treatment by making it easier to share best practices and by establishing guidelines for diagnosis, treatment, and management of PTSD.

Last, it would broaden awareness of this condition by setting down guidelines for the creation and distribution of educational materials for public health providers across the country.

I want to raise one final issue.

Several months ago, I was contacted by Mark Farrant, a Toronto man who served as a jury foreman on a first degree murder trial. In the course of that trial, he and other jurors were exposed to graphic and disturbing visual evidence and testimony surrounding the brutal murder of a young woman. Jurors are sworn to secrecy, and the moment after the verdict is delivered, released back into their daily lives. In the wake of that experience, Mark began to experience symptoms that would later be diagnosed at PTSD. It would come to disrupt his personal life, his young family, and his successful business career.

Yet, as Mark discovered, jurors in Canada are uniquely unsupported by our justice system. There are supports for judges, court staff, and many others who are exposed to the same graphic evidence and stressful situations, but not for ordinary Canadians who are required to do their civic duty as jurors. It is time that changed. Canadians, no matter where they live, who do their civic duty and serve on a jury, ought to have the proper support services available.

To that end, I raised this issue with my colleagues on the justice committee last year and have written repeatedly to the Minister of Justice, asking that her department assess what steps it can take to address this gap. It is my hope that the justice committee will soon become the first parliamentary committee to study this problem during its upcoming review of the Criminal Code.

While, sadly, we are still waiting for any federal response, I am happy to report that as a result of Mark Farrant's tireless advocacy, and at great personal cost, his home province of Ontario just weeks ago launched a program to provide free counselling to jurors who needed it. Therefore, if Bill C-211 is referred to committee, I will be seeking to develop an amendment to ensure that the issue of juror support is considered in any federal framework on PTSD.

The bill before us today gives us a chance to stand beside Canadians like Mark Farrant in Toronto and Lisa Jennings in Victoria, who swam against the tide at personal cost to do us all a public service. In that spirit, I ask all members to support the bill.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Victoria for stating his unequivocal support for this private member's bill, and my hon. colleague from Guelph who made a speech although we have yet to hear whether his party, the government, will be supporting this legislation.

First responders, firefighters, military personnel, corrections officers, police officers, front-line health care workers, like our dedicated nurses, and countless others face traumatic situations in their day-to-day work, the work they do to serve their fellow citizens and to protect our great country. While the work that these men and women do is well known, what is less known is the mental demands that these occupations require.

In these professions, men and women are regularly exposed to graphic scenes and images that anyone would find difficult and sometimes even heartbreaking to see, making them exceedingly susceptible to PTSD. As the official opposition critic for Veterans Affairs and having spent over three decades as a firefighter, I am all too familiar with the devastating effects of PTSD, and how it plays on those who wear the uniform and the negative impacts on their families.

PTSD is a condition that is characterized by persistent emotional distress occurring as a result of physical injury or severe psychological shock. It typically involves disturbances of sleep, and constant, vivid recall of the traumatic experience with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by the onset of psychiatric symptoms after exposure to one or more of these traumatic events. The characteristics of PTSD develop in four domains: intrusion, avoidance, alterations in cognition and mood, alterations in arousal and reactivity. People can react in many different ways. They might feel nervous, have a hard time sleeping, or go over the details of the situation in their minds. Others have more serious symptoms and their lives can be seriously disrupted.

Our society requires that these people continue to do their job, so it is the government's job to ensure that they have the ability to seek the help, should they require it.

Bill C-211 will help ensure that men and women who are suffering from PTSD are able to get the help they so desperately need. We need to develop and implement a federal framework on PTSD that provides for best practices, research, education, awareness, and treatment.

We really need people to help. Military personnel, veterans, and police officers are expected to lend a hand when the need arises. The bill calls for a federal framework “to address the challenges of recognizing the symptoms and providing timely diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder”.

Bill C-211 is a private member's bill sponsored by the member for Cariboo—Prince George. I want to highlight and acknowledge all his hard work on this bill. Ever since we were elected to this Parliament, I have had the pleasure and the honour of working with the member on this, and I know how extremely invested he is to ensure that our first responders, our military personnel, and our front-line health care workers are looked after.

These brave men and women do so much for our society and give back in ways that cannot be expressed in words. They give their lives to serve our country. Bill C-211 would require the Minister of Health, the Minister of National Defence, and the Minister of Veterans Affairs to consult with the provinces and territories, as well as stakeholders from the medical community and patient groups, in order to develop a comprehensive federal framework to address the challenges of identifying the symptoms and providing a timely diagnosis for the treatment of these men and women who are suffering from PTSD.

There are some statistics that I would like to share in order to highlight the high PTSD rates among Canadian first responders: 24% to 26% of corrections officers suffer from PTSD, 22% to 24% of paramedics suffer from PTSD, 16% of firefighters suffer from PTSD, 10% to 12% of police officers suffer from PTSD, and 5.3% of military personnel suffer from PTSD.

We cannot forget those who serve on the front lines of the medical field, including doctors and our hard-working nurses. These statistics clearly highlight that large percentages of workers in these essential professions are suffering.

I want to share the story of Natalie Harris, a paramedic from my riding, who was on the front line and the first on the scene of a brutal double homicide. Natalie, who has become a friend and an inspiration to me throughout this process of supporting the member for Cariboo—Prince George, experienced unimaginable traumatic events while working a shift as a Simcoe County paramedic.

Rather than focus on the event and the effects it had on Natalie, I want to focus on her advocacy to help others who suffer from PTSD. Natalie began her road to recovery by simply telling her story. She told her story to a lot of people. In fact, it was at an event in Barrie that we first meet. That night, I told Natalie that I would help her raise the awareness of the issue at a national level, and here we are.

Shortly after the election, the member for Cariboo—Prince George and I talked about the work that he had done to that point and his plans to introduce this bill.

For Natalie, the work continued in spite of some lapses and triggers. She continued, and continues, to speak out, continues to support others suffering from PTSD through social media and a support group she calls Wings of Change. Recently, Natalie wrote a book, to reach even more people with her story. What an inspiration.

Mental health is important to talk about. Those who suffer from PTSD need better resources.

Bill Rusk of Badge of Life Canada stated:

...there’s more of a chance of [police officers] following through [with suicide] because they have the means readily available to them, as opposed to a member of the public, who might have the same feelings, but not the means readily available.

We have a problem here, and it needs government's attention.

Mental illness, like PTSD, can strike at any time, to anyone, regardless of one's age, race, gender, occupation, or income level. It does not discriminate, and it is non-partisan.

Vince Savoia of Tema shared the sad news from his research on PTSD that roughly 60% of first responders who committed suicide in 2015 were diagnosed with PTSD. These are great tragedies.

We need to give our servicemen and servicewomen the help they need and allow them to live their lives to the fullest, rather than be burdened by their illness. People who are in these professions wake up every single day and know that, when they go to work to support our country and their fellow Canadians, their life is at risk. They perform brave tasks day in and day out and are left with the haunting images, sounds, and smells for their lifetime. Bearing witness to the tragedies and suffering that they see often becomes difficult to cope with.

Through the work of this bill, meetings with stakeholders, and the development of this framework, it is my hope that the men and women who do so much for us are able to have the services they require and know that they are not alone in this fight. We owe it to these servicemen and servicewomen, who serve us relentlessly day in and day out, to address PTSD, as it can severely impact their lives and the lives of their families.

In a larger context, mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians, whether through a family member, a friend, or a colleague, and 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.

Our first responders, veterans, and front-line medical personnel are sick, not weak, and they need this country's help. Therefore, I ask all members in this House to support the bill that was brought forward by my friend and colleague, the member for Cariboo—Prince George.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity today to debate the creation of a federal framework on PTSD through Bill C-211. I would like to thank the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George for shining light on this important issue, and for his very thoughtful remarks today. It is hard to do justice to an issue of this magnitude in a little less than 10 minutes, but certainly I will do my best.

Over the course of the next few minutes, I hope to highlight the importance of the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder, nationally and in my own community; the impact it has not just on the members of our military but on emergency service workers as well, as so many have alluded to; and the impact the bill could potentially have in collaboration with some other initiatives going on in communities across Canada and within the federal government today.

Beginning with the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder in our military, I have to commend anyone who has had the opportunity to serve. So many who go do so knowing that they may not return safely, or may not return at all. Far too many of those who do serve overseas and who are lucky enough to come home do so with physical or emotional scars that run so deep they may never be cured.

In my view, the cost of engaging our military in a mission that puts the lives of Canadians in danger includes the cost that it takes to ensure they are well. If we can afford to send our citizens to war, we can afford to take care of them when they come home, full stop.

The Canadian Forces are in a mental health crisis. The Afghanistan mission serves as a perfect example. Every member in the House knows well the turmoil that those who have served face today. Since the end of the mission, at least 71 members of the Canadian Forces have taken their own lives. By comparison, I believe the total who lost their lives in combat during the course of that mission was 138, and every one is a tragedy. The fact that we are now over the 50% loss of lives in the mission through veterans who have taken their lives by suicide is a statistic that should shock the conscience of every Canadian. We need to do something about this, and we have the capacity to do something.

This is a difficult issue for the region I represent because of some recent events that took place earlier in January in the community of Upper Big Tracadie. Just minutes away from the town that I was born in, an infantryman took his own life. When we hear members of his family speak about it, they speak about the inner demons he faced and was unable to overcome. What made the tragedy that much worse was that it was not just his life that was taken, but the lives of his family as well. His mother Brenda was killed. His wife Shanna, who recently graduated from St. Francis Xavier University, where I studied, and who worked in the hospital I was born in, as well as his 10-year old daughter, Aaliyah, were killed as a result of this horrific incident.

This bill may not have done something for that specific incident, and it may take a long time to make a difference. The initiatives we are trying to launch at the federal level may take a very long time to make a difference, but my father always told me the best day to plant a tree is today, so we may as well take the chance while we have it.

It is not just our military. So many others are impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder. Our emergency service workers go through turmoil, which I am so lucky to not have witnessed myself. Every member of the House who has not worked as an emergency service worker can probably not understand. I have been taking meetings with police officers, firefighters, and paramedics who have explained the unimaginable horrors they live through in the course of an ordinary day. As other members alluded to, they hear the sounds they have heard, the smells they have smelled, and relive the events time and time again. It keeps them up at night and interferes with their ability to enjoy life in their full capacity as a human being. That is not right. We need to offer them the services they so desperately need to be full and well.

This issue is not without hope, although I may have painted a bit of a desperate picture. There are things we can do. I commend the effort in Bill C-211 to bring together different ministries, like the Minister of Health, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Minister of Defence, along with medical service providers, and, importantly, patient organizations.

We know the answer is not simply to put money into a program, but to make sure that any investments are made wisely to see the outcomes that are actually going to improve the quality of life for people living in our communities.

When I look at initiatives that are going on with all parties, I look at the report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. I look at the multi-party committee on veterans affairs which has undertaken a study on mental health and the suicide crisis among veterans in Canada. I think this is a very positive thing.

Within a week of his being sworn in, I saw an article in The Globe and Mail saying that the Minister of National Defence had instructed the highest ranking members of the forces to make the suicide crisis a priority. I see investments with provincial governments like my own in Nova Scotia where dollars have been earmarked for mental health.

We can see in Canadian communities that this is a priority as well. We see organizations like TEMA that try to draw attention to the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder, but also help individuals who are trying to become well.

To those who defend our interests overseas, who keep us safe in our communities, and who respond when we are in need of emergency services, I would like to communicate that whatever I can do to ensure they have the mental health care they need to be whole and to do their jobs so my family and I can sleep safely at night, I will do what I can.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know I only have a short period of time to express something that is a very proud day for me and for the House. I have listened to speeches from across the aisle from each and every party, and I want to thank my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George, but also all members of the House who participated in this debate, because tonight we have done something very special. We have talked about this in a way that anyone watching this debate will realize that this is a non-partisan issue. This is an issue which back in 2004 when I was first elected to the House, we did not know a lot about it. I do not think I had ever heard of post-traumatic stress disorder.

I look at the effect this is having in our communities on the people we ask to protect our families and communities every single day, hourly, over and over again. This is a piece of legislation that is needed. I know my colleague said that in Canada we can do better, but tonight we realize that we will do better.

After listening to the comments from around the House, I am very proud of the system we have in this country. As I said, I have been here since 2004, and sometimes we do not get the opportunity to express our thanks and to be very proud of the people who sit in the House across the aisle, colleagues who come here who do want to make a difference. Tonight we are going to be making a difference with this legislation which is sorely needed.

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Oshawa will have eight minutes remaining for his remarks when the House next returns to debate on the question.

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.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Democratic ReformAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in adjournment proceedings this evening to return to a question I originally asked on February 1. The House will recall, because we have spent today discussing the subject of electoral reform, that it was on February 1 that the Prime Minister changed the mandate letter to the hon. Minister of Democratic Institutions.

I put to the Prime Minister this question.

“Within 18 months of forming government, we will introduce legislation to enact electoral reform”. That is from the Liberal platform. It is very clear, and it was repeated with clarity in the Speech from the Throne, and the mandate to us as members of the special committee said we were replacing first past the post.

I went on to ask the Prime Minister,

If it was an essential precondition to follow on this promise that there be some sort of nationally proven majority, that there be some consensus discerned through vague surveys, why was that never mentioned in any promise or any mandate?

I was honoured that the Prime Minister stood to respond to my question personally. He replied:

anything a prime minister or a government must do must be in the interests of Canada and of all Canadians, particularly when it comes to transforming our electoral system. I understand the passion and intensity with which the member opposite believes in this, and many Canadians mirror that passion and intensity, but there is no consensus.

I could continue with the answer, but as we can see, it missed the fundamental point of my question, which was that if there was going to be a precondition, a condition precedent, before the Liberal government kept its promise, why was that never mentioned?

I contrast that with other promises in the Liberal platform, promises that I am glad were kept, frankly. There was a promise to bring in a national carbon price, and the government is on its way to doing that. It had a long process involving the various provinces. The architecture of it allows every province to have the money come back to it if it does not, in fact, put forward its own carbon pricing mechanism. It allows for cap and trade in Ontario and Quebec and a carbon tax in B.C.

If members catch my drift, I am sure they will see that this was an election promise. There was no attempt to go back and find out if there was a broad consensus within Canada for one particular form of carbon pricing. There are many different kinds. There is cap and trade. There is a straight up carbon tax. There is carbon fee and dividend. There is a revenue-neutral carbon tax. There are adherents to all of those systems, and there are those, as we know, in the House, who do not want any carbon pricing at all. I do not know that one could say there was a clear path forward for a particular form of carbon pricing, but I am very glad the government of the day did what it promised to do in its platform and brought forward some form of carbon pricing.

I suggest that this is exactly what the Liberals should do about their promise on electoral reform. It did betray that promise by withdrawing it on February 1.

It is just a coincidence that my adjournment proceedings question came up on a day that we have been debating this promise all day long. However, I am of the view that the Liberals, in making that promise, intended to keep it. If they were to see a clear path forward, more particularly, if the Prime Minister were to see a clear path forward, through the work of all of us, many of us on that electoral reform committee, in a non-partisan fashion, as well as through the efforts of those on the Liberal backbenches who were lamenting a decision to break a promise, and who no doubt are hearing from their angry constituents, it is not too late.

In the course of this debate over the next remaining six minutes or so that we have, I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, in response, to help me, with goodwill, and setting aside partisanship, figure out how the promise can still be kept.

Democratic ReformAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Halifax Nova Scotia


Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, our government believes that electoral reform, indeed all democratic reform, should be about pursuing the most broad public interest possible. We believed and we continue to believe that potential reforms must be judged by how they will help Canadians. This is why the Prime Minister said that we are not prepared to move forward with something so fundamental as reforming our electoral system without the broad support of Canadians.

Listening to Canadians is absolutely fundamental to our role as parliamentarians, and this is why the government initiated a national consultation process on electoral reform last spring. First, we asked a special all-party committee of the House of Commons to study the issue. The special committee consulted broadly with relevant experts and organizations and conducted a national engagement process that included travelling to every province and every territory and hearing from 196 experts and 567 open-mike participants, and receiving 574 written submissions and more than 22,000 responses to its e-consultation survey.

We also asked MPs to hold their own town halls to hear the views of their constituents, and MPs held 170 such town halls. The government held public meetings in every province and every territory to hear directly from Canadians, and we sought to ensure that every Canadian could have his or her view heard through an innovative online engagement and educational tool that asked Canadians what values and what principles they wanted to see reflected in their voting system. More than 360,000 people in Canada took the time to participate and have their views heard in this important initiative, and I urge all of my fellow MPs to read the report.

As the Minister of Democratic Institutions has noted, it is clear that despite all of these important efforts to listen to Canadians, the broad consensus needed for change of this magnitude simply does not exist. The government respects and is thankful for all those Canadians who came forward and took the time to share their thoughts about our democracy and have their voices heard. When we hold public consultation we have to be ready to listen to what we hear, and we listened to what we heard.

This of course does not put an end to the important work our government is doing to strengthen our elections and build confidence in our democratic institutions, and I would like to highlight three of the government's priorities moving ahead. First, we will be continuing to move forward with Bill C-33 to make it easier for eligible voters to participate in elections as well as to improve electoral integrity. Second, the minister will be working with her colleagues, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to help protect our voting system from the threat of hacking. Third, notwithstanding that Canada already has one of the best-regulated political finance regimes in the world, we will take steps to make fundraising even more open and even more transparent.

These are only a few of the items in the mandate letter of the Minister of Democratic Institutions. Our hard-working colleagues on the procedure and House affairs committee are also doing important work to review the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations for improving the electoral process.

Clearly, there is still much work to do to further enhance our electoral process, and I look forward to supporting these efforts to reinforce Canada's strong democratic foundations.

Democratic ReformAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my hon. friend and colleague, the parliamentary secretary, that if the government engages in a consultation it should listen to what it heard. What it heard was overwhelming support for proportional representation from more than 80% of the witnesses who testified before the committee and members of the public in the tens of thousands who answered surveys online that our committee put forward.

Bear in mind the mandate of our committee was not to hold a consultation and tell the government there was a consensus, because the promise had been made. The promise was that we were getting rid of first past the post. The committee was asked, “What do you recommend instead?” We also listened to Canadians, and we listened to them by the tens of thousands. Even the survey overwhelmingly reflected values consistent with proportional representation and not with our current broken, archaic, and perverse first past the post.

It is not too late for the Liberal government to listen to Canadians. Those with an opinion overwhelmingly want to have fair voting.

Democratic ReformAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the platform included many elements of electoral reform, and it certainly also included engaging with Canadians to make such important decisions. Engaging as many Canadians as possible in the conversation around electoral reform is something that we have taken very seriously, as I have just enumerated.

It was what Canadians expected us to do before embarking on fundamental change to our democracy. Listening to Canadians is also something that the government is committed to doing across a range of files and issues. As our government has indicated on numerous occasions, any major change to the way we cast our vote would require the broad support of Canadians.

The government remains committed to strengthening and protecting our democratic institutions. We are moving to accomplish that goal.

AgricultureAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address a situation I asked a question about in the House much earlier this year. It is about the bovine TB that is occurring in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan.

This very serious situation has created unending stress and harm in the cattle industry. These are generational families on generational ranches that have raised some of the best beef in the world, generational herds. These are not herds that have just popped up, but have been there hereditarily and were developed decade after decade.

When one animal is identified with bovine TB, immediately CFIA becomes involved, as its goal is to keep Canada TB free so we have that reputation in the international market of trading the best beef in the world. However, we have large ranches with community pastures and many animals from many different ranches use them. When 18 different family businesses became quarantined, this meant a lot of stress on their neighbours as testing would have to occur. As the testing occurred, there were reactors, which meant there were orders for slaughtering.

Over the last three months, these families were stressed as they no longer had an asset they could take to market. These products are not like others. These are live animals. These are generational herds that are produced to sell, but the families could not sell them and they could not do anything with them other than wait for a slaughter order. They had to maintain the herds, feed them and they had to take care of what would be slaughtered. The stress was incredible. It was a part of the founding industry, beef ranching industry in that part of the world.

Eventually thousands of bulls, cows and calves were slaughtered. It left these family businesses in a very rough place.

CFIA had limited resources on the ground to work with this, not realizing the size of this catastrophe for these families. Over time, more staff was allocated to work with the testing. Thousands of animals had to be tested. As they worked through this, local ranchers developed better relationships with these people, but there were problems as these animals were destroyed and because of an arranged payment. However, there is only a one year tax deferral, and these herds cannot be replaced. We cannot go to Walmart and get a new herd.

The families need five years of tax deferrals to start the process of rebuilding herds with the kind of quality for which they have the reputation. As we rebuild this industry in this part of our country and as we rebuild the best beef in the world, we need a simple change. It is not a change of legislation. A simple change can be made because the supplementary program to support these was a unique one put in place for this. The Finance Department can make a simple change so these farms will survive and get back in the business in a productive manner.

AgricultureAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

La Prairie Québec


Jean-Claude Poissant LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to talk about the measures the government is taking to help cattle ranchers in Alberta.

At the end of September 2016, we were notified that a Canadian cow tested positive for bovine tuberculosis when it was slaughtered in the United States. The cow was from Alberta.

In Canada, bovine TB is a reportable disease and subject to a national mandatory eradication program that has been in place since 1923. It is thought to be officially eradicated in Canada today, but isolated cases can still crop up.

The government knows that bovine TB is a great hardship for the affected ranchers. We understand the challenges the ranchers might face if their facilities and herds are placed in quarantine.

We are taking the necessary measures to ensure that the disease is contained and to help the affected ranchers. We will continue to work in close collaboration with the provincial governments and producer groups to address their immediate needs.

Whenever a reportable disease is suspected or confirmed, the objective is to minimize the impact on our producers while respecting Canada's domestic and international obligations to take adequate and precautionary control measures. These measures are essential to protecting the health of Canadian livestock.

As a control measure, the movement of all animals affected is restricted. We then proceed with animal testing, humane slaughter, and carcass disposal if necessary.

Every investigation and intervention is different, but an investigation usually consists of the following steps: facilities are placed in quarantine; an investigation is conducted; infected animals are slaughtered and carcasses disposed of; affected facilities are cleaned and disinfected; and finally, producers receive compensation for animals slaughtered.

The current investigation involves a considerable number of herds. We have to retrace the movement of the animals over the past five years and conduct analyses, which is why we expect the investigation to take several months.

CFIA has completed the slaughter of all adult animals in the infected herd. Furthermore, animals in the infected herd were sent to the slaughterhouse where they underwent a post-mortem to ascertain the absence of lesions consistent with bovine tuberculosis.

Animals sent for slaughter are inspected before and after they are slaughtered, for that is how we ensure that all animals that enter the food chain are free of diseases such as bovine tuberculosis. Post-mortems are always done in federal and provincial institutions, even when no investigations for bovine tuberculosis are under way.

We understand the financial pressures that can be associated with an animal disease outbreak for producers, and we are trying to alleviate this burden. The CFIA will issue a compensation payment for any animal that must be slaughtered because of bovine tuberculosis. In mid-December 2016, the CFIA began issuing payments, and as of February 8, nearly $16 million had been paid in compensation.

The CFIA is also working as fast as possible to lift quarantines as soon as the absence of bovine tuberculosis is confirmed in facilities.

AgricultureAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the information that my colleague has shared with us. It enlightens how complicated this issue is, how stressful and challenging not only for the CFIA, for our reputation, but also for the ranchers themselves.

As the parliamentary secretary mentioned, this is ongoing. We have another year or two in this process. It is not done now with slaughtering. It will take another year or two ongoing.

Another issue has developed around this. There are thousands of elk, a few hundred put on the base that surrounds this community pasture. They were brought in clean 20 years ago. There are no predators. They are now in the thousands as of a couple of weeks ago. Chronic wasting disease was diagnosed by CFIA for the first time. This is also a threat to our cattle industry. That needs to be dealt with as these animals have come off the base and have mixed with the cattle herds. They are destroying pastures and fences, and other situations are occurring. That needs to be taken care of as well.

Hopefully, CFIA will move on that, as well as continue with the efforts to deal with bovine TB in this area.

AgricultureAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Jean-Claude Poissant Liberal La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government and I, as a former rancher, understand how trying such a situation can be for the ranchers.

CFIA will compensate producers for any animal ordered destroyed because of bovine tuberculosis. CFIA will continue to make compensation payments quickly as slaughter operations proceed.

On November 30, 2016, the government announced that producers facing extraordinary costs due to bovine tuberculosis will be eligible for financial assistance under the AgriRecovery Framework. As of February 3, $3.1 million had been paid out.

The 2016 Bovine Tuberculosis Assistance Initiative will provide assistance to producers to cover the extraordinary costs they are facing as a result of the quarantine measures. This includes feeding and water infrastructure, feed for the animals, transportation, cleaning and disinfecting as well as interest costs on loans granted in such circumstances.

CFIA is working as quickly as possible to ensure that the quarantine can be lifted as soon as the absence of bovine TB in the facilities is confirmed.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, my original question was precipitated by a visit to my office by local mayors from my riding. They were concerned that the Columbia River Treaty needed to be renegotiated, that their communities and many others in the region have spent a great deal of effort consulting with affected and interested parties about this critical issue, and that the federal government remains silent on the status of negotiations.

The original treaty was enacted in 1964 and has had a huge impact on southeastern British Columbia, with 600 square kilometres flooded, over 3,000 properties expropriated, and 1,380 people were forced to move. First nations' rights and title were completely ignored. Wildlife habitat was devastated.

On the positive side, the treaty has provided electric power for many parts of B.C., and the north and western United States. The Canadian entitlement has been a financial benefit to the B.C. government.

The treaty is set to expire in 2024, and we are in a period where renegotiation should be taking place. Some of the important issues are, of course, indigenous rights, which were completely ignored before, and continued compensation for Canadian services and impacts. My constituents continue to be impacted by the dams and reservoirs created by this treaty.

Americans will want more services and water, and will ask for a reduction in compensation. They will want more water for domestic, industrial, and agricultural purposes. Constituents in the Okanagan are concerned that the American orchard industry has gone up 100 times since the original treaty, because of the irrigation.

The future of flood control in both countries is up to question. This includes ecosystem values, including the possible reintroduction of salmon into the upper Columbia River; and improved co-ordination of water levels in the Koocanusa reservoir and the Arrow Lakes. People in Nakusp feel like they are living next to a bathtub, the water goes up and down so much. They want stable water, and full-pool levels in the summer when they need it for tourism and recreation.

We want to know where the talks stand between Canada and the U.S. on this critical subject. The previous American administration said on October 7 that it was ready to start talks with Canada. However, since December 2, when I first rose on this question, much has changed in the political landscape of the United States.

The new foreign affairs minister met with Secretary of State Tillerson this week, and now we hear that the Prime Minister will be visiting Washington next Monday. I would hope that he will raise this issue. It is one of the agreements that is of mutual benefit for both Canada and the United States.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick


Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend and teammate with FC Commoners for raising this issue and giving me a chance to reply.

As a resident of the greater drainage basin, my colleague understands why the Columbia River Treaty is important to the region.

The Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the United States is a 1964 agreement that regulates electricity cost and production.

The objective of this treaty was the creation of benefits that are to be shared equitably between Canada and the United States, and this remains the goal.

Based on the geography of the basin, it made sense to build three dams and reservoirs on the Canadian side that would provide flood protection and increase hydro power generation in the United States. In exchange for this benefit to the U.S., British Columbia received a one-time payment of $64 million for flood protection for 60 years.

The province also receives one-half of the incremental electrical power generated at U.S. hydro power facilities from the managed flows of water from Canada, which currently sits at around $100 million to $200 million per year.

In its more than 50 years, the treaty has protected our neighbours and helped provide hydroelectricity for basin residents on both sides of the border.

I should also add that, due to water storage and the managed flows, other benefits have also ensued. These include flexibility to allow for stable water levels for irrigation, navigation, and recreation. This amounts to benefits beyond those explicitly covered by the current treaty.

Now we are at a crossroads in the life of the Columbia River Treaty. A provision in the treaty allows either Canada or the United States to terminate it after 60 years, which as my hon. colleague mentioned, would be in 2024. Both countries have conducted reviews to determine what its future should be.

On the Canadian side, British Columbia, which through the 1963 agreement with Canada holds most of the obligations and benefits of the Columbia River Treaty, has led the review.

The United States recently completed its review and has indicated a desire to begin negotiations on the treaty's future. To begin negotiations, we need first to develop our negotiating mandate.

Until then, we continue to pursue informal discussions with our U.S. counterparts and intensify our side-by-side engagement with the province, first nations, and local Canadian communities.

Let me reassure the member opposite that we are working and will continue to work closely with those local communities, first nations, and the Government of British Columbia on the future of this treaty.

I would like to add that, when the treaty was first negotiated 60 years ago, the affected first nations were not consulted. Because of the treaty and activities involving the Columbia River in the decades preceding the Columbia River Treaty, first nations and residents of the drainage basin witnessed the loss of very valuable land and cultural sites and the demise of the salmon migration.

The repercussions are still making themselves felt in the form of dust storms and the loss of beaches and recreational opportunities. We cannot go back in time and change what happened, but this time, we will negotiate a new Columbia River treaty with the active participation of first nations and drainage basin residents.

I thank my hon. colleague for re-raising this issue.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, with all the talk of tariffs against softwood lumber, border taxes, and potential trade wars with the United States, I would just hope that the government would take this issue as an important opportunity to build some goodwill and commence renegotiation of this treaty with the new U.S. administration. It is a win-win for both sides.

The current situation brings a lot of uncertainty. I understand that our government cannot do much about the uncertainty created by our friends south of the border, but it can control the uncertainty that it has created by being so quiet on this issue in Canada.

It has been months since the United States first made its intentions known, even if they might have changed somewhat now. We have had silence from the Liberal government. Right now my region needs reassurance from the government that it is serious about renegotiating the Columbia River Treaty and listening to the interests and concerns that have been registered by local consultations.

Foreign AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add a few more points as they relate to the Columbia River Treaty.

The governments of Canada and British Columbia worked very closely on the treaty. For Canada and British Columbia, the objective of renewing the Columbia River Treaty is to ensure that the benefits of the treaty are shared equally by Canadians and Americans.

Although British Columbia has derived some financial benefits from the treaty, it has also experienced significant negative impacts. Productive land was flooded, first nations sites of cultural significance were flooded and, every year, residents of the basin are affected by significant changes in water levels of the reservoir.

Our officials have met with representatives from basin first nations and have committed to work closely with them as we move toward negotiations with the United States.

Again, the objective of this treaty was the creation of benefits that are to be shared equitably between Canada and the United States and that remains the goal.