House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-23.


11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

It being 11:04 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from February 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-211, An Act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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

11:05 a.m.

Louis-Hébert Québec


Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to private member's bill, Bill C-211, an act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

Improving the mental health of all people living in Canada is a priority for the federal government, which is one of the reasons why this government will be supporting Bill C-211 with amendments and we will work to address those at committee stage.

The Minister of Health continues to engage provincial and territorial governments to deliver on important investments in health, with mental health as a priority area of focus.

On December 19, 2016, the Government of Canada offered to give the provinces and territories approximately $11 billion over 10 years for mental health care and home care in addition to $544 million over five years for federal and pan-Canadian organizations to support initiatives on prescription drug and health innovation. Many provinces have decided to work with the Government of Canada by using the funds to improve mental health services for Canadians.

In addition, the Government of Canada is promoting people's mental health and well-being by supporting programs that build resilience in individuals and communities to help them overcome adversity. This involves all levels of government, national indigenous organizations, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is the lead federal organization for mental health promotion and mental illness prevention. The agency supports federal coordination in these areas across the health portfolio and other departments to provide a coherent approach to promote, protect, and improve the mental health and well-being of all Canadians.

The health portfolio, in collaboration with other federal departments, supports policy development and community-based programming across various life stages. Key areas related to post-traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD in Canada, include family violence prevention, suicide prevention, targeted indigenous mental health promotion initiatives, and helping victims cope after emergencies.

Being a victim of violence is a significant risk factor for developing post-traumatic stress disorder, which is more commonly known in Canada by its acronym, PTSD. Domestic violence, including intimate partner violence and child abuse, is a serious public health issue and a significant risk factor for developing PTSD. Some 32% of adult Canadians reported that they have been the victim of some form of violence before the age of 16.

Research shows that women who have experienced intimate partner violence have heightened rates of PTSD, injury, chronic pain, sleep disorders, substance use problems, and other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Children who have been abused or exposed to abuse in the family also have a higher risk of developing mental health issues, including PTSD. Those who were maltreated as children are twice as likely to have poor mental health and are over three times more likely to report suicidal thoughts. Boys who have been victimized or raised in violent homes are at an increased risk of becoming perpetrators of violence as adults, and girls exposed to violence in the home are at an increased risk of being victimized as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence.

Our government is supporting community projects aimed at improving the physical and mental health of individuals who have been the victims of child abuse or intimate partner violence, thereby helping them to rebuild their lives. Our government is also investing in projects to better equip health professionals to work safely and effectively with survivors of domestic violence using strategies specifically tailored to the trauma experienced by each individual.

The Public Health Agency of Canada coordinates the family violence initiative, which brings together 15 federal departments to prevent and address family violence from multiple perspectives. Partner departments meet regularly to share new research and findings, provide advice on design and project ideas, contribute to policy initiatives, connect to stakeholder networks, and ensure that new knowledge is applied across all sectors.

As part of this initiative, information is also shared through the Stop Family Violence web pages on behalf of all the family violence initiative partners. This is a one-stop source of information and resources for professionals and for the public.

At the heart of what we are talking about today is the fact that people who have PTSD are more likely to self-harm or commit suicide. Sadly, more than 4,000 Canadians commit suicide every year.

In accordance with An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, the Public Health Agency of Canada coordinated the development of a federal framework for suicide prevention. The main goals are to raise public awareness, reduce the stigma surrounding suicide, disseminate information about suicide and its prevention, and promote the use of research and evidence-based practices for suicide prevention.

Tools and resources are also being developed to help reduce the stigma and raise public awareness about suicide, informed by research evidence on safe messaging for Canadians. In addition, a guide of standard terminology and practices for federal departments to avoid stigmatizing and inappropriate language in communication products is under development.

An online suicide prevention resource has been launched, including information on where to get help, resources for professionals, and links to additional resources and information. Funding has also been provided to support the Canadian distress line network to develop a 24/7 national suicide prevention service. Once fully implemented, this line will ensure that individuals in crisis, regardless of where they live in Canada, have access to free and confidential support on a 24/7 basis, in a way that works best for them, by chat, text, or phone.

The Public Health Agency of Canada co-leads the National Collaborative on Suicide Prevention together with the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Their members include various health and community service organizations that work to promote mental health and prevent mental illness and suicide across the country, including the Assembly of First Nations and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami organization.

Federally, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Health Canada, and the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, which are federally funded, are also partners under this umbrella. The mission of this Canada-wide collective is to enhance the capacity for suicide prevention in an effective manner by connecting people, concepts, and resources across the country.

Indigenous populations may be at increased risk for PTSD because of historical and intergenerational trauma. First nations, Inuit, and Métis experience some of the most significant health inequities in Canada. The proportion of indigenous individuals experiencing mental illness during their lifetime is 55% versus 33% of the non-indigenous population. Evidence shows that health is adversely affected by culture loss; racism and stigmatization; loss of language and connection to the land; environmental deprivation; and feeling spiritually, emotionally, and mentally disconnected from one's identity.

The federal government also supports indigenous populations through programs that are culturally adapted to the communities they serve. For example, the aboriginal head start program offered in urban and northern communities promotes the healthy development of indigenous children from birth to age five and helps them achieve their full potential in adulthood.

The community action program for children and the Canada prenatal nutrition program also support the healthy development of vulnerable children aged zero to six years and their families. Special emphasis is placed on the inclusion of indigenous pregnant women, children, and families. The Nobody's Perfect parenting program is a strengths-based, educational health promotion program for parents of children aged zero to five years living in socio-economic conditions of risk. The program is offered in indigenous communities across Canada.

These targeted programs help Canadians develop protective factors that will help them build their mental resilience and lower the risk of PTSD, because they are based on the knowledge that a significant number of mental problems stem from childhood.

People who have been exposed to natural disasters and extreme events are at risk of developing mental illness, including PTSD. Extreme weather events as a result of climate change are expected to increase in numbers and severity. Many climate scientists agree that the Canadian wildfire activity of the past few years is well above average and is connected to the warming climate.

I see that I only have one minute. I thought I had 20 minutes, so I will conclude at this stage.

The federal government's efforts on PTSD so far include following through on some of these recommendations and taking advantage of existing federally run activities that target the needs of specific populations. Many of these programs and activities could also be used to support other communities in Canada.

Through these concerted efforts, and the ongoing commitment to sound, evidence-based approaches, our government continues to work to improve the lives of Canadians and those affected by PTSD.

Official ReportPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Mississauga—Malton Ontario


Navdeep Bains LiberalMinister of Innovation

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. On February 23, during question period, in response to a question from the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo on the Investment Canada Act, I inadvertently stated that Cedar Tree will now be owned and operated by Canadians going forward. What I meant to say is that Retirement Concepts will continue to be managed and operated by Canadians under its new ownership.

Thank you very much for allowing me this opportunity to clarify my previous statement.

Official ReportPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I am sure the House appreciates the clarification at the first available occasion.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for London—Fanshawe.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-211, An Act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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

11:15 a.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of sitting on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, and we are currently studying mental health and suicide prevention.

I have heard considerable evidence of the toll that PTSD takes on veterans and their families. It is clear that action is needed, and increased services are desperately needed. I am sure that the bill was created with positive intentions. However, I remain concerned that there is nothing here to actually increase services for PTSD.

With nearly one in 10 Canadians experiencing post-traumatic stress at some point in their lives, it is time for federal leadership, to ease the suffering of those struggling with PTSD. I believe it is important to hear from veterans themselves about the impact of PTSD on their lives. I want to share with the House some testimony that was heard at the veterans affairs committee, and informal discussions I have had with veterans that highlight the struggles of so many veterans.

First, Mr. John Kelley Mcleod told the VAC Committee the following:

We're driven. We're fit people when we serve. There isn't anything that we wouldn't do for this nation, including giving our lives. I've often said, having suffered PTSD after serving in Somalia and Rwanda, it would have been easier for me to have lost a leg or two, or to lose two arms. People understand that.

When you come back, they do not understand when you tell them “Well, I have nightmares every day. I can't cope with day-to-day living. I don't like being in crowds.” For me, being a medic in those trades, everything I did at that moment was life and death. People die on the decisions you make, and you sometimes can't do anything.

I deal with that every day, and there are things that still stay with me today that are as clear as they were 20 years ago. That will never go away for me. Then, on top of that, because I served in Somalia and Rwanda, I spent over a year on mefloquine.

l'm getting older now. PTSD should be mellowing for me. I should be getting better, but l'm not getting better. l'm getting worse. I also have a terminal illness. I don't know how much longer I have, but every day I wake up and make a decision, do I live today or do I kill myself today?

Many of the veterans I spoke to said that their PTSD was triggered by financial insecurity, pensions and benefits delayed for months by an inept and dysfunctional veterans department. This is the reality of PTSD. It is terrifying and it is disabling our veterans. I also want to share with the House the words of Mr. Kurt Grant, a veteran who has been involved in the military his entire life. He came from a military family and became an air cadet at 13. He was in uniform for 41 years and deployed eight times. Kurt told us:

According to Veterans Affairs l'm now officially 136% broken; government math. I spent 15 years fighting with my PTSD before I wrote off my car and went into treatment. It's a tough thing to look at the back end of another vehicle and not realize how the hell you got there.

The stigma surrounding PTSD is huge. As much as we want to deny it and as much as we want to sit back and say, guess what, we're going to fix this, it's not going to happen. A cultural change has to take place.

...PTSD is not something that hits you right away. It took me 15 years before I finally collapsed under it.

It is clear that we desperately need to improve services for those with PTSD, and we critically need more supports for veterans specifically. We have heard testimony in veterans affairs committee that group therapy works very well for PTSD. However, there is a catch. It does not work well for veterans when therapy is in a group with civilians. Veterans have gone through traumatic experiences that civilians will never encounter. While they both may have PTSD, their experiences are not relatable. We need to make sure that veterans are able to access therapy with other veterans who understand what they have experienced and what they have lived.

We also need special supports for those living with military sexual trauma, many of whom also live with PTSD. Group therapy is very helpful for healing, but again our veterans are best served when with their peers. They not only need support from other veterans, but also those who are dealing with military sexual trauma. They may not get the support they need by being grouped with veterans or CF members with PTSD, and may not relate as well to sexual assault survivors without a military background. We need to bring men and women with MST together for healing.

Ultimately, that is what this is about. This is about healing those individuals who have given everything. This is about those who have set aside their lives and gambled on the promise that government was going to be there when they needed it, that government was going to somehow make sure their service was respected and honoured, that their suffering was understood, and that support would be there until the end of their lives.

However, we have military veterans in court against this government and the previous one for failure to make sure they have financial support. We now have a government that is making deals with the provinces and health ministries across this country. The government is saying that it will give them some money, but they have to accept that there will be less. “Oh yes, we'll give you a little bit of money for mental health, but the saw-off is that there is not going to be enough money to make sure that all Canadians are cared for.”

We are in this place to make sure and be absolutely confident that every Canadian who has given something important to this country has the support, services, and respect that we owe them. Our veterans are special, and we all know that. They are unique individuals. They go into the field and they are fearless, because they believe in this country. Let us not take away their hope when they return home. Let us not take away their families. Let us not take away the prospect of coming back to us with a place in our communities that is safe and secure. We have to make them safe and secure.

To conclude, I thank the member for bringing forward this private member's bill. However, again, I want this to be genuine. I am tired of the games. I am tired of playing. I am tired of having to beg for what should be there. We owe it to these folks.

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

11:20 a.m.


David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to sincerely thank my colleague, the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George, for bringing forward this bill to build a national framework on an issue that is critically important to Canadians, and in turn our national safety and national fabric. These are our first responders. They are military personnel, veterans, correctional officers, and police. These are the people who protect and defend us day in and day out and care for us in our most urgent times of need. It is our duty to care for them as they grapple with post-traumatic stress disorder.

While more is understood about PTSD, or as Veterans Affairs calls it, operational stress injuries, every day, there is much more work to be done. We owe it to our first responders to do everything in our legislative power to make this happen. That is why I am honoured to stand today in support of Bill C-211, an act respecting a federal framework on PTSD, the private member's bill brought forward by my hon. colleague.

One of the greatest privileges of being a member of Parliament is the opportunity that it affords us to interact with our veterans and military personnel. I have had the opportunity to spend time on Canadian navy vessels, HMCS Halifax and HMCS Montreal, to talk with veterans from coast to coast, and to spend time with the reservists and officers of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. I am proud to be a member of the officers' mess at John Weir Foote V.C. Armouries in my hometown of Hamilton.

Unfortunately, these brave women and men who gather at these armouries know PTSD and operational stress injuries all too well. That is because, tragically and regrettably, Corporal Justin Stark, a 22-year-old reservist with The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, took his own life in those armouries. It was October 2010, and he had returned to Canada just 10 months earlier from a deployment in Afghanistan.

Please also allow me to mention what many hon. members will know and recall, because I would be remiss in mentioning The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders without acknowledging a major tragedy that faced us. Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed in the attack on the National War Memorial in October of 2014, was also an Argyll. As we talk about the scourge of PTSD that plagues his former colleagues, we should always remember the courage and valour of all military personnel.

We were mindful of the tragic circumstances that led Corporal Justin Stark to such a dark place when we announced an operational stress injury clinic for downtown Hamilton in January 2015. I was pleased to join my colleague, the hon. member for Durham, then minister of Veterans Affairs, for that announcement. The clinic would serve the Hamilton and Niagara areas, as well as parts of southwestern Ontario. All of these areas were previously served by a clinic in Toronto, and this brought the resources, counselling, and therapy closer to home for many veterans and personnel. One has to imagine that when dealing with such complex issues as mental health, operational stress injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder, having these resources closer to home makes a huge difference in speedy diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and care.

This is a good and practical example of the kinds of things that Bill C-211 would help to facilitate. It would help to coordinate all of these resources at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels, and clinics such as this one that were funded by the federal government and operated by the province. Bill C-211 would set in motion a long-overdue and much-needed coordinated federal-provincial strategy, so that an inventory of such resources can be taken, gaps can be identified, and people in desperate need of help can be properly served.

Unfortunately, Corporal Stark is not an isolated example. When I chaired the veterans affairs committee, we heard expert testimony on post-traumatic stress disorder in our Canadian Armed Forces. What a tragedy that these brave women and men, who enlist to defend the freedoms we cherish and value so much as Canadians, are themselves imprisoned and thereby robbed of their own freedoms on their return from duty because of the psychological terror and devastating effects of PTSD. May this sadness move us to action.

While I have focused my examples thus far on military personnel and veterans, I know of many police officers, ambulance attendants, and firefighters in my community, the greater Hamilton area, who have been equally impacted by PTSD.

It is well known that among paramedics, the incidence of PTSD is very high. Almost a quarter will be impacted. Think about that. Almost a quarter of paramedics grapple with PTSD. These are the same people we count on in our hour of need. It is time we gave them the same priority they give us. It is time to take action as proposed by the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.

The only group of first responders for whom the rate of PTSD is worse than it is for paramedics is correctional officers, who have an incidence rate of 24% to 26%. When we talk about that, it is easy to understand the pressures they are under. When I researched my own private member's bill in the last Parliament, I encountered many correctional officers, and I have heard gut-wrenching accounts. Beneath the statistics, these are real stories, real people, real families, and real cries for help.

We know that what is stipulated in Bill C-211 is just a first step. It would require the Minister of Health to convene a conference with stakeholders from all relevant federal departments, provincial and territorial representatives, the medical community, and patient groups. It is a sound and logical step. Developing a framework is a necessary and needed result. It would be a step forward in addressing the challenges, recognizing the symptoms, and providing timely diagnosis, thereby speeding access to treatment for PTSD.

It is a complex problem. It is not going to be solved overnight. A federal framework would only go so far, but it would bring together initiatives and legislation at the provincial level in a coordinated and national strategy. Is it not time?

To me, this is a simple decision. There is only one right answer. For the sake of the mental health of people who care for and protect and defend us every single day, I urge all members of this chamber to wholeheartedly support and vote in favour of Bill C-211.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to one of the most important bills I have had to deal with since I was elected. God bless all our first responders, and God bless Canada.

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

11:30 a.m.


Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for not only introducing this bill but for his tireless advocacy on this issue: the mental health of our veterans, public safety officers, and first responders. I would also like to thank the many people both here in the gallery and in our communities who have been advocates on this important issue.

The member's bill calls for a federal framework for post-traumatic stress disorder. It calls on the Minister of Health to work with the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Veterans Affairs, along with the provinces and territories, representatives of the medical community, and patient groups, to develop a federal framework to address the challenges of recognizing the symptoms and providing timely diagnosis and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.

I am very pleased that our government will be supporting this legislation, with some minor amendments. I will speak a little later about some of the concerns I personally have with the bill.

This is an issue that has actually touched this House, as we lost one of our own members to a post-traumatic stress injury. Lieutenant Colonel Sam Sharpe was first elected to the House of Commons in 1908 and re-elected in 1911 and 1917 as the member of Parliament for Ontario North. He was a sitting MP at the start of the First World War and helped raise the 116th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force and commanded the battalion during its operations on the fields of Europe. His unit was present for the assault on Vimy Ridge and fought at Avion and Passchendaele.

After suffering mental injuries on the front, what at the time was called shell shock, he was hospitalized in England and subsequently returned to Canada. Lieutenant Colonel Sharpe died by suicide on May 25, 1918. Thankfully, our armed forces have come a long way since then and now recognize that mental injuries can also occur on the battlefield.

Just a few weeks ago, I met with Syd Gravel and Brad McKay, who wrote a guide to help first responders in the creation of peer and trauma support programs, entitled Walk the Talk—First Responder Peer Support. The two former police officers commented about how far the conversation had come since they built their own peer support networks in secret in 1988.

There has been a lot of work done in many provinces across Canada, including in my province of Ontario. My colleague, the Minister of Labour for Ontario, led efforts last spring that made it easier for first responders in Ontario to get treatment, created an awareness campaign, and required first responders to have a prevention plan.

I believe that the federal government can help other provinces and territories learn about the various best practices that have been created. While stakeholders are applauding the fact that this conversation is taking place, they know that there is still a lot of work to be done. Mental health and healthy inclusive workplaces are two areas where I am hoping, and working hard, to make a difference as a member of Parliament.

With regard to the specifics of Bill C-211, I applaud the member's efforts and his genuine concern for the mental health of our military, veterans, public safety officers, and first responders.

I do have concerns about the limitations in this particular bill about the mental health of our first responders and public safety officers. The bill invites the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Veterans Affairs to a conference but leaves out the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The Minister of Public Safety has already been working, along with the Minister of Health, on creating a national strategy on this issue. Early last year, the Minister of Public Safety and his former parliamentary secretary held a national round table on post-traumatic stress injuries, or PTSI, and the effect on public safety officers.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I am extremely proud of our work last fall when we tabled the report, “Healthy Minds, Safe Communities: Supporting our Public Safety Officers through a National Strategy for Operational Stress Injuries”, recognizing the need for a national strategy on operational stress injuries, not just post-traumatic stress disorder.

Any framework we develop should include policies on prevention, screening, education, intervention, and treatment. We heard from witnesses who told us that mental health injuries suffered by first responders and public safety officers on the job were far more extensive than just PTSI and included broader operational stress injuries. We heard that though many will develop PTSI, they are far more likely to suffer from depression and substance abuse. Sadly, they are more likely die by suicide.

We heard from witnesses who told us that the research and data within the military context is 15 years ahead of what is available with respect to public safety officers and that very little is known about the incidence and prevalence of OSls among public safety officers.

During our study, we heard from the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, which is doing tremendous work to support our military personnel and veterans facing mental health issues.

Our committee called on the government to use our report to develop a national strategy; to create a Canadian institute for public safety officer health research, an advisory council, and an expert working group to develop policies; and to share research on prevention, screening, education, intervention, and treatment nationally. The committee also urged the government to study presumptive legislation for public safety officers, as several of our provincial cousins have.

That is why our committee recommended that PTSD be considered as falling within the broader health issue of operational stress injuries, defined as “persistent psychological difficulty resulting from operational duties performed while serving” as a public safety officer, along with other mental health problems, such as depression and substance abuse.

The committee heard from public safety officers regarding the uniqueness of their work environment and the fact that they see trauma in their own communities frequently. The officers could have connections and relationships with the people they serve.

Our committee called on the government to create a Canadian institute for public safety officer health research to “enhance the mental health and wellness of our Canadian public safety officers through evidence-based research, practices, policies and programs”.

I was pleased to read the Minister of Public Safety's response to our report, in which he said that the government recognized the need for many of our recommendations. I know that the Minister of Public Safety shares my concerns about the mental wellness of our public safety officers. After all, we need to take care of our public safety officers, because they take care of us. We have a responsibility to return our military personnel and public safety officers to their families as we received them, mentally well.

Caring for the health of our public safety officers, both mentally and physically, is not only important to their well-being but ensures that our communities are safe. RCMP, police, firefighters, corrections officers, paramedics, aboriginal firefighters, parole officers, and those who work alongside them told the committee that their members can suffer greatly from mental health illnesses because of their jobs.

I also have concerns about the terminology used in Bill C-211. Mental health issues faced by our veterans and public safety officers are much braoder than just post-traumatic stress disorder alone.

Since the public safety committee tabled our report, I have also heard from a number of nurses who have experienced operational stress inuries. One in particular stands out. An Oakville resident who had a long career as a nurse recently shared a personal story about a house fire that occurred more than 20 years ago, where a woman and her two children perished. The nurses who worked on the case faced severe psychological trauma. To those nurses, I want to recognize their injuries in this House and admit that we know very little about the impact of their jobs on their mental health, and we must do better.

I believe that a national strategy and the sharing of best practices by the federal government could benefit many employee groups who are suffering while recognizing the distinct differences in their work.

I know that the Minister of Health is aware of the effects traumatic events can have on our nurses. Recently, she wrote a letter outlining that she understands that caregivers and emergency staff who provide treatment are often dealing with difficult situations that may affect their own mental health and that there is a need to provide mental health support to our health care providers.

Finally, I believe that any conversation about this issue needs to include those stakeholders who have faced these issues, and they should be at the table as part of the discussion.

In conclusion, I am very pleased to support this bill. Bill C-211 has already raised, and will continue to raise, awareness on an important issue. Again, I applaud the hon. member on his efforts.

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

11:40 a.m.


Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-211, an act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder, well known as PTSD.

Last Saturday, I had the privilege to attend the annual first responders appreciation dinner in my riding. Having served as an RCMP officer, this topic is very close to my heart.

Bill C-211 seeks to establish a national framework to ensure that our first responders, whether it be military, paramedics, police personnel, firefighters, emergency dispatchers, veterans, and corrections officers, get the timely access to the resources they need to deal with PTSD.

PTSD is classified as a psychiatric stress-related disorder that develops as a result of a traumatic event. PTSD can develop following direct or indirect exposure to violence, accidents, war, death, or terror attacks. PTSD experienced by first responders and military personnel is the result of years of stressful job-related calls, witnessing distressing deaths, and repeated violence.

Episodes may cause an affected person to become angry, irritable, jumpy, agitated, depressed, or frightened. Many have used alcohol and drugs and have damaged relationships because of this.

The bill, if passed, will require the Minister of Health to convene a conference with the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, provincial and territorial counterparts, representatives of the medical community, and patient groups for the purpose of developing a comprehensive federal framework to address the challenges of recognizing the symptoms and providing timely diagnosis and treatment of PTSD.

Every day, thousands of men and women across Canada go to work, whether first responders, police, firefighters, or military personnel, and they willingly put their lives on the line to support and protect Canadians and their country.

Their jobs demand that they be prepared to show up to any scenario at any time, ready to face the challenges of their line of work. They treat our wounds, they protect our communities, some witness some of the worst that humanity has to offer. Then they return home to their families and try to live a normal life.

When most of us would head in the opposite direction, they are the ones who run toward danger. Their heroic efforts sometimes mean they are left to deal with the haunting images, sounds, and smells, which will stay with these men and women for life. Being a witness to human tragedy and suffering can become difficult to cope with in the days, months and years afterward.

We can look today at what is happening in B.C. Our first responders are dealing with the opioid problem and how it is affecting their jobs.

As a former RCMP officer for 35 years, I personally know what first responders go through, both emotionally and physically when they arrive at a scene.

Many years ago when I was a young air cadet, probably around the age of 12, I remember talking to a lot of different veterans on Remembrance Day, and there were a lot in those days, about their war experiences. I remember one particular gentleman from our community who drank a lot. I remember him telling me that he drank to hide the past and the horrors of war. This was probably the first time I was introduced to PTSD.

As I went through my working career as an RCMP officer, I remember in the sixties when a friend of mine came off an extended period of being undercover, where he intermixed with some pretty wild and dangerous individuals. He could not switch back to a regular life and suffered immensely, both mentally and physically. He eventually had to leave the force. This was PTSD, but we did not know what was wrong with him at the time.

I had a very good friend who I will call Mr. T. He was a lot like the guy on TV, but he suffered for many years with PTSD. He could not pull those hidden demons from within himself. As his commander, he came to me and talked about suicide. He received help and I worked with him closely over the next decade and even after we both left our careers in the RCMP. He could not get rid of the ugliness with which he had to deal.

As I am saying this, I thinking of Mr. T, as he is not here anymore. He committed suicide two years ago. I wish he had called me as I would have gone wherever he was to help.

I can think of a number of my colleagues who which I worked. A number of them drank too much, but were they doing this due to PTSD? Yes, they were. However, in all honesty, we did not know what it was. We did not know what to call it years ago.

I have to thank those members who have come forward in the last number of years, whether military, RCMP, paramedics, who were proud and strong enough to make public their problems and seek help.

It is out there among our first responders. As government we must work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to ensure that help is there for all first responders.

Unfortunately, there is a stigma around mental health issues, including PTSD. Those who are affected hate to admitting they need need assistance is showing weakness to their peers. Instead, they keep it to themselves, hidden, silently carrying a heavy weight until they can no longer bear it.

According to statistics by TEMA, an organization that supports people with PTSD through research, education, training and peer support, 188 Canadian public safety and military personnel have died by suicide since 2014. Five first responders and four military members have died by suicide in this year alone. That is nine people in only two months.

This is absolutely heartbreaking. These brave people risk their lives to serve their communities, so where are we when they need our help? They have served us, but we have not served them. This is why we so desperately need a national framework to address this issue.

The Prime Minister has already called on his ministers to act on PTSD and make the mental health of our men and women in uniform a priority, and I thank him for that.

In the mandate letter of the Minister of Heath, she is called to “make high quality mental health services more available to Canadians who need them.”

In the mandate letter of the Minister of Veterans Affairs, he is directed to “Provide greater education, counselling, and training for families who are providing care and support to veterans living with physical and/or mental health issues as a result of their service...Work with the Minister of National Defence to develop a suicide prevention strategy for Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans.”

In the the mandate letter of the Minister of Public Safety, he is directed 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.”

If that is not a clear directive from the Prime Minister to support exactly what the bill seeks to achieve, I do not know what is.

This is not a Liberal issue. It is not a Conservative issue. It is not any single party's issue. This is something that crosses party lines and it should be supported by all sides of the House.

Bill C-211 is an opportunity for all parliamentarians to stand together and acknowledge the very real impact that PTSD has on the lives of our men and women in uniform. The federal government must show leadership on this issue. I urge everyone in the House to support the bill. If we do not, we fail these brave men and women.

Most important, I want to thank my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George for his private member's bill, Bill C-211.

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

11:45 a.m.


Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for bringing forward Bill C-211 for bringing the matter to the attention of the House. I would also like to thank my good friend, the member for Yellowhead, for the work he has done and the passion he has for our military and our first responders, and the members of the NDP and the Liberal Party who have spoken about this. It is so important.

In the closing of this debate, as we get ready to again hear from the member for Cariboo—Prince George, I want to add a few comments about some of the things we see. So many of us, as we attend our Remembrance Day ceremonies, think about the importance of those who have gone before us to help protect us. I think of my wife's cousin, Everett Moore, who came back from the Second World War. He found it impossible to survive in the normal lifetime one would have expected. The war continued for him for 50 years, until he finally died. However, he did have good care. We had opportunities to visit. However, he was unable to come back and survive with that. At that time, people called it “shell shock”.

We have had so many opportunities to speak to people who are engaged in the military, so that brings it home for me. I really do understand what they go through and how difficult it is for families when such tragedies strike home. We have seen it. I think everyone in here has examples where that has happened, whether in the military, or with first responders.

The other experience I had was with the Pine Lake tornado in early 2000. As we were in it, we realized we had to be able to assist, and I was part of that. We saw the carnage that had taken place there. It was really difficult for individuals who were not trained to manage this. However, I think back to the great work done by our first responders in central Alberta. Every year, when we have the anniversary of that terrible natural disaster, we recognize the great work they did, as well as the seriousness of the loss of life.

We all recognize this. We see disasters happen, whether they are natural disasters or those that happen around the world where our men and women in our forces have to take charge or respond to terrible evils. We see it so often. What we have heard today is a great heartfelt response and support for those men and women who put their lives on the line daily and who bring it home to their families.

It is important that we recognize more can be done and that we have to go forward.

I would like to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George. I want to thank everyone in the House for recognizing how important this is. Hopefully, we can move forward with unanimous support of Bill C-211.

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

11:50 a.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Yellowhead and the member for Flamborough—Glanbrook for their passionate speeches in support of Bill C-211, and indeed our first responders, military members, and veterans. I also want to thank my good colleague from Barrie—Innisfil, who happened to sponsor this bill, and is a tireless champion of our first responders, veterans, and military. I also want to take a moment to pay tribute to and thank our colleague from Oakville North—Burlington. I know that this is a non-partisan issue, and she has done some incredible work championing for our first responders, veterans, and military.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge those who are with us on the Hill today, and those who are tuning in on the live stream. It is so important that this bill pass. A lot of thanks have been coming to us for bringing forth this bill, but I think all of us owe a debt of gratitude and thanks to those who are with us on the Hill, because they are the ones who really champion and stand up for us and our families moving forward and every day.

Bill C-211 seeks to establish a cohesive and coherent national framework to ensure our military, first responders, paramedics, police, veterans, and correctional officers get timely access to the resources they need to deal with PTSD. I welcome the revisions that will strengthen the intent of this bill.

I also want to caution all of us here that we should not be doing anything to weaken the intent of the bill, or allow the current or successive governments to not live up to the responsibility that is due to our first responders, veterans, and military.

The bill sends a message to our silent sentinels that this is not a battle they have to fight by themselves. It is up to all of us federal, provincial, and territorial legislators to come up with a plan to ensure no one is left behind, and that our terminology and laws are consistent across the country from the east coast to the west coast. The reality is that experiencing human tragedy affects all of us differently. These incidents and experiences cannot be erased from our memory. Most of us can never imagine what our warriors go through on a daily basis, the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the images. It affects their lives and the lives of friends and families of those who put themselves in harm's way.

We have an opportunity to give back in a small way today by ensuring that our protectors have the opportunity to receive a basic standard of treatment to deal with their post-traumatic stress disorder. A national framework would ensure that a national discussion is undertaken on this issue. To date, we have had a great discussion on mental health and mental health injuries, occupational stress injuries, OSIs, and PTSD that our first responders, veterans, and military face. It is on us to continue this discussion.

Every year, a conversation happens on best practices, on treatment options, and on how best we can help as a society. The intent of this bill is to ensure that there is always a line item in our federal books, because for far too long we have left our first responders, military, and veterans behind.

I am asking for the support of all members today to ensure that Bill C-211 makes it to third reading, so that no other person is told that he or she is being too sensitive, to suck it up, to get over it. Having a standard diagnosis of care for post-traumatic stress disorder would change lives. Having consistent care and terminology with respect to occupational stress injuries, PTSD, or even with respect to industry terms, a standard of care, diagnosis, treatment, and terminology would save lives.

Let us get this bill to committee where we can discuss and amend it. Let us strengthen it. Let us make it stronger for those who put their lives on the line for all of us.

In closing, as members from all sides of the House rise to cast their votes, I ask only that they remember those who put their lives on the line, often without thanks, to protect our Canadian values and our way of life, because freedom is not free. There is a cost to freedom, and that cost is a human cost. We can do better. Let us leave a legacy of doing better, and doing better for those who put their lives on the line for us every day.

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

11:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

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

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members



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

11:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

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

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


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

11:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

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

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


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

11:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 8, 2017, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders


Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That in relation to Bill C-23, An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the said bill; and

That fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders



The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1 there will now be a 30-minute question period. It is at this time that I invite hon. members to rise in their place to give an indication of the number of members who would wish to participate in the 30-minute question period. That will allow an allocation of time and seeing the numbers in the usual form, members should allow approximately one minute for their interventions and the same in response from the government side. We will now proceed with that question period.

The hon. member for Parry Sound—Muskoka.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders



Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate. I wonder whether the minister could comment on a quote from May 2, 2013 from the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in this place, where he said:

obviously it is unfortunate when debate in the House is curtailed by the use of time allocation or closure. That impinges upon the democratic right of members of Parliament to adequately consider matters that are before the House.

I wonder whether he can explain why he has changed his mind on this matter.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders


Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan


Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, we are moving into what will be the fourth day of debate at second reading on Bill C-23. Including today, there will have been over 10 hours of debate. So far, 18 members of Parliament have delivered speeches on Bill C-23 and obviously there will be more to come today. The point is that the detailed work with respect to Bill C-23 is the work that is done in committee, and members, I am sure, are anxious to get into that work so that they can consider the bill in detail. That will be followed by report stage, which will be followed by third reading. This is all part of a very deliberative process where members of Parliament will certainly have ample time to express their opinions. I note also that the hon. gentleman is generally supportive of the legislation.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders



The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we go to further questions, as a reminder to hon. members, in this 30-minute question period, the preponderance of questions are allotted to the opposition. This does not exclude members from the government side from posing a few questions in the course of the 30 minutes, but generally, it is for opposition members.

The hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.

Bill C-23—Time Allocation MotionPreclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

12:05 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are starting to lose track of the number of times the Liberals have used this measure to curtail debate. One of the most solemn things that we have as a duty in the House as members of Parliament is to bring forward our constituents' views. By cutting off this debate, the minister is not allowing us to do that. There are very real concerns about this bill. I know that members on that side of the House like to dismiss them, but it is our job to give them voice in the House.

To pre-empt the minister if he wishes to reference our vote on Bill C-37, may I remind him that we did that vote because it was to save Canadian lives, but this bill has been languishing on the docket since June of last year. I do not understand what the rush is.