Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise and speak to Bill C-211, an act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder.
I would like to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for putting this legislation forward. His approach in getting the bill through the House is very professional. It is important to recognize that members of Parliament can work together, and this legislation is a good example of that co-operation.
There are a couple of points that I want to note with regard to the bill, but first I want to tell the House one of the reasons I have such an interest in the bill.
Some of the people in Windsor West who might be watching us today are from Branch 143 of the Royal Canadian Legion. It was during my time as a member of Parliament that I learned about the seriousness of what is taking place and the commitment that our men and women in the military make, both overseas and in Canada.
About 10 years ago, I had one of the most interesting and life-changing moments of my life. I was invited to participate in a discussion group at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 143. Also present were a number of individuals who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. That intimate exposure was certainly important. These were not just soldiers who fought in Afghanistan. They were World War II veterans, Korean veterans, peacekeepers, and others who were all still struggling with the ordinary things in daily life. That experience helped to elevate my understanding of PTSD.
I was a social worker before I came to this place. I dealt with people who came to Canada as refugees. The trauma that they experienced in their countries is quite different from what people go through here in Canada. My job was to help them integrate into Canadian society, whether it was school or work or whatever. How can we take a young man who has lost his family and his house and then integrate him into our Canadian society? He himself might have volunteered in a hospital or another traumatic place while never receiving any type of support.
This legislation is important because it would help to bridge a gap. PTSD does not just affect military personnel. It affects first responders and other citizens in all of society. We need to understand that mental health and illness issues are a life-long journey for all of us. People should not be ashamed of these issues and should not be afraid to talk about them. More importantly, work needs to be done to provide the support that people need.
Windsor West lacks many services for children who need, for example, psychologists. This is a critical problem. We do not invest in mental health in the way we should, as we do in our other health areas. Not being able to deal with these kinds of issues on a regular basis affects all of us.
If, despite the overlap of jurisdictions, we can deal with this issue as a nation from coast to coast to coast, with all of the provinces and territories and all the municipalities, it will make Canada truly special and an example for others to follow. More importantly, we can achieve effective results.
It is important to outline a few things in the legislation that people may not understand. The bill talks about bringing together the appropriate ministers in a reporting process. I will not go into all of the details, but the bill proposes putting a system in place that could deal with PTSD. The bill is not talking only about consultation. A lot of people, especially our good men and women in service, have been consulted many times, and they need action.
I will be supporting the bill in its current state because although it includes the consultation process, it also talks about expectations, measurements, and deliverables. That will put the government of the day and members of Parliament of the day on notice that this is a serious issue that affects all Canadians. At the end of the day, we expect to see results, and the results mean helping people deal with the many different personal issues related to PTSD.
Those issues affect us so profoundly. The symptoms include everything from re-experiencing traumatic events over and over or reliving them, to recurring nightmares, disturbing memories of the event, acting or feeling as if the event is happening again, avoiding friends and family, drug addiction, being unable to feel pleasure, constant anxiety, difficulty concentrating, getting angry easily, sleeping difficulties, fearing harm from others, experiencing sudden attacks of dizziness, a fast heartbeat or shortness of breath, and fear of dying. All of these things, when left in a vacuum, are not helpful, not only to the individual but to society.
I would argue, not on the principle of doing this for mere ethics or because it is the right thing to do, but I would argue that it is a bond and social contract that should be expected in return by individuals who occupy professions that put them at risk in service to their communities and society.
We have decided to provide the supports necessary to allow the people in those occupations to not only have what they have today but in the future. That is a social contract for firefighters, police officers, soldiers, nurses, and paramedics. For all of the different occupations, there is a social contract that does not end when that occupation concludes. We are asking people to perform duties that put them at risk and affect their families as part of their jobs. The social contract we have is to provide the proper supports so they can continue to be productive and, most importantly, have good mental health.
We have an opportunity in the House to make a difference with the bill. The member for Cariboo—Prince George has provided the opportunity for all of us, in a non-partisan way, to end this session on a high note. New Democrats are very proud to be part of it. There are so many people who contribute so much. We have invested in training professionals, in their occupations, in being parents, and in being community leaders. If we do not take care of them, we are not taking care of ourselves.
One reason I like community activism is the ability to act. At the end of the day, the ability to act defines us differently as Canadians. When I look at all the campaigns to stop the shame of mental illness, many of them involve the corporate sector, the non-for-profit sector, and, where I come from, the professional sector. Some of the moments for our Afghanistan veterans have put things in a different light and we now have an opportunity to go forward.
I do not want to name people, but I will name one person, because it is an important chapter that will never get told. A gentleman in the Windsor area named Wayne Hillman was among a number of Canadians who served in Vietnam. He told me that our Afghanistan veterans are coming home with some of the same issues that he and his comrades had. They had no supports when they came home, even though they served in the American military. They finally got some psychological counselling and services, which helped them in their lives. The same thing has been happening here, so we need to apply those resources.
With this bill, let us apply even more resources. Let us make sure it not just captured in one occupation or profession. Let us make sure it is part of the normal Canadian practice and culture that mental illness and wellness is part of living healthy in a healthy society.