Madam Speaker, since the beginning of the pandemic, the Standing Committee on Health has worked long hours to ensure that we heard from stakeholders across Canada on the government's response to the outbreak of COVID-19. I am proud of the work we have accomplished and I am especially proud of the way committee members were able to work together collaboratively to do our jobs and support Canadians.
A lot has changed since then. While claims have been made on intentions to collaborate, there has been no action to prove it. I am frustrated and disappointed in the Conservatives' new approach on the health committee. We did not always agree before, but it was always clear that everyone on the committee had a common goal to be productive rather than play partisan games.
The motion before us today sets out 16 areas of study and six requests for the production of papers, again 16 areas of study. This will prevent the committee from doing a proper study on any of these issues, looking at key issues and hearing from important witnesses across the country.
Earlier this year, in over 34 meetings of the health committee, we heard from 171 witnesses and received 51 informative briefs covering many important issues. However, only one of the 34 meetings that we held over the spring and summer focused on mental health. While it was enough to open our eyes, it was certainly not enough for us to get a better understanding of the situation we were facing relative to the mental health of Canadians.
With this in mind, when we met again on October 9, I introduced a motion to the committee to study the impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health and well-being of Canadians, including recommendations to specifically look at the impacts on indigenous peoples, racialized Canadians and vulnerable populations, the effectiveness and availability of virtual mental health services and how our government could assist the provinces and territories. I was disappointed when my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill moved to adjourn debate on this study, without so much as an opportunity for us to discuss its importance, so her motion could be introduced, but not before saying:
I really do find a lot of encouragement in the spirit of this motion that's on the floor. I try not to put my personal life into the public domain, but as somebody who is separated from her family due to COVID-19 measures, I understand the impact on mental health of some of these measures. Talking to other people who are in situations similar to mine, I know that's tough, and that's just one group of people. There are people who have lost their jobs or who are experiencing domestic violence or mental health breakdowns. It's certainly something that I think is important for our committee to look at.
However, her own October 19 motion had mental health listed as only one topic of 17 to study, only one out of 17.
In the motion before us today, that number is zero. That is unacceptable, but apparently that is how important my colleague sees mental health to be, not even worthy of mention. While I appreciate the member for Calgary Nose Hill finding encouragement in my motion, I wish I could say the same for the one that was presented in committee and the one that is being debated today. In fact, I am actually discouraged by these motions and their complete disregard for Canadians during these challenging times.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has been one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced. Across the country, we are hearing lots of anecdotal evidence about the increased risk that some people may have in terms of depression, psychological distress, substance abuse and PTSD surfacing as a result of the pandemic. Many experts have labelled this mental health situation as a second pandemic, that is how serious it is. However, there is no doubt that mental health needs to be a priority for all of us right now.
We need an informed strategy on mental health going forward and, most important, we need to act while we have time before this crisis becomes worse. I am by no means suggesting that this is the only good idea, much less the only key issue, surfacing from the pandemic. The essence of committee work and of compromise is to work as a team in the best interests of Canadians in setting priorities to study.
What we have found in front of us today is a motion that sets out 16 areas of study and six requests for the production of papers. A general, all-encompassing motion such as this one takes away the opportunity for the committee to properly focus on priority areas like the ones recommended by the 171 witnesses we heard earlier this year. One of the strengths of smaller studies is that we are able to make well-informed, targeted recommendations that will have a real impact on the lives of Canadians. A scope as large as 16 areas of study waters down our ability to do that.
I am genuinely concerned that out of the 16 areas of study before us today, there is not a single mention of looking at the impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health and well-being of Canadians. This is unacceptable. I also do not see a mention of looking at the impacts of the pandemic on high-risk groups, such as indigenous people, racialized Canadians and vulnerable populations. We need to consider these groups so we can develop programs to effectively help them.
As I have said before and will say again, if we have too many priorities, 16 to be exact, we have no priorities at all. Do members want to know what is not a priority in the motion presented today? The mental health of Canadians during these challenging times.
I will not be supporting the motion and I hope my colleagues will follow suit. All members in the House have an opportunity to get ahead of the second pandemic, but what is being proposed today will not get us there. If we do not take the appropriate steps to act now, while we can, the outcome will be on all of us and especially on those who choose to move forward without giving this matter the attention it deserves. This second pandemic cannot be fixed with a vaccine, but we can get ahead of it if we collaborate and focus our work on how we can best support Canadians.