Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this morning to Bill C-32, the fall economic statement implementation act. More specifically, I will be talking about a very exciting research institution that should have been mentioned in the fall economic statement but was not.
The Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment, or CIPSRT, is headquartered in my riding, at the University of Regina. However, before I get into the details of the vitally important work that CIPSRT is doing, I would like to invite my fellow MPs to imagine themselves as witnesses to a number of tragedies that recently occurred across our country.
On November 10, 2021, a cyclist was killed after being run over by a dump truck. He was the fifth cyclist in that city to be killed that year, on top of numerous other car crashes. This happened in Montreal, in the Prime Minister's riding of Papineau.
In May of this year, following severe thunder and lightning storms, a 59-year-old man was killed when a tree fell on him. This happened right here in Ottawa, in the official opposition leader's riding of Carleton.
In 2018, a driver heading westbound on a highway lost control of her vehicle, veered into the eastbound lanes and was struck by two other vehicles. The out-of-control driver was killed, and five others were injured, including a young child. This also happened in Montreal, in the Bloc Québécois leader's riding of Beloeil—Chambly.
In May of last year, a 23-year-old man was shot dead in a violent gang attack at a shopping centre that saw two other people wounded and sent patio diners ducking for cover and using tables as shields. That happened in the NDP leader's riding of Burnaby South.
Last but not least, there were the horrifying events from the Labour Day long weekend, in which an ex-convict armed with a knife went on a stabbing spree in his hometown and a neighbouring community, leaving 10 dead and 18 wounded. I am, of course, speaking of the events at the James Smith Cree Nation and the village of Weldon in my home province of Saskatchewan.
I could go on for hours, citing tragedies in every single riding in this country, from coast to coast to coast. However, the question I would like members of the House to ask themselves is this: If they had witnessed even one of these events, which we all easily could have, how would they be affected? I bet we would all feel stressed out. Many of us would probably have nightmares. Some of us would even come away with a sort of PTSD that we would experience the next time we were driving down a highway, walking through a shopping mall, cycling past a dump truck or maybe even just walking by a tree during bad weather.
Keep in mind that I am speaking of the sorts of psychological scars that we would carry from just one single event, but our frontline public safety workers, including police, firefighters, paramedics, soldiers, border services, correctional services and many others face this type of trauma every single day, often multiple times per day. For our safety and well-being, frontline public safety workers not only face daily physical risks, but also live in a constant state of psychological siege that does not end when they punch the clock at the end of the day. It follows them home, affecting their health, sleep, relationships and more.
Several members of the House had the opportunity to meet and talk with representatives from CIPSRT at their breakfast reception here on Parliament Hill earlier this month. Dr. Nicholas Jones and Dr. Nicholas Carleton, affectionately known as “the two Dr. Nicks”, brought MPs up to speed on a number of shocking facts about the psychological fallout suffered by public safety workers. For example, studies have shown that fully one-quarter of all paramedics have had suicidal thoughts over the course of their careers, and the profession has a rate of suicide attempts roughly double that of the general population.
The two Dr. Nicks also told me that a significant part of the problem is the mental health culture within many of these professions. For police, firefighters, soldiers and others, there is often a tough, “suck it up” attitude about mental health that in the long run only serves to make the problem worse.
It can be difficult to break through this frame of mind. After all, the people in these professions are trained to be tough, to be authority figures. They are trained to be the people who remain calm and in control when others are panicking, and so one can easily imagine how very difficult it must be for these people in these professions to let their guard down, to allow themselves to be vulnerable and to ask for help when usually they are the ones providing help to others.
When speaking about social problems, advocates often like to use the word “epidemic” to describe them. This word most certainly applies to the mental health challenges faced by public safety workers, yet despite the growing extent of the problem, relatively few public resources have been invested. This is where CIPSRT comes in.
Founded in 2018, the institute was established as a knowledge hub, working in conjunction with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to investigate the treatment of post-traumatic stress injuries for the country's public safety workers. While CIPSRT may consist of a multidisciplinary research team, it does not merely conduct studies and gather reports. Instead, it is actively engaged in developing practical, real-world tools to assist public safety workers.
It is unfortunate that one of the rules of the House is that we are not allowed to use props, because I would love to demonstrate one of the very innovative solutions that CIPSRT has developed. One of these innovations, which the two Dr. Nicks demonstrated to me at the University of Regina earlier this year, is a daily stress monitoring device and app.
Essentially, the public safety worker uses a stress monitoring device once per day. This device collects data about the person's blood pressure, heart rate and other physiological signs. The device is sophisticated enough to distinguish between physiological changes brought on by stress and those brought on by, say, going for your morning jog. All of this data is then fed into an app that the public safety worker and his or her therapist can monitor over time. If those stress levels are starting to go off the charts, or off the app in this case, then those public safety workers can ask themselves what was happening at those times that triggered that stress. Likewise, the therapist can start to work on intervention strategies to bring down those stress levels before they get to dangerous levels.
CIPSRT has accomplished all of this and more through the frugal use of their initial funding of $5 million plus a few project-specific grants along the way. Sadly, all of the good work that CIPSRT has done, and all of the good work that it could potentially do is in jeopardy. Its initial five-year funding commitment from the federal government expires on March 31 next year, just four short months from now. No federal funding has been committed after that date. Furthermore, due to the ethical code of conduct to which researchers are bound, they cannot begin research with new subjects unless there is enough time left for the subjects to also finish the program. That means CIPSRT will not accept any new public safety workers into their program after Christmas.
I was particularly disappointed that the finance minister did not mention this research institution in her 10-minute speech to the House on November 3. There was no mention of CIPSRT in the 96-page fall economic statement, or in the 172-page implementation act that we are debating this morning.
I would like to urge both the government and every member of the House to take a closer look at the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment and the solutions it can provide to this country's public safety workers and their mental health challenges.