Madam Speaker, I rise in this chamber today to speak on this motion.
In my riding, the community of Richmond Centre, I have heard of many heartbreaking incidents. Michael, an artist, an empath and a gentle, compassionate young individual passed away at age 26 from a tainted supply of drugs. Curtis was an intelligent, caring and adventurous person. He was 36 when he passed away from drug overdoses and poisonings. Countless incidents like these happen in British Columbia and across Canada. It breaks my heart to see mothers, fathers, friends and families lose their dearly loved ones.
Last year, in Richmond, 29 people died of drug poisoning, and 2,314 died in British Columbia. On CBC news today, it said that in British Columbia 206 people were suspected to have died of toxic drugs in April alone this year.
Let us talk about the link between mental health and substance use. We know that mental health and substance use is affecting more and more Canadians and requires collaboration across all levels of government as well as with other partners in our community. It is for that reason that, in 2021, Canada’s first-ever ministry of mental health and addictions was created, and showed the interconnected nature of mental health with substance use.
It has also highlighted our government’s commitment to take action through an integrated approach on these issues that have significantly impacted individuals, their families and communities. It is important to stress that mental illness and substance use often go hand in hand. People with mental illnesses are twice as likely to have a substance use disorder compared to the general population.
Substance use can also increase the underlying risk of mental health issues and can exacerbate the symptoms of existing mental health issues. In fact, 50% of people in treatment for substance use also live with mental illness. We know that childhood trauma, low income, lack of access to stable housing, discrimination, racism, and the historical and ongoing effects of colonization and the residential school system on indigenous communities all play a major factor.
There are many challenges faced by Canadians experiencing mental illness and harms from substance use. These include a lack of available services and supports close to home, care that is not comprehensive or responsive to an individual’s needs, and the experience of stigma and discrimination, both in seeking care and in society.
Youth and young adults, indigenous peoples, Black Canadians and those identifying as LGBTQ2S+ are among those Canadians impacted the most. As a result of unmet or under-addressed mental health and substance use needs, individuals and communities face significant health, social and economic burdens. This includes paying out of pocket for services, increased emergency department visits and public safety concerns.
Our government has long recognized that Canadians with mental health and substance use needs require ongoing supports to meet a complexity of needs. We have seen the record of the Conservatives on this issue. They stand up in the chamber and use stigmatizing language to try and play politics with this issue, and act like they are not misleading Canadians with a bias or one-sided perspective on this crisis.
Canadians have spoken of the complexity of these mental health and substance use issues, and how often they are interconnected with other social issues, such as homelessness.
For example, we know that up to 75% of women experiencing homelessness also experience mental illness. In British Columbia, 67% of people experiencing homelessness or housing instability identified substance use issues, and 51% identified mental health as a concern.
Accessing appropriate housing options that provide ready access to needed wraparound supports can be a significant challenge, due to housing shortages and maintenance issues with existing housing; insufficient community-based, trained provider capacity; and silos between health, housing and social sectors.
This is why our government is investing in affordable housing for Canadians, including $4 billion through the rapid housing initiative, aimed at quickly creating new affordable housing for individuals who have severe housing needs and are at risk of being homeless.
Ensuring Canadians have access to housing, social supports and the health services they need is a major preoccupation of municipal and community leaders. Our government is working with them, and with the provinces and territories, to break down silos, so Canadians can have access to the integrated supports they need.
We are also committed to working with indigenous governments and communities to support access to a comprehensive range of evidence-based, culturally appropriate and trauma-informed services and supports needed to support mental health and substance use issues that individuals are facing, including the opioid overdose crisis, and to advance whole-of-society approaches to these issues.
Through the mental wellness program, Indigenous Services Canada is providing supports for substance use prevention, harm reduction, treatment and aftercare, psychosocial wraparound services and trauma-informed health supports to indigenous communities. In addition, our government has provided targeted supports for innovative community-based projects that address mental health and substance use issues.
The opposition members will stand up and say that the government is not putting resources into treatment, but since 2017, we have invested more than $400 million in over 380 projects through the substance use and addictions program to support community-based organizations.
In 2018, our government committed $150 million over five years to address the opioid crisis through the emergency treatment fund, which also had funds cost-matched by provinces and territories: over $300 million in funding for substance use treatment across Canada.
This shows how much we are putting into treatments and how we should not be taking lessons from a party that wants to revert to Harper-era policies. Tackling the opioid overdose crisis requires a holistic and integrated approach that focuses on mental health and well-being. That is what this government has been doing, so that Canadians can be resilient and healthy now and into the future.
Enough is enough.
We will not be able to bring loved ones home if they are dead from toxic supplies. This is a fight that we must triumph. This is a non-partisan issue, and we will prevail with collaboration with provinces, territories, municipalities and local community organizations, such as, in my riding, the Richmond Addiction Services Society, Turning Point Recovery Society and Pathways Clubhouse.
I want to thank the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions for her continuous championship on this matter, and all the first responders, frontline workers and health care workers for all they do.