Conservative MP Harold Albrecht

Multi-party support for anti-suicide bill

By 
  • February 22, 2012

OTTAWA - A bill to create a national suicide-prevention strategy received overwhelming multi-party support Feb. 15, sailing through a second reading vote 285-3 in the House of Commons.

Bill C-300: An Act Respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, now goes to committee for further study.

A national suicide prevention strategy was among the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care that the bill’s sponsor, Conservative MP Harold Albrecht, chaired with NDP MP Joe Comartin.

“At the heart of this bill is a clear call for national leadership, a co-ordination of the great efforts of many community groups across Canada, suicide prevention groups already doing all they can to bring hope,” Albrecht told the House of Commons.

“The big problem is that suicide does not end the pain. It simply transfers it to family and community.”

The bill would “create a framework for suicide prevention,” Comartin told the House during debate.

“The program would be designed to improve public awareness, disseminate information on suicide and on suicide prevention, and make statistics publicly available so that we would be more knowledgeable on the issue. It would define best practices for prevention.”

The agency would work to overcome the isolation of various groups working in the field and promote collaboration among the NGO and health communities, the provinces and territories, he said.

Comartin pointed out that Quebec put into place a suicide prevention plan that was developed federally but never implemented. In doing so, Quebec has reduced its suicide rate by 50 per cent, he said.

“It is very interesting that such a positive initiative was inspired by a Quebec program,” said Michele Boulva, director of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family.

She noted the vote comes as the Quebec Select Committee on Dying with Dignity is about to release the results of its province-wide consultations.

“Many are worried the (Quebec) report will open the door to euthanasia and assisted suicide,” she said.

“I hope all Canadians will realize the contradiction there would be in eventually legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia while at the same time trying to prevent suicide through a bill like this.”

The debate brought to light the tremendous toll suicide takes on Canadian society.

“Suicide deaths and attempts cost the Canadian economy over $14.7 billion annually,” said Liberal MP Hedy Fry, a physician. “If we are not moved by the human problem here, we should know that the $14.7 billion could go to other parts of health care to help all kinds of problems, including via measures for prevention, promotion and setting up of community clinics.”

Fry outlined the sobering statistics.

“The national rate of suicide in Canada is 15 out of 100,000 people,” she said. “Now, in 2012, it is 73-per-cent higher than it was in the 1950s. For every suicide, there are 100 failed attempts,” adding it is “the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth aged 10 to 24. In fact, the suicide rate for Canadian youth is the third highest in the industrialized world.”

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