By Faye Sonier
On Thursday, September 29, 2011, Harold Albrecht rose to his feet in the House of Commons to introduce Bill C-300, an initiative for the prevention of suicide in Canada that seems long overdue for consideration by Canada’s Parliament. Albrecht, the Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Conestoga, has long had end of life issues on his heart and was one of the initiators of an all-party Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care.
Albrecht, a member of the Conservative Party, co-chaired the committee with NDP MP Joe Comartin. One of the committee’s recommendations was the need for a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, the name of Bill C-300’s proposed Act. If passed, the bill will require the federal government to take the lead in working with non-governmental organizations and provincial and territorial bodies to develop a national suicide prevent framework.
In Canada far too many lives are lost each year to suicide, almost 4,000, over 10 each day. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth ages 10 to 24. Aboriginal youth suicide rates are especially troubling at five to seven times higher than the non-aboriginal rate. In Waterloo region's high schools, three youths lost their lives to suicide in just one single week last year.
He readily acknowledges the high quality of suicide prevention work being done across the country, and hopes that with federal coordination and leadership, even more can be done to assist vulnerable Canadians.
The bill would require the Government of Canada to establish a framework that would
- Recognize suicide is not only a mental health issue but a public health issue, and one that is a health and safety priority; and
- Designate a federal body to assume responsibility for developing guidelines to raise awareness and disseminate information about suicide and its prevention; consolidate and provide existing suicide statistics to the public; promote collaboration across sectors and jurisdictions; define suicide prevention best practices and promote the use of research and evidence-based practices to prevent suicide.
Since his election to Parliament in 2006, Albrecht has been a consistent advocate for both life affirming and suicide prevention policies and laws. In 2009, Parliament unanimously adopted his Motion M-388, which called for recognition that Canada’s Criminal Code provisions forbidding encouraging individuals to commit suicide should apply when such encouragement took place via the internet and other electronic means. On November 17, 2011, the Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care (which he co-chairs as noted above) released a report entitled Not to be Forgotten which urges action on disability issues, elder abuse, suicide prevention and palliative care.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has long supported initiatives that seek to protect Canada’s most vulnerable; from working with the Aboriginal Ministries Council to develop Through the Pain, a DVD on aboriginal suicide, to encouraging government to raise the age of consent to sexual activity with an adult, and urging Parliamentarians to vote against the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Bill C-300 presents a positive opportunity for Canadians to learn and show compassion and care for our neighbours.
Suicide in Canada is claiming aboriginal and non-aboriginal youth at an alarming rate. Yet, its victims are not restricted to the young. Suicide has shown itself to be no respecter of municipal or provincial borders; and the initiative to have a federally co-ordinated action plan for suicide prevention is deserving of strong support, both in Parliament and in the neighbourhoods of our nation.