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Cariboo-PG MP implores Senate Committee to pass bill on PTSD support
Quesnel Cariboo Observer - 6/5/2018
Todd Doherty, Member of Parliament for Cariboo-Prince George, went before the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence today (June 4) in Ottawa to present Bill C-211, which he hopes will establish a framework for supporting those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Doherty spoke passionately about the people his bill represents, highlighting the impacts of PTSD on first responders of all kinds, including police, fire fighters, and medical professionals. He also said that the bill is the first of its kind in Canada and potentially the world, saying that many countries are watching to see how Canada legislates on this issue.
Almost a year ago, on June 16, 2017, 284 members of parliament unanimously passed Bill C-211's third reading after one hour of debate. The bill then entered the Senate for review and approval. It received first and second readings, and is now before the committee.
Doherty stressed that the bill is not a framework to address the treatment of PTSD – it is the vehicle to get government to a framework. The hope is to create a nation-wide protocol so that PTSD sufferers receive the same care and benefits no matter where they live in the country. Doherty says that once the bill passes, the Minister of Health and other stakeholders will choose who sits at the table to develop the best way forward for legislation.
"The bill was strategically drafted so that the onus is really, truly on the ministers. They are the ones that are in charge of inviting whoever they want – the provincial and territorial minsters, the academics, the other industries – who do we want around the table to develop this?" he says.
After Doherty's opening remarks, during which he teared up when speaking of those affected by PTSD, senators were invited to ask questions regarding the bill.
Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer noted that the term "front line workers" is not clearly defined in the bill, and that professions including nurses feel left out.
Senator Marilou McPhedran also spoke to the idea that the bill is not inclusive enough.
Doherty indicated that he hopes the bill will be inclusive.
"I don't want to minimize anybody's suffering," he tells the Observer.
"I have family members in the medical profession, I know what our doctors and nurses go through. I understand what social workers go through. I worked with at-risk youth and at-risk adults, counselling them. I know exactly where the senator was going to wither her question but I was just worried. … My worry is that we can dither over a word or two … but at the end of the day, we get nothing done. We need action right now, because people are losing their lives."
In the session, Doherty told senators that he hopes they will pass the bill and that the fine details of the framework can be worked out afterwards, with the help of ministers, academics and mental health industry specialists.
"If you do amend this bill, you will be essentially be sealing its fate," Doherty said before the Senate Committee.
"I envision this bill to be all-inclusive. Once passed, I'm confident the government will call all interested parties to the conference so no voices are silenced."
Many senators commended the effort that Doherty has put into the bill, and noted the urgency of the situation for those suffering from the disorder.
Doherty says the next step will be for the Senate Committee to meet privately and vote on the bill, clause by clause.
"I just got word that we may hear by the end of this week or next week, and it could receive a Royal Assent," he says. From there, the real work can begin.
"Today was a good day but until that bill is passed, all we've done is create more hope," says Doherty.
"My hope is that the people of the Cariboo are proud that they send somebody that will fight. I'm just a kid from the Cariboo, I really am. But we like to fight and stand up for what's right, and that's what I was doing today."