Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
I am very proud to appear before you to present Motion M-124, which I had the opportunity and the privilege to introduce and debate in the House of Commons on November 9, 2017. It was put to a vote on January 29, 2018, and adopted unanimously on January 31, 2018. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the House of Commons, both those in the government and in the opposition parties, for supporting this motion.
Today, I am asking you to undertake a study to determine the feasibility of equipping emergency vehicles across Canada with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and to ensure that the necessary measures be taken following discussions with the other levels of government, the municipalities and organizations concerned, with due regard for their respective jurisdictions.
Every year, there are some 40,000 sudden cardiac arrests. When such events take place, every second counts. For every minute that passes, a cardiac arrest victim's chances of survival decrease by 7 to 10%. In 85% of cases, cardiac arrest occurs outside hospital, usually in private residences, with no AED nearby.
That, unfortunately, was what happened to Michel Picard, a resident of Victoriaville in my constituency. On December 30, 2017, Mr. Picard collapsed at his home, in front of his family, without warning. He had suffered a life-threatening arrhythmia. Happily, emergency services were contacted immediately. During the six minutes it took emergency services to get there, Mr. Picard's son-in-law, Steve Houle, administered first aid in the form of external cardiac massage. This procedure increased the victim's chances of survival until the paramedics arrived with a defibrillator and administered three shocks. Fortunately, Mr. Picard regained consciousness and is today considered a miraculous survivor since he has no lasting effects from the incident. This outcome was made possible by the rapid response of paramedics.
In a cardiac arrest, external cardiac massage helps keep blood and oxygen circulating in the victim's body. However, a person cannot be resuscitated with cardiac massage alone; a defibrillator is essential to stop the arrhythmia and allow the heart to return to its normal state.
AEDs increase the chances of survival by 75%. That is why it is so important to have access to a defibrillator.
What would have happened to Mr. Picard if the first responders had been firefighters or police officers who do not have AEDs in their vehicles?
Regrettably, less than 5% of people who suffer a heart attack outside hospital survive. In an emergency, police officers or firefighters are often first on the scene, because of their proximity, even before paramedics. They are trained to administer first aid until paramedics arrive. If their vehicles were all equipped with AEDs, response time would be much shorter, and more lives would be saved.
In Quebec, some effort is being made in this area. The Sûreté du Québec has implemented a pilot project to put AEDs in all of its vehicles. There are also AEDs in some fire trucks and some public places. In fact, that saved the life of my friend Stéphane Campagna. While playing hockey with some friends in Victoriaville, he suffered a cardiac arrest in the arena. Fortunately, thanks to the contribution of some proactive business people, there was an AED in the arena. Thanks to that device and the cool-headedness of Marcel Duquette, Jean-François Gagné and Francis Garneau, Stéphane was resuscitated. The three men raced over to assist him and saved his life with the defibrillator, which was close at hand.
A number of police services have AEDs in their vehicles. Unfortunately, coverage is not uniform and comprehensive. Some areas still have not started making these life-saving devices available.
When I was mayor of Victoriaville, my team and I made sure, given what happened to my friend Stéphane, that every municipal building, sports facility and emergency response vehicle was equipped with a defibrillator. Furthermore, during the Souper du maire, a call went out to the people of the business community to ask them to purchase these devices themselves. In the two or three weeks that followed, more than a hundred businesses had gotten defibrillators.
The AED is an essential device for saving lives. Like most citizens, I want to know that my children, my family, my friends and all of our fellow citizens are safe, no matter where there are. I want to know that even if they are farther from a hospital, they are safe because emergency vehicles and public places are equipped with AEDs. All Canadians deserve the same chance, the same level of safety, no matter where they decide to live, in the city or in the country. Every person should have an equal chance of survival, and no one should be penalized for the location they chose to raise their family.
Someone suffers a heart attack every 12 minutes. It is a fact that the farther that person is from a hospital, the lower his or her chances of survival are. Why is that? Because the chances of survival are just about zero when a cardiac arrest victim gets to hospital; it is already too late. For the victim to have a better chance of survival, without aftereffects, an AED must be used as soon as possible.
As I stated previously, for every minute that passes, the chances of survival are 7% to 10% lower. We have no more than 10 minutes to save the victim, hence the urgent need to equip all emergency vehicles in Canada with defibrillators.
Fortunately, AEDs are easy to use. No training is needed to use one. Every AED has an on-board feature that describes each step in its operation, and the device decides on the strength of the shock to be administered. It is impossible to injure someone by mistake with a defibrillator, since only a person in cardiac arrest will receive a shock.
So, in my view, only one conclusion is possible: Having more AEDs available will save more lives every year. We can substantially increase the number of survivors by equipping emergency vehicles with AEDs.
The concern that many people have about equipping every emergency vehicle with an AED is, of course, the cost. But that small device is less expensive than you might think. On average, an AED costs between $1,000 and $2,000. That is a pittance in comparison with the value of the lives saved.
There is no doubt in my mind that AEDs are absolutely necessary to save the lives of our fellow citizens. AEDs clearly have a very important role to play in helping people survive a heart attack. They can save hundreds or even thousands of lives every year. That is a statistic we cannot ignore.
I am confident that with your study and the recommendations it will produce, the outcome will be positive. More Canadians will be able to live safely and with peace of mind; more first responders will be able to take concrete action in the event of a cardiac arrest; and of course, more lives will be saved every year. This is a concrete solution that can help increase people's chances of survival.
Consequently, I am asking you specifically to include not just RCMP vehicles but all emergency vehicles in the study.
I hope that we will be able to save lives by carrying out this study. That is my profound hope, and I offer you my full support.
I would not say that the RCMP has not started the process. According to my data, some divisions in some areas, in British Columbia, for example, have already begun to equip their vehicles with defibrillators. The same goes for the Sûreté du Québec. I can also tell you that a number of municipal forces have begun the process.
I assume that, if everyone had not begun the process in 2018, it must have been for budgetary reasons. Today, I do not see why all emergency vehicles have not been equipped with defibrillators. This shows how important it is for your committee to conduct a little more exhaustive study of the situation, to do the necessary assessments, and then to submit its recommendations.
I must emphasize one thing in regard to this motion. I have separated it into two distinct stages, because I really wanted it to be passed. I feel that jurisdictions have to be respected, but, once the analysis is done, nothing is preventing the government from coming to an agreement with the provinces, the territories, the First Nations and the municipalities to determine the best way to provide the necessary financial resources, if that is the obstacle in the way of the project.
I'll be very honest with you: the forecast is that it would cost about $8 million to finalize the project to equip all emergency vehicles with defibrillators. So it's less than $1 million per province, if you do a quick calculation. That's an approximate figure. My training as a math teacher helps me get that figure fairly quickly.
Compared to other issues where the federal government has negotiated with all the provinces, I think it is a tiny amount. All it takes for this project to apply to the entire country and to all organizations is some political will.
Now that I am a federal member, I am trying to push the issue further. I did the exercise while I was at the municipal level: I asked myself what role I could play as mayor of the municipality. I have shown leadership. I could not impose this measure on companies or the Sûreté du Québec. I could only influence the firefighters and the volunteer safety organization in my municipality. I think it's largely a leadership issue. As I said before, I do not think money is blocking the project.
Now that I am a federal legislator like all of you here, my wish quite simply is that all Canadians across the country have the same chances of survival.
I expect that, as a result of your study, your committee will have gathered all the research, will have more tools than I had to do the first part of the work and will be able to make recommendations. I guess that is the sort of thing that could be relatively easy to impose in a budget. That being said, as you all know, my motion could not include items with a budgetary cost, since I am not a member of the government. However, I think it is something that could very well be done.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Randy. Welcome back to the committee. It's nice to have you here again.
Last summer I was having breakfast with my sister in a restaurant in Oakville when an elderly gentleman behind us had a heart attack. It had been 20 years since I'd taken CPR. The 911 dispatcher guided me through what to do, and then the paramedics arrived with the equipment that was needed. Afterwards, I had all of my Ottawa staff and my riding staff take the CPR course. This included training on the AED, which is extremely simple.
The problem is that I think most people do not have the confidence to use them. They see them on the wall, but not having done the training, they don't realize they won't work if you're not having a heart attack. You can't put the things in the wrong place. You just can't get it wrong. However, most people don't have that confidence.
I really commend you for bringing this forward. In my community, they're in community centres. Again, it's an issue of people not knowing that they can use them properly.
You mentioned that on the Hill, after Gord Brown had his heart attack, we checked with the security guards at the Valour Building, and they didn't know where the AEDs were or even if we have them, which is a real concern. We should at least know where they are.
In my riding, I'm in a medical building, and they don't know where the AEDs are.
One of the things Heart and Stroke recommended was having a national registry for publicly accessible AEDs. Do you see that as something we could possibly add to what we're studying?
Mr. Rayes, thank you so much for being here today. Thank you for your leadership not only in your own city, but here in presenting this motion for us.
From someone whose police service from my prior life had defibrillators, one of the last things I did from the executive branch of our police service was acquire more defibrillators, AEDs, for our police service. There are a lot of different ways to go about the process. We partnered with Alberta Health Services.
Mr. Dubé asked about paramedics. I'm not aware of any ambulance crew in this country that does not have an AED in their vehicle. This is something that they do; it's a life-saving piece of equipment.
We partnered with our Alberta Health Services people, which our EMS is under, and we acquired a significant number of those to put into our cars. We've already had them in our cars for years. They do save lives. We have saved dozens of those with our members responding as first responders. In our service, we responded as medical responders as a matter of practice. It's something that many police services across the country do. As you said, police can get there faster.
Fire services in some jurisdictions also have them, because they do medical first response as well. That does make a difference.
Mr. Dubé asked about maintenance. From our own experience, the supplier had a maintenance schedule. Our occupational health and safety people within each organization were responsible for ensuring that the series of AEDs received their maintenance.
On their lifespan, with anything, it depends on the care that's taken. They're in pretty durable cases. In a first responder's vehicle they are banged around a lot; they're not kept in the glove box in cars. They are in the trunk, generally. We have never had one damaged to the point that it could not be functional, so they are durable.
You're suggesting the RCMP, as Ms. Damoff asked, and you also suggested that maybe the indigenous police services have them as well.
Do you see that the costing of this could be shared between suppliers and other forms of government besides leaving it to the municipalities, that federal or provincial governments be responsible?
I really appreciate this motion coming forward. This is something I have been dealing with in my own constituency since I was an MLA in provincial politics. We've looked at a number of service clubs being involved in putting these into town halls, community arenas, and a number of other places. The price of these was somewhat higher at one time. You talked about technology. I'm assuming the cost will continue to come down for the development of these, as we move forward.
There are two specific areas you have talked about, one that I hadn't thought of as much. It was always a concern as to where these were located in public buildings. I also believe that they need to be in businesses, and that business needs to be involved in this. We have safety training courses and a number of those types of needs in business today by rules of operations, but the signage is very important. I'd like you to elaborate on that. How can that be fitted into the use and the cost of each one?
The education process is extremely important. It's a fail-safe type of an operation or piece of equipment, but I think the education goes to the questions Ms. Dabrusin was just asking about. We need to have a healthy lifestyle anyway. If we have that healthy lifestyle, maybe this will just put it off for five or 10 more years before you might need this AED anyway. If that's the case, so be it. It doesn't happen that way for everyone. I've seen a number of very—quote—“fit” people just fall over from heart attacks. That's been well logged in Canadian history over the last decades, and centuries, probably.
Can you elaborate on how other groups could be involved, whether they're service groups or chambers of commerce, as you said? Can you elaborate on the importance of the signage and education?
Thank you; that's kind.
Mr. Rayes, I would like to thank you for your presentation.
About 20 years ago, I received a phone call from the hospital in St. Albert. That was in 1997. I was told that my sister was in hospital there and that I had to go. When I arrived, I found my whole family outside the hospital. My sister, who was 20 years old at the time, died suddenly that morning, while she was in perfect health. We didn't know why she died. It was later determined that her heart had stopped. She was at work, on the telephone, and she fell out of her chair. She died in less than 20 minutes. We are now convinced that a defibrillator would have saved my little sister's life. There was also the death of my father, six years ago, who died of a heart attack. So my family is the perfect example of cases where the chances of survival are practically nil without a defibrillator. I fully support you and the committee's efforts.
It is interesting to note that in Morinville, where I grew up, we were essentially covered by the RCMP. In my riding of Edmonton-Centre, where I now live, that is the responsibility of the Edmonton Police Service. So I've known both police systems.
I would like to know if you think your motion is sufficient to provide authorities other than the federal government and the RCMP with the necessary leadership or the moral support to encourage cities and municipalities to act on what you are proposing in your motion.
I want to thank all of you for asking me to be a witness at this committee as you undertake the assessment called for by Motion M-167. I am very grateful that the House of Commons passed that motion unanimously on May 30.
In probably what may be a rare moment for me, regardless of the length of time that Lakeland keeps sending me back here to represent them, I do want to thank explicitly the Liberals for offering their support for Motion No. 167 so that we could get here today. I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the action against rural crime that my and all our of our constituents deserve. Rural members of Parliament have been active in advocating on this urgent issue, for example, the work of the Alberta rural crime task force, and joint town halls in Saskatchewan between MPs, provincial and municipal representatives, RCMP members, and concerned residents.
Between its introduction and the second hour of debate, Motion M-167 received 101 endorsements from local crime watch groups and from a wide cross-section of provincial MLAs, municipalities, and major municipal associations in seven provinces, including the Alberta Provincial Rural Crime Watch Association with 17,000 members, Farmers Against Rural Crime with 16,000 members, the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, and the Association of Manitoba Municipalities. Hundreds more Canadians contacted me in support, and dozens shared their personal experiences.
I want to recognize the NDP for their support of Motion M-167 right at the outset. I accepted an amendment that added measures to increase the effectiveness of indigenous police forces, resources for rural judicial and rehabilitation systems, and improved support for victims of rural crime. It undoubtedly strengthened the motion from its original version.
I don't want to be prescriptive to this committee on how you undertake this analysis, but I want to mention MP Georgina Jolibois, the member for , as a potential witness or as someone whose input may be sought during your work. She is from northern Saskatchewan, spent nine years on the RCMP “F” division's aboriginal advisory committee, and is the former mayor of La Loche. She may offer unique insight, and we share common views on consistent approaches to protect law-abiding Canadians, regardless of community or region.
I want to tell you why I put this motion forward.
After the 2015 election, the main concern in Lakeland was the loss of oil and gas jobs in Alberta; however, it rapidly became rural crime, which I heard about repeatedly from residents and business owners when I was knocking on doors last summer in towns and visiting farm families across Lakeland, which is about 32,000 square kilometres. Many have been victims of multiple break-ins and robberies, with varying degrees of violence. Many say that they know more people who have been broken into than who haven't, and others believe that it is inevitable. The reality is that they feel unsafe in their homes, and they are concerned about a lack of visible police presence. Most say that they have never faced anything like this before. It is seriously impacting business retention and personal and business insurance renewals because of the high likelihood of property being damaged and stolen throughout those communities. To be sure, my constituents' experiences are reflected in statistics.
Rural crime is a growing problem across Canada. Statistics Canada reports that Canada's crime index rose for the first time in 12 years in 2015. The highest increase was in western Canada, led by a 10% spike in rural Alberta. In 2016, the index increased for a second year in a row, with several thousand more police-reported incidents. Currently, there are claims that numbers are declining slightly, but there is also a reasonable consensus that the stats are being skewed because so many rural Canadians are giving up and have stopped reporting.
In 2015, the bump in the national non-violent crime severity index, CSI, was partly the result of significantly increasing property crime, most notably in Alberta. In 2016, the CSI increased 2% over 2015 nationally. Alberta's uptick was primarily due to more breaking and entering, thefts of $5,000 or under, and motor vehicle theft. Just to put this in perspective for you, a recent RCMP report found that property crime in rural Alberta alone has risen by 41% in the last five years, while the population has only grown by 8%. Those kinds of crimes also significantly contributed to push up CSI rates in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories.
I know that many of you on this committee represent ridings in the greater Toronto area, which is highly populated, so I want to give some rural perspective, both anecdotal and based on the facts.
Most rural areas across Canada are policed by the RCMP, except in Quebec and Ontario, which have provincial police forces. The RCMP provides specific federal policing services in those provinces as it does in the rest of the country. Many larger cities and districts have their own municipal police forces, but more than 150 municipalities, three international airports, and 600 indigenous communities have contracts with the RCMP for their local services, which is why my motion touched on the multiple jurisdictions involved.
In rural Canada, the RCMP has a lot of ground to cover. They have very limited resources and understaffed detachments, and there are unique factors like challenging road conditions with no street lights over great distances, and inconsistent or non-existent Wi-Fi and cell coverage. That all impacts response times.
Rural Canadians are creating buddy systems between farm families. There are neighbourhood watches and citizens on patrol to help protect each other because of long response times. One of my constituents, Bob, told me that his community had to start a WhatsApp group in their area where members alert other members of suspicious vehicles and events so that they can respond to help each other since there is effectively no RCMP response.
I'm sorry. I think interpreters have this challenge with me.
Candace, who is also from Lakeland, told me that they operate a substantial farm which is their livelihood. Their shop was broken in to. The tractor trailer cab interiors were messed up. Registrations, glasses, meds, paper files, etc., we taken. There were excellent footprints, but the RCMP showed up a week later.
Just so you know, that family farm has been broken into more than once in the past two years, and one of their sons down the road had his truck stolen out of his yard by three criminals while his kids were outside playing. The reality for that family is that if anything had happened, the RCMP that would be dispatched to help them were 60 kilometres away.
RCMP members themselves have been speaking out, which is difficult and a challenge for them, but they say they are concerned about their own safety and the safety of the communities that they serve and protect across Canada. In Lakeland, one detachment has only four RCMP members covering 2,200 square kilometres and 8,500 Albertans. The reality is that there are rarely two officers on duty at once because of a lack of administrative staff. One may be out on the ground, and one is usually back at the office doing administrative duties.
There have been recent stand-alone announcements and budget commitments this spring from the Alberta and Saskatchewan provincial governments for targeted rural crime reduction teams, more resources for prosecutors and courts, and other collaborative law enforcement initiatives. In January, the federal government announced $291 million for policing in first nations and Inuit communities in Canada over the next five years. These are a start, and your committee's assessment will be a timely opportunity to review and measure outcomes, successes, gaps, and future needs related to these various initiatives.
While rural crime is most acute in western Canada, eastern provinces face high rural crime rates too. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the town council of Indian Bay supported a motion unanimously, saying that their area has seen more and more crime in the past months. In the past two weeks alone there were six home break-ins, which is unheard of in their area, and very concerning. They say it's becoming an increasing issue in Newfoundland and Labrador, much like the rest of Canada. They're doing their best to support their community, neighbours, and neighbouring communities, but there are limits to their resources and authority. Those comments were echoed by an endorsement from the Town of Kensington in Prince Edward Island.
From B.C. to P.E.I. and the north, rural crime is a major challenge, with many factors including gangs and the opioid crisis harming families, businesses, and communities.
My constituents and other rural Canadians often tell me that they feel like sitting ducks and that they originally moved to a rural area in order to feel safe because it's safer than urban areas. Most officers are doing the best they can with what they have, but there is a widespread frustration and feeling of vulnerability. For comparison, if you live in downtown Toronto, the closest police force to you would be located in Markham, and if you live in Montreal, the closest police detachment would be located in Terrebonne. That means that if you or your family were in danger, the police response time would be at minimum 40 minutes.
In summary, that is exactly what my constituents and residents all across rural Canada are facing. That's why I'm pleased that the committee will undertake this formalized, in-depth assessment of this urgent issue on behalf of all rural Canadians. I look forward to the recommendations that will result from your committee study.
First, I'd like to thank you very much for bringing this motion forward. I have family in Alberta, and in January of this year, I was out visiting on a farm in Camrose. At the farm the previous year—the owners are not there all the time—someone drove a car onto the property and set it on fire. Luckily, neighbours called, and they were able to put the fire out before the fire actually reached the home. They've had to spend money on security, as well as on a gate at the end of the driveway. They're on a very quiet road, and the night I was there, a car was driving up and down the road. My cousin's partner's brother followed the car, and came at 3:00 in the morning to check and make sure that we were okay. He was given a very hard time about following a car on his own on a quiet rural street.
So, while I represent a GTA riding, I certainly have a lot of respect and appreciation for your bringing this motion forward because I have seen first-hand the impact that it has on families. Thank you for that.
The held a guns and gangs summit in March, and some of the testimony there was about how new drug markets have been driving the gangs out of urban centres and into rural and indigenous communities. In a CBC article I was reading, one of the people who spoke there, Kathleen Buddle, talked about some of the modern aspects of gangs, which include human trafficking.
Certainly, as vice-chair of the status of women committee, human trafficking is an issue that's of great concern to me. I'm just wondering if you would be okay with, while we're looking at rural crime, including that aspect in what we're studying.