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e-2403 (Health)

Initiated by Patricia Tomasi from Barrie, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons in Parliament assembled

  • Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) are the most common obstetrical complication making it a significant public health concern;
  • In Canada and worldwide, 20% of women and 10% of men suffer from a perinatal mental illness;
  • Stigma, lack of public and professional awareness, and leaving the onus on the mothers and partners to reach out for help, results in only 15% of mothers who experience a PMAD receiving professional treatment;
  • Despite limitations in Canadian data, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death, with one in 19 maternal deaths in Ontario attributed to suicide;
  • 85% of mothers are not properly treated with a resulting annual economic cost to Canada of approximately $11 billion dollars;
  • The UK, Australia, and parts of the U.S. have perinatal mental health strategies and screening guidelines in place; and
  • Canada does not have a nation-wide perinatal mental health strategy or services to provide equitable access to treatment.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to create a national perinatal mental health strategy that will provide direction, policy, and funding to develop specialized, comprehensive perinatal mental health care services which include universal screening and timely access to treatment for all women and men during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Response by the Minister of Health

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Darren Fisher

Across the Federal Health Portfolio, the Government of Canada is committed to improving the mental health of Canadians. We recognize that the availability of perinatal mental health resources and services may be impacted by the pandemic. To help provide rapid support for new parents, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada have recently developed two resources to support the mental health of pregnant persons who are expecting or who have recently had a baby, including:

In addition, we have launched a new online portal that provides access to a virtual network of psycho-social supports. This new portal, called Wellness Together Canada (, provides 24/7 access to free evidence-based tools and resources for Canadians in all provinces and territories, in both official languages to help meet their needs for mental health and substance use supports. The portal will also connect Canadians to peer support workers, social workers, psychologists and other professionals for confidential chat sessions or phone calls.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is mandated to promote and protect Canadians' health and is committed to promoting maternal and child health, which includes supporting positive parental mental health during the perinatal and postpartum periods.

PHAC invests over $115 million annually in the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP), the Community Action Program for Children (CAPC), and the Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities program (AHSUNC), which collectively serve over 280,000 prenatal and recently postpartum women, new parents and young children each year, through community-based projects across Canada. These programs reach populations vulnerable to health inequalities (due to low income, teen pregnancy, social and geographic isolation, recent arrival to Canada, substance use issues and/or family violence), and are in a unique position to offer mental health supports to women and families who may be less likely to participate in mainstream programming. Specific mental health components include:

  • promoting attachment and resilience;
  • increasing parent/caregiver coping skills;
  • enhancing peer and social support networks; and
  • providing opportunities for screening and referral to community services.

PHAC also supports the development of a number of specific resources promoting the positive mental health of families and children, including the:

  • Mothers' Mental Health Toolkit, a public resource for community service providers and family support practitioners to help identify mental health distress and provide a starting point for assessment and care;
  • Family-Centred Maternity and Newborn Care (FCMNC) National Guidelines (, which provide evidence-based guidance for health care providers, policy makers, administrators and parents in planning, implementing and evaluating maternal and newborn care; and the
  • Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy (, which captures key information about lifestyle choices that can help promote a healthy pregnancy, and which includes a specific section on mental health during pregnancy. This publication is currently being revised and will be released later this year. 

In addition to the above:

The Government of Canada is investing $5 billion over ten years to improve Canadians’ access to mental health services. The investment is being provided directly to provinces and territories to help them expand access to community-based mental health and addiction services for children and youth, integrate services for people with complex needs, and spread proven models of community mental health care and culturally appropriate interventions linked to primary health services. In August 2017, an agreement was reached with the provinces and territories on a Common Statement of Principles for Shared Health Priorities that confirmed these priorities. Bilateral agreements have since been finalized with each jurisdiction that set out details of how they will use federal funding in future years, consistent with the CSOP.

Through PHAC’s Mental Health Promotion Innovation Fund, the Government of Canada is investing $39 million from 2019-2028 to address multiple risk and protective factors to promote mental health for children, youth, young adults and populations susceptible to mental health inequities (e.g., low-income families, immigrants and refugees, First Nations, Inuit, Métis, the LGBTQ2+ community, people living with disabilities and people with other socio-economic risk factors).

Surveillance is a core function of public health. PHAC undertakes surveillance activities to provide information to guide policies, programs, and public health action. The Canadian Perinatal Surveillance System (CPSS) is a national surveillance program that monitors and reports on maternal, fetal and infant health. The CPSS also conducts targeted epidemiological analyses and research to address issues highly relevant to its mandate and organizational priorities. The CPSS tracks and reports on 15 perinatal health indicators, consisting of measures of maternal, fetal and infant health determinants and outcomes. Most recently, PHAC collaborated with Statistics Canada to conduct a rapid survey on maternal health, the 2018/2019 Survey on Maternal Health (MHS). The MHS provides a snapshot of the mental health of mothers who gave birth between January 1, 2018 and June 30, 2018. More information about the survey can be found at:

Open for signature
March 4, 2020, at 4:28 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
May 3, 2020, at 4:28 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Heather McPherson (Edmonton Strathcona)
May 12, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00178)
Government response tabled
July 20, 2020
Photo - Heather McPherson
Edmonton Strathcona
New Democratic Party Caucus