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View Sonia Sidhu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and colleagues.
It's my pleasure to speak today on my private member's bill, Bill C-237, an act to establish a national framework for diabetes.
Before I begin, I want to thank all members immensely for your support of this initiative at second reading. I'm glad to know we share the goal of fighting diabetes.
This year we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin by Sir Frederick Banting and his partners at the University of Toronto. It was also at U of T that stem cells were discovered in the 1960s. These have led to promising research that may lead to a cure.
Since Canada has been home to these great inventions in the fight against diabetes, we should also have a comprehensive strategy to help those living with this disease.
We have 11 million Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes. The number of diagnoses doubled in the last 20 years, and every three minutes, another Canadian is added to this list. In my own community of Brampton, almost every sixth resident lives with diabetes or prediabetes.
In my 18-year career as a health care professional, I saw patients with cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, amputations or high blood pressure and diabetes was frequently an underlying and complicating condition. That is why a strategy is so important. By effectively fighting or preventing one disease, we will make an impact on many others.
When you consider the expense to the public health care system and to individuals living with diabetes, it represents a massive financial burden. Every dollar spent fighting and preventing diabetes means greater savings down the line.
It is one of the most common chronic illnesses in Canada and the rate is only growing. Some Canadians are at increased risk of diabetes, such as South Asians, Black and indigenous Canadians. We also know that diabetes disproportionately affects Canadians with low income and education. Diabetes rates are three to four times higher among first nations than among the general Canadian population. Furthermore, indigenous individuals are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at a younger age than other individuals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Canadians with chronic diseases, including diabetes.
For all these reasons, we need a cohesive national plan to respond to diabetes, one that coordinates funding for awareness, prevention, research and treatment, and that ensures equal access to treatment across Canada.
Mr. Chair, we can learn from Canada's past diabetes plans and programs, and we can make sure that the framework called for in Bill C-237 is data-driven, accountable and engaged with stakeholders such as Diabetes Canada, JDRF and others.
A national framework for diabetes would provide a common direction for all stakeholders to address diabetes, and by extension, other chronic diseases with the same risk factors. It would enhance coordinated efforts across federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions and provide a mechanism for tracking and reporting on progress.
The framework would allow for the identification of gaps in present approaches, strengthen action to address health inequities in diabetes and decrease the duplication of efforts by coordinating across jurisdictions.
The bill calls for promoting research, data collection and treatment. It would offer an opportunity for indigenous people and organizations to engage in federal, provincial and territorial strategies using a distinctions-based approach.
It would make a difference in the lives of millions of Canadians. Back in April 2019, this committee conducted a study and released a report on this very issue.
Mr. Chair and Mr. Davies, you were both part of the committee at that time. The comprehensive report already outlines the steps the government should take in the fight against diabetes.
The number one recommendation in this report was that the Government of Canada, in partnership with the provinces and territories and in collaboration with stakeholders, plan and implement an approach for the prevention and management of diabetes in Canada through a national diabetes strategy. Bill C-237 mandates the minister to do just this.
The HESA report made 10 other recommendations. Among them were that the government explore options to reduce diabetes-related stigma and improve public awareness and education on diabetes; provide funding through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for research into preventing and treating diabetes; hold discussions with the provinces and territories to explore possible approaches to providing uniform coverage for diabetes-related medication, supplies and equipment across Canada; work with the provinces and territories to explore possible approaches to improving access to health care for individuals living with diabetes in rural, remote and northern communities and address the difficulties faced by many Canadians in accessing a family physician; and work with the provincial regulatory bodies to ensure that health care professionals receive comprehensive education and training to properly identify and manage diabetes and diabetes-related complications in their patients.
I believe that with more coordination among all levels of government and stakeholders, we will be a better position to win the fight against diabetes. I know that the government will give full consideration to the HESA report and the dozens of witnesses who shared their expertise and experiences to help shape the recommendations. For example, I personally think the Diabetes Canada 360° proposal is an excellent one.
This past November I went to Banting House in London, Ontario, where the Flame of Hope, a perpetually burning torch that serves to honour all who have been affected by diabetes, is located. It is a reminder that we must still work for a real cure. It will only be extinguished when one is discovered.
The discovery of insulin is remembered as one of the greatest medical achievements of the 20th century. It was the first time the Nobel Prize for medicine went to someone outside Europe. It went to Canada. The best thing we can do as a country to honour this discovery is to recommit to helping everyone battling this chronic disease, whether they are patients, doctors, researchers or loved ones.
Mr. Chair and fellow committee members, Canadians have always been leaders in the fight against diabetes. I want to thank you all again for the support you have shown for this bill, which I hope will eventually lead to the day when we can extinguish that torch at Banting House. Canada gave insulin to the world. Why can we not lead the way?
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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