Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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Kathleen Cooper
View Kathleen Cooper Profile
Kathleen Cooper
2015-06-18 15:48
First of all, to tell you about the Canadian Environmental Law Association, we're a non-profit public interest organization specializing in environmental law. We're also a legal aid clinic within Ontario. We provide legal representation to low-income individuals and vulnerable communities.
Then we have law reform priorities, and in setting our strategic priorities, one of those is environment and human health. In deciding within that large topic how to set priorities, we take a population health approach, the same as Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and public health agencies everywhere do. You set priorities by focusing on issues where large numbers of people are potentially or directly affected or where you have serious outcomes.
You can't get much more serious than a known carcinogen where there's strong science. Radon, as I'm sure you're going to hear later as well, is in a class by itself compared to most other environmental carcinogens. That's why we've focused on radon.
I'm going to speak today to a report we prepared last year, “Radon in Indoor Air: A Review of Policy and Law in Canada”. I believe you've been circulated the media release that was issued the day we released the report. That's all I was able to have translated given the time pressure of meeting with you today.
We canvassed policy and law across Canada at the federal and provincial levels and looked at jurisdictions and roles. We focused on public buildings and building codes, looked at other relevant provincial policy and law and the associated common law, and made a number of recommendations, but I'll focus today on just the recommendations we made with respect to the federal government.
Overall, our findings were that Canadians need better legal protection from radon. We found a patchwork of inconsistent and mostly unenforceable guidance.
For the federal government, we found that really important leadership has occurred, and Kelley Bush from Health Canada will provide some details on that for you today, although we definitely made recommendations for more that can be done. At the provincial and territorial level, where actually most jurisdiction lies, we found a wide range of laws that need to be updated or that contain gaps or ambiguities. There's very limited case law, which points to the need for improving a law or for law reform. I won't get into detail on what's been done at the federal level on radon, although the report does, because Kelley will be doing that for you later on.
Just in summary, under the national radon program there has been very valuable research, testing, and mapping of high -radon areas. The guideline for indoor radon was updated in 2007. The national building code was updated with respect to radon provisions, there's a certification program for radon mitigators, and there has been a national campaign to urge the testing by Canadians of their homes. It's recommended that every home in Canada be tested.
We recommended, to build on that important work, that there really is a logical next step here. Through the work of the Green Budget Coalition this past year, we recommended a tax credit for radon remediation. We recommended that the Income Tax Act add a tax credit for radon mitigation of up to $3,000 for individual Canadians, so long as it's done by a certified expert under the national program. That was not included in the budget, although we think it's still a very good idea. We had some very positive response from the federal officials we spoke to about it.
We also recommended that there be clearer messaging about radon, and that we use words like “radiation” and “radioactivity” because they are accurate and are what people understand more in terms of the risks of radiation and radon. We also recommended that there be better data sharing nationally between the federal government and the provinces and territories in terms of the testing that's done, along with the sharing of information that's paid for nationally, and that information be available publicly.
In terms of recommendations for federal action as well, we note that the David Suzuki Foundation report that came out just last month says the World Health Organization has recommended a lower level of 100 for indoor radon. Currently, our federal level is 200 becquerels per cubic metre. We definitely supported that recommendation and recommend that the federal government reduce the indoor radon guideline to 100.
The other two areas I want to touch on that are relevant to your investigation here have to do with the Canada Labour Code and the need to update it as well, and also the need for improving the uptake across Canada of the naturally occurring radioactive materials guidelines, the NORM guidelines. I'm going to speak to those two areas now.
Under the Canada Labour Code, there is the only legally enforceable limit for radon in Canada that's broadly applicable, but it's only for federally regulated workplaces and it remains at an outdated level of 800 becquerels per cubic metre. We think it should be brought down to the federal reference level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre to begin with, and we think that level should come down to 100 becquerels per cubic metre. On the updating of that level, apparently what was going to happen in 2015 now sounds like it's going to happen in 2016, so it would be great if your committee recommended speeding up that process.
In terms of the NORM guidelines, these are guidelines that were prepared by a federal-provincial-territorial committee. We interviewed occupational health and safety inspectors across Canada and found a lot of confusion and uncertainty about workplace radon rules or whether the NORM guidelines apply. In fact, they apply to every workplace in Canada. In any indoor space that is a workplace, including the room in which you are sitting, those guidelines apply.
However, it's a reactive, complaint-driven system. Inspectors get few or no complaints because there is a lack of awareness, so they don't take enforcement action. Also, some inspectors didn't think that radon was an occupational health and safety issue at all. They said that enforcement action was unlikely because the only agreed-upon levels for radiation are those for radiation-exposed workers. That is just not accurate, so we've made recommendations in response to that situation.
Turning to the recommendations we made with respect to the Canada Labour Code, as I've mentioned, it should be brought up to date swiftly. It's out of date by many years and still at that level of 800 becquerels per cubic metre.
With respect to radon, we recommended that the federal-provincial-territorial radiation protection committee, which deals with far more than radon—it deals with a whole manner of radiation exposure issues—convene a task force for occupational health and safety inspectors across the country so that there is clarity and there is a more generalized consistent application of those NORM guidelines to ensure worker health and safety. The consequences of that inconsistent application are that you're going to have uneven worker protection across the country and the possibility that people are overexposed, both in the workplace and in their homes, if they happen to be unlucky enough to have high radon levels in both of those indoor locations where they live and work. Related to that, we made a range of recommendations about provincial labour codes, which I won't get into.
In another area of occupational exposure, with respect to radon mitigators, we also recommended that CAREX Canada, who you're going to hear from later today, undertake, with the Canadian national radon proficiency program, research and dosimetry monitoring for radon mitigators so that we can make sure their workplaces are safe as well.
Just to recap on the findings in this report and to recommend to you to take up some of these recommendations in your deliberations on this topic, we found a need for greater legal requirements rather than guidance in this area for several reasons, including the need to underscore the seriousness of the problem and to support public outreach messages by the federal government and by other organizations who you're going to hear from today, including the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment.
Also, there's a need for legal requirements to require testing in public buildings and to ensure public access to that information. As well, there's the need to correct that inconsistent response among both the public health and the occupational health and safety inspectors and to provide them with tools to take action with respect to radon. As I mentioned, we found limited to no case law under either statutes or common law. We also found that improving the law or law reform is a better remedy than costly and situation-specific litigation to resolve radon problems.
Then, as I mentioned, there's a need for specific federal government action, including updating that federal guideline and putting in place a tax credit to help Canadians undertake radon mitigation when they have high levels, updating that Canada Labour Code, and ensuring the NORM guidelines are applied.
We've calculated the health care savings from prevented lung cancer deaths. If all homes in Canada were mitigated to the level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre, you'd see more than $17 million a year in savings through prevented lung cancer deaths. It likely would be double that if you were to reduce the level to 100 becquerels per cubic metre. Then, of course, anyone who works in cancer will tell you that the indirect costs are five times higher than the direct costs, so a lot of savings are possible there, along with the avoidance of the pain and suffering associated with lung cancer.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
CPC (BC)
As my last comment or question, I certainly see both a federal and a provincial role. There were some comments in terms of the Canada Labour Code, and I'm just trying to get a sense of to what degree, because obviously the provincial and territorial ministers regularly meet with their federal counterparts. In your awareness, has this issue ever been discussed at those particular meetings?
Kelley Bush
View Kelley Bush Profile
Kelley Bush
2015-06-18 16:27
I can speak to what Health Canada has done there. We have gone to make a presentation about the revised guideline, and we follow up on a very regular basis. It is the intent to have the Canada Labour Code harmonized with our current Canadian guideline. It's just been delayed. The most recent information we have is that it's supposed to be updated by the winter of 2015-16.
View Ryan Leef Profile
CPC (YT)
View Ryan Leef Profile
2015-06-04 12:56
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all of our witnesses today.
Part of the purpose of our study is to expose some of the things that I think all of you gentlemen have clearly articulated today, which is a clear understanding on the part of the fishing community, outfitters, and organizations like yours that not only have the knowledge about what's going on in the fisheries ecosystems, but also invest your time and your financial resources, your volunteerism, and technical expertise into vibrant and healthy fish stocks.
On that point, thank you and congratulations. I hope there is some measure of success for all of us in undertaking this study, us, and that Canadians more generally will understand and appreciate the value of your organizations.
My first question will be for Mr. Lévesque and Mr. Bouchard. You noted, and if I've written this correctly, the damage of pleasure crafts to the river mouth and the reduction of currents leading to an increase in cyanobacteria in the area and, as you just mentioned, some of the migration of yellow perch. You also spoke a fair bit about the cormorant populations and a cull in that respect.
I see some overlap here between provincial responsibilities and federal support. I'm wondering if you can talk most specifically about some solutions around how to deal with the pleasure craft issue and the other things that lead to an increase in cyanobacteria. In other words, what solutions would you propose that would fall under the federal mandate to assist with improving the water pollution conditions in Lac Saint-Louis or Lac Saint-Pierre?
Marcel Bouchard
View Marcel Bouchard Profile
Marcel Bouchard
2015-06-04 12:59
First and foremost, it's necessary to recognize that the federal government has the final say over laws and regulations that govern fisheries. We can't figure out why the province is able to make laws and regulations that would normally have to be approved by the ultimate fisheries authority, in other words, the federal government. How is it that the province can put in place such archaic regulations, regulations that don't make sense or contribute to the solution?
I'll give you a very basic example. When we're talking about farming, that is, of course, in the provincial domain, but when we're talking about shoreline erosion, especially along Lac Saint-Pierre as a result of navigation and pleasure crafting pollution, the issue is federal. Both levels of government clearly need to work together if the goal is to fix the problem at Lac Saint-Pierre. If that isn't the goal, all the government has to do is take a hands-off approach, since the lake is disappearing anyway. Within 50 years, Lac Saint-Pierre will be no more if we don't take the appropriate steps to save it. We're losing a real gem.
View François Choquette Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank the two witnesses for appearing and for their testimony.
Mr. Morrice, you just talked about how important it is for municipalities and provinces to participate. What role does the federal government play in your initiatives? Actually, the question is also for Ms. Ryan.
Mike Morrice
View Mike Morrice Profile
Mike Morrice
2015-06-04 9:39
Thank you.
I will respond in English, if that pleases the committee.
The current role of the federal government is almost nil. That is to say that locally MPs in each of the communities have been very supportive. Certainly that's been the case in Waterloo region, and that's actually part of our assessment of communities across the province. We look at the municipality. We look at the political support at the federal and provincial level, and certainly we have MPs who are supporting strongly. Where that translates into federal programs for funding, for example, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, there is no current federal funding I am aware of that is going to any seven of the programs in which this currently operates. That's certainly a challenge.
In terms of the ideal state, I point to some of the support that's being provided provincially through funding agencies like the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Through the provincial government we just recently announced that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has provided an initial $100,000 to the CoLab network, which allows us, as CoLab, to then incentivize our members to be able to provide them with support that they can leverage and build more support from. It's a one-off. It's certainly not our end game. We would like to be in a position to have a fund so that with that fund we could then say, yes, EnviroCentre has a business plan, let us write you a cheque, and again as you launch your program, as you get your first three members, your next 20 members.
That incentivizing we can't currently do, and we would be thrilled to have provincial and federal support to be doing work of that kind.
View François Choquette Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you.
Ms. Ryan, I have the same question for you. I know that you have good partnerships with municipalities and the province. Can you explain the federal government's role?
Tracey Ryan
View Tracey Ryan Profile
Tracey Ryan
2015-06-04 9:41
Thank you. That's a very good question.
Similar to the previous answer, we generally are relying entirely on the province or the municipalities. The rural water quality program would not have the success it has without the commitment of the municipalities for longer than 15 years.
Where the GRCA does partner with the federal government it is through programs that come and go, through short-term funding, through any of the programs that the federal government has around eco-action, a variety of those types of things. We are applying right now for the 150th funding that came out for some capital works to improve our parks and infrastructure for the community. It is very hit and miss and when we can actually access those programs, when we qualify, when we have projects that are ready to meet the qualifications.... In some cases these may be capital works that are shovel ready or it may be targeted very much to species at risk, so through Environment Canada we apply each year to the habitat stewardship fund and successfully receive less than $100,000, which we then can make available to areas that do not have municipal support or adequate municipal support for some of those projects.
It is not consistent, but we try to leverage our other funds when available.
Thank you.
Karen R. Cohen
View Karen R. Cohen Profile
Karen R. Cohen
2015-05-28 15:56
Thank you.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and committee members. My name is Dr. Karen Cohen. I'm the chief executive officer of the Canadian Psychological Association or CPA.
CPA is the national association of Canada's scientists and practitioners of psychology. Approximately 18,000 psychologists are registered to practise in Canada. This makes psychologists the largest regulated, specialized mental health care providers in the country.
Psychologists are employed by publicly funded institutions inclusive of hospitals, family health teams, and primary care practices, schools, universities, and correctional facilities. However, with cuts to human resources in the public sector, psychologists increasingly work in private practice.
Their scope of practice includes the assessment and diagnosis of mental disorders and cognitive functioning, the development and evaluation of treatment protocols and programs, the delivery and supervision of treatment, and research.
We are pleased that in the 2015 federal budget the Government of Canada indicated its intention to renew the Mental Health Commission's mandate for 10 years. CPA has a long history of involvement with the commission from providing support for its creation, sitting on advisory committees, and providing input on past and current projects. This new investment will hopefully give the commission a mandate to implement the recommendations of the mental health strategy. The strategy scoped out the changes that Canada needs to make to enhance the mental health and well-being of its citizens. It's now time to make change happen.
The strategy called for increased access to evidence-based psychotherapies by service providers qualified to deliver them. We hope that the commission will work with governments and other stakeholders to move this important recommendation forward.
Research has demonstrated that psychological treatments are effective for a wide range of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse. They are less expensive than, and at least as effective as, medication for a number of common mental health conditions. They work better than medication for some kinds of anxiety. They lead to less relapse of depression when compared to treatment with medication alone. They lead to patients who better follow through on treatment, feel less burdened by their illness, and have lower suicide rates when used with medication for bipolar disorder. They help to prevent relapse when included in the services and supports for persons living with schizophrenia. And, finally, they reduce depression and anxiety in people with heart disease, which when combined with medical treatment, leads to lower rates of heart-related deaths.
Despite this evidence, there are significant gaps in service and care when it comes to mental health. Canada has no parity in its public funding of mental and physical health care. Canada's mental health strategy tells us that spending on mental health in Canada has been measured at only 7% of total health spending. Psychological services are not covered by our public health insurance plans. Canadians either pay out of pocket or rely on the private health insurance plans provided by employers. Coverage through private plans is almost always too little for a clinically meaningful amount of service.
Erin Anderssen from The Globe and Mail hit the nail on the head this week when she wrote about this health crisis. She stated, “We have the evidence...Why aren't we providing evidence-based care?”
Access to treatment should not depend on your employment benefits or your income level. Those who cannot afford to pay for treatment end up on long wait lists, they have to depend on prescription medications, or they simply do not get help at all. If we want a health care system that will deliver cost and clinically effective care, then we must re-vision policies, programs, and funding structures through which health care is provided.
CPA commissioned a report by a group of health economists that proposed several models of delivering enhanced access to psychological services for Canadians. The report provides a business case for improved access to psychological services based on demonstrating positive return on investment and proposed service that yields desired outcomes. It looked at countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, and Finland that have programs that make psychological services accessible through public health systems.
A 2012 report on the U.K.'s improving access to psychological therapies program says it has treated over 1.1 million people, with a recovery rate in excess of 45%. Some 45,000 people have moved off sick pay and benefits. Savings from the program in 2015 are estimated at £272 million for the National Health Service and £700 million for the entire public sector. By the end of 2016-17, the net financial benefit of the program is pegged at £4.6 billion and judged attributable to prevention, early intervention, and a reduction in absenteeism.
Mental disorders that are addressed promptly and effectively will yield a cost offset from their treatments. That can include fewer medical visits and interventions, and decreases in short- or long-term disability. On the other hand, untreated or undertreated disorders cost the workplace tens of billions of dollars annually.
Accessing needed psychological care affects people across their lifespan.
The May 2015 report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information showed that emergency room visits and hospitalization rates for children and youth with mental disorders have increased since 2006, particularly for those between the ages of 10 and 17 with mood and anxiety disorders. Use of psychotropic medications has increased as well. A 2011 report from the Canadian Policy Network and CIHI shows that the strongest evidence for return on investment in mental health involves services and supports that are geared to children and youth and that reduce conduct disorders and depression, deliver parenting skills, provide anti-bullying and anti-stigma education, promote health in schools, and provide screening in primary health care settings for depression and alcohol misuse.
Canada's population is aging and seniors will also face barriers to accessing necessary psychological care. While many of us will age in relatively good health, others will face a wide range of cognitive, emotional, and physical challenges that include dementia, depression, anxiety, chronic disease management, and end-of-life care. As many as 20% of seniors are living with a mental illness. Depression occurs in about 40% of patients who have had a stroke. Up to 44% of residents in long-term care homes have been diagnosed with depression and 80% to 90% have a mental illness or cognitive impairment.
Canada has taken some very important steps to improve the mental health of Canadians. Campaigns and public conversations deliver the message that Canadians can and should seek help for their mental health problems. Collectively, we are reducing the stigma of mental health and substance use disorders. However, only about one-third of Canadians seek and receive such help. While stigma may be one barrier, access to care is another.
It is time Canada walked the talk and made needed treatments and supports available. We need a health care system that is nimble enough to respond to the health needs of our citizens, deliver evidence-based care, and hold us accountable for care delivered. To accomplish these goals, innovation is needed.
The federal government has an important role to play in Canada's mental health. This role includes delivering care in jurisdictions under its authority, increasing or targeting mental health transfers to provinces and territories, and collaborating with provinces and territories in delivering effective innovations in health promotion, illness prevention, and health care delivery.
To ensure that innovations in mental health care delivery happen, the federal government can set up an innovation fund to assist provinces and territories in developing sustainable mental health infrastructure across Canada that will bring psychological care to Canadians who need it. The fund could, for example, be used by the provinces and territories to adapt the United Kingdom's improved access to psychological therapy programs here in Canada and to expand the role of primary health care in meeting mental health needs.
Finally, investment in research and training for students is also critical to the success of Canada's health system, the success of which will depend on its ability to effectively respond to the changing health needs of Canadians. While research into the biomedical causes and treatments of mental disorders is important, research into the psychosocial determinants and treatments is equally important. Like many more long-standing health conditions, mental disorders involve a complex interplay of biological, social, and psychological determinants and depend on a team of providers, services, and factors for their treatment and management.
Canada is poised to do better by the mental health of Canadians. The Canadian Psychological Association is very pleased to participate in this work.
Thank you for the opportunity to present to this committee
View Costas Menegakis Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Kurland, welcome back. It's always a pleasure to have you appear before us, sir, to share your extensive wisdom and knowledge on matters of citizenship and immigration with us.
Express entry is, of course, a form of automated decision making, as you know. I wonder if you could share with us your thoughts on this initiative thus far. Has it been successful?
Richard Kurland
View Richard Kurland Profile
Richard Kurland
2015-05-28 10:02
The design is a successful design. Much was done in a relatively short period of time on the information technology side. There are growing pains. There are known stumbling blocks. For example, hundreds of passports disappeared electronically from CIC's express entry system. Those bugs are being worked out.
The latest news is that the provinces have aligned themselves with the express entry system, streamlining and electronically structuring their intake systems to mesh with the new federal express entry system. I did not think that so much could be accomplished in so little time. It is a work in progress, but my goodness, once again Canada is going to be a model to the world on this one.
Derryk Fleming
View Derryk Fleming Profile
Derryk Fleming
2015-05-26 19:48
I'd like to thank Brian right off the bat. He made three of the four main points that I wanted to express.
I'd like to thank the honourable members of all parties of the standing committee for allowing me this opportunity to speak.
In division 17, I believe that overall the legislation is reasonable and prudent. It will assist veterans and their families who have the most serious needs. It addresses their long-term financial security needs—although Brian did raise an excellent point there—it provides some measure of respite for their primary caregivers, and it establishes the critical injury benefit. Most importantly, it will do much to close the seam between a CF member's release and their accessing services through VAC in a much more proactive manner.
Those veterans most in need will be better looked after by this new piece of legislation. I believe strongly that the standing committee will act in the best interests of all veterans.
More work needs to be done in the transitioning of less seriously injured veterans. Priority hiring in the federal service is [Inaudible--Editor], as is the creation of Canada Company. Helmets to Hardhats also can play a vital and important role.
One area that hasn't been discussed and is a very important missing piece is the synergy between the federal government and the provinces. The provincial governments' ministries of colleges and universities have little understanding of the training and experience that a veteran brings to the workforce.
Recently, the British Columbia Institute of Technology has created a process of translating these skills for civilian accreditation purposes, but more colleges and universities in each separate jurisdiction need to be encouraged to follow suit.
Ideally, once a CF member is released both VAC and the member should have a clear understanding of the provincial accreditation that members would already have, guiding their retraining choices and entering into the civilian workforce much more quickly than starting at zero once again. The smoother the transition, the less strain on both the member and the family, and the resources needed to facilitate that transition can be achieved.
To accomplish this outcome requires [Inaudible--Editor] initiatives and diplomacy between the federal and provincial levels of government. It will not require vast sums of funding to accomplish this coordination. If successful, it will streamline the transition profoundly, however.
For the sake of brevity, I don't want to repeat some of the main points that Brian has already illustrated; they're actually much better than what I had written. But this is one missing piece, and if we're going to transition the majority of veterans who do not qualify as moderately or severely injured, we don't want to leave them out of the mix as well.
I thank you for the opportunity and respectfully submit, Derryk Fleming, 31 CBG Veterans Well-being Network.
View Stéphane Dion Profile
Lib. (QC)
Is it your sense that it should be provincial? Or do you care whether it's provincial or federal as long as it's done?
Emily Molnar
View Emily Molnar Profile
Emily Molnar
2015-05-25 16:12
We need both. I know right now that the BC Arts Council cannot support that entire endeavour, not even for Ballet BC, not for the entire province. We actually would need a partnership, and if the federal government would be....it would be wonderful.
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