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.