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View Cathy McLeod Profile
Okay. While primary health care is near and dear, mental health issues continue to be a grave concern for Canadians. I'd like you to perhaps talk briefly in terms of improving the mental health well-being of Canadians.
Morris Rosenberg
View Morris Rosenberg Profile
Morris Rosenberg
2009-02-10 16:48
I'll mention two things. One is the establishment of the Mental Health Commission of Canada a couple of years ago. I believe the government put in $130 million over 10 years. And then last year the Mental Health Commission received funding for a number of demonstration projects dealing with homelessness and mental health.
View Colin Carrie Profile
View Colin Carrie Profile
2009-02-10 16:53
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit more on mental health. Last year, when I was with Industry Canada, I had the privilege of attending an announcement in Toronto. I think we gave one of the largest grants to CAMH, in partnership with some of the other hospitals in Toronto. I'd like to ask the officials for a little bit more detail on what the government is actually doing to improve mental health. Are we doing enough for wellness and prevention? Are we doing enough to target our youth? What exactly are we doing at this time to help improve the mental health and well-being of Canadians?
Morris Rosenberg
View Morris Rosenberg Profile
Morris Rosenberg
2009-02-10 16:54
Thank you, Madam Chair.
As the committee will know, mental health is a complex multi-faceted problem that is the concern of all governments in Canada and I would say the concern of lots of other folks in Canada.
I think the Mental Health Commission, just to speak a bit more about that, has been a unique opportunity coming out of the report of the Senate committee on social affairs, and then of course the former chair of that, Mike Kirby, became the first head of the Mental Health Commission and has worked with all jurisdictions and with stakeholder groups to bring them on side.
As you know, one in five Canadians has a mental health issue. That means that just about every family in Canada is touched by mental health. And it touches us with respect to children and youth. It touches us in the workplace--workplace mental health. Depression, for example, is one of the major causes of loss of productivity, not just absenteeism, but what is called by some people “presenteeism”, that is, people who are coming to work who aren't really working because they're not able to do that.
There's also the issue that has to be dealt with of reintegration. If you look at the long-term disability claims in this country across all industrial sectors, including, I would say, the Government of Canada, a larger and larger percentage of those claims relate not to physical illnesses but to an inability to work for mental health reasons. One of the real challenges is not only to pay those claims, but then to find a way to get people to reintegrate, because statistics have shown, research has shown, that if people are away for an inordinately long time...the longer they're away the more difficult it is to ever get them back into the workplace.
The Mental Health Commission, as you may know, has set up a series of expert advisory groups. It has a very elaborate structure, with a board of directors, but also with all sorts of people who are really interested in every aspect of this. There is, for example, an expert advisory group on workplace mental health. There's an expert advisory group on child and youth mental health. There's a group on aboriginal mental health. There's a group on mental health and the justice system, from two aspects. One, the justice system is sometimes used as a way of housing people who have mental illness who may act out violently, and on the other side there are justice system issues in terms of contract and civil law issues that need to be worked out.
There's an awful lot of work going on through the Mental Health Commission. As I mentioned, there are the homelessness projects that are being carried out across the country to determine the specific comorbidity around homelessness and mental health, and it manifests itself very differently in different cities, so we hope to get a lot of good research coming out of that.
The Mental Health Commission is also involved in a number of key activities, the most pressing of which I think is the creation of an anti-stigma campaign. If I were to ask people in this room if they had a mental illness, they probably wouldn't volunteer it. If I asked you if you'd ever had cancer, probably people would say yes. A few years ago people wouldn't talk about cancer either. We've come a long way with physical diseases. We have a long way to go with mental illness.
The other thing the Mental Health Commission is doing that's very important is developing a knowledge exchange, a place, whether it's web-based or otherwise, where people can go to actually get information about mental illness with respect to caregivers, families, and patients, information about the conditions and information about the resources to help.
And finally, the commission is developing a national mental health strategy. They have a 10-year timeframe to do their work. They're off to a very good start.
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
Thank you.
I have two subjects to touch upon. I will ask them both at once so that you can judge your time accordingly.
In a previous appearance before this committee, there was considerable discussion about atomic veterans. I see in the supplementary estimates that almost $10 million has been allocated for atomic veterans.
On Saturday I happened to attend the funeral of Sapper Greenfield, who was, as we know, very heroic, highly skilled, dearly loved, and will be missed, and he died doing what he loved and what he believed in. At that funeral an acquaintance, Ralph Storey, who had worked on the Chalk River cleanup, asked me a few questions: who benefits, how much will they receive, do they have to show a medical condition to qualify, when will the cheques start to flow, and will civilians qualify for this program?
The other issue is that we've also done considerable work in the previous Parliament on the issue of mental health, and we're hoping to get back to work on that. We've heard from a number of witnesses and hope to be able to complete the report in the very near future.
You said it is critical to take care of our own people, and you spoke about visiting the injured with General Natynczyk. What are you and the department doing to take care of our injured soldiers, our airmen, and our sailors?
View Anita Neville Profile
Lib. (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I appreciate having the opportunity to be a back-again new member of this committee.
I have two lines of questioning and comment for you. They are unrelated, but I want to take advantage of the opportunity of being here.
Mr. Fonberg, you may or may not be aware that the decommissioned army base Kapyong is in the heart of my riding. You may or may not be aware that I have tried several times to get a briefing from your department on it and several times have been told to put my questions in writing. As a member of Parliament, I think I deserve an opportunity to have a conversation with somebody about Kapyong, with the full understanding that there are ongoing legal issues there, which I'm quite familiar with. I put that on the table because it is a concern of mine.
I'm also very concerned about the houses that stand empty at Kapyong. We know there are over 100 standing empty. The last time we did a freedom of information request, this situation was costing the government over $250,000. I'd like to know whether there are houses standing empty at bases across the country. I'd appreciate having information sent to me on the regulations that determine who has access to living in these houses and the procedures that have to be followed for that. That's one area I'm concerned about.
Second, I know the committee has been studying mental health or looking at it, and I understand that across the country there's a discrepancy in the funding available for mental health services. I also understand that in December the ombudsman, Ms. McFadyen, issued a report about the discrepancies in funding for services available in different communities across the country. I'm wondering if you have responded to it. What action do you plan to take based on what I understand to be a very serious and blatant discrepancy in mental health funding across the country?
Walter Semianiw
View Walter Semianiw Profile
Walter Semianiw
2009-02-09 17:04
If I may, Mr. Chair, I will address the issue of mental health and the ombudsman's report.
The Canadian Forces and the department are working very closely with the ombudsman. When we speak of discrepancies, Mr. Chair, I don't know where that's focused at, because the comments made by the ombudsman did not focus on discrepancies across the country. They were targeted at a specific area, be it at Base Petawawa and Base Gagetown.
As for what we have in place across the country, if a man or woman in uniform is sick and needs help, they go to their local mental health clinic. We have those in place. They're called operational stress injury clinics, which are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs and are integrated with our OTSSCs, which are operational stress injuries clinics that the Canadian Forces run. We have many across the country, and they're staffed with psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, and addiction counsellors to provide that help.
In particular, we have just been recognized by the national Mental Health Commission and the senator on having a model that the rest of government, and perhaps the provinces, should follow in regard to what we have in place from a policy process and machinery point of view when it comes to mental health.
On the two issues of Petawawa and Gagetown, I'm fully aware of those two concerns. First, on the Gagetown piece, I can tell you that I spoke to my staff just last week, and the concerns in Gagetown of getting more staff there have actually improved since the ombudsman's report, which we do take very seriously and do address. With Petawawa, we actually now have a full-time major. I just recognized him last week for the great work he has done that is actually coming into play.
We know where the challenges are. We're not perfect. It's better than it was. We know what we need to do, but clearly we're going to do that hand in hand with the ombudsman.
The focus right now for me is a priority on Petawawa and Gagetown. Those are the two areas that I'm working on personally to make sure they're at that same standard. Part of the challenge with Petawawa--and I know you've heard it before--is getting people to Petawawa. At this point, we are busing mental health providers from Ottawa up to Petawawa.
A decision was made, not in the last four years but before that, not to put an operational stress injury clinic in Petawawa. In hindsight, it was probably a bad decision. What we see here today is that having an OSI clinic in Petawawa would have been the right thing to do. It was not done, but we're dealing with that issue to ensure the men and women in uniform get the support they need in Petawawa.
Thank you.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
View Rob Nicholson Profile
2009-02-09 15:33
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to discuss the supplementary spending estimates of the Department of Justice. Just as you were introducing people that you're pleased to be here with, I'm pleased to be here with the deputy minister and deputy attorney general, Mr. John Sims.
As you know, a number of issues have arisen since your committee last met, not the least of which is the growing economic instability around the globe. Of course, Canada is feeling the effects of this crisis, and the recent budget that was presented by my colleague Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty, and that was passed by the House, offers an action plan to get us through this crisis. It is intended to provide stimulus for economic growth, restore confidence, and support Canadians and their families during this synchronized global recession.
In this context, government departments and agencies are more accountable than ever to Canadian taxpayers.
Over and beyond our fiscal responsibilities, our government is committed to keeping Canadians safe and contributing to global security. As Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, I have made it a priority for the Department of Justice to develop policy and legislation that addresses crime more effectively, thereby increasing the confidence of Canadians in the justice system.
The Government is committed to accountability. This is why, in December 2006, this Government created the Public Prosecution Service of Canada as an entity separate from the Department of Justice.
Our government took this step to make it absolutely clear that criminal prosecutions are independent from political influence.
A selection committee was struck in 2007, under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, to assess the candidates for the position of Director of Public Prosecutions. As you will recall, the committee included representatives from all opposition parties. The selection committee provided me three recommended candidates from which to choose. I appreciate the work of the committee members, a number of whom are with us today.
From this list I nominated Mr. Brian Saunders. Mr. Saunders has been acting Director of Public Prosecutions since December 2006 and has demonstrated his expertise and dedication to working in the best interests of Canadians. I am confident that he will continue to be instrumental in maintaining the level of confidence Canadians expect from their criminal justice system.
As you may know, parliamentary committee approval is required before I can recommend Mr. Saunders to the Governor in Council for appointment as Director of Public Prosecutions. I believe you indicated in your opening comments, Mr. Chairman, that this committee will review the proposed appointment of Mr. Saunders on Wednesday.
In addition to accountability, my department seeks to ensure accessibility, efficiency, and fairness of our system of justice, and to promote respect for the rule of law. In that regard, the department administers a number of funding programs that I believe are of great value to Canadians. One of them is the child-centred family law strategy.
As our supplementary estimates indicate, we wish to allocate an additional $24.42 million for the Department of Justice's child-centred family law strategy. The programs under this strategy aim to minimize the potentially negative impact of separation and divorce on children. The objectives are to help separating and divorcing parents agree on parenting arrangements that focus on the needs of their children, and to keep such cases outside of a courtroom wherever possible. This not only reduces the impact of family breakdown on our children but lessens the burdens on our courts. The strategy, which was originally slated for five years, was renewed for a sixth year, for which the supplementary funding is needed.
As of April 2009, the initiative supporting families experiencing separation and divorce, announced last September to begin in fiscal year 2009, will begin building on the successes of the previous initiative to improve access to the family justice system and encourage parents to comply with their family obligations, including support and access. Overall funding for this initiative amounts to $122 million over five years, which will support mediation, parenting education, and child support recalculation services. It will help parents make sound decisions and maintain positive relationships with their children. In addition, we will provide $16 million per year for the provinces and territories, which are responsible for the delivery of family justice services. This funding will support enforcement services to help the provinces and territories collect child support for the benefit of families.
Some of that funding will also be available for non-governmental organizations to promote legal education and professional training. This initiative demonstrates the government's commitment to strengthening Canadian families and ensuring that those families experiencing separation and divorce will continue to be well served.
My department is also requesting supplementary funding to continue providing legal advice to the Government of Canada in matters relating to national security. The funding will ensure that the government will continue to rely on the expertise and representation of Justice counsel in cases such as those detailed in the report of the Iacobucci inquiry. As the related cases come before the courts, the government will continue to rely on the expertise and representation of Justice counsel.
This government remains committed to helping victims better navigate and deal with the criminal justice and correction system. To that end, we have increased allocations to the victims fund by $5.75 million annually since budget 2006 to, among other things, provide greater financial assistance to those victims who wish to attend National Parole Board hearings, assist Canadians who have been victimized abroad, provide additional funding to provincial and territorial governments to enhance or develop new services for underserved victims of crime, and provide resources to the territories to directly assist victims with emergency costs. In total, we've increased the funding to the federal victims strategy by $54 million over four years. We have established an independent federal ombudsman for victims of crime to ensure that the federal government lives up to its commitments and obligations to victims of crime, and gives victims a strong and effective voice in the justice system.
I had the pleasure of tabling the office's first annual report to Parliament last week, along with the government response to recommendations.
The Department of Justice has the overall lead on the national anti-drug strategy, which was announced in October 2007. Through its youth justice fund for treatment programs, the Department of Justice is responsible for allocating funding through provincial, territorial, and non-governmental organizations to programs that explore and evaluate drug treatment options for youth in the justice system. Over the last year, the Department of Justice has allocated a total of $1.47 million to programs that have supported salaries for addiction workers in Prince Edward Island, offered equine therapy in western Ontario, and supported a treatment program for aboriginal youth involved in drugs and gangs in Manitoba. These programs are providing innovative treatment options for youth who are addicted to drugs.
I believe that legal aid is one of the pillars of Canada's justice system and ensures continued protection of individual rights. In budget 2007, for the first time in more than a decade, the government converted the $30 million in interim resources into ongoing permanent funding for criminal legal aid.
This approach provides stable and predictable federal funding that will assist the provinces and territories in developing long-term strategies to support and manage the delivery of criminal legal aid.
In addition, this government continued interim resources for immigration and refugee legal aid of $11.5 million annually to the provinces that provide these services: British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador. I believe that in cooperation with our provincial and territorial partners we will continue to build a more effective legal aid system.
Mr. Chairman, our department has also requested some $3 million in the main estimates for grants and contributions under the justice partnership and innovation program. This program contributes to policy development to ensure the justice system remains accessible, efficient, and effective. Some of the resources dedicated to the program are used to support public legal education and information organizations that provide Canadians with plain language, user-friendly legal information on issues related to general law, family violence, or family law. The Department of Justice is committed to continuing to play a leadership role in ensuring that Canadians have access to justice.
Mr. Chairman, our government also recognizes that our aboriginals enter our criminal justice system in disproportionate numbers. To that end, we have renewed our commitment to the aboriginal justice strategy until 2012, and we'll make an additional investment of $40 million, for a total of $85 million over five years.
The strategy provides programs and justice services to more than 400 aboriginal communities across Canada, helping to hold offenders accountable for their actions, increasing awareness of victims issues, and promoting greater youth connection with aboriginal culture and traditions. Over time, they have helped reduce the number of aboriginal people coming into conflict with the justice system. By recommitting and increasing our support to this strategy, the Government of Canada will be better able to continue its partnership with aboriginal communities, service providers, and our provincial and territorial partners.
Mr. Chairman, we have accomplished much in the way of justice legislation, which has been complemented by initiatives and legislation undertaken by my colleagues, the public safety minister Stockwell Day and now Peter Van Loan.
As you know, we have passed into law the comprehensive Tackling Violent Crime Act, which aims to better protect youth from sexual predators, protect society from dangerous offenders, get serious with drug-impaired drivers, and toughen sentencing and bail for those who commit serious gun crimes. We've also increased penalties for those who are convicted of street racing, ended conditional sentences for serious personal injury offences, introduced a national anti-drug strategy, and conducted a cross-Canada review of the youth criminal justice system.
I want to reiterate why we undertook the review of the youth criminal justice system. Many Canadians have told us that serious and violent young offenders are sometimes not held fully accountable under the act. Our government shares the concern, and it has committed to ensuring that youth sentences are proportionate to the seriousness of the crime. We felt that the fifth anniversary of the act provided an opportune time to embark upon a review of how this country deals with its young offenders.
In February 2008, I met with my provincial and territorial colleagues here in Ottawa, which was followed by cross-country round table sessions with youth and partner organizations. I sought the input of provinces and territories because they of course play a key role in administering the act. It was clear that for the majority of non-violent offenders the act is working, but for the small percentage of violent repeat offenders it has not worked. Colleagues, I think it is important to improve Canadians' confidence in the youth justice system, and it is something to which we all must be committed.
Mr. Chairman, we know there are a number of serious violent youth offenders. Some of these offenders have serious mental health issues that require specialized assessment and treatment services. Through the intensive rehabilitation custody and supervision program, or IRCS, the Department of Justice assists provinces and territories in providing these services. We have asked for $11 million in federal funding, from fiscal years 2008 to 2012, to be made available to the provinces and territories.
We have broadened the scope for this funding. Prior to this change, only youths serving an IRCS sentence for serious offences, which include murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, and aggravated assault, received the treatment. Now youth who have similar mental issues and have committed a violent offence involving serious bodily injury, or harm for which an adult would be subject to a maximum of a 14-year penalty, are eligible for this treatment. By providing this funding, we are helping to ensure that some potentially dangerous young offenders will get the treatment they need to reduce the risk they pose to the community. This will not only protect the public but help rehabilitate these youth.
The safety and security of Canadians is a priority for our government, so you can be sure that we will continue to proceed with our agenda, including addressing such issues as identity theft, property crimes, and the growing threat of organized gangs.
The abuse and neglect of older adults is of concern to our government. The federal Department of Justice is pleased to be participating in the federal elder abuse initiative, which was allocated $13 million over three years in budget 2008. The initiative is led by Human Resources and Social Development Canada, and our department's portion will be contributed to that initiative. With the funding, we intend to assist public legal education organizations within the provinces with programs and publications on the legal aspects of elder abuse, as well as fund research on crimes against seniors and on how to raise awareness of elder abuse.
To conclude, I would like to express my appreciation and thanks to you and your committee for all the work you are doing and will do in the future. The Department of Justice is instrumental in the government's work to respond to the needs of Canadians. Our many programs and initiatives require collaboration, of course, with our provincial partners as well as municipalities and other government departments. This collaboration accounts for much of my department's success in responding to the needs of Canadians through our many programs and initiatives. If we're able to keep Canadians safe and improve access to justice, our department will need to continue to receive the funding to do so. As I've demonstrated, these funds have brought results, and I will do my utmost to ensure that these funds will continue to be spent wisely in the service of Canadians.
Thank you very much.
View Greg Thompson Profile
Thank you, Rob.
Through the client list here, I do have specific numbers for you, and we can break them down. We have 219,000 clients. That's including the RCMP disability pension awards. We have 176,000 disability pension awards. About another 8,000 would be the RCMP's share of that caseload, if you will. As well, 103,000 survivors receive the VIP program. So that's a snapshot of our veterans population.
With regard to the average age of a new force veteran coming into the system, I always say it's the age of 34, but it could be 36. The average age of a World War II veteran now is up to 85, soon to be 86. Of course, that was one of the reasons we redesigned some of our programs when we went to the new Veterans Charter, which was introduced by the Liberal government, passed by the previous government, and implemented by ours. That's one of the reasons we moved to that.
In terms of the programs offered, Rob, it's wide and it's varied. Again, I do know that a lot of the emphasis on the new veterans coming into the system very much is on the post-traumatic stress disorder. Those numbers really have escalated in the last number of years. I think Veterans Affairs has responded well to it. We do have a lot of those peer support groups around the country where our veterans can get in and share thoughts, and families can get together.
A lot of that goes on both on and off the bases. Many of our clinics are walk-in. The stigma of walking into a doctor's office or a psychiatrist's office doesn't exist, because they're off-base and many of them are housed in the most unusual places. We're making every effort we can so that when a veteran is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, they can receive that type of treatment in the kind of privacy that they deserve, and eliminate the kind of difficulties that often have been created in the past as a result of receiving that treatment.
I often say that in our society as a whole, anyone who suffers from mental illness suffers in silence. I think we've made great gains, and DND has as well, in bringing the reality out in the public eye. It's more accepted now than it was in the past. People actually seek treatment. There's more of a recognition by the government that we can do more, and we will continue to do more and closely monitor what's going on.
When you compare the numbers in some of the other jurisdictions around the world with the numbers in Canada, you can see that we are blessed with a pretty healthy group of men and women in uniform. I do know that we were talking earlier today about suicide rates in the U.S. military. It's an extremely high number, a frighteningly high number. Our number in the Canadian military, from the statistics that I've received anyway, indicates that suicide within the Canadian military, in the veterans group as a whole--that larger military family, I might say, as a better way of putting it--is actually less than the Canadian average.
I think this is as a result of a number of things that we're doing, and just the quality of the men and women who put on the Canadian uniform. I'd like to believe that some of it is the ongoing work that Veterans Affairs has done with our client base, not to mention National Defence itself.
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