Canada’s Minister of Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Takes Questions in Senate

RCMP—Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries—Senate Recommendations on Bill C-7

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Opposition): Thank you, minister, for being here with us today. This morning, in La Presse, we learned about a worrying situation. Post-traumatic stress disorder within the RCMP has increased by 175 per cent in eight years, going from 1,427 cases in 2008 to 2,423 cases in 2011, and nearly 4,000 cases this year. Annabelle Dionne, a member of the RCMP with PTSD, had to be transferred to Ottawa in 2011 so that she could receive the appropriate care. She said that that is just the tip of the iceberg. Members of the RCMP do not always report cases of PTSD for fear of losing their jobs or being passed over for promotion.

The Senate passed Bill C-7, as amended, on June 21. This bill seeks to establish a framework for labour relations and collective bargaining within the RCMP. The Senate proposed amendments to the bill to give members of the RCMP the right to negotiate the most basic issues, such as workplace health and safety; equipment and conduct-related matters, particularly harassment; as well as the use of a real arbitration and reparations process.

However, it seems as though the House of Commons has not done anything about Bill C-7 since the beginning of the session. Twenty-two months after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the RCMP's right to negotiate a collective agreement and five months after the extension your government requested of the Supreme Court has expired, members of the RCMP are still waiting. Minister, can your government clarify its position on Bill C-7, as amended by the Senate? Will the government seek to obtain another extension from the court, will it support Bill C-7 as amended, or will it simply introduce a new bill?

Hon. Ralph Goodale, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness: Your Honour, first let me say thank you for the opportunity from this honourable house to meet with you and to respond to questions. This is a relatively new innovation in our parliamentary system, a good one, and I welcome the opportunity to be here. Thank you for your courtesy.

Honourable senator, I think there were two parts to your question. First the latter part, dealing with Bill C-7, the house disposed of that bill in the month of May or June. The Senate dealt with it extensively, made a number of proposed changes in the draft bill and sent the message back to the house just as Parliament was adjourning for the summer.

My colleague the President of the Treasury Board and I have the Senate recommendations very much under consideration now. We are consulting with the RCMP, the Treasury Board and labour experts in order to come to the best possible conclusions about the Senate's recommendations. I expect to be meeting once again with the President of the Treasury Board in the next short while to determine the exact nature of our response to the recommendations that the Senate has put forward.

We understand that those recommendations were made with the best of intentions. We will try to respond constructively just as quickly as we can, and we certainly thank the Senate for the advice that was given with respect to Bill C-7.

On the issue of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder — the professionals in that field now advise us to describe that condition as post-traumatic stress injuries, PTSI — this is something that the Senate, of course, has worked on in terms of a specific study; so has the House of Commons with another study and report on PTSI.

In my mandate letter, the instruction that I have from the Prime Minister is to develop a comprehensive national strategy dealing with post-traumatic stress injuries as they particularly affect first responders, who are more vulnerable than most to this very serious and debilitating condition. We want to develop the capacity to detect the disorder at a very early stage, to prevent it wherever that is possible, to conduct the necessary research so that we can all fully understand it, to avoid the stigma associated with it and to make the appropriate treatments readily available to all first responders and emergency personnel wherever they function in Canada.

We are at this moment putting together the elements of that strategy. We have benefited from the Senate report and from the house report. We have benefited from a number of national round tables that we held across the country, where we invited all of the practitioners and experts to sit with us and share the value of their expertise. We are putting the elements of the strategy together. It will obviously have financial and budget implications that need to be taken into account, but we're very well advanced with the ideas.

Over the weeks and months immediately ahead, I hope to be in a position to respond not only to the house and to the Senate, but most importantly to that incredibly valuable group of Canadians who are first responders, who stand ready to defend their fellow citizens and to come to their aid in emergency situations. They deserve strong policy and support with respect to PTSI, and that is what the government is determined to deliver. Thank you for your question.

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