moved that Bill C-237, An Act to establish a national framework for diabetes, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-237, an act to establish a national framework for diabetes in Canada. I would also like to thank the member for Winnipeg North for seconding the motion to introduce my bill.
I could not be happier to be debating my bill during November, which, as many may know, is Diabetes Awareness Month.
Over 11 million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes. A new case is diagnosed every three minutes and 90% of these cases are type 2, which means they can be prevented through better awareness, education and lifestyle changes. This disease is the cause of 30% of strokes, 40% of heart attacks, 50% of kidney failure requiring dialysis and 70% of non-traumatic low-limb amputations. This is the harsh reality. In the Peel Region alone, which I am proud to call home, the rate of diabetes more than doubled between 1996 and 2015.
Some Canadians are at increased risk of diabetes, including South Asians, the indigenous population and Métis people. We also know that diabetes disproportionately affects Canadians with low incomes and education.
Complex public health challenges, such as chronic diseases like diabetes, cannot be addressed with a single-solution approach. No organization, institution or sector of society acting alone can solve this challenge. All segments of society, including communities, academia, government, the charitable and not-for-profit sectors, and the private sector must work together if we are to be successful. That is why the bill mandates that the Minister of Health work in collaboration with provincial health leaders, indigenous communities and other stakeholders to develop a national framework designed to support improved access to diabetes prevention and treatment to ensure better health outcomes for Canadians.
In many cases, diabetes is preventable. We know that individuals who have a moderate to high level of physical activity, who eat a healthy diet and who do not smoke are 82% less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. Having been a health care professional for over 18 years, I have seen first-hand how a healthy diet, staying active and exercising can all contribute to the prevention of this disease. Let us combat diabetes and its life-threatening complications by making Canadians familiar with diabetes warning signs, encouraging healthy lifestyle choices and making it possible to access the best possible care.
It is estimated that this year the cost of hospital care and drugs for diabetes will amount to approximately $30 billion. This is a massive burden on our public health care system, but the costs do not end there. Whenever a Canadian suffers a stroke or a heart attack, that is an additional cost to our health system that may result in long-term costs. When a Canadian experiences kidney failure that requires dialysis, there is a cost. When a Canadian tragically has to undergo amputation, there is a cost. The secondary costs that diabetes has on our public budget cannot be calculated, but every dollar spent preventing it means greater savings down the line. So many of these complications are preventable with the proper care.
When I was first elected in 2015, it was a goal of mine to bring the issues of Canadians living with diabetes to Ottawa and to elevate the issue of diabetes as a whole. I have been honoured to serve as the chair of the all-party diabetes caucus, where we have heard from diabetes advocates, stakeholders and organizations to gain a better understanding of how the federal government can support Canadians living with diabetes.
In 2017, I travelled extensively to consult with medical professionals and stakeholders about how best to meet the needs of those suffering from diabetes. This gave me even greater insight into how diabetes impacted communities in different regions of Canada. The result of this was the publication of the report, “Defeating Diabetes”, which promotes healthy eating as a prevention method.
That same year, I represented Canada at the Global Diabetes Policy Summit in Rome, Italy, where 38 countries were represented. We spoke about the best way to tackle this growing issue. I also attended the World Congress of Diabetes in Calcutta, where, through engagement with international leaders, we were able to compare research and assess our commitment to the fight against diabetes.
One other important aspect of diabetes I learned on these international travels was how well-respected Canada is on the world stage when it comes to diabetes, especially on the insulin invention. I hope that Canada will continue to be a global leader in the fight to defeat diabetes for years to come.
Locally, I successfully advocated for the City of Brampton to proclaim November as Diabetes Awareness Month and the 14th as Diabetes Day. In 2018, the all-party diabetes caucus engaged fellow parliamentarians to participate in Diabetes Day on the Hill to raise awareness of diabetic risks to Canadians and to build support for an updated comprehensive national diabetes strategy. Our diabetes mobile screening unit was brought in to emphasize prevention and encourage testing. This was an opportunity for all members of Parliament to get first-hand experience in understanding the aspects of diabetes. Nearly a hundred of us accepted the challenge to wear a step counter and log our efforts for 10 days to raise awareness around our health.
This spring, I was able to virtually participate in several meetings and town halls with Diabetes Canada about how Canadians living with diabetes have been affected by COVID-19. While people with diabetes are not more likely to catch COVID-19, if they do get it, adults living with diabetes are at greater risk of developing serious symptoms and complications. More recent data from Alberta shows that 42% of Albertans who have died of COVID-19 also had diabetes. Those who are infected with the virus are more likely to suffer serious cardiac and respiratory complications. They face mortality four times that of those without diabetes.
As many members of the House know, back in the spring of 2019 I was proud to bring forward the unanimously supported motion to declare November as Diabetes Awareness Month in Canada, but there is so much more to do than raise awareness. The World Health Organization recommends that every country implement a national framework for diabetes. Last April, the Standing Committee on Health tabled a report that gave multiple recommendations. Among them the committee asked that the government consider a framework for a diabetes strategy for Canada. This comprehensive report already outlined the steps that the government should take in the fight against diabetes.
When we were undergoing this study, we heard a great deal about the mental health issues that are common among people living with diabetes. Those living with type 2 diabetes are more at risk of depression. We have heard examples of their being stigmatized and bullied. There are overall signs of greater risk of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. At the health committee, we heard from one individual living with diabetes who spoke openly about the anxiety and the stigma she felt around the disease in her family. She said:
In my family, there are 35 diabetics and we don't talk about it. I have to do my blood sugar under the table when I visit my mother. We don't discuss it, and they don't treat.
Last year, I lost my uncle to it because they just won't treat. They won't admit to it. They don't want to deal with it because the stigma is so bad.
There is a strong need to reduce the stigma associated with diabetes. Reducing messaging that blames patients for their diabetes is an important first step to take. Early detection of diabetes can prevent complications and reduce the strain on the health care system.
The health committee also heard some shocking stats about diabetes and indigenous communities. Diabetes rates are three to four times higher among first nations than among the general Canadian population, and many indigenous people are at increased risk of developing diabetes. Furthermore, indigenous individuals are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at a younger age than other individuals. Those living in a first nation community who are in their twenties have an 80% chance of developing the disease during their lifetimes, compared with 50% among the rest of the population of the same age.
The Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association identified several factors as to why this is the case. Geographical isolation, lack of health care services, poor Internet connectivity to facilitate distance care, and reduced access to nutritious food all contribute to the prevalence of diabetes in indigenous communities.
The health committee also recommended the federal government hold discussions with the provinces to explore possible approaches to providing uniform coverage of diabetes-related medications, supplies and equipment, such as lancets, across Canada. As it stands now, each province provides different coverage for different aspects of diabetes treatment, meaning those living with diabetes receive uneven support depending on where they live. All levels of government must work together to find a solution to improve access to a family physician and other health services for people living with diabetes in rural, remote and northern communities.
As I mentioned previously, my community in Brampton and the Peel Region faces a high rate of diabetes compared with the rest of the country. However, locally, we have some true diabetes champions working to reverse this course. I appreciate all of the private sector stakeholders based in Brampton that do phenomenal work helping those with diabetes, such as Medtronic and Dynacare, which provide testing services and advice to help people manage their illness.
The #Dynacare4Diabetes wellness campaign just launched in our city. The goal of this campaign is to encourage Bramptonians to assess their risk and get tested to see if they are at risk of diabetes by providing the A1 test free of charge.
Medtronic is doing commendable work in providing compassionate care for our residents living with diabetes.
I would like to thank Laura Syron, the president of Diabetes Canada, and its federal affairs director, Kimberley Hanson. I have been proud to work alongside them to raise awareness, including helping them with multilingual communications materials for multicultural communities.
I would also like to thank JDRF, Canada's leading type 1 diabetes advocacy organization, for all the support and advice it has provided over the years. It also endorsed my bill.
I am so proud to have support on this bill from organizations and individuals such as the CNIB Foundation, Peel's medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, Dr. Naveed Mohammad of William Osler Health System and many more.
I thank the Brampton City Council, which has officially endorsed this bill.
Canada has repeatedly been the home of some of the biggest breakthroughs in diabetes care and research. Twenty years ago, Dr. Shapiro at the University of Alberta was on the team of researchers that developed the Edmonton protocol and islet transplant procedure, which temporarily reversed diabetes and allowed patients to be insulin independent. Just last week, it was reported that his team may be on its way to finding an actual cure for diabetes. This work is in its early stages.
In 1961, Canadian scientists discovered stem cells, and of course next year will mark the 100th anniversary of Sir Frederick Banting's historic discovery of insulin right here in Canada. Two weeks ago, on World Diabetes Day, I was in London, Ontario to participate in the ceremony to rekindle the Flame of Hope. This flame has been burning brightly and will continue to do so until we find a cure for diabetes. It stands as a symbol of Canadian innovation. I hope it will be a Canadian team of researchers that will one day be able to extinguish this flame.
Bill C-237 would change the lives of the 11 million Canadians living with diabetes from coast to coast to coast. By working together, I am confident that one day we will extinguish the torch at Banting House. Together, I know we will find a way to defeat diabetes.
I encourage all members in the House to join me in supporting the improvement of the lives of millions of Canadians across our country.
Canada gave insulin to the world. There is no reason why we cannot lead the way to defeat diabetes.