Remarks by Minister Goodale unveiling Supporting Canada's Public Safety Personnel: An Action Plan on Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries

Speech

April 8, 2019

Good morning everyone. Thank you for joining us today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Peoples, and I'm very pleased to be here with my parliamentary colleagues, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, the Minister of Health, and Karen McCrimmon, my Parliamentary Secretary.

And I'm also proud to stand here today with the leadership of Canada's public safety community.  And so you know who these people are at the front of the room, in no particular order:

  • Chief Charles Bordeleau of the Ottawa Police Service, representing the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police;
  • from the Paramedics Chiefs of Canada, Chief Randy Mellow, President;
  • from the Paramedic Association of Canada, Chris Hood, President;
  • from the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, Chief Ken Block, President;
  • from the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada, Arnold Lazare, who is representing Richard Kent;
  • from the International Association of Fire Fighters – they're meeting right next door, as you probably know – Fred LeBlanc, who is a Vice-President with the IAFF;
  • from the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association, Chief Shayne LaMontagne;
  • from the Canadian Association of Police Governance, Sandy Smallwood, the Vice-President;
  • from the Canadian Police Association, Michael Gendron;
  • from the Canadian Paramedic Association, Tim Stairs;
  • from the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, Bill Bailey, Regional Vice-President;
  • from the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, Jason Godin, President;
  • from the Canadian Institute of Public Safety Research and Treatment, Dr. Nicholas Carleton, Scientific Director;
  • from the Correctional Service of Canada, Nick Fabiano, Assistant Commissioner;
  • from the Canada Border Services Agency, Denis Vinette, Vice-President;
  • from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Jennifer Strachan, Deputy Commissioner;
  • from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Karen Robertson, Deputy Director;
  • from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Christina Cefaloni, Vice-President;
  • from the Canadian Public, from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Anna Romano; and
  • from Veterans Affairs Canada, Dr. Alexandra Heber, Chief of Psychiatry.

It's significant in itself that this collection of expertise from public health and science and from the various services, the public safety services that work so hard on behalf of Canadians, that all of them are together today.  It makes a statement about how important this particular topic is.

Just a few minutes ago, I had the opportunity to address the annual conference of the International Association of Fire Fighters.  The greatest thing about being Canada's Minister of Public Safety is the privilege of working with police officers, firefighters, paramedics, other first responders and emergency workers of all kinds, including those in the agencies that make up my portfolio and far beyond that, and many of them are represented here today.  ;

The work they do every day in every corner of this country to keep us safe is truly impressive, on the front lines, dedicated to helping others even when facing the greatest of dangers themselves.  They might be police or firefighters or paramedics putting their lives on the line to protect yours and mine.  They might be correctional officers or border services officers, search and rescue personnel or emergency managers in Indigenous communities.  They might be volunteers who can and do save lives and lift their communities every day—and I acknowledge that this is now National Volunteer Week in Canada—or they might be behind the scenes, working in intelligence or security or dispatched personnel responding to emergencies.

The pressure, the stress and the strain and the horrific situations that they must confront—all of that is truly enormous.  The bottom line is we simply cannot ask them to do what they do without prioritizing their mental health and well-being.  Support for the Public Safety Community must be high on our national policy agenda.

Post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI) refers to a broad set of mental health injuries that includes those occurring as a direct result of public safety duties on the job.  Tragically for some, it is the ultimate toll, either taking or dramatically altering their lives.  The Government of Canada is resolute in its commitment to supporting the mental health of public safety personnel and we are taking a leadership role in so doing.  Today, with my colleagues, I am very pleased to announce the launch of a national action plan on PTSI.

This plan will support prevention, early intervention, stigma reduction, care and treatment of all types of public safety personnel right across the country.  It will mean a solid approach to funding cutting edge research.  It will help facilitate best practices broadly shared.  It will lay the foundation for better, more accessible treatments.  The action plan builds on recent investments to advance our ability to make evidence-based decisions to support public safety personnel.

That includes $10 million for an internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy pilot project to provide greater access to care and treatment for public safety personnel, especially in rural and remote areas.  Another $10 million is being invested in a 10-year longitudinal study of the mental health of new RCMP recruits just as soon as they arrive at the Depot Training Academy in Regina.  And that longitudinal study will help develop appropriate mental wellness and readiness strategies for both the RCMP and other emergency response organizations.

We're putting a further $20 million toward a new national research consortium on PTSI among public safety personnel between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment.  And of that $20 million, $11 million has already been allocated to specific research projects.  This top quality research is essential to addressing what is, frankly, a scarcity of existing evidence about what treatment and tools work best to deal with PTSI in public safety personnel.  And I note with respect to treatment, the Government of Canada is transferring $5 billion over the next 10 years to our provincial and territorial colleagues to help them bolster their mental health services.

This is something we've worked toward together—I say together, this whole group combined—from the very beginning of our term in office.  We convened our first national roundtable on PTSI at the University of Regina in January of 2016, barely two months after coming into office.  Ironically and tragically, that was just on the heels of the trauma of the deadly mass shooting in La Loche, Saskatchewan.

That roundtable was followed by many other consultations and another national roundtable in Ottawa.  We have involved all of the tri-services, both labour and management, professional and volunteer, all three levels of government and their agencies, Indigenous officers, medical professionals and a great deal of academic expertise, including the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Training, CIPSRT, and many others.  Many of the people who I've just mentioned are here today and I want to acknowledge their work in preparing this action plan and express the gratitude of the Government of Canada.

When it comes to addressing the mental health needs of those who protect us, there is always much more that we can do together.  Today, we are saying in no uncertain terms, that we will not wave off symptoms and diagnoses as simply part of the job.  We are saying that the mental wellness of public safety personnel is not a peripheral concern, but one that is absolutely central to keeping the public safe.  And we are saying that we will never take for granted the safety and well-being of those who protect us each and every day, when they need our help.  We need to be there for them just as they never say no when Canadians call for their strength, skill, courage and help.

My congratulations to everyone who has joined together to achieve this milestone today.


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