988: Common-sense, Common Ground Legislation

Earlier this month, I was pleased to co-second Bill C-294.

Bill C-294 An Act to amend the Telecommunications Act (suicide prevention) is the passion project of my Conservative Colleague MP Todd Doherty.

Todd lost a dear friend to suicide when he was a teenager and the experience impacted him deeply. Since then he has been a tireless advocate for mental health and a champion for a national suicide prevention hotline.

Every 24 hours, 11 Canadians take their own lives, and there are 275 suicide attempts. Every year, 4,000 Canadians die by suicide. It is the second-leading cause of death among young people and rising.

COVID-19 has led to an increased need for mental health supports, particularly among young people. Advocates are worried that the anxiety and feelings of social isolation caused by Covid-19 restrictions will lead to a spike in suicide deaths and attempts by Canadian young people.

In response to this disturbing trend, last December, MP’s of all parties unanimously passed a motion in the House of Commons calling for a national three-digit suicide prevention hotline—988—similar to 911.

The motion read as follows:

“That, given that the alarming rate of suicide in Canada constitutes a national health crisis, the House call on the government to take immediate action, in collaboration with our provinces, to establish a national suicide prevention hotline that consolidates all suicide crisis numbers into one easy to remember three-digit (988) hot‐line that is accessible to all Canadians.”

Now, legislation to that effect has been tabled.

Numerous concerned groups have stated their support for this effort including: the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Crisis Service Canada as well as telecommunications providers like Bell, Rogers and Telus.

As MP for Provencher, I have reached out to our municipal leaders and encouraged councils to pass similar motions to add additional confirmation to the Liberal Government to move faster in implementing this important service. A huge thank you to those who have already done so.

988 is a common-sense, common ground and cost-effective program that could literally save Canadian lives. I am proud to support this effort and urge all Canadians to do the same.