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Albrecht gets wide support for suicide-prevention bill

Saying suicide shouldn’t be a taboo subject in Canada, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Harold Albrecht led a discussion on bill C300 in the House of Commons, his private member’s bill that he hopes will lead to a national strategy on suicide prevention.

Albrecht said he was encouraged by the discussion and the support he received from all parties in the house.

The bill was seconded by both the Liberals and the NDP. Albrecht said Green Party leader Elizabeth May called his office to offer her support, but by that point the seconding roster was full with 20 names.

“That’s a good signal in terms of the party support. Obviously I won’t assume that every person is necessarily as eager to support it, but it’s an indication of broad-based support,” Albrecht said.

With this bill, Albrecht said his primary goal is to open up debate and discussion on the topic of suicide prevention, and to provide help for groups that are already working in communities across Canada on the issue of suicide prevention.

The MPP said he wants to provide a broader base of support in terms of statistics, offering best practices, and help them get their hands on research to apply to their local context.

“This bill has no intention of telling communities or groups how to do suicide prevention. We have to leave that in the hands of the local communities because local communities understand themselves best,” he added.

Canada is one of the only major developed nations that does not have suicide prevention co-ordination at the national level, Albrecht said. In 2007, more than 3,600 Canadians committed suicide; a number that the MP said is too high.

“The silence around this is what we need to break. We need to be talking about it.”

This is not the first time Albrecht has tabled a bill relating to suicide. When 18-year-old Carlton University student Nadia Kajouji committed suicide in March of 2008 after she was encouraged to do so over the Internet, Albrecht penned bill M388 which sought to amend the criminal code to prevent predators from exploiting vulnerable Canadians online and encouraging suicide.

That bill was passed unanimously on Nov. 18, 2009 and the response that Albrecht received from the public encouraged him to pursue the issue further.

The suicide of 15-year-old James Hubley on Oct. 14 has thrust the issue back into the national spotlight, a fact that Albrecht said could be perceived as both a positive and a negative; positive in that it has gotten people talking about the issue of mental health, but negative because of the loss of yet another promising young Canadian.

“Every suicide death is extremely unfortunate. There is no question that every life is precious, and every suicide is a tragedy; there is no doubt about that.”

Albrecht anticipates another round of discussion about the bill to occur in either late November, early December, or in January once the House resumes.

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