Moments before he was set to discuss his post-traumatic stress disorder Bill C-211 with the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence Monday afternoon, MP Todd Doherty received word another paramedic had taken his life.
“I got another message about another paramedic and veteran who took his life yesterday and when I was in my office on Sunday writing my presentation I got a text message about another paramedic that took their life,” the Cariboo Prince George MP told the Tribune.
“I get these messages every single day.”
Doherty said he told the Senate it has been 353 days since 254 members of parliament stood and passed the Bill C-211 unanimously and it’s just languished all that time while there have been countless lives lost.
“When I was talking to the Senate Committee, behind me I had Mary and Stephen Rix and today is the one-year anniversary of when their son Christopher Rix, a Peel paramedic of almost 20 years, took his life. They were here in Ottawa on June 16 last year when the bill was passed only days after their son had killed himself.”
Doherty said he told the Senators if they don’t think his bill will save lives, they should talk to the Rixes because they will tell them it would have saved their son’s life.
Aside from Doherty, several others addressed the Senate, including Dr. Patrick Baillie, president of the Canadian Psychological Association and Colonel Colleen Forestier, director of Mental Health, Canadian Forces.
A few hours after talking with the Senate, Doherty said he received a message that the Senate plans to go through the bill clause by clause on Monday, June 11.
“That’s good,” he said. “Hopefully there are no amendments, because if they tinker with it my fear is the government will squash it.”
Additionally, he said he fears if it is delayed much more, and does not get passed before summer break that might be the end of it.
“Things are pretty crazy here right now on both sides of the house. We are doing a four-hour voting marathon on 33 votes we have to do. We are sitting to beyond midnight every night and people are testy.”
Doherty said he built the bill so that it could get passed because people would see that it made sense and then the ministers could work on it and develop the framework and decide who is included outside of firefighters, first responders, police officers and veterans.
“I tried to convey that to the senators today and it really sits in the hands of all of them right now,” he said. “Senate is pretty up and down right now. We won’t give up hope and will keep fighting because we have too much invested.”
Canada could very well be one of the very first countries to have such a bill, if it is passed, he added.
“It is unique and other countries are watching us to see how we handle this because it hasn’t been done. I was invited to speak at an international summit for first responders and police officer in Washington, D.C. on my bill because Australia, U.S., United Kingdom are watching how we do this.”
Many times politicians at the highest level don’t understand PTSD and are not brave enough to take that step and push it, he added.
Doherty just returned to work Monday after recuperating from medical issues in January.
He had gone back three and a half weeks ago, but ended up in and out of the hospital.
“Last week I got a full bill of health, I just have to remember to take it easy.”