Hon. Percy E. Downe:
Honourable senators, as Children’s Vision Health Month draws to a close, this is a timely opportunity to consider the gift of vision and the importance of working towards improving blindness prevention and eye care for all Canadians, especially our young people.
To say that vision health is important is to state the obvious. In fact, it is to understate it. A public opinion survey has indicated that vision loss is the disability most feared by Canadians, a fear surely increased when it comes to our children. However, its impact goes beyond the personal. Vision problems in children, particularly if untreated, can quickly lead to learning difficulties.
Classroom learning is mostly visual. Just think back to your own time in school. How much time did you spend studying a book or looking at the blackboard? A child who cannot see well cannot learn well, and that can have repercussions throughout their lives, both for them and for society as a whole.
This problem first came to my attention during the debate in the Senate over the unregulated sales of cosmetic contact lenses. Such sales, as well as the online sales of prescription eyewear and contacts, seemed to arise from the attitude that such devices were merely harmless consumer products to be purchased in the cheapest and most convenient manner possible, rather than medical devices that should be treated accordingly. Although regulatory improvements have been made, such an attitude persists among some members of the public, unaware of the risks that such a purchase may entail. I only mention this because Halloween is tonight, and with it the potentially dangerous use of unregulated cosmetic contact lenses by young people as part of their costumes.
Children’s Vision Health Month is a time to reflect both upon the personal and the policy aspects of this important topic. Proper vision care for children pays dividends later on, both for those children and for the society to which they will contribute. We must bear this in mind and carry the lessons of Children’s Vision Health Month throughout the year. Thank you, colleagues.