Ministerial Question Period: Mental Health and Firearms

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Castle Mountain, Alberta

Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard: Minister Saks, thank you for being here. Corporal Lionel Desmond reported post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms including suicidality, paranoia and homicidal nightmares, and yet two mental health professionals still approved his application for a firearm licence. Dr. Jaffe, an expert witness for the inquiry regarding the deaths of Aaliyah Desmond, Shanna Desmond, Brenda Desmond and Lionel Desmond posthumously identified 20 out of 41 risk factors for domestic homicide in Corporal Desmond.

The report has three strong recommendations regarding mental health and firearms. Minister, will the government commit to Recommendation 23, that “the Office of the Chief Firearms Officer should receive additional funding to facilitate additional and ongoing checks . . .”?

Hon. Ya’ara Saks, P.C., M.P., Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health: Thank you for the question.

What I will say is this: With regard to those commitments, both Minister LeBlanc and Minister Blair would be more well‑suited in terms of the adoption and earmarking of the allocations. However, what I will say is that in my time in Parliament and even before coming to Parliament, I have seen dramatic shifts in how both our military and national policing address stress disorder. They recognize now that they need mechanisms in place to be able to support those in service to our country to protect our communities. They see trauma each and every day. There need to be early warning and prevention systems.

I recently joined Minister LeBlanc at the National Police Federation breakfast, where they shared their data on the implementation of early prevention and surveys that they are doing to help those in the service. I know that, as a government, we are fully committed to make sure that those who serve Canadians are both resilient and well in their work each and every day.

Senator Bernard: Will the government commit to Recommendation 22, which proposes that:

The Chief Firearms Office should, in appropriate cases, place certain licences under review and seek additional medical information, if necessary, to ensure that applicants who have been granted licences are continuing to meet eligibility requirements and maintaining good mental health.

Ms. Saks: Again, I am not the minister of that file to be able to commit to those recommendations.

As the Minister of Mental Health and a member of cabinet, I will certainly encourage my colleagues to prioritize identifying the key prevention tools that must be considered in all of our enforcement and service providers to Canadians.

Mental health preventative measures should be available in every workspace in every workplace, which is why we have a national standards system being drafted right now for exactly that purpose.

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