Second reading of Bill C-284, An Act to establish a national strategy for eye care

By: The Hon. Andrew Cardozo

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Inside the National Gallery of Canada

Hon. Andrew Cardozo: Honourable senators, I have a few comments on Bill C-284. I want to start by acknowledging the sponsor of the bill, Senator Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia, and congratulating the originator of the bill in the House of Commons, the Honourable Judy Sgro, who has put her considerable parliamentary experience toward making this a strong bill.

Also, a shout-out to the following organizations who represent Canadians who are blind: the Canadian Council of the Blind, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Canadian Ophthalmological Society, Fighting Blindness Canada and the OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation.

Canadians from these organizations have called for and helped craft Bill C-284. The full name of the act is Bill C-284, An Act to establish a national strategy for eye care.

As the preamble to this bill notes, “. . . millions of Canadians live with eye disease that could lead to vision loss or blindness if not treated . . .” Eye care is a serious issue. It is thought that 8 million Canadians are living with an eye condition that leaves them at risk of blindness. That is 20% of the population.

A report by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind found that the cost of vision loss to Canada is about $33 billion a year.

It is estimated that 75% of vision loss is preventable, but Canadians are not getting their eyes tested when they should be. Guidelines suggest we should be having annual eye tests, but where provincial and private insurance coverage exists, it is often only for a test every two years. The inevitable consequence is that one third of Canadian adults have not sought vision care because they cannot afford to do so. Prevention is obviously better than cure, and in Canada, we are not doing enough with respect to prevention.

Access to eye care differs from province to province, but if we accept that this is a problem for all Canadians, and a serious one at that, then developing a national strategy is what is needed. We need to get the provincial and federal governments to work together to improve our nation’s eye health care. That’s what this bill is about — cooperation, planning and coordination.

I want to read briefly from the website of the Canadian Council of the Blind:

Bill C-284 has come far, but much still needs to be done. The imminent passage of this Bill —

 — they are quite optimistic —

— promises improved quality of life for many and signifies a commitment to equality and accessibility in eye care services. Collaborative efforts with vision organizations underscore the collective call for fairness. In essence, Bill C-284 is not just legislation; it’s a pivotal step toward a more inclusive and efficient eye care system for all Canadians.

Honourable senators, that is why I am supporting Bill C-284, the national strategy for eye care act. Thank you.

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