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Kirsty Duncan, MP


Speech for Emergency Debate on Ebola Outbreak

Posted on September 16, 2014 | No Comments

I rise tonight to speak about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa where the situation is dire and getting worse every day, where the international response has been inadequate, and where the global community must dramatically scale up its response. The worst Ebola outbreak in history has hit Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and has reached Nigeria and Senegal. It has been blamed for more than 2,200 deaths. Ebola is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of sick patients, making doctors and nurses especially vulnerable to contracting the virus, which has no vaccine or approved treatment. Without immediate international action we are facing the potential for a public health crisis that could claim lives on a scale far greater than the current estimates and set the countries of West Africa back a generation.

As U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said, “This is a perilous crisis but one we can contain if the international community comes together to meet it head on.” As a result, she has asked the 193 UN member states to come to a meeting with concrete commitments to tackle the outbreak, especially in hardest-hit Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Health practitioners and scientists know how to contain Ebola and it is important that we must avoid panic and fear, but our collective response to date has not been sufficient. We must tackle Ebola aggressively and in a coordinated manner.

Very briefly, Ebola virus disease, formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a severe often fatal illness in humans. Outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90% and have primarily occurred in remote villages in Central and West Africa near tropical rainforests. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. Fruit bats of a particular family are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. No licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals.

Our health critic and I first wrote to the Minister of International Development on August 3, 2014, about Ebola and asked, among other requests, whether the government would consider providing additional funding to help fight the Ebola outbreak. We were pleased to see the government provided an additional $5 million in funding on August 8, 2014. I am looking forward to receiving answers to our other questions.

The needs on the ground have changed significantly since the beginning of August and Canada can and should be doing more. At that time, the World Health Organization was asking for $100 million, but it is now asking for $600 million to stop Ebola transmission in affected countries within six to nine months and to prevent the international spread of the virus in West Africa.

Moreover, in many areas of intense transmission the actual number of cases may be two- to fourfold higher than that currently reported, and the aggregate case load of Ebola virus disease cases could exceed 20,000 over the course of this emergency. The top U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official has warned that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has become a real risk to the stability and security of society in the region.

While I recognize Canada’s contributions to date, I would like to know what more the government is considering to assist its international partners to provide aid in the affected regions, particularly as the international response has been inadequate and the world is losing the battle to control Ebola.

The reality is that we need to dramatically scale up international response. Nearly 40% of the total number of reported cases has occurred within the past several weeks. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued an international rescue call for a massive surge in assistance on September 5, warning that “the world can no longer afford to short-change global public health.” Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone need more doctors, nurses, beds, and more equipment.

The European Commission and the U.S. have given more than $250 million in additional funding. The U.S. has a 26-person disaster response team in place, and the U.S. military has trained 230 armed forces of Liberia personnel on the proper use of personal protective equipment, safe handling of patients, securing health sites, and escorting humanitarian and medical personnel. The United States has also sent more than 70 disease control experts to West Africa who are providing technical expertise to national public health institutions and agencies to help protect and prevent the spread of the Ebola virus, and have put in place a second Ebola testing laboratory.

Does the government accept that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has become a real risk to the stability and security of society in the region? Does the government accept that Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone need more doctors, nurses, beds, and equipment?

Does the government accept that the international response has been inadequate and that we need to scale up international response? Is the government considering responding to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s international rescue call and the World Health Organization’s request of $600 million? In light of the United Nation’s international rescue call, will Canada do more to help?

Specifically, how is Canada working with other countries, particularly through the Global Health Security Action Group and the global health security agenda? How is the government working across departments and what specific departments are involved in each of preparedness, response and recovery, and what is the lead agency for each? What specific actions are each of the departments undertaking?

What is the government doing to ensure the safety of Canadians travelling to West Africa to undertake humanitarian work, commerce and trade, and to safeguard the well-being of those who are there now in areas where Ebola is spreading? What guidance is being provided to Canadians before they leave and while in areas in which Ebola has been reported? If they think they have symptoms compatible with Ebola, what should they do upon their return to Canada?

How specifically was the April 18 funding of $1,285,000 used to address the outbreak? How many specialists and in what disciplines did Canada send to work with the World Health Organization and/or to West Africa to help? How specifically was the August 8 funding of $5 million to address the outbreak spent?

What specific plans were put in place to monitor the health of the three-person mobile team from Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Laboratory as they were brought home from Sierra Leone and afterward in voluntary isolation, and for how long were they in isolation?

Although the risk is low, is Canada ready to isolate and care for someone if affected? Does the Public Health Agency of Canada have a public awareness plan to help Canadians understand the prevention, transmission, and signs and symptoms of the disease?

Canada can and must do more. We are asking the government to show leadership in responding to this deadly, devastating outbreak.

As the United Nations said, a humane world cannot allow Africa to suffer on such an extraordinary scale.



Several International Crises That Merit MPs’ Attention

Posted on September 16, 2014 | No Comments

The world has changed since June when the House of Commons rose for the summer. In response to the dramatic displacement crisis in Iraq, the UN declared its fourth level-three humanitarian crisis. The violence with which the Islamic State is terrorizing civilians is heart wrenching. The food security crisis in South Sudan has worsened and we continue to witness violent conflict, cultural and religious strife in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Syria. In addition, we are witnessing an unprecedented outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

MPs, who have spent the summer doing important constituency work, will need to devote some of their attention to these international issues as they return to Ottawa.

The United Nations warns that almost one million South Sudanese children under five years of age will require treatment for acute malnutrition in 2014. In fact, one out of every three people in the country, or the equivalent of 3.9 million people, is estimated to be dangerously food insecure. Close to 2 million people have fled their homes. The United Nations Security Council calls the catastrophic food insecurity situation in South Sudan the worst in the world, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls it the “most rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the world”.

MPs should demand to know whether the Government of Canada will provide a second round of humanitarian funding, particularly as it did not pledge additional funds at the May 2014 donor pledging conference, which raised more than $600 million.

MPs must not turn a blind eye to the suffering in South Sudan, nor can they ignore the conflicts of CAR, Iraq and Syria. MPs have a collective responsibility to protect, and it is urgent.

In CAR, violence against civilians is pervasive despite the deployment of an African Union peacekeeping mission, a European Union military operation, and French forces.

Six months ago, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights asked, “How many more children have to be decapitated, how many more women and girls will be raped, how many more acts of cannibalism must there be, before we really sit up and pay attention?”

By June 2014, over 140,000 people had been killed in CAR; 80 percent of the Muslim population has been driven from their homes or murdered. The fighting had left 2.5 million people, more than half of the total population, needing humanitarian aid. Less than half of the humanitarian response is funded.

MPs should ask whether the Government of Canada will provide additional, non-budgetary, assistance beyond its assessed and financial contributions, and whether it will contribute to the UN peacekeeping mission. Moreover, will the Harper Government send specialized military assets and will it help build the capacity of Francophone African peacekeepers?

MPs should also ask about the security situation in Iraq, which has dramatically deteriorated as a result of ongoing attacks by the Islamic State (IS), which operates on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border, and has declared a caliphate spanning both countries.

IS has demonstrated “absolute and deliberate disregard for human rights”. In response, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the international community to support the government and people of Iraq and “to do all it can to help alleviate the suffering of the population affected by the current conflict in Iraq”.

MPs should question the Government about details of its newly announced military mission, and what is being done to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs). MPs should understand that the Iraqi government must not only confront the security threat posed by IS and other armed groups, but also protect civilians and address the underlying sources of conflict among Shia, Sunnis, Kurds and minorities in Iraq.

And MPs must not forget Syria, where the civil war leaves populations facing mass atrocity crimes committed by state security forces and affiliated militias. Some armed opposition groups are also committing war crimes.

After more than three years of conflict in Syria, over 191,000 people have been killed. There are over 2.9 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries and over 6.5 million IDPs. At least 10.8 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance.

With no end in sight, MPs should ask more forcefully what action the Government of Canada is taking to apply diplomatic pressure towards finding a political solution to the conflict and to increase humanitarian assistance. Moreover, they should ask the Government why it has agreed to resettle only 1,300 refugees.

And finally, MPs should ask about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, affecting five countries. In many areas of intense transmission, the actual number of cases may be two to four fold higher than that currently reported, and the aggregate case load of Ebola virus disease cases could exceed 20,000 over the course of this emergency.

MPs should ask what more the Government is considering to assist its international partners to provide aid in the affected regions, particularly as the international response has been inadequate, and the world is losing the battle to control Ebola. The reality is that we need to dramatically scale up the international response.

MPs must ask about conflicts which “shock the global conscience” and focus their attention and efforts on the most vulnerable, whether in CAR, Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, or Western Africa.

And MPs must ask: is the Government of Canada really doing all it can to help?

We Need a National Strategy for Eating Disorders

Posted on September 16, 2014 | No Comments

The hardest part about being an MP is finding yourself in a situation where you can’t help people who are hurting. I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve gotten from desperate families across Canada this summer looking for help for children suffering from eating disorders.

The calls were all similar: A child had been “thrown out” of care because he or she refused to eat. “What do they expect?” the parents told me. “She has an eating disorder. Where do we go now?”

I wish I had better answers to give them. Some 600,000 to 990,000 Canadians may be suffering from anorexia, binge eating or bulimia. Eating disorders kill an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 Canadians annually.

Canada has no national eating disorder strategy, even though anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate among mental health disorders. Women with anorexia are 12 times more likely to die than women of the same age without the condition.

There are also far too few psychiatrists specializing in eating disorders; nationally, only 12 out of 4,100. Not every province offers the full range of care, from daily care to long-term residential care. In February, Ontario announced the first long-term, publicly-funded residential treatment program in the province — offering, at the moment, 12 beds for children and adolescents. This means at least some Ontarians with eating disorders may no longer be forced to go abroad for private health care, and to return with little follow-up care. But what about the rest of the country?

“The doctor kept saying she was fine,” one mother told me. “You’d think they’d know by now normal-weight teens can have an eating disorder.”

One mother asked me this question: “Do you know what it is like to watch your child fade away before your eyes, and be told, sorry there is no hospital bed?” Several of the families I heard from only received a diagnosis after their children’s friends told them lunches were being thrown out every day, or thrown up in washrooms. “The doctor kept saying she was fine,” one mother told me. “You’d think they’d know by now normal-weight teens can have an eating disorder.”

Canadians living with anorexia, binge eating and bulimia — along with their families, their doctors and other stakeholders — are calling for a pan-Canadian strategy to address eating disorders, including early diagnosis, access to the full range of necessary care, a national registry and a robust research program.

They want the federal government to work with the provinces, territories and stakeholders to develop a centralized database of treatment programs. They also ask that the government work with its counterparts to address challenges in treating eating disorders, such as the inadequate number and uneven distribution of programs across the country, long wait times, and a lack of pan-Canadian, evidence-based treatment standards.

They ask for health system navigators to help steer them through the confusing and overwhelming world in which they are embroiled. They want multidisciplinary care teams, and help in covering the steep cost of treatment.

They want an education campaign to promote public awareness of eating disorders, to beat back stereotypes and stigma, to foster a positive sense of self and counteract unrealistic images of beauty and thinness.

They also ask that the government consider putting in place a national research chair in eating disorders and increase funding for eating disorders research.

And they eagerly await the Status of Women committee report on eating disorders. They want to know whether their pleas have actually been heard, and whether there will be real recommendations to help struggling families — because the status quo is unacceptable.

Petition on Violence Against Women

Posted on September 15, 2014 | No Comments

Ms. Kirsty Duncan (Etobicoke North, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I present a petition that points out women and girls of all ages face violence every day. Violence […]

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When will the Harper government start taking women seriously?

Posted on September 4, 2014 | No Comments

View this and other articles by Kirsty at   There is a question that I have heard repeatedly from women and men, women’s organizations and […]

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Letter to Minister MacKay regarding gender gap among judges

Posted on August 29, 2014 | No Comments

August 29th 2014   The Honourable Peter Gordon Mackay, P.C., Q.C., M.P. Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada 284 Wellington Street Ottawa, Ontario K1A […]

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Letter to Ministers Leitch, Moore and Holder regarding diversity in STEM fields

Posted on August 29, 2014 | No Comments

August 29th 2014   The Honourable James Moore, P.C., M.P. Minister of Industry The Honourable Ed Holder Minister of State for Science and Technology C.D. Howe […]

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Letter to Minister Paradis regarding Ebola in West Africa

Posted on August 5, 2014 | No Comments

August 4 th, 2014   Dear Minister Paradis, We are writing to you in order to ask about Canada’s response regarding the Ebola outbreak in West […]

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Letter to Ministers Baird and Paradis regarding Central African Republic (CAR)

Posted on July 7, 2014 | No Comments

The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P. The Honourable Christian Paradis, P.C., M.P.   Dear Ministers Baird and Paradis, I am writing to you in order to […]

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Letter to Minister Paradis regarding Global Partnership for Education

Posted on June 24, 2014 | No Comments

The Honourable Christian Paradis, P.C., M.P. Minister of International Development Place du Centre, 12th Floor 200 Promenade du Portage Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0G4   Dear Minister […]

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