This enactment requires the Minister of Health to convene a conference with the provincial and territorial ministers responsible for health and with representatives of the medical community and patients’ groups for the purpose of developing a national strategy to address the challenges of the recognition and timely diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease. It also authorizes the Minister of Finance to establish guidelines in respect of the allocation of funding to provincial and territorial governments that have enacted legislation to implement that strategy.
Whereas Lyme disease is an illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that is spread to humans and animals through the bite of certain types of ticks and that can have serious consequences if left untreated, including recurring attacks of arthritis and neurological problems;
Whereas the risk of exposure to Lyme disease is highest in parts of southern and southeastern Quebec, southern and eastern Ontario, southeastern Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and much of southern British Columbia;
Whereas numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies have warned that a warming climate will expand the geographic range of Lyme disease-carrying ticks further into Canada, including a 2012 paper by Leighton et al., which states that over 80% of the population in Eastern and Central Canada could be living in areas at risk of Lyme disease by 2020;
Whereas, since 2009, Lyme disease has been a nationally reportable disease in Canada and all medical professionals must report cases of Lyme disease to their provincial public health authority, which in turn provides the data to the Public Health Agency of Canada;
Whereas Canadians will benefit from the establishment of a national standard of care for the treatment of Lyme disease, a coordinated national effort to track the spread of the disease, and increased public education and awareness to better prevent and detect instances of Lyme disease in Canada;
Whereas recent research further demonstrates the persistence of Borrelia spirochetes after antibiotic treatment that follows the guidelines used in Canada (Embers et al., 2012) and indicates that current serology does not adequately describe the diversity of Borrelia bacteria existing in Canada and that the general understanding of, and practices for dealing with, Lyme disease are no longer sufficient or in line with emerging evidence of how the disease operates (Ogden et al., 2011);
Whereas the current guidelines in Canada are based on those in the United States and are so restrictive as to severely limit the diagnosis of acute Lyme disease and deny the existence of continuing infection, thus abandoning sick people with a treatable illness;
And whereas the 2010 report prepared for the Provincial Health Services Authority of British Columbia entitled Chronic Lyme Disease in British Columbia, A Review of Strategic and Policy Issues concluded that current diagnostic testing for Lyme disease is inadequate and advocated placing the highest priority on the development of reliable diagnostic testing for the disease and on educating physicians so they can recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease and treat patients in a manner that is medically appropriate, including treatment with antibiotics as justified;
Now, therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:
1. This Act may be cited as the National Lyme Disease Strategy Act.
2. The following definitions apply in this Act.
“Minister” means the Minister of Health.
“national strategy” means a national strategy to address the challenges of the recognition and timely diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.
“provincial and territorial ministers” means the provincial and territorial ministers responsible for health.
National Lyme Disease Strategy
3. The Minister must, within six months after this Act comes into force, convene a conference with the provincial and territorial ministers and stakeholders, including representatives of the medical community and patients’ groups, for the purpose of developing a comprehensive national strategy that includes
(a) the establishment of a national medical surveillance program to use data collected by the Public Health Agency of Canada to properly track incidence rates and the associated economic costs of Lyme disease;
(b) the establishment of guidelines regarding the prevention, identification, treatment and management of Lyme disease, including a recommended national standard of care that reflects current best practices for the treatment of Lyme disease; and
(c) the creation and distribution of standard-ized educational materials related to Lyme disease, for use by any public health care provider within Canada, designed to increase national awareness about the disease and enhance its prevention, identification, treatment and management.
Preparation and publication of report
4. The Minister must prepare a report that sets out the national strategy and publish the report on the departmental website within one year after the conclusion of the conference referred to in section 3.
Report to Parliament
5. The Minister must cause a copy of the report referred to in section 4 to be laid before each House of Parliament on any of the first 90 days on which that House is sitting after the report has been published on the departmental website.
Provincial and territorial funding
6. The Minister of Finance may, on the advice of the Minister, establish guidelines regarding the allocation of funding, for the purpose of implementing the national strategy, to provincial and territorial governments that have enacted legislation to implement that strategy and have met the criteria prescribed by regulation.
Review and Report
7. The Government of Canada must
(a) complete a review of the effectiveness of the national strategy no later than five years after the day on which the report referred to in section 4 is published on the departmental website; and
(b) table a report on its findings before each House of Parliament within the next ten sitting days after the review is completed.
8. The Governor in Council may make regulations for carrying out the purposes and provisions of this Act.