Dear Friends and Supporters,
I am writing to inform you that Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, has tabled the Federal Framework on Lyme Disease in Parliament. For many of us, this road has been a long and difficult one.
For me it started almost ten years ago when I met Brenda Sterling in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. I wondered why she was in a wheelchair, and I was shocked it was because of Lyme disease. She told me that the medical system and the government had also insisted she couldn’t have Lyme disease “because we don’t have Lyme disease in Nova Scotia.” Then I moved to southern Vancouver Island and met many more people with Lyme disease and heard the same stories of denial and lack of treatment options. One of my strongest supporters’ son in law was incapacitated by Lyme. I decided that if I were to be elected, a bill for action on Lyme disease would be my priority.
When I tabled Bill C-442, An Act respecting a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease, Nicole Bottles, one of the champions fighting Lyme, and her mom, Chris Powell, travelled to Ottawa to help me introduce the bill. It took nearly 3 years of advocacy to pass the bill. That C-442 passed unanimously through both Houses is a testament to the work of activists, doctors and patients who were tireless in their efforts to educate and bring awareness to the cause of Lyme disease. A year ago, researchers, doctors and patients gathered with public health administrators for a conference that would help inform the Federal Framework. It was incredibly moving for me to see the voices of those patients who, like Nicole, had suffered for years and were only just being heard for the first time.
Now, a year later and following an open consultation period on a draft in March, the Federal Framework has been tabled. You can read the framework here.
So, what does the framework do? Well, it outlines what the federal government can do about combatting Lyme disease over the next five years, given that we know Lyme disease is expected to increase in prevalence due to climate change. It primarily focusses on surveillance, education and awareness, with a particular focus on early detection education for front-line health professionals and public health authorities, and the institution of new guidelines and best practices. This last commitment includes $4 million to establish a Lyme disease research network.
I understand and empathize with those who have been disappointed in this long process. However, I remain heartened and am deeply thankful to Minister Philpott, as well as former Minister Rona Ambrose, for all of their work in implementing my legislation.
We now have this framework as a tool for action. We now have a federal commitment that includes educating doctors about Lyme disease. But, how will this all be implemented? How do we track where the promised $4 million in Lyme research will be targeted? How do we press provincial governments and medical societies to ensure doctors know how to make the clinical diagnosis and provide effective timely treatment? We’re on a road, together, to beating this terrible disease. But it does not end with the publishing of this framework.
This week, the parliamentary Health Committee will meet to hold two hearings on Lyme disease and the new framework, and patients and advocates will once again have an opportunity to effect change. The first of these hearings will take place on Tuesday, and will be available for viewing here.
Thank you again to all of you who have fought so hard to get us to where we are today. I am ever grateful for your continued support.
Elizabeth May, OC
Member of Parliament
Leader of the Green Party of Canada