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National dementia strategy one step closer to being a reality

House of Commons health committee to study bill in detail this fall.

A former minister in the Harper government has introduced a bill to create a national dementia strategy ― and it looks likely to pass the House of Commons this fall.

Bill C-233, put forward by the Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Niagara Falls, Rob Nicholson, has now passed second reading. MPs from all parties debated its strengths and weaknesses, voting in favour of the bill just before Parliament rose for the summer in June. Once Parliament returns in the fall, the next step will be for the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health to examine the bill in detail and decide whether any changes should be made. 

The bill, formally entitled the National Strategy for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Act, would call on the federal health minister to work with the provinces and territories to develop a strategy to deal with these chronic diseases.

During discussion on the bill in the House of Commons, the Conservative MP revealed that he lost his father to complications due to Alzheimer’s in 1997.

Nicholson proposes that a national dementia strategy include more investment in research, coordination with international groups fighting dementia, help for the provinces and territories on prevention, as well as diagnostic, treatment and quality of life guidelines.

In addition, the bill would further call on the health minister to set up an advisory board of approximately 15 unpaid members who would regularly meet with and advise the minister in her work. Two years after the bill comes into force, the minister would then be required to report to Parliament on the effectiveness of the national strategy.

Bill C-233, seconded by Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, is supported by the government and considered highly likely to receive third and final reading and eventually become law.

Ironically, Nicholson voted against a bill on a national dementia strategy that was put forward last year by former NDP MP Claude Gravelle. That bill eventually lost by one vote even though it was supported by nine Conservative MPs.

Nicholson told the Hill Times newspaper that Gravelle’s bill was too prescriptive but that it inspired him to create his own vision for a national dementia strategy.

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