Parliament to Study Environmental Illness
UPdate   Fall, 1999

     A national lobbying effort led by the Environmental Illness Society of Canada (EISC) and its sister organizations, including the NSAEHA, has resulted in a political breakthrough in recognition of environmental illness in Canada.
     In May, a private member’s bill introduced by Liberal back bencher Mac Harb went before the House of Commons.  Motion M-468 read, “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should recognize (a) multiple chemical sensitivity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and firbomyalgia as illnesses that have the capacity to cause disability; and (b) those suffering the disabling aspect of these diseases require protection and a strong moral commitment to their well-being.”
     Harb had the support of his party, and the motion also received support from the NDP, the Bloc Populaire, the PCs and Grant Hill, Reform Health Critic.
     On May 27 the motion went to a subcommittee of the House Affairs and Procedures Committee.  In the subcommittee, whose minutes are not published, Reform MP Deborah Gray argued that M-468 was not a voteable motion, although it could be debated.  She contended that it would create new expenses.  House rules state that no new money can be spent as a result of private member’s motions.  Supporters of M-468 believe it involved no new money, merely equitable access to existing programs.  (Ironically, only a few months later, Gray demanded that the Gulf War Veterans suffering from environmental illness should have recognition and access to programs and pensions.)
     At the end of the debate a new motion was put forward and adopted unanimously, referring the matter of CFS-FM-MCS to the Standing House Committee of Health for in-depth study.
     Judith Spence, EISC President, was elated with the results.  “We didn’t get the original motion passed, but we have already accomplished our next objective, which was to get the matter to the Standing Committee on Health.  We wanted this issue on the national agenda.  Now it is.”
     The Standing Committee must make a report to the House of Commons, and the House must respond to the report.

      The EISC and related provincial organizations are already planning submissions to the Standing Committee.  They plan to look at a broad range of issues relating to CFS-FM-MSC including schooling, pensions, safe work place, accommodations, women with disabilities, testing and treatment, support for family units and respite facilities.  They hope that individuals making input to the Committee will either make their submissions through the EISC or its sister organizations, or copy any submission to the EISC.  House Committee Chair is Joe Volpe, MP.

      Estimates are that CFS-FM-MCS afflict between 6-15 per cent of Canadians.  Six per cent of Canadians are reported to experience allergy and sensitivity reactions every day.  Of these, 1-2 per cent are severely debilitated and are unable to work or even leave their homes.