February 12, 1934 (17th Parliament, 5th Session)


Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. MURRAY MacLAREN (Minister of Pensions and National Health):

Mr. Speaker, I have listened attentively to the hon. member who has just sat down (Mr. Spencer), and I should like to make a few observations with reference to what he has said.
Taking a broad view of public health, both in the care of the sick and in the matter of sanitation, it is true that a large part rests with the provincial governments, but at the same time this is an incomplete statement of the case. I should like to indicate to the house just w'here the federal government and its Department of National Health enters in an important way into the measures that lead to the improved health of the people of this country. I would direct the attention of the house to an organization known as the Dominion Council of Health. This organiza-Jon meets in Ottawa twice yearly under arrangements made by the federal government. It is composed of fifteen members which include a health officer from each province, representatives of agriculture and women's organizations, as well as a specialist in public health. I direct the attention of the hon.

member who moved this resolution to the existence of this organization. It represents an attempt on the part of the government to nationalize in a manner the care of the sick and to improve sanitation. It brings together representatives from all the provinces and I think provides an example of cooperation. The fundamental principle in the council is cooperation among the provinces and I believe it meets to a considerable extent one of the matters referred to by the hon. member. In addition to cooperation, it strives to bring about standardization of methods and the adoption of uniform systems of reporting vital statistics, and deals with other important matters. I place this before the house as one effort which has been made by the federal health department to bring about cooperation among the provinces and to add to the efficiency of sanitation.
In discussing public health and its importance I think it is well that we should not fail to recognize the great advances that are now taking place in Canada. Whether you approve of the system or not, the fact is that in recent years there has been a marked advance in sanitation and in the care of the sick. It is true that a large part of that is done under the provinces, but the fact remains that the advances are very marked and very striking. Health units, for instance, have been mentioned. This is an organization of not many years standing, and was especially adopted for the benefit of those living in the country, far from the ordinary medical and nursing facilities. It is an organization that can be highly commended. It is there and it is growing.
I have referred to the council of health as being one method of reaching out through the country and advancing the care of the sick. I should like to mention some others. What is the federal department of health doing to-day in reference to drugs, proprietary and patent medicines, and foods? The work that is going on is very important indeed. The department which I have the honour of administering guards against exaggerated and false claims in regard to drugs that are on sale to the public. That comes under the federal department of health, and I trust that my hon. friend will include it among the important federal activities which are carried on. Proprietary and patent medicines and other medicines of that character must fulfil certain requirements. They must state on their labels the constituent or potent drugs which enter into their composition. It ensures that they do not exceed the proper dosage. It also prevents undue claims being made

Federal Health-Mr. MacLaren
to the public. It protects the public who are so prone to depend on something that holds out to them great hope-cures for tuberculosis, cures for cancer, and so forth. All that work is being quietly but effectively done under the federal department of health to safeguard the people of Canada.
I venture to think that many hon. members may not be conversant with the fact of the connection between radio and the Department of National Health. It has been arranged, and is being carried out satisfactorily, that all radio broadcasting on the question of health and on cures and drugs must first be submitted to the department 6f health to be passed upon before it is broadcast. That has been found to be practical and successful. It is the means of preventing exaggerated advertisements being broadcast over the radio.
My hon. friend also referred to five diseases or five branches of disease in regard to which he thought the federal government should cooperate with the provinces to a greater extent than at present. Let me mention them.
Tuberculosis. Well, the government has for many years assisted in supporting the national organization for the prevention of tuberculosis -not spending an enormous sum, it is true, but still it has supported and is represented on that organization. Every endeavour has been made by the department to increase the influence of the organization in dealing with tuberculosis.
Then there is cancer. The federal government is not taking any special action in regard to cancer, but we know that during the last few years in almost every province extensive expenditures have been made for the purchase of radium. We are aware that the province of Ontario especially has developed cancer clinics, equipped with radium, where the work is going on in a very important way. It seems to me that the important thing is to have the matter dealt with properly and efficiently, even if it is not done under the federal department, and that work is being done efficiently.
As regards venereal disease, one must not forget that the federal government, because of its desire to help on that movement, made substantial grants for a number of years for dealing with venereal disease. A grant of over 8100,000 a year was made for a number of years to assist that movement and put it on its feet.

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