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Canada to implement 988 suicide crisis line starting in fall 2023


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The CRTC says it will launch a new emergency crisis number for people in need of immediate mental health or suicide prevention support.

It says starting at the end of November 2023, Canadians will be able to call 988 to be connected to a mental health crisis or suicide prevention service, free of charge.

The Public Health Agency of Canada will decide which group will provide the service, along with the scope of care it will offer.

The move will bring Canada in line with the United States, which launched its 988 service last month.

But the CRTC says it must first transition to 10-digit local dialing across the country.

As it stands, seven-digit local dialing is still the norm in Newfoundland and Labrador, northern Ontario and the Yellowknife area.

The CRTC has given a deadline of May 31, 2023, for service providers to implement 10-digit dialing across the country.

In the meantime, the CRTC notes that people in mental health distress can call Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566.

Todd Doherty, a Conservative member of Parliament from British Columbia who has long advocated for the creation of a three-digit suicide hotline, applauded Wednesday’s decision.

“While the continued delays have been frustrating and unnecessary, today’s announcement is great news and a step in the right direction,” he said in a statement.

He says the hotline will save lives.

“To the countless Canadians who shared your voices and your stories to support this initiative — thank you.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2022.

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Poilievre calls for testing that would allow doctors, nurses to work across Canada

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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference at the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre wing of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, on Sunday, March 19, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is calling for a countrywide standardized testing process that would speed up licence approvals for doctors and nurses.

Poilievre says his proposed “blue seal” testing standard would allow qualified health-care professionals to work in any province or territory that volunteers to be part of the program.

He described his plan at a press conference today, saying a model that allowed professionals to take a test and get an answer within 60 days would address Canada’s ongoing shortage of health-care professionals, such as family doctors and emergency-room nurses.

Under the existing licensing system, each province and territory has its own processes to be licensed as a doctor or nurse.

Poilievre says that means professionals from one province can’t necessarily work in another region, while new immigrants also struggle to obtain the necessary approvals.

He says the “blue seal” model draws on the “red seal” standard for skilled workers in regulated trades that include carpenters, heavy equipment operators and industrial electricians.

“It’s common sense: if you can do the job, you should get the job,” he added during a press conference at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa on Sunday.

“If we had all the doctors that are here today in Canada, but trained abroad, working in our health-care system, we could reduce our doctor shortage by half.”

Poilievre detailed his proposal ahead of the federal government’s latest fiscal blueprint, which is be presented to Parliament on March 28.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2023.

— By David Friend in Toronto

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Federal government announces $80M for critical drug initiative in Alberta

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The city of Edmonton skyline is shown on Wednesday, Feb.15, 2023. The federal government has announced more than $80 million over five years toward the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative in Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Edmonton (CP) – The federal government has announced more than $80 million over five years toward the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative in Edmonton.

The integrated research, development and manufacturing initiative is led by Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation, a not-for-profit organization, in partnership with the University of Alberta.

It is to strengthen Alberta’s biomedical sector and increase the domestic production of critical medicines.

The project is to include a new facility that could produce new and critical medicines, which is touted by both the federal and provincial governments as being the first of its kind in Western Canada.

The 40,000-square-foot facility, which is to be built in Edmonton, is expected to have the capacity to produce 70 million doses annually.

The Alberta government says it provided $5.6 million in 2022 to Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation, which allowed it to secure the additional funding from the federal government.

“Alberta has a vibrant and thriving research, development and manufacturing ecosystem to develop and produce a domestic supply of essential pharmaceuticals with potential to reach global markets,” Nate Glubish, minister of technology and innovation, said in a news release.

“I am proud of the Alberta government’s support of these efforts.”

Dan Vandal, the minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada, added the federal government hopes to help Canadian innovators strengthen the local supply chain for critical medicines and create good jobs in Alberta.

The funding came as welcome news to both the University of Alberta and Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation.

“This support from the government of Canada and the government of Alberta is an absolute game-changer,” Andrew MacIsaac, CEO of Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation, said in a statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2023.

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