MPs demand more federal help as mental-health issues rise on Canada’s farms

OTTAWA — Lawmakers are calling on the federal government to better support Canadian farmers who they say are more at risk of mental-health issues like stress, depression and suicidal thoughts than other segments of the population.

In a new report Tuesday, members of an all-party parliamentary committee made 10 recommendations — including ensuring the government considers and addresses any potential impacts from new policies on the well-being of agricultural producers.

The MPs also recommended the public-awareness campaigns to deal with an increasing number of incidents of intimidation, cyberbullying and threats faced by farmers from people who take issue with their occupations and practices.

The report says farmers struggle with many challenges — such as market volatility, debt, long work days, unpredictable weather and loneliness.

Committee chair and New Brunswick Liberal MP Pat Finnigan says the well-being of farmers is critical because the agriculture sector feeds Canadians and helps drive the entire economy.

Alberta Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen says the incidence of mental-health problems within the farming sector is reaching crisis proportions.

Dreeshen says agriculture producers and their families are increasingly experiencing “high levels of stress, depression and even suicidal thoughts — the causes are many and varied.”

He added that farmers sometimes face hardship from government policies, such as the carbon tax and concessions made in recent trade agreements.

The report is based on testimony from farmers, mental-health experts and government officials.

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