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QUESTION PERIOD — Ministry of Veterans Affairs

Mental Health

February 15, 2024

Hello, Minister Taylor. Thank you for being here. In response to Senator Richards, you alluded to being aware of the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee report entitled The Time is Now: Granting equitable access to psychedelic-assisted therapies. It contains one recommendation and some very compelling testimony from veterans globally and experts in the field. The recommendation is that Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence, in collaboration with Health Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and applicable provincial and territorial authorities, immediately launch and fund a large-scale research program on psychedelic‑assisted psychotherapy for treating those mental disorders and other conditions identified as potential therapeutic targets for these types of interventions.

We’re still working through the adoption and requesting a government response, but what are your office’s thoughts on and response to this recommendation?

Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P., Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence [ + ]

As I indicated, our collective understanding of treating post‑traumatic stress injuries has certainly evolved over the past number of years. We recognize that treating different types of mental health conditions has evolved and different treatment types are available.

With respect to psilocybin matched with psychotherapy, we recognize that there is a lot of interest. I know that through the Senate but also through some veterans that I have met with.

With respect to the work that is being done, last week I met with Dr. Zacharias, Medical Director of the Chronic Pain Centre of Excellence for Canadian Veterans in Hamilton. I asked him about the research that was being done in the area of psilocybin. He indicated that with respect to the work that he and his colleagues do at the World Health Organization, a lot of international research is being done in the area. I think before we can do anything, though, we have to make sure we have that scientific data in order to ensure it is an appropriate treatment for the men and women who are seeking it. Again, more work needs to be done in this area.

I also recognize that there is some research being done in this area in Canada. I believe a doctor in Toronto — Dr. Wagner, if my memory serves me well — is doing some clinical trials in this area. However, a lot more work still needs to be done in order to better explore the possible benefits of this therapy.

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