Keep the focus on living with dignity

Government needs to follow through on palliative care in Canada

OTTAWA, ON—Member of Parliament Charlie Angus is on a mission. As Parliament reconvenes, this fall, he is determined to hold the government to account on its statement in support of a national palliative care strategy.

“We need the government to sign on and say they are willing to follow through,” says Angus. “The government came out and said they support the motion and believe in [improving access to palliative care], but we need Health Canada and the Minister of Health to start reaching out to their provincial and territorial colleagues to develop a strategy. That hasn’t happened yet and it will take political pressure to turn those words into actions.”

Before the spring break, Parliament voted unanimously (excluding the solitary member of the Bloc Québécois) in favour of Angus’ private member’s motion to develop a pan-Canadian palliative and end-of-life care strategy.

“Because of our aging population, the issue of long-term care is the defining healthcare issue in the 21st century. We have a fragmented array of services across the country and this is the common sense solution that the Canadian Medical Association and other healthcare organizations are saying we need.”

Despite the tremendous support his motion received, Angus says political pressure needs to be maintained, both federally and provincially. He also emphasizes the importance of public education on the issue.

“I find it disturbing right now that euthanasia is such a hot issue, whereas palliative care is not. It seems like such a simple solution and it needs to be discussed first. From talking to the Canadian Medical Association, I learned that palliative care can provide a good solution in 99.9 per cent of the cases. There are always tragic cases, but let’s talk about the 99.9 per cent and establish policy there.”

Where strong palliative and end-of-life care strategies exist, Angus says there are clear results in providing patients more human options, protecting their dignity and the care is also more cost effective. He is urging Canadians to contact their MPs and ask them what they are doing to implement the motion they voted for.

“The faith community has played a huge role in the issue of palliative care. This is a positive issue, not a negative one. We just need to focus on making it happen. Our strength is in the faith communities and with the front-line workers saying, ‘Parliament stood up and made a historic statement on palliative care, when is it going to follow through?’ That’s a reasonable question and it’s a good question to ask.”

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About the author


Senior Correspondent

Craig Macartney lives in Ottawa, Ontario, where he follows global politics and dreams of life in the mission field.

  • Hugh Vincelette

    It is breathtaking to hear of faith based Canadians pusing for adequate palliative care. I suspect the aim is to create palliative care for them at some time in the future. During the worst of the AIDS epidemic; which took 57 good friends, (yes, I can name them); the disdain was tangible. Palliative care would have become a four letter word (opposition to public funds to create palliation at the end of life.) It took the kindness & deep compassion of the Sisters of Providence to counter the appalling disrespect for the dying by conservative Christians , in Vancouver. They insisted that their hospital, St. Paul’s, be the centre for research & treatment of the victims of HIV/AIDS.