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Palliative care Bill C-277 passes unanimously to Health Committee

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

02/08/2017

OTTAWA (CCN) — Bill C-277 calling for a national palliative care framework passed the House of Commons unanimously Jan. 31 and now goes to the Health Committee for consideration.

“We’re grateful to MP Marilyn Gladu for introducing this much-needed bill,” said Campaign Life Coalition Ottawa lobbyist Johanne Brownrigg. Campaign Life was among numerous groups that support the bill, including the Catholic Women’s League, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family and an interfaith coalition that included the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“She knows we support it entirely,” said Brownrigg. “Hopefully the committee recognizes the need for palliative care, now more than ever.”

“I’m pleased to see everybody come together to do the right thing for Canadians,” said Gladu the day after the bill passed second reading.

“There are a few amendments that they want to see: one to include First Nations on the bill and the second is to make sure they are clear on provincial jurisdiction and federal jurisdiction issues,” she said.

Gladu acknowledged the Health Committee already has a lot on its agenda, including a study of the opioid crisis, and a study of the impact of violent online pornography, but she expects her bill won’t get delayed.

“Palliative care is a priority and I think you can see from the discussion and the all-party support we got last night,” she said. “People see this as a priority. We have to move. There’s money in the budget so I think it’s time for action.”

Gladu, who was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015 as the Conservative MP for Sarnia-Lambton, Ont., said she carefully consulted across the aisle with all parties to craft her bill, and relied heavily on the findings of the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Palliative Care that released a 2011 report calling for a national palliative care strategy, suicide prevention and elder abuse prevention.

“I would like to congratulate the member for Sarnia-Lambton for following up on the committee’s work with this important initiative,” Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia, an original member of the All-Party committee, told the House Feb. 1.

“Unfortunately, it is not within federal jurisdiction to give, or require provinces and territories to give, access to palliative care,” he said. “That said, the federal government is well placed to support the efforts of the provinces and territories and stakeholder organizations, by focusing on aligning and extending federal levers in relation to health care system improvements.”

But he noted the government can use leverage to make palliative care funding part of its health agreements with the provinces.

“Given the federal government’s duty to the First Nations communities, it is essential that they be at the discussion table to express their needs,” said NDP MP Christine Moore during the debate. “In addition, there are enormous needs for palliative care in indigenous communities, because there are virtually no projects. Often the communities are too small, so the feeling is that resources cannot be allocated specifically to palliative care.”

In the closing remarks of her second and final hour of debate on the bill, Gladu pointed out only 30 per cent of Canadians have access to palliative care “that allows them to choose to live as well as they can for as long as they can.”

“Bill C-277 is the next action required to define the services to be covered, to bring standard training requirements to the various levels of care providers, to come with a plan and mechanism to ensure consistent access for all Canadians, and to collect the data to ensure success,” she said. “Canada has an ever-growing number of individuals of all ages experiencing chronic and terminal conditions. Good palliative care covers a wide range of services, as we have heard, such as acute care, hospice care, home care, crisis care, and spiritual and psychological counselling.”

After going through the Health Committee, the bill, with any amendments, will come back to the House of Commons for a vote on third reading before passing over to the Senate.

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