Charlie Angus

Charlie Angus

June 9, 2014

Canada's Catholic bishops, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) and other groups are welcoming the passage of a motion to bring in a national palliative care strategy.

The House of Commons passed NDP MP Charlie Angus private member's Motion 456 May 28 almost unanimously. Only one Bloc Quebecois MP was opposed.

"Today in the House of Commons, we have all main parties, especially the government, standing up on the need to establish a pan-Canadian palliative care strategy," Angus told journalists after the vote.

"It says that this government and the federal Parliament of Canada recognize the importance of palliative care and helping find better strategies."

Angus said the motion should spur the federal government to show leadership on the issue, and work with the provinces, the medical community and others to find gaps in the palliative care system.

It should also lead to the government locating successful programs and replicating them in other regions, he said.

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) president Gatineau Archbishop Paul-André Durocher said he rejoiced at "such a clear signal that gathers voices from all across the country in recognizing the need for good quality care to help people, those who are dying and those who care for them in a way that is consistent with a life ethic."

"I congratulate Mr. Charlie Angus in bringing this forward," Durocher said. "I hope that the Canadian government will take this sign seriously and will seek to move this project forward in any way possible."

Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith also supported Angus' bill in a May 8 statement.


COLF director Michele Boulva said the vote is "a powerful sign" that MPs understand the need to respect the dignity of all Canadians until their natural death.

"Mr. Angus made it clear that his bill did not include euthanasia, and that shows he understands that palliative care never hastens anyone's death and is the answer to end of life challenges, including pain and suffering."

Boulva welcomed the motion in light of the threat posed by Quebec's euthanasia Bill 52 that was recently re-introduced to the Quebec legislature after that province's election.

"My hope now, is that the members of the Québec National Assembly will hear this clear message: 'Yes' to palliative care, 'No' to euthanasia, even if it is called 'medical aid in dying' and will vote against the adoption of Bill 52," said Boulva.


Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director Alex Schadenberg welcomed the vote as an opportunity to address the spotty nature of palliative care across the country.

"In Canada we have some places where we have excellent end-of-life care," he said. "In other places we don't have that."

In order to make sure palliative care is available across the country, there needs to be a national approach, even if health care is under provincial jurisdiction, he said.

The federal government is already supporting the Pallium Project, which trains doctors and nurse practitioners in the proper use of pain medication and symptom management in palliative care, he said.

This means trained doctors and nurses can offer palliative care outside of specialized palliative care wards.

Schadenberg said this program alone substantially expands the capacity.