The House of Commons passed NDP MP Charlie Angus' private member’s Motion-456 calling for a national palliative care strategy. Register file photo.

House of Commons adopts Angus motion on palliative care

  • May 28, 2014

OTTAWA - The House of Commons passed NDP MP Charlie Angus' private member’s Motion-456 calling for a national palliative care strategy.

The vote was almost unanimous with only one Bloc Quebecois MP 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 May 28 vote. “This is very important. It says that this government and the federal Parliament of Canada recognize the importance of palliative care and helping find better strategies.

“We expect from this that the government is going to start to show leadership, working with the provinces, working with the medical community and caregivers across the country to find out where are people falling through the cracks, what are the systems that are already in place that are working and if we can replicate those systems, whether they’re in rural or urban parts of the country, in other parts where people are right now not getting proper palliative care,” Angus said.

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops president 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,” the archbishop said. “I hope that the Canadian government will take this sign seriously and will seek to move this project forward in any way possible.”

“The result of the vote on Motion-456 is a powerful sign that the men and women we elected to represent us in Ottawa understand the importance of true compassion and the need to respect the dignity of all Canadians until their natural death,” said COLF director Michele Boulva. “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 re-introduced to the Quebec legislature after the recent provincial election and could pass very soon.

“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.

She said she hoped federal MPs will pressure the government to legally challenge any pro-euthanasia law adopted in Quebec because the Criminal Code is under federal jurisdiction. In the Criminal Code, euthanasia “constitutes culpable homicide,” she added.

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director Alex Schadenberg welcomed the vote as an opportunity to address the spotty nature of palliative care access 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 motion calls for a strategy to bring federal and provincial resources today, acknowledging this “must not be a provincial problem alone,” Schadenberg 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.

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