National Physicians’ Day

An Act respecting National Physicians’ Day

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Report stage (House), as of June 5, 2019
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment designates May 1 as “National Physicians’ Day”.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

National Physicians’ DayPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2019 / 11:05 a.m.
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Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

moved that Bill S-248, an act respecting national physicians’ day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs for seconding this bill.

It is a pleasure to stand here to speak to a very simple, short, one-line bill, which says that we would like to name May 1 as “national physicians' day”. Why would it be the first of May? It is because May 1 was the birth of the first female physician, in the 1800s. She graduated in New York and came to live here because she was a Canadian woman from Toronto. Her name was Dr. Emily Stowe. She was not able to study here, so she had to go to New York to get her medical degree. Therefore, the medical profession would like her birthday to be the day that we celebrate national physicians' day.

Not only did Dr. Emily Stowe come back here to become a very prominent suffragette, but she also helped to create what we now call the Women’s College Hospital, so that women, unlike herself, could now study in Canada. That is one of the reasons we are naming it national physicians' day on May 1, because of Emily Stowe.

However, I want to talk about why there should be a physicians' day. I am a physician. I studied medicine in Dublin, Ireland. I came to live here in Canada. I practised medicine for 23 years, delivering over 800 babies. That was a remarkably wondrous time in my career, because I loved delivering babies. I loved getting up at two o'clock in the morning and rushing out to deliver a baby. It was always a great feeling, but sometimes it was not.

Sometimes babies were born with problems. That was really hard, after working with a mother for nine months, to get to the point of knowing what she was facing with the birth of her child. Physicians do that every day. They see that people get sick. Sometimes we cannot help people. All in all, that is how physicians spend their days. I do not think there is anybody in this place who has not at some time or another seen a physician.

For me, being a physician was a remarkable time in my life. However, I want to point out how many physicians not only look after patients to try to prevent them from getting sick, but also look after patients when they are dying or going through difficulties with Alzheimer's disease. That is what physicians do.

There are still physicians in this country who are making house calls. There are about a million house calls a day in this country made by physicians. It was something that I liked to do, because I got to visit my patient's house. I saw the way that they lived, and it helped me to understand better what was going on in their lives.

As physicians, we are not only involved in healing the sick, helping people to get better and preventing people from getting ill, but advocacy is a major thing for physicians. When I was a member of the British Columbia medical association, we worked really hard to get infant seat restraints. We pulled all kinds of stunts to get the government of British Columbia to enforce them. In fact, we had a poster that said, “Did you belt your kid today?”, and there was a Canadian seatbelt sitting in his or her little chair. We also worked hard to get people to wear bicycle helmets. We were again trying to make people take notice. There was someone riding a bicycle with a watermelon that fell off and splattered, and it said, “You have to wear a helmet. Protect your melon.”

There are all kinds of things that one had to do as a physician to move that agenda forward, to try to speak for patients. Many times patients are vulnerable and do not have a voice to speak for themselves. This, for me, is the essence of being a physician. It is not just studying for seven years and then doing two years of residency and finally practising medicine. I knew all about the science of medicine, but it is my patients who taught me the art of medicine. It is my patients who helped me to understand what being a physician was really about. It is going to bat for your patients and trying to get the best for them. Considering the best interests of your patients is one of the things that we believe in as physicians.

Then, of course, my patients also taught me. Patients taught me not to judge them but rather to help and do my best for them, regardless of my religious or moral beliefs. It was not about that; it was about doing the best for my patients. It was to support them through all of their decision-making to help make their lives better.

As a family doctor, it was about getting to know the patient's family. It was about making sure that we knew that the family itself was at the heart of what made the patient tick, what made the patient who he or she was. Sometimes when we were trying to deal with a patient's ailment, we had to deal with the family. We had to look at the family dynamics. We had to do the kind of stuff that we never think physicians have to do.

That is why I want to talk about some physicians I know very well in British Columbia, who have put themselves on the line. They do not get paid for it, but they push hard. I want to talk about Dr. Julio Montaner, from the Downtown Eastside, where he has worked with people who are addicted, who have overdosed and who have HIV-AIDS or hepatitis C. All of those people that the world tends to forget or are judgmental about, he has put himself on the line for, pushing for those things.

Dr. Jerilynn Prior, who is a friend of mine and a colleague, at one time pushed for women to take folic acid so that their children would not be born with spinal injuries. Today, she is pushing for dying with dignity, as she herself is in a wheelchair with an intractable disease.

I could go on and on about all of the things that physicians do other than just looking at us when we are sick.

I know how many funerals I have attended as a physician, how many births and many marriages. I know how many women have called me in the middle of the night because they were scared. They were locked in their bathroom because their husband was outside screaming at them with a baseball bat because he had come home after drinking too much. Sometimes, I have found them places to keep them safe.

For me, this is what a physician is about. Therefore, we are asking for everyone in this House to support the concept that on one day in the year we celebrate physicians for the work they do, their integration into our families and lives, and to ensure that this country has physicians. Family physicians take care of about three-quarters of patients and their needs.

We talk about gender equality a lot in this House. Two-thirds of family physicians are women. We now see them enrolling in university to study medicine and graduating across the board as specialists and the like. In fact, we now have about 45% of women who are physicians. Therefore, we have come full circle, in talking about how being a physician is really important, how many of us depend on physicians when we are helpless or in need and the trust that we put in physicians. Being a doctor is one of the most-trusted professions in the world. I think that this tells of the relationship we want to celebrate when we talk about physicians day on May 1.

Therefore, I hope I can get support from this whole House to designate May 1—and perhaps, because I know it is just around the corner, this coming May 1—as the day we stand in this House to declare the very first national physicians' day.

National Physicians’ DayPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2019 / 11:10 a.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be able to participate in today's discussion, as it is less of a debate, I believe.

As noted, Dr. Emily Stowe was Canada's first female physician. Obviously, this day and notation in Canadian history is important, not only for physicians but also for the women's suffrage movement. Dr. Stowe was well versed and capable. However, she had to get her medical accreditation in the United States before it was accepted later on here in Canada.

I would like to ask my colleague this. What does her government intend to do to help budget for some fairly robust education and discussion with respect to improving the lives of women in Canadian society? Her case is one of unfinished business. According to the member's discussion this morning, we still have women coming to doctors who are physically abused by men. Dr. Emily Stowe pushed for the women's movements on voting and inclusion. I think it would be appropriate that the government include some resources to educate Canadians about this important day, which we will hopefully recognize.

National Physicians’ DayPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2019 / 11:10 a.m.
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Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, educating Canadians about the importance of women in medicine and the work that Dr. Emily Stowe did are important parts of what we are hoping to bring to the fore when we talk about May 1, which was Emily Stowe's birthday. Today, over 60% who are enrolling in medical school are women. We see that 50% of family doctors are women, over 45% of those going into medical specialties are women.

Women bring a very different perspective to practising medicine. They bring a humanity to it, which male colleagues do as well, but women see the world from a different perspective. There is a joke that there are more women patients than men, and so women understand what it is like to be a patient. They understand the needs of the patient better.

I am hoping that as we talk about Emily Stowe, we are talking about the fact that physicians are not just healers or there to prevent us from getting sick, but they are probably the best advocates we can have for those in poverty, the vulnerable and those whom society shuns. All of my physician colleagues go to bat on these issues. They do not get paid for it, but they do so because they know that it is important for the well-being of society and the patient.

National Physicians’ DayPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2019 / 11:10 a.m.
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Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, as there are many Dr. Wongs in my family, I recognize that the bill before us is a great move.

As society in our nation is aging, and as a former minister for seniors, I care about the health of seniors and the need for more doctors. It is difficult to even find family doctors now. I have finally found a much younger family doctor than me, and by the time she retires, I may still be alive. I need that.

My question is about foreign credential recognition. As the member mentioned, even the person we are honouring right now did not get her credentials from the United States recognized here.

Looking at the multicultural demographics, we are aging together and we need a lot of physicians. What is the government doing about foreign recognition for physicians who are trained overseas?

National Physicians’ DayPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2019 / 11:15 a.m.
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Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that my colleague asked that question. Under a former Liberal government, it was my duty to look at the barriers that stood in the way of people who trained in foreign countries coming here to practise medicine.

Fortunately, or unfortunately in some cases, it is out of our hands, as the colleges set the criteria for how a physician is trained and what training is needed. First, a person would have to pass the board exams when coming to this country, so that the college can verify they are fit to practise medicine here.

There is also the issue of speaking the language well. Being a physician does not mean just saying hello and how are you in English or French and nothing else. The intricacy of the relationship between the patient and the physician requires good language skills. Under that Liberal government, this was something we had put money into. I understand that money is still there. There was over $20 million for what we call “advanced language training”.

Of course, people also need to find a practice here. Therefore, we were looking at how we could get them into clinics where they could train for about four months, to understand how Canadians practise medicine and what the ethics and rules are. This is a very important thing.

National Physicians’ DayPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2019 / 11:15 a.m.
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Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for introducing this bill in the House.

When the member was giving her speech about the care by doctors, I was reminded of Dr. Kara Laing, who attended to my wife when she was sick with cancer in early 2000. Dr. Laing was special. She would always make a point of asking how I was, how our son was. To the point that the member mentioned, she showed up to the funeral home to make sure we were all okay.

Recognizing physicians is a great thing to do, but I wonder if the member could explain what we should be doing more of in order to attract physicians to the rural areas of our country.

National Physicians’ DayPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2019 / 11:15 a.m.
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Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has asked an important question. One reason physicians do not want to go to rural areas is that it is difficult to get replacements, so they are on call literally 24/7 and cannot leave. As we know, every year physicians have to upgrade their skills. They have to have continuing medical education, because things change rapidly in the care of patients. Almost every three months, something new is going on. That is one of the problems. As well, they want to be able to send their children to university, and sometimes they want something close by, which is not always possible.

Some provinces are trying to use incentives to help physicians stay there. They are trying to get people to take over when they need to leave to continue their medical education, and they are trying to allow them to get support from tertiary care centres through telemedicine. A lot of that is happening, which is going to help people.

A lot of young people do not seem to want to go into medicine anymore, mainly because of the hours, the stress and the time to have interpersonal relationships with patients, which demands a lot of emotional strength and support. We are hearing that physicians are rapidly burning out.

I hope people who are listening to this debate will say that they want their kids to be physicians one day and maybe start bellying up to the bar to do that kind of thing.

National Physicians’ DayPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2019 / 11:15 a.m.
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Richard Martel Conservative Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we begin our week, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-248, an act respecting national physicians’ day. My Conservative colleagues and I support this bill.

Physicians are a crucial part of our health and social services network. They lead medical teams and take on a lot of responsibility. When it comes to doctors, people have very high expectations. Many doctors are leaders. The people of my wonderful riding, Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, are fortunate to have been inspired by a number of doctors, including Dr. Stanley Vollant while he was with general surgery services at the Chicoutimi health and social services centre.

Dr. Vollant is a deeply compassionate person. I know him very well and enjoyed many conversations with him while I was working in Baie-Comeau. He is the first indigenous surgeon in Quebec and the second in Canada. In 2010, he began the Innu Meshkenu, a 6,000-kilometre trek along the trails trodden by his ancestors, to share his message of hope and perseverance with young indigenous people.

He reminds us that we must invest to develop the full potential of young people so that they never give up on their dreams. He believes that a large part of the health care budget should go toward education. Through his words and his actions, he is sharing a message of pride in indigenous culture and of the importance of staying in school and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention the participation of the Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec in the Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, a man from my riding, and Dr. Dominic Gagnon's determined promotion of healthy living. The Grand défi Pierre Lavoie is a 1,000-kilometre cycling marathon over 60 continuous hours from Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean to Montreal to promote healthy living.

The Grand défi Pierre Lavoie also funds a foundation by the same name, which seeks to develop, support and promote any activity that encourages people, particularly youth, to adopt a more active lifestyle. Physical activity is a great way to prevent many major diseases. The aging population and the rise in obesity will impact social services and health. I join with the foundation in stating that curative care is just one part of the solution. Prevention is the other.

The benefits of a healthy lifestyle are not simply limited to weight management. They play an important role in the prevention of certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases, stress management, and fostering well-being and self-esteem as well as the ability to focus and learn.

Working in health care is becoming increasingly complex. We need the leadership of doctors. I appreciate and acknowledge the leadership of my colleague from Simcoe—Grey. She is a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon and a parliamentarian. She continued to practice medicine while an MP. She did not hesitate to go to Nepal in 2015, not as a government representative but to offer her know-how in an effort to help the victims of recent earthquakes.

As I was saying, there have been many changes in medicine, especially technological changes. Could the use of artificial intelligence ultimately eliminate the radiology profession? Scientific research improves treatment effectiveness. Then there are social changes. Canada has an aging population. One in four people will soon be a senior. Health care, like so many other fields, is grappling with a labour shortage. There is also a shift in ethics. On June 17, 2016, Canada passed legislation on medical assistance in dying. There there are physical changes. Bacteria are increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

When we recognize the contribution of doctors and their leadership, we also recognize the work of all stakeholders in the health sector.

These changes underscore the importance of teamwork and greater responsibility and knowledge sharing. In health care, every person has a role to play. Everyone contributes.

This bill would designate May 1 as national physicians' day. During the week of May 12, we honour nurses for the work they do. As team leaders, physicians have to deal with a lot of pressure and meet numerous modern-day challenges.

Canada's emergency rooms are often full to bursting, and patients can spend a long time waiting. Because of the aging population, our communities' needs are growing, especially the need for palliative care. More and more Canadians are requesting medical assistance in dying. Physicians are running up against “Dr. Google” as patients research their symptoms online to come up with their own diagnoses. The Internet and misinformation also increase the pressure on physicians. The World Health Organization lists vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to world health in 2019. People are more afraid of the vaccines themselves than the diseases. Anthropologist Heidi J. Larson, an expert in risk science at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, warns that the next major outbreak could be caused by misinformation. Some people also believe that doctors are paid too much. The media attacks doctors for salary increases granted by the Quebec government. Changes made to the tax system during this Parliament have penalized doctors, unfairly tarring them with the same brush as taxpayers who use aggressive tax planning.

Incidentally, these tax changes also threaten the forestry co-operatives that are so common in the regions of Quebec.

This can upset the fiscal balance relative to that of the United States. We need to show greater support for our physicians, so they are less inclined to go and practise their profession in the U.S.

The professional oath of the Collège des médecins du Québec stipulates that physicians must discharge their professional obligations towards all patients with competence, integrity and loyalty. Their professional conduct must comply with the principles of the code of ethics. They must be loyal to their profession and respect their colleagues, and always behave in keeping with the honour and dignity of the profession.

The member for Markham—Stouffville did not want to leave her position at Treasury Board. She was even more upset when she was kicked out of the Liberal caucus. Some members have publicly accused her of disloyalty. She was the victim of attacks based on inaccuracies and falsehoods. As a physician and an MP, she aimed to improve the lives of Canadians. She upheld her fundamental values, her ethical responsibilities and her obligations. Now she is paying dearly for that.

This government definitely needs to recognize national physicians' day. These individuals are true community leaders. Many of them are very involved in their communities. They are economic drivers in smaller communities and, more importantly, they save lives.

National Physicians’ DayPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2019 / 11:25 a.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise on Bill S-248, an act respecting national physicians’ day.

May 1 would be recognized as national physicians' day. It would be done in memory, which is important for this discussion, of Dr. Emily Stowe, who has been declared one of Canada's heroes. She not only advocated for women's rights but patient rights and the women's movement in general. For her to do this type of trail-blazing was nothing short of incredible. In fact, this bill's having its day on her birthday is very significant and I am quite honoured to talk about that, because the two very much go together.

When we think of how physicians assist patients unconditionally every single day in our society, what they contribute, the difference they make in society and the repercussions of it, whether it be an injury, a workplace accident or violence against people, they see men, women, neighbours, family members, colleagues and fellow citizens from coast to coast to coast and deal with the ramifications, be they health issues that naturally occur because of body changes, repercussions related to the environments people are exposed to, accidents or violence perpetrated against them.

I can speak to the humility of these individuals. I am a PSW, personal support worker, and have experienced some of my most humbling moments while assisting people in vulnerable states, being the last person they see or the only person available to them to get information and try to assist. It can involve things as simple as medication or much more significant things relating to infections and other problems. I would be remiss if we did not talk about the mental health requirements, not only for this occupation but for what doctors deal with in the general population.

Dr. Stowe was an interesting case with regard to Canadian society. To this day, there has not been any type of resolution to equality of any significance. Women still receive less pay than their male counterparts. Women are still subjected to higher rates of violence. Women are still under-represented on corporate boards, not-for-profit organizations and professions. Dr. Stowe actually had to go beyond our borders to make a difference in our country, which, in some respects, sadly, is the case even to this day.

As an example, Dr. Stowe went to the United States to get her medical credentials and professional training, only to return to Canada to have her credentials denied. She fought and eventually had them recognized as part of her accreditation. Ontario and Nova Scotia have already recognized her contributions. As part of her legacy and as a role model for others in our our country, she subsequently went on to work within the women's movement for the right to vote. She became involved in the suffrage movement, which is so important to the national fabric of our country.

This is unfinished business for Canadian society, even today. This legislation would ensure there is a connection between the two in terms of family physicians. Dr. Stowe is very important because there is undoubtedly a connection that should be acknowledged and celebrated and it should be on May 1 that we recognize we need to continue to work on that unfinished business.

Family physicians and other specialized physicians mark our communities very much and in many ways. One could argue that as Canada was settled as a nation, their very presence formed civil societies because of their consistency in being able to serve, whether it was in preventing diseases or assisting individuals with issues related to infections, injuries or birthing. All those different things created the centerpiece for many of our now urban cities. Most importantly, it continues today within our civilization, even as we struggle as a country to continue to provide those services.

It is amazing to think about the long hours that physicians put in as well as the time they give up for themselves, their personal interests and their family members. I am someone who has had the benefit of having a family doctor. Dr. Albert Ng is mine. His father, Edward Ng, was someone who had my grandfather as a patient. I am very grateful to have that privilege to be able to get that type of medical attention, when necessary. It is important to note that many parts of Canada still struggle with this, so hopefully that will be part of this discussion.

As a New Democrat, I can tell the House that it is the unfinished business of Tommy Douglas to have a pharmacare program. However, having accessible and affordable treatment and medical attention is the core principle of where we stand politically, and more importantly, where we should go. That is how we build a strong economy and strong communities, as well as how we better ourselves as individuals.

We know that right now there are many issues in many communities. For example, we could designate a day for mental health. There are other types of addictions and modern society problems, and our physicians are the front-line people who must serve under those conditions. There are many individuals who suffer from these types of different illnesses, and some occur so often that they have become routine in physicians' eyes. However, there are new issues that arise, such as issues related to environmental contaminants in human health, accidents that cause exposure to toxicities as well as a number of different things. Some physicians not only deal with these issues in our own country but go to other countries to help individuals in need. These physicians understand that the human need extends beyond our borders. Canada's contributions are well known and it is something that makes us proud.

If we look at our public policies, one of the most underutilized aspects of our contributions internationally is the DART program, or the disaster assistance response team that is able to go to different jurisdictions. It is an area where we could do much better and it could be used to help in many areas of the world.

In our country, there are physicians who contribute so much and in different ways, and often they are families. In Windsor, there are the Bernstein brothers, one was an orthopaedic surgeon and the other an ophthalmologist. They served patients even into their eighties and made very significant contributions to the community. There are others who serve people and then go on to work as hospital administrators or on developing policies regarding medicines. For example, I think of Edward Ng from my area, who was a physician who went on to help organize the administration practices of very critical medical procedures with regard to the use of spending public money and getting the most out of our dollars. I do not believe that is unusual in places like Windsor, which has large service provisions that undergo changes over the years.

Again, May 1 would be a recognition of the complexities physicians deal with in our society, and not just in regard to treating people. For example, looking again at Dr. Stowe and her contributions, we know that they were very complex. She had a determination to serve people despite the fact that society shunned her for being a female. She was shunned from a profession that was said to be only for males. She had to leave this country to get the accreditation to do the work and then she had to come back and fight for those rights.

These are our men and women who are serving as physicians in our country right now. When we look at the situation with the opioid epidemic, which we believe is a national crisis and needs a national response, often we leave it solely on the shoulders of health care providers to deal with this in a piecemeal way, as opposed to looking at the complex civil society response that is necessary, with the supports for longer treatment. Often our men and women who are physicians end up being the ones who are at the front line.

I conclude by thanking our physicians. May 1 is appropriate because of Dr. Stowe. I want to thank all those participating in making this a day we can celebrate in the future.

National Physicians’ DayPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2019 / 11:40 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to a very important piece of legislation, introduced by my friend and colleague from Vancouver Centre, recognizing the important role that our physicians play in today's society.

As has been mentioned by the three previous speakers, this bill has two, possibly three parts. The first pays tribute to Dr. Emily Stowe, an individual who led the way on many fronts. She was a physician, and prior to being a physician, she was involved and played a very strong leadership role. According to my minimal research, she was the first female principal in the area of Upper Canada. This would only lead one to believe that she was a pioneer. She went on to become a practising physician.

What intrigued me was the fact that she opened up her clinic in Toronto in the year of Canada's Confederation, 1867. There is no doubt she was a pioneer. One can only imagine the level of difficulty, at the best of times, for women back then to get into university and the types of barriers that were in place.

I can genuinely appreciate the significance of making May 1 that designated day. It is the day that Dr. Emily Stowe was born. When I first heard about the legislation and the acknowledgement of May 1, I was a bit curious as to why it was May 1. That curiosity has been answered and I could not think of a more appropriate day, given the history of Dr. Emily Stowe. I would suggest that those who might be following, not just to leave it at that but to look into it and do a bit of background. Dr. Stowe was an incredible individual, a true pioneer and no doubt has inspired many women to advance to where we are today. We owe her a great deal of gratitude.

Getting on to national physicians' day itself, recognizing our physicians is something that holds a great deal of merit. I used to be the health critic for the Province of Manitoba. In that capacity, I had the opportunity to meet with numerous doctors. Some doctors were specialists, some general, some were rural, some urban, but there was no doubt that the common theme was the love for what they were doing. In many ways, as has already been alluded to, our medical professionals, in particular our doctors, have their hearts in the right place in terms of wanting to make society a better place for all of us.

We could talk about the micro, the individual patient and the quality of care that is provided, or the macro issue of advocacy. That is something I also want to make some reference to. We all know that “There but for the grace of God” walk us all, in the sense that at any point in time something could happen to us. We know and feel confident in our system that we are going to get the attention that is needed from our doctors. The doctor is the one who truly cares and wants to be able to get us in a better health condition.

There is a great deal of faith in our doctors as a profession. When we talk about different professions and level of respect from the public as a whole, we always find that doctors are somewhere near the top, if not at the top, compared with, let us say, used car sales people or something of that nature. There is a great deal of understanding and respect toward the medical profession. Individuals at that micro-level are very attached to their doctors and have faith their doctors and want to be able to have that relationship because they understand and appreciate the importance of good health.

In the bigger picture, the advocacy role that doctors play in society is done in many different ways. When I was the health care critic, we would sit down with doctors and talk about our tertiary health care facilities, our community health facilities and in-home care. As the member for Vancouver Centre pointed out, we still have doctors who go to homes. I do not think people necessarily realize that is the case.

It could be sitting around a boardroom table with doctors to talk about the future of a particular health care facility or it could be talking to doctors about where there is potential growth in regard to health care services such as community clinics, or even that one-on-one aspect, and it goes beyond that to international Doctors Without Borders and the fine work they do.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel with a parliamentary friendship group to the Philippines. The member for Simcoe—Grey also went there earlier with a committee and offered her services at a local hospital facility. It was exceptionally well received.

My colleague from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley has done fine work on the international scene. Previous speakers have talked about other contributions, such as Canada's DART missions. There is no doubt that our doctors, who are trained and perform well, play a very strong international leadership role. Canada's doctors have a reputation for the fine work that they do.

Going back to the national perspective, we have organizations and umbrella groups. Dr. Osler, one of the doctors that I see, is representative of doctors across Canada who make sure there is a strong voice in important issues such as advocacy. A good example of that would be the pharmacare program, as the current government is moving more and more toward having some sort of a national pharmacare program. After a couple of consecutive budgets, we are seeing a more tangible commitment, and some of the strongest advocacy for that policy comes from our doctors.

At one point we had very strong pressure coming in terms of the universality of health care. I go to the Seven Oaks General Hospital in an area I represent. It serves the north end of Winnipeg as a community hospital facility. It has been the doctors in good part who have provided education to many individuals, myself included, to become advocates for that health care facility.

Whether it is an advocacy role at the macro level, from an international perspective to a national perspective to the local community perspective, doctors are there in a very real and tangible way, making a difference. In the years ahead, this is going to be even more important.

We know that Canadians love our national health care system, which is administered at the provincial level, and they believe in it. For our health care system to succeed, doctors need to continue to be empowered to play that important advocacy role, because it is all about the care of the patient, no matter where that patient might be.

I am thankful for the opportunity to share a few thoughts on the importance of our doctors in Canada.

National Physicians’ DayPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2019 / 11:50 a.m.
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Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, after spending eight years in elected politics, including serving in cabinet and running for the Conservative leadership, I will say that I first and foremost always define myself as a physician, a role that I will be returning to full time at the end of this year when I leave this place.

When people ask me what I do for a living, I always say that I am a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, a doctor who gets to take kids who cannot play on the playground and let them play again, so it gives me great pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill S-248, an act respecting national physicians' day. This act would declare each May 1 national physicians' day.

Children's health has been the primary focus of my medical career, and it was one of the main reasons I ran for office. When asked in 2006 by then minister Jim Flaherty to chair the expert panel on the children's fitness tax credit, I was able to see first-hand how I could have a positive impact on the health of thousands of children via good public policy, not just one child at a time in a clinic. A tax credit to support healthy activities for kids and make activities more affordable for their parents was an innovative idea. It was a welcome idea.

Along with the reduction in the GST, I have heard from many people that this is the most popular and most memorable tax credit of the former government. Not only was it popular, but it was a success. Over 2.8 million children as of 2014 had taken advantage of it. The children's fitness tax credit was so successful that the only criticisms of were that it was not enough and that low-income families should receive a subsidy. In 2014, Conservatives made these changes to reflect what Canadians wanted and deserved.

The success and popularity of the tax credit made it even more puzzling why the Liberals promised to kill it in the 2015 election. Unfortunately, the Liberals kept that promise, reducing it in 2016 and eliminating it altogether in 2017.

One cold comfort is that in 2016, the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and other researchers compared Participaction's report card on physical activity for children and youth to 37 other countries in six continents. Canada's highest grade was for participation in organized activities. The report noted that Canada's rates were significantly higher than sports participation rates 10 years ago.

I know that the tax credit was the right policy to help make Canadian kids healthier and for parents struggling to afford sports, so earlier this year I travelled across the country to meet with parents. I wanted to talk to them about preventive health and what we could do to help get kids active.

I continuously heard from parents that they were upset that the tax credit for kids had been cut, so I went to work drafting a bill. On February 6, Bill C-428 was launched, with a website to promote it. I encourage people to go to to support this initiative and bring back the children's fitness tax credit.

When I heard of the idea of a national physicians' day, I must say I had second thoughts about it. I wondered whether we should we have a day to honour doctors. Most physicians would say that every day it is a privilege to take care of people.

As an orthopaedic surgeon who takes care of kids, I spend my days helping children. Frankly, when children with cerebral palsy walk again for the first time, even with assistance, the joy in their mothers' eyes and their sense of accomplishment and their great smile mean that doctors feel there is no need to be honoured. They know they have played a role in making that happen.

As I looked more into the bill, I began to see why this proposal was being brought forward by Senator Eggleton, with the support of the Canadian Medical Association. A special note is the date, May 1, which marks the birthdate of Dr. Emily Stowe, born in 1831, which several of my colleagues have commented on. Dr. Stowe was the first female to practise medicine in Canada. She was also a pioneer of Canada's women's movement and is an idol for many young Canadian physicians now, particularly female ones.

A national physicians' day is also important because it highlights the role that doctors play in communities across Canada, as my colleagues have also mentioned.

For those who live in big cities, access to care is often taken for granted. However, we do know that in smaller communities, people may not even have a doctor. Those in the north would be lucky to have a nurse practitioner in their communities. Anything more complicated than a broken arm requires a flight to Yellowknife, Iqaluit or Whitehorse, or often a more southern destination.

In the northern parts of many provinces, a doctor may rotate from a southern centre, which is great, but it means that people do not have a family doctor, as they could possibly have in a bigger centre. I say “possibly” because millions of Canadians in communities all across the country lack a doctor.

When places like my community, Simcoe—Grey, lose a doctor in rural parts of the country as he or she retires, we go to great lengths and efforts to recruit a new one, and frequently we cannot. For many communities, the loss of a doctor is like the loss of the post office, the local grocery store or the local school. It is a turning point for a community, and not a good one.

The recognition of a national physician's day gives an opportunity to bring these issues to the forefront at least one day a year. It gives an opportunity to speak to the important roles that doctors play in our communities, of the need for quality care that is accountable and accessible to patients, the ability to talk about lineups and wait times or about how the government demands that everyone use one system and then is unwilling to innovate and change to provide reasonable access to care.

Part of this bargain, the unwritten relationship between citizens and the government that is providing health care, must be reasonable access to care in a reasonable time frame. Currently, this is not the case. This neglect is made worse by the stress that it causes to the patient and to the families of these patients.

I heal kids. There is nothing worse than watching a child suffer, but what the families of these children go through because of the challenges in our system is a really close second. It is frustrating for my colleagues and me to know that we are bound by all sorts of rules that limit our ability to take care of patients. In getting surgical time at a hospital or even opening a clinic, there are many problems.

Just this weekend a colleague of mine, Dr. Smith from Windsor, an anaesthetist, said that the system is broken. The patients know it and the families know it. Why are the politicians and their colleagues afraid to change it?

I heard concerns like this across the country when I was conducting consultations on modernizing the Canada Health Act. Similar views were reflected in reports by Liberal senator Michael Kirby and former NDP premier Roy Romanow about how unaccountable the system has become to Canadians, how out of touch and bureaucratic it is and how the user, the patient, is often the last person of concern.

We need to listen to doctors when they use their collective voices to speak out on issues of national importance. We need to listen when they say that the system is broken, which is exactly what our patients are saying to us every day when they come to a clinic. There needs to be a revolutionary change in our health care system. The Canada Health Act needs to be modernized so that we can provide high-quality care for Canadians, the care they expect and deserve.

Interestingly, one of the most recent and most vocal examples of doctors speaking out was not medically related. It was related to their role as small business owners. Yes, I am talking about the recent tax changes to small businesses that the government introduced. Many Canadians learned during the whole affair that the overwhelming majority of doctors in Canada are small business owners. We are not government employees, which is what the majority of people believe. This misconception is largely owed to the Canada Health Act, which makes people believe that doctors are government employees, but we are not. We are small business owners who have a large amount of overhead and we have to pay for it ourselves. The same expensive equipment that is seen in a hospital we have often have to buy for our clinics. This equipment is not cheap, and it needs to be regularly updated.

Doctors are also substantial employers. Even the smallest doctor's office provides two jobs: an administrative assistant and a nurse. Most provide more, including a scheduler, an office manager and other nurses. A large doctor's office has more full-time jobs than a local café or a small clothing store. These investments in our communities are the reasons Canadians witnessed the negative reaction to the proposed tax changes. Doctors took it as an insult to be called tax cheats by the Liberal government. To be accused of taking advantage of a system by Liberal politicians was a bit much.

Each and every day it is an honour to be a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon. I have an amazing job and I help kids get back on the playground to play. My colleagues and I do not need a day to honour us. However, if a national physician's day can help bring attention to the doctor shortages that Canadians face, to small towns losing their only physician, to the lack of accountability in the health system, to the present model of health care that forces patients into a system where they are simply neglected or to the unfair tax changes that have done nothing more than chase doctors out of this country, then a national physician's day is worthwhile. I am pleased to lend my support to this legislation.

National Physicians’ DayPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2019 / noon
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Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here to speak to Bill S-248, an act respecting national physicians’ day.

I would like to begin by commending the Hon. Art Eggleton for introducing this bill in the other place prior to his retirement, as well as the member for Vancouver Centre for sponsoring it in the House.

Bill S-248 seeks to designate May 1 of each year as national physicians' day in honour of the vital role that physicians play in caring for patients and in supporting the health and well-being of Canadians.

A variety of commemorative periods already exist to recognize the contribution of health professionals, such as Family Doctor Week, Oncology Nursing Day, National Physiotherapy Month and Paramedic Service Week. However, these commemorative periods were not proclaimed by a legislative initiative, but were designated through an annual declaration by the Minister of Health.

The approach of this bill to proclaim a national day through legislation for a health care professional is a novel one. As was stated during the debate on the bill in the other place, and as I am sure we all share, we would like to hear more of this in this chamber.

A national day would serve to recognize the phenomenal contributions of physicians. It could perhaps also act as a means of recognizing the growth of the medical profession itself, from a fairly low-skill occupation with little in the way of formal standards or regulations at the beginning of the 19th century to the medicine practised in this new millennium, whose cures astonish and give us hope even in our darkest hours.

However, these considerations aside, I would like to take the opportunity presented by this bill to describe the actions that the federal government already takes to support the work of Canada's 86,644 physicians, 250 of whom I might add are directly employed by the federal government in the Canadian Armed Forces.

National Physicians’ DayRoutine Proceedings

January 30th, 2019 / 3:15 p.m.
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Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

moved that Bill S-248, An Act respecting National Physicians’ Day, be read the first time.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley for seconding this Senate bill.

It is self-explanatory. Physicians have existed as an entity in this country since the inception of Confederation. They have done great work. They have helped in saving lives and have been dedicated to this goal. It is time we honoured them on a particular day.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)