Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-277, an act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada. I would like to thank the sponsor of the bill for her work and the members of the Standing Committee on Health for this new version.
The New Democrats have long supported and advocated for the idea of a Canadian palliative care strategy to provide end-of-life care to Canadians. With Canada's aging population taxing our health care system, the need for a coherent, coordinated, nationwide palliative and end-of-life care strategy is becoming more acute. This issue affects and will continue to affect us all directly or indirectly.
I was pleased to see these words in the new version of the bill:
2(1)(g) evaluates the advisability of re-establishing the Department of Health’s Secretariat on Palliative and End-of-Life Care.
I would remind members that we are in this situation because, when the Conservatives were in power, they decided to abolish the secretariat on palliative and end-of-life care and stop work on the palliative and end-of-life care strategy. We therefore missed an opportunity to make incredible advances for the well-being of patients, their families, and our society. Those decisions, combined with 10 years of inaction on this issue, have had a negative impact.
I hope that, with this bill, the Liberals will take this opportunity to restore the secretariat on palliative and end-of-life care and that it will be given adequate funding. I also hope that health care professionals will have the resources needed so that they can provide services across the country, because as we all know, there is a great and ever-increasing need.
I was able to gauge the extent of these needs when I had the opportunity to sit with my colleagues from the House and the other chamber on the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying. At the hearings, the vast majority of witnesses and experts told us how vitally important accessible and good quality palliative care is to Canadians. I was made aware of the fact that across the country only 16% of Canadians have access to quality palliative care. Thus, one in ten Canadians have access to quality palliative care. One in ten is too little, far too little.
The NDP respects the fact that a good part of health services are provided by the provinces. However, the federal government has a fundamental role to play when working with them. For that reason, we have been asking for a long time for a national palliative care strategy that respects provincial and territorial jurisdiction, but that seeks to find way to provide adequate palliative care services for everyone.
At the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, we made informed and necessary recommendations on palliative care that called for reestablishing the secretariat on palliative care and funding, creating a properly funded national palliative and end-of-life care strategy, and support for family caregivers and better compassionate care benefits.
These recommendations have to be considered. They respond to the concerns of Canadians. As everyone probably knows, National Palliative Care Week is from May 7 to 13. It is happening right now.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who work with our constituents day after day. I am talking about health professionals and volunteers who devote their time to this. Their commitment is essential and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I want to take this opportunity to specifically thank the health professionals, agencies, and organizations, and the many volunteers in the riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot who work directly or indirectly with the patients. The role these people play in providing high quality palliative care cannot be measured. They provide patients and their families the support they so desperately need during one of the most difficult times in their lives. The palliative care that they provide whether at home, a palliative care centre, or a hospital, is indispensable.
In my riding, Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, countless organizations do exceptional work.
These organizations offer palliative and respite care. Others raise funds to ensure that those who need quality palliative care can get it. One of these is the Hôtel-Dieu-de-Saint-Hyacinthe. The centre's palliative care team has been providing palliative care for 30 years. Hundreds of people go to the nursing home to live out their last days. It is around 500. The hospital has hundreds of beds, but only 12 palliative care beds.
In Acton Vale, the Centre d'hébergement de la MRC-d'Acton has just one palliative care bed. All of the people who work with patients and their families, on user committees and elsewhere, are doing exceptional work, and I am deeply grateful to them.
In support of Hôtel-Dieu residents, the Fondation Aline-Letendre will be holding a spaghetti supper and “Rock à la Sylvain Lussier” party on Saturday, May 13, at 7 p.m. in the Centre communautaire Douville in memory of Lucie-Anna Gaucher and Jeanne Palardy, who both received palliative care at the Hôtel-Dieu-de-Saint-Hyacinthe.
This Saint-Hyacinthe organization does crucial work in our community. I want to recognize the incredible work of its executive director, Christine Poirier, its volunteers, and its board members. Since it was created over 20 years ago, Fondation Aline-Letendre has given over $7 million to the Hôtel-Dieu-de-Saint-Hyacinthe. I am also thinking of the staff and volunteers at Les Amis du crépuscule, a community organization that provides assistance to people receiving palliative care and later to their grieving families. We also have the Maison Marie-Luce-Labossière, which provides support and assistance, as well as accommodations, in a safe, peaceful environment to people suffering from “preterminal” cancer, among others. The Maison Marie-Luce-Labossière also has spaces for short-term stays in order to allow caregivers a period of respite during the summer months.
Like me, the members of these organizations believe that a national palliative care strategy would have a positive impact on patients and their families, and that it is high time Canada developed such a framework for palliative care.
The growing demand for palliative and end-of-life care poses a major challenge for our society. The bill before us today encourages us to think about existing frameworks, strategies, and best practices in palliative care. In that regard, I would like to acknowledge the exceptional work that Quebec has been doing for the past several years to deal with this reality and provide appropriate services to Quebeckers. Quebec created a palliative and end-of-life care development plan in 2015, which builds on other existing measures, such as the end-of-life palliative care policy. Quebec is a leader in this area and we should learn from its example. There is also another inspiring initiative in this regard, and that is Motion No. 456, which was moved by my NDP colleague on October 31, 2013. The motion sought to create a pan-Canadian strategy on palliative and end-of-life care in co-operation with the provinces and territories.
New Democrats have been working with many stakeholders and organizations for a long time in order to develop and implement a palliative care strategy. We are proud that the member revisited the NPD's motion on palliative care, which was adopted in 2014. The motion was adopted in the House three years ago, but no real progress has been made on this vitally important issue since then.
That is why it is high time that we move forward without delay. The federal government must demonstrate leadership and take immediate action to establish a palliative care framework that will give all Canadians better access to quality palliative care.
I would like to once again thank the sponsor of this bill, which I urge all of my colleagues to support. We should be in unanimous agreement in the House on this subject.