Libby speaks in support of more palliative care services

House of Commons


April 1, 2014

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to support my colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay, and this great motion that he has brought before the House.

It is a simple and straightforward motion, but it is incredibly important. As the member outlined, it is really about establishing a pan-Canadian palliative care, end-of-life care strategy. It is about providing more support for caregivers, improving the quality and consistency of home and hospice, palliative, end-of-life care, and actually encouraging Canadians to discuss this issue.

When we look at our health care system, sometimes we think that things do not affect us. However, I think it is very true to say that we have all had experiences where a family member, a close friend or maybe a neighbour has been in the situation where they are approaching the end of their life, and it becomes a real struggle in terms of where they might be and what kind of care they might receive.

Palliative care and end-of-life care, whether it is in a hospice or at home, is something that is really very deep. It is very meaningful. For many years, we did not talk about these issues. We do not like to talk about death. We do not like to think about what happens to us at the end.

However, it is something we should talk about. More than that, it is something that we need to have public policy around. I think that is why this motion is so important. It does show us that across the country there are incredible examples of palliative care.

It is very patchy. For example, in my community in East Vancouver, the St. James Cottage Hospice, which is located in an historic building in Burrard View Park, is an amazing place. It is like a home. It is a place where people feel comfortable. It is where they have dignity. They do tremendous work.

Every year in our community, in East Vancouver, there is a festival of lights. The houses are dressed up with Christmas lights, and people vote and give donations, on the street adjacent to the palliative care home. The money goes to palliative care. It is the whole community coming together to express itself. It is a very wonderful initiative that is being taken undertaken.

What I think we need to state in this debate is that, unfortunately, there are big gaps in the system. I was very proud last Monday when the NDP unveiled a very important document based on 18 months of consultation across the country about health care in this country.

We actually did go out and talk to Canadians. We did our homework about what needs to be done to improve and sustain our public health care system. It is a wonderful document, and I would certainly urge people to go check it out on the NDP website.

In the public forums and the consultations that we held across the country, one of the key issues that came forward from people based on their own experience, their own need about what they know needs to happen was the fact that we need better home, long-term and palliative care. It came through to us again and again.

I would just like to quote from our document that we just put out a week ago.

Canadians want to see home care, long term care, and palliative care recognized as essential medical services just like treatment in the hospital. These services are not luxuries, and they need to be fully accessible, whatever a patient’s income, and provided at the same high quality and standards wherever they live.

That quote has come to us in our document because of what people told us. We are very cognizant of the fact that palliative care is part of a bigger issue that needs to be critically addressed in this country, and that is the issue of continuing care of which palliative care is a part.

We do need to have home care. We do need to have long-term care. Again, it is very spotty across the country. Some provinces do well, others do not. People who live in smaller and remote communities have very little access.

So the reliance that we have on acute care facilities, the over-reliance because there is nowhere else to go for people to end up in hospital, as the member for Timmins—James Bay pointed out. For people to die with dignity, they need to be in an appropriate place where there is support, resources, the right kind of medication to relieve pain, the right kind of guidance, whether it be spiritual or emotional, for their family.

These are probably the most important times in anybody’s life, yet it really does not exist across the country in the way it should.

I really want to make the point today that in debating this motion, let us recognize that it is linked to a bigger issue around our health care system and that we have to make sure that the federal government shows leadership on this issue.

There are many reforms needed in our health care system. This is one of them. Today, I met with a group, the Parkinson’s Association. I have met with many other groups. They all say the same thing, which is that the difficulty, the burdens financially and sometimes emotionally of caregiving and what that places on the family where people have to leave work, quit their jobs, take out loans creates an enormous stress and burden.

This is not what should be happening. There are incredible groups out there who have been calling for this kind of pan-Canadian end-of-life care strategy for so long. I think it is fantastic that we had an all-party parliamentary committee working on this issue.

Now is the time that we are actually having this debate. We have our own power here to vote, one by one. We have the power to say that this motion has merit, it is legitimate and it has all of this groundwork, all of this homework that has been done. It is non-partisan. It crosses all political lines. We have this opportunity in this House to vote for this motion and to actually say to the government that this is the will of Parliament.

It is based on what we hear from our constituents. It might be based on our own experience. I certainly have my own experience. My partner of 24 years died of cancer just before I was elected. We were very fortunate that we had palliative care at home under the B.C. health care system.

I cannot imagine what that experience, as hard as it was, would have been like if my partner had been in a hospital, just in a ward or maybe in the hallway. Being at home and having people around him who loved him and cared for him on a daily basis and having the professional help and support that we needed was critical to how we went through our own process of grieving and losing someone that we loved so much.

That is just my experience, and this is manifest by hundreds of thousands of people across the country every day, so I want to say, let us pay attention to the motion. Let us look at how it is putting something forward that is real and legitimate. Let us put aside partisanship. Let us recognize the good work that has been done on this issue by an all-party committee. Let us unite, come together and say to the government that we want to pass this motion and we do want the Government of Canada to establish a pan-Canadian palliative care strategy.

I would also like to move an amendment. I move,

That the motion be amended by replacing the words “Canada (b) respects the cultural, spiritual and familial needs of Canada’s first nation, Inuit and Métis people” with the words “Canada, as well as Canada’s first nation, Inuit and Métis people (b) respects the cultural, spiritual and familial needs of all Canadians”.