The Canadian Cancer Society uses its influence to encourage governments across Canada to adopt public policies that will prevent cancer and help people living with cancer. Read about some recent advocacy successes below.
Supporting Canada's family caregivers
Family caregivers are the backbone of our healthcare system, providing unpaid care that was estimated at over $25 billion for 2009. The vast majority of these family caregivers are women; most family caregivers have annual incomes of less than $45,000. Family caregivers are often left financially, physically and emotionally overwhelmed.
The Canadian Cancer Society is working to ensure that family caregivers have easy and timely access to the supports, programs and services they need when providing care for a loved one at home. Our targeted political advocacy efforts have resulted in some significant successes.
For instance, the federal government has introduced a Bill which received Royal Assent in December 2009, allowing self-employed Canadians to pay into and access Employment Insurance special benefits, including the compassionate care benefits.
In April of 2010, a new non-partisan Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care was created. This ad-hoc committee, made up of MPs from all political parties, is seeking to promote awareness of the glaring deficiencies in Canada's palliative and compassionate care framework, fostering constructive dialogue and developing policies to address these issues. This committee held consultations across the country and the Society played an active role in these discussions. The committee's report is expected to be released in early Spring 2011.
In addition, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Michael Ignatieff, announced that if elected his government would invest $1 billion annually in a new Family Care Plan to recognize the important contribution of family caregivers.
Finally, the Bloc québécois has included in their Budget proposal 2011, Au tour du Québec, vers le budget fédéral 2011, support for family caregivers as a condition of supporting the next budget.
Through the efforts of thousands of Canadian Cancer Society volunteers, including those who took part in Relay For Life events in May and June 2009, we have captured the attention of all political parties. Our work will mean that sick and dying Canadians can be cared for by their loved ones with dignity and compassion and that those who provide that care will have access to the support they need and deserve.
Together we fight for life, against cancer!
Canadians make history by passing new legislation
The Canadian Cancer Society would like to thank everyone who has supported Bill C-32 and helped it become law on October 8, 2009. This important health measure couldn't have been adopted without the help of Canadians from across the country, who wrote letters, e-mails and called Senators and MPs to show their support for the bill.
Bill C-32 bans flavoured cigarettes, cigars and blunt wraps and prohibits tobacco advertising in print media. It will prevent many young people from starting to smoke and will encourage more adults to quit. It will also protect Canadians from the tobacco industry's marketing tactics that lure people into a deadly addiction.
By getting involved, Canadians have shown that together we can fight against cancer and fight for life.
Together we are stronger.
Relay For Life and Advocacy
In May and June, 12 different Relay For Life events in Quebec and PEI took part in a pilot project to promote legislative changes to help Canadian Caregivers. During these events, Relay For Life participants worked with Canadian Cancer Society staff to collect signatures on letters to be sent to federally-elected officials. The letters requested enhanced support for Canadian Caregivers in the form of a Canadian caregiver strategy:
- Improve the Compassionate Care Benefit.
- Create a complementary program for those who are not eligible to the current Compassionate Caregiver Benefit.
- Set up a Caregiver Tax Benefit.
Relay participants - cancer survivors, caregivers and volunteers - were asked to sign these letters and over 3,000 signatures were collected. The letters were sent to the Prime Minister, Diane Finley (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development), Jean-Pierre Blackburn (Minister of National Revenue), and leaders of the Liberal, Democratic and Bloc Quebecois parties.
The Society hosts a luncheon for caregivers on Parliament Hill
In early May, the Canadian Cancer Society hosted its first Caregivers Luncheon on Parliament Hill in partnership with the Canadian Caregiver Coalition. This unique event celebrated the vital role of family caregivers in Canada. The luncheon was very successful and attracted over 80 MPs, Senators, bureaucrats and stakeholders.
Two exceptional researchers spoke at the event. Neena L. Chappell, a Senior Canada Research Chair in Social Gerontology and Professor of Sociology at the University of Victoria, discussed why appropriate and cost-effective health care system for an aging society and caregivers is essential. She said that caregivers provide an estimated $25 to 26 billion of unpaid labour to the Canadian health care system on an annual basis. Allison Williams, PhD, who is currently working at the School of Geography and Geology at McMaster University, spoke about palliative health care and informal caregiving at end-of-life. She also provided an update and recommendations on the Compassionate Care Benefit.
As a result of this luncheon, parliamentarians from every political party have joined a multi-partisan caregivers’ caucus that will work to advance policy reforms for Canadian caregivers.
In Canada, caregivers provide almost 80% of all home care. More than one-third of them report extra expenses due to their caregiving responsibilities. About 65% of households with caregivers report a combined income of less than $45,000.
The Canadian Cancer Society testifies before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health
The Society’s public issues staff worked very hard throughout spring to establish legislative requirements for product labelling in Bill C-6, also known as the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. Our goal remains to have Bill C-6 require products that contain cancer-causing substances to be labelled with a hazard symbol, indicating the presence of the chemical(s) of concern. The Society’s staff also advocated for the elimination of current language that excludes tobacco products from consideration under this Bill.
This Bill is very important to the Society’s Environmental portfolio, as it provides the ideal opportunity to communicate to politicians and other important stakeholders the importance of Community Right to Know (CRTK) and a consumer's right to information pertaining to exposures to carcinogens. Our advocacy efforts included briefing sessions with members of the parliament, meetings with Health Canada's Consumer Product Safety Bureau and fellow NGOs, and 2 presentations before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health.
The Society’s team successfully advocated for the establishment of a special committee to advise the Minister of Health on strengthening the bill. A primary focus of this committee will be consumer product labelling. The Society will seek a seat on the committee once it is established.
The House of Commons standing committee on status of women agrees to study financial assistance for caregivers
One in four Canadians has cared for a family member or close friend with a serious health problem in the last 12 months. This often results in lost income, as well as the increased financial burden of unforeseen expenses. The Society is working with parliamentarians to alleviate the financial impact that caregiving can have on Canadian families.
In recent meetings, the Society told MPs from all parties about the sacrifices made by Canadian caregivers. Many use their personal savings to survive financial hardship. Nearly a quarter of caregivers miss one or more months of work. Canadian caregivers are the invisible backbone of the healthcare system, providing $6-9 billion in unpaid care every year. Furthermore, 77% of our caregivers are women.
As a result of these meetings, it was announced this February that the House of Commons standing committee on the status of women will study financial support for caregivers during the next session of parliament. The Society’s advocates will be working with together, and with our partner organizations, to encourage the MPs on this committee to make specific recommendations for improving financial support for caregivers.
Federal Liberals endorse the Society’s call for community right to know policies (labeling on consumer products)
In the 2008 federal election the Liberal Party of Canada promised to require that companies clearly label the harmful substances in their products. As Canada's official opposition party the Liberals play a leading role in parliament, encouraging the Conservative government to adopt policies that support the principles of community right to know.
The Canadian Cancer Society is working with Liberal members of parliament and staff to ensure that their commitment to community right to know remains firm. The Society is also working with government Ministers and other members of parliament to support the introduction of legislation and/or regulations to ensure that Canadians will know what they are being exposed to in their homes and workplaces.
Prime Minister Harper commits to ban flavoured tobacco products, such as cigarillos
We know that teenagers are very vulnerable to trying tobacco products. Cigarillos, which can be just as addictive as cigarettes, can be a starter product for kids who would never start smoking. Cigarillos are appealing to youth because they come in flavours such as fruit, candy and ice cream. They are often cheaper to buy than cigarettes because they come in smaller quantities and are easier to obtain because they are not regulated in the same manner.
The Society is working with MPs from all parties to ensure the sale of flavored tobacco products, such as cigarillos, are banned in Canada as soon as possible.
On June 16, 2008 a private member’s bill seeking to ban flavored cigarillos and other tobacco products was introduced in the House of Commons by an NDP member of parliament.
On September 17, 2008, during the recent federal election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised that, if elected his government would introduce a ban on flavours and additives in all tobacco products that would appeal to children. During the same election, the Liberal Party of Canada responded to a letter from the Society by stating that they too would ban flavored tobacco products if elected.
By working across party lines and with like minded organizations the Society’s advocates are making a difference in the fight to protect young Canadians from a deadly addiction.