OTTAWA, Dec. 2, 2013 ( – The issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide are making strange bedfellows in Canada, with one prominent anti-euthanasia activist praising two members of the notoriously socially liberal NDP party for their recent initiatives supporting improved palliative care in the country.

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) told that the EPC “strongly supports a greater focus on improving and educating people about palliative care in Canada.” 

“Our polls indicate that Canadians who support euthanasia usually fear dying a painful death. Good palliative care can effectively alleviate pain in almost every circumstance,” he said. 


“We need to focus on a creating a culture of care in response to the push for euthanasia.” 

In response to recommendations from the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care for a national strategy on improving palliative care, suicide prevention strategies and protecting people from elder abuse, the two New Democratic Party MPs recently launched initiatives to improve the quality of continuing care beyond the treatment of the elderly in hospitals. 

On October 31, NDP Health Critic Libby Davies (Vancouver East) introduced a private member’s Bill (C-545, An Act respecting the provision of continuing care to Canadians), while NDP Ethics Critic Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay) introduced a Private Member’s Motion to establish a national palliative care strategy. 

“Palliative care and continuing care are critical issues to Canadians,” Davies told the House of Commons. “There is a strong national consensus from academics, health professionals and the public that we are sadly lacking in the pan-Canadian plan for continuing care, including home care, long-term care, respite care and palliative care.” 

As well as Davies’ Private Member’s Bill on continuing care, MP Charlie Angus introduced a Private Member’s Motion (M-456) that would establish a national strategy on palliative care.

“Very few Canadians are able to access palliative care,” Angus told the House. “There are huge disparities in access and service across this country. This puts enormous stress on families at a vulnerable time.” 

Noting that “only 16 to 30% of Canadians have access to quality end of life care,” Angus said, “I challenge the Harper government to join the conversation on the need for quality palliative home and hospice care for Canadians.”

Assisted suicide has been receiving widespread public attention due to the recent appeal of the British Columbia court case seeking to legalize assisted suicide to the Supreme Court, and the Quebec government’s Bill 52 proposing “medical aid in dying,” which is being studied by the province’s National Assembly. 

At a provincial health ministers’ meeting last month, federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the federal government's position on the issue won't change. 

“We recognize the interest in dialogue, and feel provinces and territories and NGOs are more appropriately placed to engage citizens,” Ambrose said. “For now the federal government is clear on the legal framework for these issues.”