Posts Tagged "federal"


Health database that crosses provincial borders gets federal funding

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Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Dr. Kim McGrail says she and her team ran into a familiar challenge when they were trying to compare different approaches to family health-care reform across the country.

They wanted to look at Quebec and British Columbia, which share the same goal of ensuring every resident has a family doctor but are tackling it through different care models.

Gathering the data was going to be difficult, said McGrail, who is a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health.

“The question is, is there a difference in outcomes with these two different approaches? It’s really, really complicated,” she said.

“It’s two different data requests, different timelines, different roles. And then you get the data and the data themselves are really, fundamentally different because you’re talking about primary care data that is negotiated in provinces between medical associations and governments.

So there’s nothing that looks similar about this data across the country.“

McGrail is the scientific lead for a new health research database that aims to eliminate some of those challenges. The Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research Canadian Data Platform is expected to launch in the next two or three months.

She said it will provide a single portal through which researchers can request information from various sources from across the country and share analytical tools.

“What we’re doing is trying to build those resources up front so when a researcher comes along and has that sort of question, it’s a much, much faster journey to get that answer,” she said.

McGrail likened the current research process to an undulating wave graph. A researcher will start at the bottom of the wave and work their way to the top then move on to something else. Another researcher who picks up the same topic has to start at the bottom of the wave again.

The database aims to eliminate those waves, having the second researcher pick up at the peak of where the last person left off.

“We trying to push people up so they can start closer to the top,” she said.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor was at University of B.C. Tuesday to announce the federal government and several partners are contributing $81 million over seven years to support the database.

She said the database will help improve responses for health-care priorities that affect all provinces.

“Cancer, the opioid crisis and heart disease don’t stop at Kicking Horse Pass, the Ottawa River or the Tantramar Marshes,” she said.

Other funding partners include the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Ontario Ministry of Health, Population Data BC, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information and the University of B.C.

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National chronic pain task force a first step: federal health minister

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‘People with chronic pain are often underemployed or unemployed because they simply cannot work and not all of us have extended health benefits and even health benefits run out,’ says Andrew Koster.

‘People with chronic pain are often underemployed or unemployed because they simply cannot work and not all of us have extended health benefits and even health benefits run out,’ says Andrew Koster.


The federal health minister is forming a national task force to provide input on how to better prevent, treat and manage chronic pain, which affects one in five Canadians and is often addressed with opioids.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in an interview Wednesday the task force will provide information on barriers that may prevent people suffering with persistent pain from receiving the treatment they need.

“This is the first step in addressing the issue of chronic pain in this country,” she said, adding the eight members will consult with governments and advocacy groups around the country and provide an initial report in June, followed by two more over the next couple of years.

Petitpas Taylor made the announcement in Toronto at the 40th annual scientific meeting of the Canadian Pain Society, which has long called for a national pain strategy, especially as the opioid crisis has exacerbated the stigma around prescribing and use of the pain killers.

She said she committed to exploring the creation of a national pain task force after a discussion with patients, clinicians and researchers at a symposium in Toronto last year, when she heard people living with pain often feel their condition is misunderstood and services are inconsistent.

“We have to recognize that Canada’s a big country and we certainly know there’s inconsistent services in provinces and territories so I have to really have a good understanding of what’s available and what’s happening out there,” Petitpas Taylor said.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, stands during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.

Sean Kilpatrick /

The Canadian Press

Advocates for pain patients presented the former Conservative government with a plan in 2012, but Petitpas Taylor said it’s too early to say whether such a plan will be introduced.

Andrew Koster, who suffers from debilitating lower back and knee pain from a type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, said he’s concerned the task force’s work will go nowhere if there’s a change in government in October.

“I’m looking for signs from the government that they’re taking this seriously and it’s not just something to state during an election campaign,” he said. “There has to be definite action.”

Koster, who will have surgery on his left knee next month following an operation on the other one last year, said he can no longer afford to pay $100 a week for acupuncture to deal with daily pain after he voluntarily reduced his opioids over concerns about any long-term consequences.

“People with chronic pain are often underemployed or unemployed because they simply cannot work and not all of us have extended health benefits and even health benefits run out,” he said from Victoria.

He said it’s crucial for the task force to identify non-drug costs for patients and provinces for services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and acupuncture as part of any strategy it may come up with in its final report.

Andrew Koster, who suffers from debilitating lower back and knee pain from a type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, pictured at his home in Victoria in 2018.

Andrew Koster, who suffers from debilitating lower back and knee pain from a type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, pictured at his home in Victoria in 2018.



Serena Patterson, a 60-year-old psychologist in Comox, has lived with pain associated with fibromyalgia for over half her life and also developed migraines that prevented her from continuing her teaching job at a college.

She said a three-year task force seems excessive, especially because advocacy groups have enough information on health-care gaps and patients wait too long to see specialists.

“I think we know that people are dying in an opioid epidemic and chronic pain patients are high on that list,” Patterson said.

“I would hope that this three years would be building, not more research. What needs to be built is a network of multidisciplinary team programs that are accessible, that are in rural areas as well as urban areas, that provide not only medical support but psychological as well as social support to help people be full participants in their life and in their community.”

Dr. Norman Buckley, scientific director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care at McMaster University in Hamilton, said hundreds of organizations, patients, clinicians and researchers came together in providing the federal government with the strategy in 2012. There was no action at the time but he said the opioid epidemic has now made that unavoidable.

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From rental supply to border patrol: Highlights of the 2019-20 federal budget

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The Trudeau Government is promising billions of dollars for everything from compensating farmers to quelling the opioid overdose crisis.

CTV News Vancouver took a quick look at some of the highlights from the 2019-20 budget released Tuesday:

1. Housing

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Ottawa pledges to help first-time homebuyers with their mortgages with incentives for families with combined incomes less than $120,000.

The incentive applies only to mortgages no more than four times their income. Those who qualify will receive help to lower their monthly payments, though the amount will depend on several factors.

In addition, first-time buyers will be allowed to pull more from their retirement savings to help cover the costs, if needed. Previous rules meant buyers could only use $25,000. Under the new rules, they can take out $35,000.

2. Agriculture

The feds promised to compensate some Canadian farmers affected by the recent free-trade agreements with $2.15 billion over the next few years. In October, the prime minister hailed a landmark agreement as a victory, though Canada had to give up some access to its dairy, egg and poultry industries.

The budget does not say when the changes will be in place or how much money farmers will get.

3. Borders

The Liberals say they intend to stem the flow of asylum seekers crossing into Canada without using official entry points with a new enforcement strategy. The plan is expected to cost about $1.8 billion over five years.

4. Jobs

The government plans to spend billions of dollars on programs meant to help Canadians train for and retain their jobs. Morneau said the initiatives address what he called growing concerns that good jobs won’t last and young people will have a harder time finding employment.

Initiatives include a refundable tax credit for low-income earners and refunds for part of the cost of training fees at colleges, universities and other eligible institutions providing occupational skills training.

5. Opioids

To address an unprecedented rate of overdoses in Canada, the new budget proposes $30.5 million over five years for harm reduction and treatment programs. The money will also go to expanding access to safe supplies, and increasing response training programs and availability of Naloxone.

6. Rental construction

“The rental market is simply not keeping pace with growing demand – especially in large cities where rental vacancy rates hover around one per cent,” the budget reads.

To encourage an increase in supply, the government has earmarked an additional $10 billion over nine years, a number it suggests would support about 42,500 new rentals across Canada.

7. Electric car credits

The federal government proposes a purchase incentive of up to $5,000 for electric battery or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles priced less than $45,000. The feds also suggest investing in more recharging stations, and paying auto manufacturers to ensure supply meets demand.

In addition, corporations looking to replace their fleets can get a full tax write-off the year they put the vehicles into use.

8. Retirement

If the budget is approved, Ottawa will put aside $9.6 million to cover the costs of proactively enrolling Canada Pension Plan contributors over the age of 70 who have not yet applied to receive their retirement benefit.

The 2019-20 plan also suggests appointing a Minister of Seniors and setting aside $6 billion over 10 years for home care, as well as investments in employment insurance, accessibility and housing.

9. Technology

The latest budget suggests expanding high-speed internet access further into rural, remote and northern communities. It estimates the investment will cost up to $1.7 billion.

The government pledges $144.9 million for cybersecurity initiatives including protection from cyberattacks and improving access to high-quality information to prevent the spread of “disinformation.”

10. Indigenous rights and reconciliation

The Liberals said they wish to expand previous measures meant to support priorities of Canada’s Indigenous communities. About $40 million is earmarked to help First Nations research and develop claims to address past wrongs and longstanding grievances, the document says.

Another $1.4 billion over seven years will be used to forgive outstanding loans and reimburse governments.

The budget also proposes spending about $80 million to fund surveys that will guide decision-making and future health, education, employment and language programs.

Another $48 million would go to supporting communities in need of advice and tools for governance and critical programs.

11. Health care

The government highlighted a few specific health care challenges it plans to address, including $50 million to the Public Health Agency of Canada for a national dementia strategy.

Another $36.5 million would go to issues surrounding organ donation, and sales tax relief measures are suggested for Canadians experiencing infertility, using in vitro methods, or using devices for foot problems.

The government also proposes $25 million over five years to support suicide prevention services, and $2.4 million over three years for research into the barriers around plasma donation. Other topics addressed in the budget include autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, blindness and food insecurity.

12. Poverty

Measures to address poverty include funding for artists, investments in gender equality initiatives, a new anti-racism strategy and further support for minority-language education. The feds also pledge to invest in sports programs, supports for veterans and a clarification to the Income Tax Act on financial assistance.

13. Policing

The Liberal government suggests giving the RCMP $508.6 million over five years to support operations, $77.3 million for enhanced border enforcement and about $70 million for enhanced capacity in initiatives including money laundering investigations.

Another $11.5 is earmarked for transportation security and $5.7 million for national economic security.

14. Natural disasters

The budget suggests spending $151.23 million over five years for improvements to emergency management. The money will go to prediction and early warning systems, as well as studies on the nature of risks posed by natural disasters.

It will also go toward assessments of Canadian infrastructure including water supply and energy grids.

Another $5 million would go to Public Safety Canada for awareness programs and $260 million for the provinces for local relief and recovery efforts.

15. “Access to justice”

The federal government has suggested the following funding for protection from violence and “promoting access to justice”:

  • $22.4 million over three years to fight child sexual exploitation online
  • An undisclosed amount for combatting human trafficking
  • $8.1 million over five years to help Canadians access legal education and information
  • $21.6 million over five years for Canadians going through divorce or separation
  • $2-$4 million per year to protect community gathering spaces from hate-motivated crimes

Read more about the specific plans and other priorities in the full budget, available online.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Civil liberties group calls out federal government over appeal of solitary confinement ruling

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A civil liberties group is calling out the federal government for a perceived double standard, questioning how it can appeal a ruling against solitary confinement while at the same time saying it is trying to end the controversial practice. 

In the B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver on Tuesday, Ottawa will attempt to overturn a B.C. Supreme Court decision from January that found isolating inmates for an indefinite amount of time was unconstitutional.

It comes a month after Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tabled legislation to end the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons.

“If you say that you’re going to eliminate solitary confinement and the very same day you give instructions to your lawyers to preserve solitary confinement and fight against the ruling that found it unconstitutional … it makes absolutely no sense,” said Josh Paterson, executive director the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the respondent fighting to uphold the original ruling.

“When solitary confinement is indefinite, as it can be in federal prisons, some people are held for months, sometimes years in rooms that are no bigger than someone’s small washroom, the court said that is unconstitutional,” Paterson told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

“There has to be a time limit and there has to be independent oversight over people who are being placed in these conditions.”

Josh Paterson, with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, says the new legislation doesn’t include a required cap on how long an inmate may be isolated for. (Don Marce)

‘A new coat of paint and a new name’

According to Goodale’s bill, a new system called Structured Intervention Units (SIU) would be implemented to house inmates that are a danger to others or are in danger themselves.

While in the units, inmates would be permitted to leave their cells for four hours a day, as well as have access to mental health care and other programs.

But there is no cap on how long a prisoner can be kept in an SIU — a requirement of the B.C. Supreme Court ruling.

“As it is now, guards make lots of arbitrary decisions in relation to prisoners. We don’t have any reason to trust that in a new system, with a new coat of paint and a new name, that prisoners won’t have these opportunities taken away from them arbitrarily and that’s why there needs to be [independent] oversight,” said Paterson.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says his tabled legislation on solitary confinement looks to address the needs of the most vulnerable in federal prisons. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

A statement from Goodale’s office says the government is committed to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in the federal corrections system.

“[The proposed bill] will eliminate segregation and establish a fundamentally different system focused on rehabilitative programming and treatment. This new approach will allow us to maintain separation when necessary to maintain safety, and at the same time allow programming and human contact.”

The statement adds that the government is appealing the ruling in order to to seek judicial clarity on the issue.

Law discriminates against mentally ill: ruling

The B.C. Supreme Court ruling by Justice Peter Leask found that the law surrounding administrative segregation jeopardizes prisoner and staff safety and discriminates against mentally ill prisoners.

“I am satisfied the law … fails to respond to the actual capacities and needs of mentally ill inmates and instead imposes burdens in a manner that has the effect of reinforcing, perpetuating or exacerbating their disadvantage,” Leask wrote.

He added that under the existing rules a warden becomes judge and jury in terms of deciding how long to keep an inmate isolated.

The appeal hearing is expected to last for two days.

Listen to the full interview below:

The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn speaks with Josh Paterson about his teams’ efforts to defend the Supreme Court of B.C.’s ruling that indefinite solitary confinement is unconstitutional. 7:40

With files from Jason Proctor

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