New Brunswick

Dominic LeBlanc argues for greater federal funding for palliative care

New Brunswick's highest-ranking federal Liberal says the Trudeau government should commit more money to supporting palliative and hospice care once medically assisted death becomes law.

Government House Leader calls Atlantic Canada's residential hospice an inspiration for Canada

Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc said the federal government should invest more money in hospice and palliative care once the assisted dying legislation is passed. (CBC)

New Brunswick's highest-ranking federal Liberal says the Trudeau government should commit more money to supporting palliative and hospice care once medically assisted death becomes law.

Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc cited Atlantic Canada's first residential hospice as an inspiration for the country.

"We never want a patient to contemplate medical assistance in dying because they don't have access to community care, to high-quality and accessible palliative care in a hospital," he said. "That's the group we're honouring today in Saint John, a wonderful facility like Bobby's House, like Hospice Saint John."

LeBlanc was speaking at a fundraising luncheon to support Bobby's Hope House, a 10-bed facility that gives medical and emotional support to terminally ill patients and their families. 

The hospice doesn't charge for its rooms or round-the-clock care, relying on volunteers, donations and fundraising to cover its costs. 

Health Minister Jane Philpott, right, and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould appeared at a news conference in April after tabling legislation on doctor-assisted death. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
A second 10-bed facility, Hospice House, recently opened in a renovated convent in Fredericton. 

"We think these are models for the country," LeBlanc told CBC News.

"And I think the government of Canada should do more to help the provinces ensure greater access to these services."

Asked if that help could come in the form of federal financial support, LeBlanc seemed supportive.

"Sure. I think the government of Canada can lead the conversation with provincial governments around best practices," he said.

The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the ban on physician-assisted dying on the basis that it violated Canadians' Charter rights in a landmark ruling on Feb. 6, 2015. (Albert Couillard/CBC)
"The government of Canada can also, as part of the renewal of the Health Care Accord, do something in terms of greater financial support for hospice care and palliative care services as well as home care."

LeBlanc's comments follow a tumultuous week in Parliament during which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to lose his temper during debate on the federal government's proposed legislation on medically assisted death, Bill C-14.

Critics of the bill have called for better end-of-life care for terminally ill Canadians.

The legislation was spurred by a unanimous landmark ruling in 2015, when the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the ban on physician-assisted dying on the grounds that it violated the Charter rights of Canadians.

The justices gave the federal and provincial governments 12 months to prepare for the decision to come into force.

After taking office, the Liberal government asked for a six-month extension, but the high court granted an extra four months, to June 6.

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