CCS adapting to COVID-19 realities to support Canadians during and after the pandemic
The Canadian Cancer Society encourages governments across Canada to adopt public policies that will prevent cancer and help people living with cancer.
Read about some recent advocacy successes below.
Support for Canada’s family caregivers
Family caregivers are the backbone of our healthcare system, providing unpaid care estimated at over $25 billion for 2009. Most family caregivers have annual incomes of less than $45,000 and most are women. Family caregivers often become financially, physically and emotionally overwhelmed.
The Canadian Cancer Society has been advocating for better support for caregivers for more than 10 years and has called for a national caregivers strategy.
Our targeted political advocacy efforts have had significant success, including these actions by the federal government:
- January 2009 –passed the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act, allowing self-employed workers to receive compassionate care benefits if they pay into the Employment Insurance program
- February 2012 –announced the Family Caregiver Tax Credit, allowing caregivers to claim a caregiver amount on their tax return
- August 2012 –introduced a new Employment Insurance benefit for parents of critically ill children under 18 years old, allowing caregivers to claim up to 35 weeks of EI benefits
- April 2015 - announced the improvement of the EI Compassionate care benefits from 6 to 26 weeks of benefits to allow family caregivers to take time off work in order to provide care and support to a loved one in palliative care
We will continue to work on minimizing financial burden and to ensure that all Canadians have access to the right care, in the right place, by the right person including good palliative care.
All forms of asbestos cause cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society has long called for all levels of Canadian government to adopt a comprehensive strategy addressing all aspects of asbestos.
We worked to make asbestos an election issue during the Quebec provincial election in summer 2012, and 3 out of 4 major parties promised to oppose the asbestos industry, if elected.
In September 2012, the newly elected provincial government in Quebec cancelled a loan guarantee to the asbestos industry. As a result of this action, the federal government announced it would no longer oppose including chrysotile asbestos in the Rotterdam Convention’s list of hazardous substances.
The Society is urging the federal government to adopt a comprehensive strategy to address all aspects of the asbestos issue, including:
- immediately setting a clear timetable for phasing out the use and export of asbestos
- implementing a national surveillance system to track health outcomes of people who have been exposed to asbestos
- creating a public registry of buildings that contain asbestos
- providing transition support for affected communities
- including chrysotile on the Rotterdam Convention’s Prior Informed Consent list
The Canadian Cancer Society has been at the forefront of tobacco control advocacy for decades. We campaigned to ban smoking in indoor public spaces and workplaces across the country and in recent years we’ve lobbied the federal government to protect the public through:
Graphic warnings on cigarette packaging: In 2000, Canada was the first country to require picture warnings on tobacco packages, with regulations taking effect in 2001. There are now more than 100 countries/jurisdictions that have followed the Canadian model. The pictures graphically show the effects of cancer and tobacco smoking, including colour photographs of cancerous lungs and diseased mouths.
The Society released a study in January 2002 that showed the effectiveness of the graphic warnings.
In 2012, the warnings were increased in size to cover 75% of the package front and back and now include a toll-free quit line number for smokers to call who want assistance in quitting. In many provinces, the quitline service is provided through the Society’s Smokers’ Helpline.
Ban of flavoured tobacco products: In June 2008, after a survey suggested that a high number of teens were experimenting with cigarillos, the Society called for a ban of flavoured tobacco products and met with government representatives to persuade them to take action against this dangerous marketing tactic.
In October 2009, the federal government passed legislation making it illegal to sell flavoured cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps in Canada. In subsequent years, provinces adopted legislation on flavoured tobacco, with 7 provinces (AB, ON, QC, NB, NS, PEI, NL) banning flavours including menthol in most or all tobacco products. In 2015, Nova Scotia became the first jurisdiction in the world to ban menthol in cigarettes and other tobacco products. In 2017, a national ban on menthol cigarettes was implemented, with menthol in all tobacco products banned in November 2018.
Provincial Initiatives in Manitoba
As the voice of cancer patients in Manitoba, the Canadian Cancer Society works to affect change in this province to ensure that governments at all levels and the health care system hear the voice of Manitobans and make changes that are responsive to the evolving needs of cancer patients, their families and the general public.
We work with like minded organizations including:
• Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance
• Partners in Planning for Healthy Living
• Alliance for the Prevention of Chronic Disease
• Canadian Cancer Action Network
These partnerships represent opportunities to make our collective voice stronger, reduce overlap and duplication and help keep our administrative costs down.
Our most important partnership remains with Manitobans. By working together over the last few years we have been a powerful catalyst for great and meaningful change that directly impacts more than 70,000 Manitobans on a cancer journey today and thousands more into the future.
With the support of more than 13,000 Manitobans who put their names in support of a cancer action plan, the Cancer Society was able to convince the provincial government to announce more than $58 million in new cancer initiatives that will:
• Reduce wait times
• Increase access to care
• Increase the number of doctors who specialize in cancer diagnosis
The Manitoba Division of the Canadian Cancer Society worked with others for three years, which led to three major projects that will impact thousands of lives every year.
Increased provincial tobacco control spending – Manitoba has historically had one of the lowest investments in tobacco control spending. The Canadian Cancer Society helped to convince the government in 2011 to promise to increase the amount it was spending on helping Manitobans go tobacco free, from $1 million a year to $5 million a year. This was agreed to after the Cancer Society pointed out that the government was collecting more than $250 million in tobacco taxes but spending less than $1 million to help people quit. In 2012, the government increased its spending by agreeing to cover the cost of the proven effective smoking cessation drug Champix.
Manitoba Cancer Patient Journey Project – The Cancer Society has long advocated to reduce wait times not only for various kinds of treatment but also the time it takes from the first suspicion of cancer to a formal diagnosis. Today, that can take up to nine months. Last year the government announced a $40 million project to reduce the times from the first suspicion of cancer to treatment to less than eight weeks. This project, which builds on aggressive cancer wait time reduction strategies pioneered in the United Kingdom, will ease the anxiety for about 61,000 Manitobans who receive a cancer scare every year.
Home Cancer Drug Program – For three years the Cancer Society has made the case that it was not fair that cancer patients who received their treatment in pill form outside a clinical setting had to pay for it, while the costs were covered by the government if it was taken in a hospital. The policy – that was out of step with what was taking place in the other Western provinces – forced rural Manitobans to leave their communities and families to travel to Winnipeg for treatment. In 2011, Manitobans supported the Cancer Society view that this was not fair. More than 13,000 signed petition letters supporting the Cancer Society and then, in a public opinion poll, 91% said that the government should cover the cost of cancer treatment and support drugs no matter where they were taken.
In 2012, shortly after being elected to a second mandate, the government announced the Home Cancer Drug Program. Since it was announced 10 months ago, more than 6,800 Manitobans have enrolled in the program reducing patient costs by about $5 million.
Municipal Initiatives in Manitoba
At the municipal level, the Manitoba Division has also been active in many communities throughout Manitoba.
Reduce Smoking in Public Places – In 2011 the Cancer Society engaged all municipalities in initiatives to expand smoking bans in public places. Having met with members of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities to discuss outdoor smoking and provided them with a template best-practices by-law, the Society was pleased when Stonewall became the first community to enact this bylaw in 2011.
In 2012, Winnipeg City Council passed a by-law banning smoking on or around outdoor sports venues, playgrounds and other children’s play structures. Later in the year, the Assiniboine Zoo also put in place a smoking ban in all public areas except in a specifically designated zone.