Canada must prepare for health challenges caused by the climate crisis, say Greens

VICTORIA, BC – The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that climate-related illnesses are increasing and need urgent attention. In Canada numerous public health associations, including the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), the Urban Public Health Association (UPHN), the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) and the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS), have flagged increases in climate-related illnesses.

“The climate emergency will impact every area of our lives,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. “Along with the many physical challenges, we’re also going to have to deal with the mental anguish affecting people displaced by floods and wildfires. Young people are losing hope as they watch governments failing to address the crisis in any meaningful way.”

Children are especially vulnerable to climate-related illnesses such as heat sickness, respiratory conditions caused by poor air quality, illness from contaminated water and the mental health impacts of natural hazards, extreme weather and displacement.

In her address to the United Nations last month, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg said: “You are robbing my generation of a future by focusing on money and not on fighting global warming. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

“Greta’s anger is reflected in the eyes of the millions of young people marching for climate action around the world,” said Ms. May. “The issue of climate-related health impacts continues to fly under the radar of government health departments. That must change. A Green government will change that.”

The Green Party is committed to the principles and requirements of the Canada Health Act and will extend that model to other aspects of health care. The Green Party supports the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Health to expand the Canada Health Act to include prescription drugs dispensed outside of a hospital. Universal Pharmacare will save lives and cut health-care costs.

A June 2019 report by the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, led by Dr. Eric Hoskins, noted that recent studies have found that only 20 per cent of Canadians have adequate drug coverage, almost one million Canadians have cut their household spending on food and heat to pay for medication, and one in five households has a family member who, in the past year, has not taken a prescribed medicine due to its cost.

“We will implement a national universal pharmacare program immediately,” said Ms. May. “As we move into the ‘era of consequences’ of climate change we must ensure that every Canadian is able to afford their medication and has access to a family doctor. Greens will make sure that primary care is centred on the patient and is sensitive to issues of climate, social justice, equity and cultural appropriateness.”

A Green government will:

  • Expand the single-payer Medicare model to include Pharmacare for everyone as well as free dental care for low-income Canadians.
  • Create a bulk drug purchasing agency and reduce drug patent protection periods.
  • Support First Nations, Métis and Inuit in (re)building traditional knowledge systems around healing and wellness, including the formal inclusion of traditional healing within mental wellness and home and community care programs. This process must be led by First Nations, Métis and Inuit organizations.
  • Implement Calls to Action 18-24 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, improving health care for Indigenous Peoples.

“With the exception of global nuclear war, the climate crisis poses the greatest existential
threat humanity has ever known,” said Ms. May. “Greens are prepared. We have a robust climate action plan and our health care policies will ensure Canadians have access to the services they need. Sending more Green MPs to parliament next week will make sure of this.”

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For more information or to arrange an interview contact:

Rosie Emery
Press Secretary