A Joint Letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin from the President of the CCCB and the Leaders of the Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Churches in Canada Concerning Health Care

Thursday, January 29 2004

The Right Honourable Paul Martin
Prime Minister of Canada
80, rue Wellington
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

Fax: (613) 941-6900

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

Accompanying our best wishes, we wish to send our sincere congratulations, as you became Prime Minister of Canada last month. This great responsibility brings with it the possibility of achieving tremendous good for Canadians and many other persons around the world. We pray that God’s blessings are with you as you assume this demanding new role.

As leaders of Canada’s major Christian Churches, we write to you today concerning one of the issues of most pressing importance to Canadians: the future of health care in Canada. Along with most Canadians we welcomed with great anticipation and hope the final report of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. It was aptly called Building on Values, and the very first recommendation was to “establish a new Canadian Health Covenant as a tangible statement of Canadians’ values and a guiding force for our publicly funded health care system.” (Romanow Report, November 2002, p. xxiv). Not only did the Churches agree with this emphasis; we had been the ones to suggest it to Commissioner Romanow in the testimony of the Ecumenical Health Care Network (a project of the Canadian Council of Churches) at an Ottawa public hearing on May 28, 2002. (Attached please see our proposed Health Care Covenant for All People in Canada.)

We continue to be convinced that the path to beneficial and sustainable reform of Canada’s most cherished social program lies in establishing a common vision that reflects the values and priorities of Canadians: values such as equity, collective responsibility, compassion and caring. The process of developing and adopting a Health Covenant would greatly assist in this effort.

That is why, Mr. Prime Minister, we ask you to urge your Minister of Health to commit immediately to the adoption of a Health Care Covenant for All People in Canada, which would clearly express the values and objectives of the health care system and become a set of guiding principles for policy makers, health care managers and health providers as they work to improve care in this country.

We are pleased that the appointments to the Health Council have been made. We believe that the mandate of the Health Council would be assisted and guided by the Health Care Covenant for All People in Canada. We, therefore, strongly urge that you request your Minister of Health to table the Covenant at an early meeting of the Council and urge the Council to engage in a process to adopt the Health Care Covenant for All People in Canada.

It is our hope that the Health Council is transparent in its mandate and that it regularly consult with the Canadian public on the values that undergird health care as well as its policies and programs.

Mr. Martin, as we have recently celebrated the birth of Christ, many Canadian families and communities paused to reflect on how, from an extremely humble beginning, a great blessing came into the world. The arrival of the new year marks a most appropriate moment for your government to give life to a participative, values-based process for health care reform in Canada, by the establishment of a Health Council and a Health Care Covenant for All People in Canada. The members of the Ecumenical Health Care Network are at your disposal, and that of your officials, to discuss these proposals further at your convenience.

Mr. Prime Minister, we wish you, your family and your collaborators abundant blessings throughout 2004.

Sincerely yours,

The Most Rev. Michael G. Peers
The Anglican Church of Canada

+ Brendan M. O’Brien
Archbishop of St. John’s
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Rev. Raymond Schultz
National Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

The Rev. P. Alex McDonald
Moderator, 129th General Assembly
The Presbyterian Church in Canada

The Right Rev. Peter Short
United Church of Canada