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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 182,077 baptized members in 624 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches.

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From the Office of the Bishop


Winnipeg, February 21, 2002, (ELCIC) -- “Canadian Lutherans have a history of being very active in matters related to Canada’s health-care system,” says Dr. David Pfrimmer, a member of the national staff of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada responsible for Public Policy matters. “That’s why we have several ELCIC members who will be participating in the upcoming Roundtable on Health Care.”

The Ecumenical Health Care Network of the Canadian Council of Churches is convening a national-level Roundtable of religious leaders, health care providers, political leaders and others interested in the future of health-care in Canada. The all-day event will take place in Ottawa on Thursday, February 28, 2002.

Church hospitals and health facilities provide medical care in many communities across the country, and have been doing so for generations. With years of on-the-ground experience to guide them, Canada’s churches were strong supporters of a universal, publicly-funded health care system when the idea was proposed to Canadians by the federal government in the 1960s.

In 1965, churches hosted a gathering in Ottawa they described as, “A Working Conference on the Implications of a Health Charter for Canadians.” That meeting’s conclusions were effective in promoting the recommendations of the Hall Report. Organizers hope that the 2002 gathering, at another turning-point in the history of health care, will prove just as effective.

ELCIC members who will be participating in the Roundtable are:

Mrs. Lenore Dinsdale, Ottawa, who has been involved in the development of Parish Nursing;
Rev. Philip Heinze, an assistant to the bishop of the Eastern Synod;
Ms. Barbara Stolee, Calgary, a member of Synod Council, Synod of Alberta and the Territories, and of the board of Bethany Care Society;
and Dr. Janet Storch, Victoria, who teaches nursing at the University of Victoria.

Dr. Ron Duty, associate director of studies for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, will also be taking part in the Roundtable.

"Canada's health-care system needs to be strengthened. Not only must it be preserved, we want to put forward ideas to improve it and ensure that our system safeguards the health and well-being of all Canadians," said Stephen Allen of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, who co-chairs the Ecumenical Health Network.

Jim Marshall of The United Church of Canada is the other co-chair. "Mr. Romanow has rightly identified that our values must inform how we view the critical issues facing the future of health care," Marshall said. "Churches in our Network believe that Canada’s health care system must be based on the fundamental social values of equity, collective responsibility, compassion and caring -- values that reflect our commitment to a just society."

The two key-note speakers will be Dr. Michael Rachliss and Dr. Nuala Kenny. Dr. Rachliss is a consultant and associate professor with the Department of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, University of Toronto. He is co-author of “Strong Medicine: How to Save Canada's Health Care System” published by HarperCollins. Dr. Kenny is a former Deputy Minister of Health for Nova Scotia, and is nationally known for her leadership in pediatric medicine. Both will offer a values perspective on what our Canadian health-care system requires. A panel of speakers from across the country will note implications of the day’s learnings for each region of Canada, and will propose some next steps.

This Roundtable is part of a larger effort by the churches. Workshops are being organized across the country to help people participate in the unfolding national debate. "We have been overwhelmed by the response," said Dennis Howlett of Kairos, an ecumenical social justice agency of the churches. "I think it shows just how concerned Canadians are."

Many church members have expressed concern about high-profile proposals for the expansion of privatization in the health care system. How would for-profit solutions impact poorer provinces and vulnerable groups? "People worry that political leaders, especially in wealthier provinces, might fail to protect health care against the pressures to further expand privatization in the system," said Dr. Pfrimmer, who will moderate the Roundtable. "This system belongs to citizens, and citizens are looking for leadership from the federal government not only in terms of additional funding, but also enforceable standards so that we will not inadvertently and irreversibly change a system so precious to Canadians."

"The Canadian Churches and the Future of Health Care" will take place from 9:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m. in Room 200 of the West Block on Parliament Hill. This Roundtable is organized by the Ecumenical Health Care Network, a working group of the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Canadian Council of Churches.

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