A More Compassionate Toronto: Supporting Palliative and End of Life Care and Bereavement in our Community

On May 3rd, 2017, Census Canada released the 2016 Census data, that revealed 16.9% of Canadians are 65 years and older, which is over 2.2 million people. This data also showed that the population of Canadians 65 years and older has increased by 20% from 2011-2016 (Statistics Canada, 2017). The growing proportion of individuals 65 years and older is similar in the city of Toronto with approximately 426,000 people out of the total population of 2.7 million people in this age group (Statistics Canada, 2017).

This aging population will require greater access to health and community resources including caregiver support. In 2011, there were 8 million individuals who identified as caregivers in Canada, and 25% of the population in Toronto identified as caregivers. The average caregiver was described as being 45-64 years old, with 60% of individuals still working and 12% still obtaining an education (Statistics Canada, 2012). With each of these growing populations, it raises a few important questions to consider: How can the formal health care system continue to support and sustain this growing level of need, and how can we best support individuals as they approach end of life, and their loved ones that provide care and grieve?

Simultaneously on May 3rd, 2017, a number of decision-makers and community stakeholders in Toronto gathered at The 519 – Space for Change in the Church and Wellesley Village to discuss this topic. The meeting was facilitated by Pallium Canada and included MPP and Parliamentary Assistant Minister of Health and Long Term Care, John Fraser, as well as Hospice Palliative Care Ontario. The focus of this meeting was to better understand how effective Toronto is currently at supporting individuals and their families around the end of life, and why it is becoming increasingly important for all sectors in the community to partner in order to develop a Compassionate Communities Initiative in Toronto.

The Compassionate Communities model is a theory of practice for Health Promoting palliative and end of life care as well as bereavement and is largely based on the success of the WHO Healthy Cities model. This model views palliative and end of life care and bereavement as a community responsibility, which can effectively be achieved by bridging existing gaps in the community and creating and strengthening partnerships between the community and the services that are available (Pallium Canada, n.d.). The purpose of this model is to address inadequate access to care and support for caregivers, a lack of accountability for care to be delivered across systems of care and also a lack of a true integration of care (Pallium Canada, n.d.).

At the Compassionate Community Toronto Town Hall Meeting, discussion groups raised the question of whether or not attendees felt those who are caregivers, sick, at end of life and/or bereaved are supported in our city, and what they felt were Toronto’s strengths that could support a compassionate community initiative. In addition, groups identified who needs to be at the table for this initiative and what strengths they felt their organization could bring to this initiative. Many stakeholders were excited to have the opportunity to raise these important discussions in Toronto and have the opportunity build connections to support a Compassionate Community Initiative in the city in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about or how to get involved in the growing Compassionate Communities initiative in Toronto please email Jenny Lau and Bonnie Tompkins

Written by Karleigh Darnay, MSW, BA
Contact: karleigh.darnay@mail.utoronto.ca


Pallium Canada. (n.d.). Compassionate Communities

Sinha, M. (2012). Portrait of Caregivers, 2012. Statistics Canada.

Statistics Canada. (2017). Age and Sex Highlight Tables, 2016 Census.