Conservative MP Mark Warawa used his emotional farewell address to the House Commons on Tuesday to call for changes that will ensure more Canadians have access to palliative care.
Warawa, who is facing his own battle with cancer, also urged parliamentarians “to love one another, to encourage each other, because God loves us.”
Lawmakers from different political parties struggled to hold back tears as they paid tribute to the veteran British Columbia MP, who was first elected to the House of Commons in 2004.
He received his cancer diagnosis after he’d publicly announced in January he would retire from politics. In April, he said doctors had found cancer in his lungs, colon and lymph nodes.
The issue of palliative care became very real to him, he said, during his recent stay in hospital. He found himself “experiencing what it’s like to face end of life.”
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Warawa said statistics show that between 70 and 84 per cent of Canadians have no access to palliative care, a number he called “tragic.”
“We’re trying to fix the body, but in some cases it’s better not to do the heroic things,” he said, referring to treatments like chemotherapy and surgery. “Science has shown us that you can live longer and (have) a better quality of life, in some cases, if you’re given palliative care. But that was not provided to me, those options. Why is that? The system’s broken and needs to be fixed.”
Warawa, who celebrated his 69th birthday on Tuesday, said he hopes the next Parliament will commit to legislative changes to ensure palliative care is available to more Canadians.
A religious man, he retired from politics with a plan to become a chaplain with a focus on pastoral care for seniors.
“I’m doing the studying and reading, and lo and behold I got sick,” Warawa said.
He said he hopes to stay on the job as an MP until the October election, but added he’ll likely work from his constituency office in his Langley-Aldergrove riding.
“I may be around for a long time, or I may be around for a short time. We don’t know,” said the father of five and grandfather of 10.
MPs in the House of Commons stood and applauded.
“We are praying for healing for you, Mark,” said Ed Fast, a fellow B.C. Tory. “And Mark, I think I speak for all of us in this House when I say you will be sorely missed, you’re leaving an incredible legacy behind. And that legacy includes kindness.”
Speaker Geoff Regan, a Liberal, said:”`You leave here, sir, with our love and admiration.”
Nathan Cullen, a B.C. New Democrat MP, also gave a message to Warawa: “I hope that you’ll understand that the shortness of my words here are in direct contrast to the depth and length of my admiration and love for you. Thank you, Mark.”
Warawa urged his fellow MPs to focus on taking care of their bodies and stressed the importance of spending time with their families.
“Because when you’re gone, you’re gone — and it’s over. So, make sure that’s a priority in your life.”