History In the Making

On Monday, November 1, 2010, I participated in Chronic Pain Awareness Day at the Ontario Legislature. Chronic Pain Awareness Day was organized by ACTION Ontario, the not-for-profit organization that I chair. The Honourable Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care for Ontario, delivered a passionate and meaningful speech about Bill 101; a piece of legislation aimed at curtailing opioid misuse. It would be a first step towards a comprehensive pain strategy in Ontario (the most populated province in Canada which clearly lacks appropriate ways to address chronic pain). Similarly, Christine Elliott, MPP for Whitby–Oshawa and the PC Health Critic, and France Gélinas, MPP for Nickel Belt and the NDP health critic, voiced their support for Bill 101, within the context of an organized well thought approach to chronic pain.

At ACTION Ontario’s inaugural Queen’s Park reception, the audience consisted of patients, members of provincial parliament including the leader of the opposition, as well as members of their staff, industry representation, and clinicians, scientists and other healthcare providers. That same day, members of we met with several MPPs in order to deliver the message that the time had come for a comprehensive pain strategy in Ontario. I must that I was surprised at the enthusiasm with which our proposals were received. This led me to the realization that for the first time in the 28 years of my career, I could be hopeful that patients with chronic pain would soon have a better system to diagnose and manage their painful disorders. Let’s look back and see how we’ve arrived at this point.

In 1976, a group of physicians, clinicians and researchers came together to form the Canadian branch of the International Association for the Study of Pain, the Canadian Pain Society.

The 1981 move towards the development of a Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada opened the door for many Special Interest Groups to begin seeking protection under this legislation. A Special Interest Group is defined as a “community with an interest in advancing a specific area of knowledge, learning, or technology”.

In 2002, the Canadian Pain Society began a partnership with the Canadian Pain Coalition, an umbrella patient group with the mandate to promote sustained improvement in the treatment of all types of pain.

At the same time, the then Presidents of the Canadian Pain Society and Canadian Pain Coalition along with researchers and clinicians, worked behind the scenes with Senator Sharon Carstairs, a long-time socially motivated advocate, for the recognition of chronic pain as an illness as well as proclaiming a National Pain Awareness Week.

On October 28, 2004, the Honourable Senator Yves Morin moved that “ this House call upon the Government of Canada to establish the first week of the month of November in each and every year, throughout Canada, as National Pain Awareness Week”. So, the National Pain Awareness week was born during the first week of each November.

Shortly thereafter, in March 2005, some of my colleagues and I joined forces to create ACTION Ontario, a not-for-profit organization that educates and advocates on behalf of patients with neuropathic pain for better diagnosis, treatment and access to treatment.