Report shows Canada has the worst record in protecting seniors — Long-term care needs to be under the Canada Health Act

"This report by a federal government agency shows how governments and employers failed seniors in long-term care as we went through the first, then the second, wave of COVID. And now they are failing them again in the third wave. Canada cannot continue to ignore this crisis; the impact on residents and workers in these facilities is a national tragedy. To protect our seniors, the Canada Health Act must govern long-term care in Canada." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President.

Ottawa (30 March 2021) — A new report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) demonstrates Canada's failure to protect vulnerable seniors. Canada has the worst record for COVID-19 deaths in long-term care (LTC) homes among wealthy countries. NUPGE calls for immediate action by the federal government to bring LTC under the Canada Health ActThe report, The Impact of COVID-19 on Long-Term Care in Canadafinds that 69% of Canada's ovall COVID-19 deaths were in nursing homes, compared to the international average of 41%. NUPGE has continued to call for action in LTC and for LTC to be made part of Canada's public health care system under the Canada Health Act.

The numbers are jarring

The study found that between March 2020 and February 2021, more than 80,000 residents and staff of LTC homes were infected with the coronavirus. Outbreaks were reported in 2,500 care homes and 14,000 residents died. Front-line staff in LTC and retirement homes were heavily affected by the pandemic, with over 23,000 staff infected and 28 deaths since the start of the first wave.

The report goes further than focusing solely on COVID-19. The study shows that resident deaths for all causes increased by 19% in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador. This amounts to 2,273 more deaths than the 5-year average prior to COVID-19. What this shows is that the risk to seniors also resulted from the isolation, depression, and lack of proper medical care that were caused by the failures to properly contain the pandemic in LTC and residential care settings.

It will forever be a national shame that during the first wave of the pandemic, 1,500 members of the Canadian Armed Forces had to be deployed to 32 care homes in Ontario and Quebec. The resulting military reports showed an appalling lack of care and shocked Canadians by revealing that seniors were left soiled and unfed because the system utterly broke down.

Second wave worse than the first

Possibly one of the most troubling aspects of this report is that it shows that the number of COVID-19 infections in nursing homes increased by 62% in the second wave over the rate during the first wave. This statistic alone indicts the whole system, from all levels of government, to the managers and owners of LTC facilities in Canada. It shows that even when the threat was known, and the public health measures needed to protect seniors were clear, the system failed to the point that seniors were actually more at risk as the pandemic progressed. 

NUPGE renews call to get profit out of LTC

NUPGE has previously shown the problems inherent in for-profit LTC. This includes producing a comprehensive report on the issue of privatization in LTC: Neglecting the Most Vulnerable: The Privatization of Long-term Care. The CIHI report has given fuel to the need to quickly deal with the problems of privatization and for-profit LTC homes. Seniors should be confident that their care will not be compromised by profit.

A systemic problem requires a systemic solution

NUPGE believes that the dramatic rise in infection rates between the first and second wave of the pandemic points to a systemic failure in LTC in Canada. This requires a systemic solution and this needs to be a federal priority. The current ad hoc and patchwork LTC framework is abjectly failing seniors. A first step towards reforming LTC in Canada is to bring it under the aegis of the Canada Health Act. This is the legislative framework under which provinces and territories receive federal funding for public health care and are required to adhere to the principles of public health care to receive that funding. 

NUPGE renews call for federal action

The National Union has sent letters to Prime Minister Trudeau during both the first and second waves of the pandemic. The first letter from April 17, 2020, raised the alarm on long-term care and made the first call for LTC to be included under the Canada Health Act. The second letter was sent on November 12, 2020, after the government's Speech from the Throne.

Both letters were also copied to the premiers, as NUPGE recognizes that federal, provincial and territorial governments must work together to protect the residents and workers in long-term care. The federal government's commitment to working with the provinces and territories on developing LTC standards is positive, but the goal of better standards in LTC is only as strong as the framework under which these enhanced standards are delivered. This is why NUPGE believes that LTC must be part of the public health care system under the Canada Health Act and should not be delivered by for-profit corporations. 

There has been little progress on the promises by the federal government to deal with the LTC crisis. Governments seem to be hoping that vaccinations will address the COVID-19 outbreaks in LTC. The vaccinations are having a positive effect, but Canadians will not forget the failures of our governments and the failures of LTC. Take the profit out of LTC, bring LTC under the Canada Health Act, and invest in LTC. The CIHI report shows Canada has been the worst among wealthy countries at protecting our seniors. Canada must take these steps and strive to be the best at caring for our seniors. 


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE





The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE