By: The Hon. Diane Bellemare

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Hon. Diane Bellemare: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to caregivers. People don’t always choose to become a caregiver. It often happens naturally, and it’s not always easy.

In Quebec, the week of November 6 to 12 was a special time to highlight the work of caregivers and salute the community organizations that support them in their journey.

According to Statistics Canada, nearly one in four people in Canada is a caregiver, which represents roughly 25% of the population aged 15 and over, or 7.8 million Canadians. Caregivers are usually women between the ages of 45 and 65 who most often are taking care of a parent.

There is little government support for caregivers. According to a 2018 Statistics Canada survey, support for caregivers comes primarily from family members or friends. However, caregivers rarely receive financial support. Some 14% of caregivers receive financial support from family and friends, 8% receive federal tax credits, and 6% receive funding from government programs.

This is despite the fact that caregivers make a significant economic contribution. According to a study cited by Statistics Canada, caregivers in Canada contributed an estimated $26 billion in unpaid labour in 2009. Yet these caregivers receive little recognition for the support they provide.

My sister Sylvie looked after my mother every day for many years. When our mother could no longer live alone, Sylvie brought her into her own home. My sister had to leave her job and accepted all the consequences of that decision, which is difficult to imagine. I am very grateful to her, because, during that time, as a senator, I dealt with major societal issues.

It is urgent that we think about the essential services provided to older and very old individuals. The baby boomer aging wave is just beginning. Today, 19% of the population is over 65. When I visited various homes for seniors in Quebec this summer to find a suitable and, above all, available place for my mother, I noted that the robots of tomorrow will not really be able to take care of very old persons. We will have an even greater need of caregivers.

Honourable senators, as the song says, “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.” I sincerely thank these earthly angels who watch over our loved ones day and night. Let’s recognize that they cannot live on thanks alone.

Thank you, meegwetch.

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