Canadian Pain Task Force

The Canadian Pain Task Force concluded on December 31, 2021

About the Canadian Pain Task Force

The Government of Canada recognizes the impacts and challenges faced by Canadians who live with chronic pain. Approximately 1 in 5 Canadians live with chronic pain. This can have significant impacts on an individual's physical and mental health, often preventing them from undertaking everyday activities. People with chronic pain face challenges related to stigma and access to evidence-based health services to treat and manage their pain.

In 2019, Health Canada established the Canadian Pain Task Force to provide advice regarding evidence and best practices for the prevention and management of chronic pain. If you are looking for support, refer to our resources page.

The Task Force had a 3 year mandate to:

  • Assess how chronic pain is currently addressed in Canada;
  • Conduct national consultations and review available evidence to identify best and leading practices, potential areas for improvement, and elements of an improved approach to the prevention and management of chronic pain in Canada;
  • (Updated January 2021): Provide recommendations on priority actions to ensure people with pain are recognized and supported and that pain is understood, prevented, and effectively treated across Canada

The Task Force concluded its mandate on December 31, 2021, and delivered 3 reports to Health Canada:

  1. Chronic Pain in Canada: Laying a Foundation for Action (June 2019)
    1. This report summarizes the state of chronic pain in Canada
  2. Working Together to Better Understand, Prevent, and Manage Chronic Pain: What We Heard (October 2020)
    1. This report summarizes:
      1. consultations about chronic pain
      2. gaps and challenges in current care
      3. best pain management practices
      4. ways to improve Canada's approach to preventing and managing chronic pain in Canada
    2. The consultations occurred in-person, in writing, and online
  3. An Action Plan for Pain in Canada (March 2021)
    1. This report provides recommendations on priority actions, so that:
      1. people with pain are recognized and supported
      2. pain is understood, prevented, and effectively treated throughout Canada
      3. Canada can better meet the needs of people living with chronic pain in the future

In April 2022, Health Canada established a dedicated team to pursue engagement with pain stakeholders and coordinate the federal response to the Canadian Pain Task Force recommendations. This team can be reached by email at:

Coming together: Engaging stakeholders and Canadians

The Canadian Pain Task Force was committed to hearing the voices of people living with pain to inform the path forward. This commitment was reflected in the Task Force's co-chair model, which included an advocate for people living with pain as well as a clinician. Both the Task Force and supporting External Advisory Panel included people impacted personally by pain.

The Task Force engaged Canadians through regional stakeholder workshops, and roundtable discussions to identify best practices and elements of an improved approach to the prevention and management of chronic pain in Canada.

Additionally, the Task Force conducted a national online consultation from February to May 2020 to help the Government of Canada better understand and address the needs of people who live with pain.

Input received has helped inform the work of the Task Force and will improve how we understand, prevent and manage pain in this country.


Health Canada selected members to ensure a broad range of knowledge, experience, expertise, and perspectives on the issue of chronic pain. Members include people living with pain, as well as researchers, educators, and health professionals with experience and expertise in preventing and managing chronic pain.

  • Fiona Campbell (Co-Chair)
  • Maria Hudspith (Co-Chair)
  • Melissa Anderson
  • Manon Choinière
  • Hani El-Gabalawy
  • Jacques Laliberté
  • Michael Sangster
  • Jaris Swidrovich
  • Linda Wilhelm

Member Biographies

Fiona Campbell, BSc, MD, FRCA (Co-Chair)

Dr. Fiona Campbell is a pediatric anesthesiologist and Professor in the Department of Anaesthesia & Pain Medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), University of Toronto. She is Director of the Chronic Pain Team and Co-Director of the SickKids Pain Centre at the Hospital for Sick Children, where she helps integrate research, education, quality improvement, and policy initiatives.

As Co-Chair of the Pediatric Chronic Pain Advisory Network, in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Health, Dr. Campbell has helped develop a provincial strategy to enhance access to improved pediatric chronic pain services.
Dr. Campbell is the immediate past President of the Canadian Pain Society (May 2018 to May 2020).

Maria Hudspith, MA (Co-Chair)

Maria Hudspith is the inaugural Executive Director of Pain BC, a collaborative non-government organization working to improve the lives of people in pain. Ms. Hudspith has held this position since June 2010. With two decades of experience in community development and systems change, Ms. Hudspith provides strategic leadership, focused on education, engagement, knowledge translation, and advocacy in support of people living with chronic pain. Her responsibilities include developing and implementing strategic and operational plans, designing and evaluating programs, leading fundraising efforts, and developing and sustaining partnerships.

Ms. Hudspith is a Co-Principal Investigator on the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's (CIHR) Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research Chronic Pain Network and Co-Lead of the Network's patient engagement initiatives.

Ms. Hudspith has more than two decades of experience working in the public sector to mobilize communities, democratize organizations, and advance progressive agendas through policy change and program development.

Melissa Anderson, PT BScPT, MPA

Melissa Anderson is a physiotherapist and formerly the Chief Advocacy Officer of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA). She received her Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy and her Masters of Public Administration (Management) from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is the past president of the New Brunswick Physiotherapy Association (2012-2014) and the New Brunswick Branch of the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. From 1992-2017, Mrs. Anderson worked as a clinical physiotherapist, clinical practice leader, and physiotherapy manager in Saint John, New Brunswick. She represents the CPA on the Coalition for Safe and Effective Pain Management. After relocating to Ottawa, Ontario, she worked as the Chief Advocacy Officer for the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. In this role, she aided in policy planning, development and implementation, and was the National Lead for CPA's strategy to combat the opioid crisis in Canada. She currently sits on the Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter - Membership Committee of the Canadian Society of Association Executives.

Manon Choinière, PhD

Dr. Manon Choinière is a Full Professor at the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine of the University of Montreal and Researcher at the Research Centre of the Hospital Centre at the University of Montreal. She holds a Ph.D. in health psychology from McGill University. She does evaluative, epidemiological, and clinical research on acute and chronic pain. Her research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Quebec Research Fund - Health.

Over the years, Dr. Choinière has published more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals and presented the results of her research work in numerous international and national scientific meetings. She is one of the founding members of the Quebec Pain Research Network (QPRN) and CIHR's Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research Chronic Pain Network (CPN). She is also co-chair of the CPN Registry Working Group and chairs the QPRN Patient-Oriented-Research Platform.

Hani El-Gabalawy, MD, FRCPC

Dr. Hani El-Gabalawy is currently Professor of Medicine and Immunology, Senior Clinician-Scientist, and Endowed Rheumatology Research Chair at the University of Manitoba, and former Director of the Arthritis Centre. As a practicing rheumatologist, Dr. El-Gabalawy regularly faces the challenges inherent in diagnosis and management of individuals with various forms of chronic pain. Since a substantial proportion of his clinical practice involves Indigenous People with a range of rheumatic diseases, he is also particularly aware of the disproportionate burden of chronic pain and opioid related issues affecting this population. Dr. El-Gabalawy was the Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute for Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis from 2012 to 2017, where he developed and implemented a strategic plan with chronic pain as the first of three strategic priorities. Dr. El-Gabalawy received his pre-medical and medical studies degrees from the Faculties of Science and Medicine, University of Calgary and completed his Internal Medicine training and Rheumatology Fellowship at McGill University. From 1997-2000, he was a visiting scientist at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland. In 2000, he returned to University of Manitoba where he continued his research work in the area of pathogenesis and prognosis of early inflammatory arthritis. Dr. El-Gabalawy has established a unique cohort of high-risk First Nations family members of rheumatoid arthritis patients, who are being followed longitudinally for the earliest evidence of rheumatoid arthritis onset, for which he has received uninterrupted funding from CIHR since 2005.

Jacques Laliberté, BCom

Jacques Laliberté is a founding director of the Quebec Association of Chronic Pain in 2004, Chair of the Board of Directors and volunteer Chief Executive for 11 years. He is still very active on the executive as Immediate Past-President. He had a long career as a manager for a multinational oil company, working in positions ranging from managing Director of Subsidiaries to Strategic Planning Consultant, as well as in sales and marketing. Currently, Mr. Laliberté serves as Co-Chair of the Executive Committee of the Chronic Pain Network.

In 2013, Mr. Laliberté was awarded the Governor General Medal for Volunteers, which recognizes living Canadians and permanent residents who have made a significant, sustained, and unpaid contribution to their community, in Canada or abroad.

Michael Sangster, PT, MBA, BScPT, DPT

Dr. Michael Sangster is a physiotherapist and clinical specialist in pain science. He is a graduate of the Dalhousie University School of Physiotherapy, the Master of Business Administration program at Saint Mary's University, and the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Utica College. Dr. Sangster is the Professional Practice Leader – Physiotherapy, and the Physiotherapist on the Complex Pain team at the IWK Health Centre. He is also an Adjunct Faculty member at the Dalhousie University School of Physiotherapy, the Past Chair of the Board of Directors of the Nova Scotia College of Physiotherapists, and a founding member of the Pain Science Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. In addition, Dr. Sangster is a contributing chapter author to the Oxford Textbook of Pediatric Pain, a TEDx speaker, and a co-developer of a module of the online pediatric pain curriculum at SickKids in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Sangster is the recipient of the Award of Distinction for outstanding commitment, invaluable contribution and dedicated long-term service from the Nova Scotia College of Physiotherapists (2015).

Jaris Swidrovich, BSP, PharmD

Dr. Swidrovich informed the Canadian Pain Task Force that, on April 22, 2021, he was acclaimed as the NDP Candidate (Saskatoon West) to run in the next federal election. For this reason, he resigned his membership to ensure the neutrality and credibility of the work of the Task Force.

Dr. Swidrovich obtained his Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy (BSP) from the University of Saskatchewan and his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) from the University of Toronto. Dr. Swidrovich is a member of Yellow Quill First Nation and was born, raised, and continues to reside in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He is the first self-identified First Nations Doctor of Pharmacy in Canada and the first self-identified First Nations faculty member in pharmacy in Canada. He is an Assistant Professor in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan and is currently also pursuing a Ph.D. in Education. Dr. Swidrovich has worked in local community pharmacies, rural health clinics, and research, as well as worked internationally. He has worked as a Clinical Coordinator of Pharmaceutical Services at St. Paul's Hospital with the Saskatoon Health Region. Here, he cared for patients living with HIV/AIDS and substance use disorders. He works with and advocates for diverse and priority populations who may be living with HIV/AIDS, mental illness, and/or poverty. He is a Clinical Pharmacist Mentor for the Student Wellness Initiative Toward Community Health (SWITCH). Dr. Swidrovich is a former and original member of the Board of Directors of the Sanctum Care Group, a hospice and transitional care home in Saskatoon for people living with HIV. He is the Chair of a national Indigenous Health Pharmacist Specialty Network and Chair of a national Truth and Reconciliation Special Interest Group with the Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada. He remains active on the City of Saskatoon's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee and as a volunteer Director on the Board of the Saskatoon Community Clinic.

In 2018, Dr. Swidrovich was the recipient of the National Patient Care Achievement Award from the Canadian Pharmacists Association and the Indigenous Student Achievement Award from the University of Saskatchewan College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Linda Wilhelm

Linda Wilhelm is the President of the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance, a national, volunteer, patient driven organization that has worked to improve the lives of people living with arthritis since 2002. Ms. Wilhelm is co-chair of the Steering Committee for CIHR's Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) Chronic Pain Network, a member of the network's patient advisory committee, and a member of The Evidence Alliance (SPOR) Network. Ms. Wilhelm frequently participates in Health Canada expert advisory panels and conferences concerning access and drug safety issues. She is a former member of both the Expert Advisory Committee for Vigilance of Health Products and the Drug Safety and Effectiveness Network's Steering Committee.

Ms. Wilhelm has been an active advocate for treatment access and quality of care for all patients both regionally and nationally for over twenty years and is a past Board Chair for the New Brunswick Division of the Arthritis Society. Ms. Wilhelm has been living with Rheumatoid Arthritis for over thirty five years, many of those years unresponsive to the medications used to treat the disease, which resulted in significant and irreversible damage to most of the joints in her body leaving her to manage chronic pain on a daily basis and throughout her recovery from fourteen major joint reconstructive surgeries.

Ms. Wilhelm is a recipient of the Queen's Jubilee Golden and Diamond Medal and the Qualman-Davies Arthritis Consumer Community Leadership Award (2015).

Summary of Affiliations and Interests

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