Government of Canada takes action to support people living with chronic pain

News release

Canadian Pain Task Force releases their second report

November 6, 2020 | Ottawa, Ontario | Health Canada

Chronic pain has significant impacts on a person’s physical and mental health, often preventing people from enjoying everyday activities. In Canada, an estimated one in four people, aged 15 or older, live with chronic pain. Support for people living with chronic pain is especially important during the COVID-19 outbreak, when many people are feeling increased stress as access to health and social services may be reduced.

Today, as Canada marks National Pain Awareness Week, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced the release of the Canadian Pain Task Force’s second report. The Minister also confirmed nearly $3.5 million in funding for three projects that will help provide support and access to care for people living with chronic pain.

Following an extensive in-person and online public consultation between July 2019 and August 2020 with people across Canada who either live with and/or have an interest in chronic pain, the Task Force published its findings today in the report Working Together to Better Understand, Prevent, and Manage Chronic Pain: What We Heard. It identifies best practices and approaches for decision-makers, professionals, and people living with chronic pain to improve access to pain care, awareness and education, research, surveillance, and care for Indigenous Peoples. It also highlights further opportunities to leverage and improve existing practices in Canada, stressing the importance of future leadership, coordination, and resources.

The three projects receiving funding will help to improve a range of outcomes for people living with pain, including vulnerable and at-risk populations, such as women, older people, Indigenous Peoples, certain ethno cultural communities, people who use drugs, and Veterans. They incorporate some of the best practices highlighted by the Task Force to help build mentorship and capacity within communities, improve access to treatment, and prevent chronic pain, disability and substance use.

The Government of Canada is committed to better understanding, preventing, and managing chronic pain in Canada. Advancing these efforts is key to enhancing the quality of life for people who live with chronic pain and those that help care for them.


“National Pain Awareness Week allows us to collectively raise awareness and understanding of an often invisible chronic condition that millions of Canadians face. Our priority is to ensure that those who live with chronic pain receive the support that they need to lead full lives, so that they are able to work and fully participate in the activities that they enjoy. I am confident that the work of the Canadian Pain Task Force and initiatives announced today will help make a positive difference.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

“With this report, we are hoping to alert people in Canada that chronic pain is a common and often devastating disease, and that action is critically needed to address untreated pain.”

Dr. Fiona Campbell
Director, Chronic Pain Program, Department of Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, Hospital for Sick Children
Past-President, Canadian Pain Society
Co-Chair, Canadian Pain Task Force

“The Task Force aims to address untreated pain among all people in Canada, and we are particularly concerned with the intersection of pain and various forms of social and economic marginalization, which further compound the stigma attached to acknowledging pain and seeking care.”

Ms. Maria Hudspith
Executive Director, Pain BC
Co-Chair, Canadian Pain Task Force

“The opioid crisis highlighted a need in primary care for medical mentoring in chronic pain and substance use. Since the creation of the Collaborative Mentorship Network, the need for diverse mentorship options has been identified. The Substance Use and Addiction Program contribution is allowing the Network to provide resources for building capacity, not just among family physicians, but within their teams as well.”

Dr. Cathy Scrimshaw
Lead, Collaborative Mentorship Network for Chronic Pain and Addiction
Alberta College of Family Physicians

“With this federal funding, we will be able to expand the successful Extension for Community Health Outcomes (ECHO) Ontario Chronic Pain and Opioid Stewardship program to other Canadian provinces. ECHO enables a community of practice where clinicians in rural, remote and underserved areas learn from a network of specialists in academic centres and from each other.”

Dr. Andrea Furlan
Pain Specialist and Senior Scientist, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute
University Health Network

“Health Canada’s funding will provide our team the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the multidisciplinary Transitional Pain Service Program, a first in Canada. We look forward to sharing the outcomes of a multicentre study that offers additional post-operative support to patients who are at risk of developing chronic post-surgical pain and pain disability.”

Hance Clarke, M.D., Ph.D., FRCPC
Director Pain Services, Toronto General Hospital
University Health Network

Quick facts

  • Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts or recurs for more than three months and is associated with significant emotional distress and/or functional disability. It is a malfunctioning of the pain signalling pathways of the nervous system. The pain may first emerge as a symptom of an injury or other health condition, but it can also occur without another underlying illness or injury. Although often invisible, chronic pain is now understood as a disease in its own right. Women, older people, Indigenous Peoples, certain ethno cultural communities, people who use drugs, and Veterans are disproportionately affected. 

  • In 2019, the total direct (e.g., healthcare) and indirect (e.g., productivity loss) costs of chronic pain were estimated to range from $38.3 to $40.4 billion.

  • The Canadian Pain Task Force is an external advisory body created by Health Canada to help the Department better understand and address the needs of people who live with chronic pain. As part of its mandate, the Task Force is anticipated to publish its third and final report in December 2021.

  • Funding for the three projects announced today comes from Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP). SUAP provides financial support to provinces, territories, non-governmental organizations and key stakeholders for programs and initiatives that aim to prevent, treat, and reduce harm of substance use issues.

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Cole Davidson
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada

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