Thursday, August 12, 2010

CMA awards Medal of Honour to the Honourable Michael Kirby

An August 11th media release from the Canadian Medical Association:
Ottawa, August 11, 2010 - The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) will present the 2010 CMA Medal of Honour to the Honourable Michael Kirby, who has demonstrated outstanding public commitment to raising awareness of mental health issues and diminishing the stigma and discrimination faced by Canadians living with mental illness.

“The CMA Medal of Honour recognizes personal contributions to advancing medical research and education,” said CMA President Dr. Anne Doig. “Mr. Kirby [pictured] has worked diligently to bring awareness to the mental health issue.”

Mr. Kirby is well known to physicians for his landmark Senate reports on health care reform. Now retired from the Senate of Canada after 22 years of service, Mr. Kirby chairs the Mental Health Commission of Canada where he has demonstrated the same outstanding public commitment – this time, to raising awareness of mental health issues and diminishing the stigma and discrimination faced by Canadians living with mental illness.

“I have been privileged to have worked on major Canadian public policy issues for more than forty years. In that time, nothing has been more gratifying than my work on health care in general and mental health care in particular,” said Mr. Kirby. “I believe that, with the help of all Canadians, it will be possible to substantially reduce the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with a mental illness, and to put in place a system of services and support that will enable them to lead a much more satisfying and productive life.”

Mr. Kirby’s personal interest in health care delivery was evident during his seven-year term (1999–2006) as chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. The committee’s focus was to develop a federal health policy that would support a financially sustainable health care system over the long term.

The committee published six reports on health care, culminating with Recommendations for Reform, in 2002. The report included numerous and varied recommendations: the need for better accountability through an annual report on the health care system and the health status of Canadians; the need for improved efficiency measures, including primary care reform; the need for timely access to health care in the form of health care guarantees; and the need to close gaps in the safety net by expanding coverage for catastrophic drug costs, and acute and palliative home care.

Following publication of the report, the Social Affairs Committee, chaired by then-Senator Kirby, turned its attention to the issue of mental health, mental illness and addiction. The committee published three background reports in 2004 and its final report, Out of the Shadows At Last, was released in 2006. One of the principal recommendations of this report was that the federal, provincial and territorial governments should establish the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Mr. Kirby retired from the Senate in 2006 and was appointed chair of the newly created Mental Health Commission of Canada in 2007. The commission’s mandate is to develop Canada’s first national mental health strategy and to launch a decade-long, anti-stigma program to change public attitudes and behaviour toward people living with mental illness.

While the goals of the Mental Health Commission are certainly no small challenge, Mr. Kirby has a proven track record of successfully developing and implementing public policy for governments and the private sector. He served as principal assistant to Premier Gerald Regan of Nova Scotia (1970–73), assistant principal secretary to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (1974–76) and president of the Institute for Research on Public Policy (1977–80). While he was Secretary to the Cabinet for Federal-Provincial Relations and Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council (1980–83), he was the senior public servant involved in the negotiations that led to the patriation of the Canadian Constitution and inclusion of the Charter of Rights in the constitution.

He has been a professor at Dalhousie University, has taught at the University of Chicago and University of Kent, has served on the boards of numerous public companies, is a regular media commentator on public policy issues, and is a featured speaker at many national conferences.

In recognition of a lifetime of outstanding achievement on major public policy issues and his current commitment to confronting the challenges related to mental illness, Mr. Kirby was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008.

The Honourable Michael Kirby is the 27th recipient of the CMA Medal of Honour, the highest award bestowed upon a person who is not a member of the medical profession. He will receive this award at a special ceremony at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in Niagara Falls, Ont., on Aug. 25 as part of the CMA’s 143rd annual meeting.

For more information:

Lucie Boileau, Manager, Media Relations
Tel.: (613) 731-8610 or 800-663-7336 ext. 1266
Mobile : (613) 447-0866

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