An unexpected beacon of peace: What Israelis and Palestinians teach Canada about palliative care

Palliative care education for health-care professionals remains woefully inadequate here.

As featured in the Hamilton Spectator on May 3, 2024. 

Imagine this: Israeli and Palestinian medical professionals, separated by a long history of conflict, coming together to learn about palliative care. Even more surprising, imagine this happening in the midst of war.

This isn’t a scene from a utopian dream. Project Rozana, an international effort brokering peace through health care, joined forces with Pallium Canada, a national non-profit leader in palliative care education, to make such collaborations a reality.

The project brought together Israeli and Palestinian health-care providers for best-in-class palliative care training, fostering peacebuilding through a shared approach to care.

This unique gathering of Canadian, Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim, Jewish and Christian health-care professionals became a blueprint for modelling choice, compassion, and comfort — the watchwords of palliative care.

This is a powerful testament to the potential of palliative care to act as a bridge between cultures, even the most deeply divided ones. If health-care providers from both sides of the razor-wire divide can find common ground on this issue, during wartime no less, shouldn’t Canada be able to do the same?

While Canada has a long and proud history of medical innovation and leadership, palliative care education for health-care professionals remains woefully inadequate.

In Canada, the best estimate is that a mere five per cent of the health-care workforce has been trained on the palliative care approach. Pallium Canada is working tirelessly to bridge this gap. We’ve trained more than 60,000 health-care workers across Canada, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to deliver compassionate care. However, the journey is far from over.

The need for increased palliative care education is undeniable and becomes even more critical when considering Canada’s aging population. Our demographic is set to shift at an unprecedented rate. Statistics Canada reports that the number of Canadians over 85 is expected to roughly triple in the next 25 years.

With a projected surge in seniors requiring palliative care, ensuring that Canada has a skilled and compassionate workforce is essential.

Project Rozana is working in Israel and Palestine to build capacity, share knowledge and finance cross-border patient transport and treatment, filling critical skills gaps and allowing Israeli and Palestinian health-care providers to collaborate, united as they are in grief and trauma.

Pallium’s partnership with Project Rozana offers a powerful testament to the potential of palliative care to act as a bridge between cultures.

If health-care professionals in a war zone can bridge divides to learn these essential skills, can’t we in Canada prioritize equipping all our health-care professionals with the knowledge and tools to provide earlier, more effective, and more compassionate palliative care?

The answer is a resounding yes.

If Project Rozana can carry on against all odds, we have no excuse for inaction. We need a national push to ensure all health-care professionals, regardless of setting or specialty, have the necessary skills to deliver palliative care.

We can draw inspiration from Project Rozana’s success. This example is rooted in unwavering professionalism and a deep-seated commitment to patient care. By investing in foundational palliative care training for all health-care professionals, Canada can equip our own clinicians with the necessary skills and knowledge to elevate the standard of care for Canadians facing life-limiting illnesses.

Imagine Canadian health-care providers, from all walks of life, united in their ability to provide comfort and dignity to those facing life-limiting illnesses. This wouldn’t be a utopia; it would be Canada at its best.


Jeffrey Moat is the chief executive officer of Pallium Canada. It is a national, non-profit organization focused on building professional and community capacity to help improve the quality and accessibility of palliative care.