Cancer Can’t Wait! Pan-Canadian Virtual Action Weeks on Cancer & COVID-19 Update

Despite ever-increasing rates of immunization against COVID-19, the pandemic is by no means over – least of all for cancer patients. CCSN’s third survey on the impact of COVID-19 on cancer care, conducted in June and July 2021, showed that even over a year after the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, cancer patients across Canada were still waiting for delayed appointments and procedures. Many did not yet know when their postponed appointments or procedures would take place.

Elected officials need to be aware of the specific toll the pandemic has taken on people affected by cancer – patients, caregivers, and people awaiting a diagnosis. CCSN has met with politicians from eight provinces in our series of Pan-Canadian Virtual Action Weeks to share the results of our third survey, with the goal of ensuring that the needs of cancer patients during the pandemic are not overlooked.

To date, we have met with almost 50 elected politicians and several staff from provincial health agencies in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and – newly since our October newsletter – in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Additional meetings are planned in those provinces as well as in New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Quebec, Yukon, and with MPs in our federal government.

Among the most concerning survey results that we shared in our meetings was the effect on cancer patients of the continuing backlogs of elective surgeries. Twelve percent of survey respondents have had a surgery or other procedure postponed during the pandemic – and just over three in ten of those (or four percent of all respondents) are still waiting for their procedure to be rescheduled.

This state of affairs is not only a source of stress for affected cancer patients: it is a serious public health concern. Delayed cancer surgeries can result in worse outcomes: tumours have more time to grow or spread; unpleasant symptoms are prolonged and may get worse. When the surgery does take place, it may be more difficult than anticipated. “Because of the delay in getting an appointment with my surgeon and then another delay for surgery,” wrote a lymphoma and melanoma patient in Ontario in their survey response, “my cancer quadrupled in size, causing a simple surgery [to be] more complicated.”

Since the October newsletter, we met with several politicians in British Columbia and Saskatchewan – our first Virtual Action Weeks in these provinces – as well as with the Manitoba Minister of Infrastructure and two MPPs in Ontario. Here’s the list:

British Columbia

  • MLA Rick Glumac (NDP)
  • MLA Andrew Mercier (NDP)
  • MLA Kelli Paddon (NDP)
  • MLA Pam Alexis (NDP)
  • MLA Dan Coulter (NDP)
  • MLA Fin Donnelly (NDP)
  • MLA Aman Singh (NDP)
  • MLA Niki Sharma (NDP)


  • MLA Ken Cheveldayoff (CON)
  • MLA Ryan Domotor (CON)
  • MLA Derek Meyers (CON)
  • MLA Hugh Nerlien (CON)
  • MLA Alana Ross (CON)


  • MLA Ron Schuler, Minister of Infrastructure (CON)


  • MPP Lorne Coe, Ontario, Chief Government Whip (CON)
  • MPP Marilee Fullerton, Ontario, Minister of Children, Community and Social Service (CON)

Read the full list of people we have met with in our Virtual Action Weeks for our third survey.

Elected officials must understand the specific difficulties and stresses that the pandemic continues to present for people affected by cancer. They must be alert to cancer patients’ need for prompt and uninterrupted access to cancer care even during a public health crisis. We have urged those we have met with to take action so that unnecessary cancer deaths are prevented and cancer patients, caregivers, and pre-diagnosis patients are not left behind – both during the current pandemic and in future ones.

We sincerely thank those cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers who joined us in our meetings with government officials: MaryAnn Bradley, Tim Monds, Dave Nitsche, Deborah Peniuk, Andrea Redway, Jennifer Roy, and Loverne Wowk. Their testimony about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives has assisted our advocacy greatly.

If you are a cancer patient, survivor, or caregiver who has experienced delays in appointments, procedures, or surgeries during the pandemic, and you would be interested participating in virtual meetings with politicians to share how these delays have affected you or the person you care for, please email Conrad at

Image credits: Saskatchewan legislature by Haydn Blackey, cropped, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0; BC legislature by Ryan Bushby, cropped, licensed under CC BY 2.5.