This year, Results Canada volunteers took on the ambitious feat of advocating for the end of the world’s deadliest infectious disease – tuberculosis (TB). For months, dedicated advocates took strategic actions to call on Canada to step up as a global leader in this quest.
Last week, at the United Nations High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB, Canada had an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to eliminating TB but failed to fully step up. We celebrate the successes that came out of this global meeting, including the adoption of a new political declaration signed onto by UN Member States and renewed funding from Canada for TB REACH – a lifesaving initiative that locates people in hard-to-reach communities so that they can access the care they need. However, we express our disappointment in the lack of meaningful and bold leadership from Canada.
Meeting the global goal of ending TB by 2030 will require strong political will, demonstrated by high-impact commitments and sustained funding. We know that Canada could and should have done more at the TB HLM and continue to call on our leaders to step up for the millions of people affected by TB.
Our volunteers worked hard earlier this year to call for Canada to invest $33 million over three years in Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH initiative. Last week, Prime Minister Trudeau, in a statement, announced $25.5 million over two years for the initiative. Although the announcement didn’t quite meet our ask of at least CAD$33 million, Canada heard our call for a multi-year commitment. Thank you to everyone who took action by getting landmarks lit up in red for World TB Day, writing LTEs and op-eds, engaging on social media, and connecting with your Member of Parliament. We can be proud of the impact this will have on the global quest to end TB!
Canada also helped to ensure that there was strong language in the political declaration that came out of the TB HLM, which Results Canada worked on with officials for months. The declaration outlines specific and measurable targets and commitments to TB elimination, which we as advocates can use to hold members states, including Canada, accountable. If member states follow through on their commitments, it will put the world on track to ending TB by 2030 and result in saving up to 45 million lives between now and 2027.
Parliamentarians from around the world gathered in New York city last week for the UN General Assembly to discuss pressing global issues, including health. Canadian leaders were in attendance, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen. However, the lack of ministerial attendance at the TB HLM signaled that Canada is not prioritizing TB elimination to the extent needed. Canada was represented instead by Chief Public Health Officer, Theresa Tam, and was one of very few nations that did not have political representation.
funding for TB research and development
Despite the urgent need and months of advocacy from Results Canada volunteers and partners, the Canadian government failed to re-commit to contributing its fair share toward TB research and development (R&D). It promised this five years ago and has failed to meet the target thus far. We know that funding to promote scientific development is critical to enabling game-changing innovations that will bring us closer to a world where no one suffers from TB. Canada missed the mark at the TB HLM, and we will continue to advocate for our government to support the development of new tools to prevent, diagnose, and treat TB.
a national TB elimination strategy
Results Canada along with Stop TB Canada and other TB advocates also called for Canada to address the ongoing TB epidemic within our country by announcing the establishment of a National TB Elimination Strategy. We know that a Canada without TB is possible – but we need a plan. Canada did not respond to our call to announce such a strategy at the TB HLM. We will continue to call on federal, provincial and territorial governments to work with Indigenous leaders and affected communities to develop a national plan.
involvement of affected community members
Another ask that was not met was for Canada to meaningful engage individuals with lived experience of TB by including them in its official delegation. This disappointing lack of community engagement is a step backwards from the last TB HLM in 2018 and fails to take the “nothing about us without us” approach.
“As a TB survivor, registered nurse, and Indigenous woman, I am disheartened that Canada did not include those of us with the lived experience of TB in Canada in the delegation,” said Tina Campbell, co-chair of Stop TB Canada. “Without our voices and experience, how can Canada know the best way forward? Considering the high burden of TB on Indigenous communities in the north, this absence speaks volumes to the lack of prioritization for the elimination of TB in Canada’s most vulnerable populations. I join my community in reiterating that there should be nothing about us, without us. Honest reconciliation starts with action.”
The commitments made at global meetings like the TB HLM must be met with action to be meaningful. Canada confirmed that it is committed to ending TB but failed to adequately match those words with action. Results Canada and partners will continue to hold the government accountable to its commitments to end TB domestically and internationally because we know that #YesWeCanEndTB with strong political will.
We thank our dedicated volunteers and partners, many of whom we met in New York last week, who remain committed to this important advocacy. The TB community is a loud and passionate group, whose voices were heard throughout the TB HLM process. The impact of these strong advocates cannot be understated, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the fight to end TB.
We know that Canada could and should have done more at the TB HLM to step up for the millions of people affected by TB – but the advocacy does not end with the close of this meeting. Join us in taking action and expressing our disappointment and continue calling for investments in the TB R&D needed to #EndTB.