Pioneering advocate for women’s health issues
Freda Paltiel was born in Montreal in 1924 and was educated at Queen’s University in Kingston, McGill University in Montreal, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Medical School in Israel, where she received her master’s degree in public health in 1966. While living in Israel, she set up and ran the medical-social services at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.
After graduation, she returned to Ottawa to work as a research associate for the Royal Commission on Health Services, the Senate Committee on Aging, and the Canadian Welfare Council, where she produced a book on poverty. In 1967, she joined the federal civil service as senior research officer in the Department of National Health and Welfare.
In 1971, Paltiel received a special assignment to act as coordinator, status of women, for the Privy Council Office to coordinate the implementation of the recommendations in the Royal Commission on the Status of Women’s report. In 1973, she returned to the Department of National Health and Welfare, where she remained until her retirement in 1993, serving as the special adviser, status of women, to the minister of health and welfare.
A recognized authority in the fields of health and social policy, Paltiel devoted two decades to conceptualization, policy and program development to bring about gender equality and social equity in Canada and abroad. She was an action-oriented researcher and advocate of mental health, working with community and professional groups.
Paltiel served on many boards and committees. She chaired Canadian task forces on both family violence against women and women’s reproductive health, and was the federal representative and the first chair of the federal/provincial/territorial working group on women’s health. She served as adviser to the World Health Organization on women’s health and development and on family health. Paltiel represented Canada at World Population Conferences, meetings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the International Social Security Association and meetings of the Pan American Health Organization.
Locally, she served as president of the Ottawa chapter of Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University, was an honorary national vice-president of Women’s Canadian ORT and was a member of the board of ZONTA Club of Ottawa – an organization of professionals working to empower women worldwide through service and advocacy. Paltiel established endowments in women’s health and development at each of her alma maters. In addition, she was involved in many voluntary activities nationally and internationally.
Following her retirement, Paltiel was named to the Medical Research Council’s Advisory Committee on Research of Women’s Health and to the advisory committee of DES Action Canada. Paltiel was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1993 for her contributions in creating an impressive network of organizations that deal with the health and social status of women.
Freda Paltiel was married to Khayyam Zev Paltiel and they were the parents of four children: Jeremy, Candida, Ari and Ora.
Throughout 2017, in celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial, the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin is publishing a series of profiles spotlighting the contributions of historically important Jewish Canadians to our country. Previously in the series: