TORONTO -- As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its twelfth month in this country, the financial strain of the health crisis has yet to ease up for the many jobless, sick and grieving Canadians in debt.

Over recent months, domestic and international groups have increasingly called for forgiveness of that debt. It’s a controversial policy, but according to a recent national survey, it’s a policy that a majority of Canadians support when it comes to three key “debt-causing” scenarios: critical illness, job loss and the death of a loved one.

“The collective experience of COVID has likely made us all more compassionate,” said Jasmine Marra, Vice President at Bromwich and Smith, in a press release.

In mid-December, the group of insolvency trustees and debt specialists administered the survey to more than 1,500 Canadians. Eight in 10 said they would support debt forgiveness related to critical illness, while 72 per cent supported the policy for the death of a loved one, and 63 per cent for job loss.

“Empathy has a critical role in de-stigmatizing debt and helping clients rebuild their worth and thrive,” Marra said.

In an interview with CTV News Channel on Saturday, Bromwich and Smith Vice President of Insolvency, Shawn Stack, added that the results of the survey suggest there might be hope for reducing stigma around debt.

“We don’t actually have a language game around how to deal with debt, so if we start speaking to our friends and colleagues, or even our spouses and loved ones, about our struggles with debt, we actually really shut down as a people,” he said.

“It’s really important that we do our best to remove that stigma that’s associated with something like this.”

While empathy and the shedding of stigma may have emotional benefits, governments hold the financial power when it comes to forgiving debt. In Canada, the federal government has made clear that certain self-employed recipients of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit will still have to pay back their loans, despite a messaging mix up.

In B.C. last fall, a group representing small businesses asked the provincial government to consider partial tax payment forgiveness after a survey of its members found one in ten wouldn’t be able to pay on time.

“There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that people are suffering tremendously through their finances during this time,” said Stack.