Showing posts with label health care. Show all posts
Showing posts with label health care. Show all posts


in the ontario election, the choice is clear. put down the polls and pick up your vote.

I am very frustrated by progressive reaction to Doug Ford becoming the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. People are acting as if Ford has already won an election that is three months away.

I understand there is great -- and well-deserved -- anger against Kathleen Wynne's Liberal party. But are we progressives going to stand helplessly staring at polls as we are thrown from frying pan to fire?

Under 20 years of Liberal governments, public spending has been frozen, resulting in a decrease of more than 40% in public resources. Corporate taxes are at all-time low. Privatization is strangling both services and jobs. And now -- supposedly -- we're all going to vote for more of the same. Either literally more of the same in the Liberals or worse than that in the Conservatives.

And supposedly, we won't vote NDP because the NDP can't win.

We won't vote for a party because the party can't win because not enough people will vote for it. How stupid do you have to be to subscribe to that circular logic?

ONDP leader Andrea Horvath learned an important lesson in the last provincial election. She has returned to the principles that make the NDP the party of progressive people and of labour. The party platform includes full pharmacare, dental benefits, affordable childcare, and relief for student debt. If the 1% and the corporations pay their fair share, it's all within reach.

The brutal effects of corporate tax cuts are all around us. Students graduate college and university with massive debts, but can only find part-time, precarious work. 30,000 seniors are waiting for spaces in long-term care. If they live long enough to get a space, they barely receive minimum standards of care, as private ownership starves facilities of resources. The rise of precarious work means that fewer Ontarians have employer-paid extended health benefits, so people go without "extras" (ha!) like prescription medicine and dental care.

It's been proven beyond all doubt that privatization costs us more and gives us less. So-called public-private partnerships are the same corporate welfare in a different suit.

We need a government that will invest in public services. Healthcare, including dental care, pharmacare, and mental health. Education, including smaller class sizes and an end to student debt. Seniors, including safeguarding pensions and setting minimum standards of care. Publicly-owned transit and utilities.

Don't talk to me about Bob Rae. People who won't vote NDP because of something that a former leader did in the early 1990s are too stupid to be entrusted with the vote.

Don't talk to me about polls. If you read past the headlines, half the poll stories don't even say what you think they do. Fuck the polls. They don't actually predict the future. They just give direction to sheep.

Don't talk to me about strategic voting. You know what that will get you? More of the same.

If you care about public services and you believe in progressive change, there is only one choice this June.

คาสิโนออนไลน์ แจกเครดิตฟรี 2019Vote NDP.

But first, get out there and help as many others make that choice as you possibly can.


from the 2018 cupe ontario library workers conference: libraries and the opioid crisis

I recently attended the CUPE Ontario Library Workers Conference, which has become a highlight of my year since I first attended (and was elected to the organizing committee) in 2015. It has eclipsed and replaced the OLA Superconference as the most relevant and enjoyable must-attend conference in my schedule.

When I first got my librarian degree, I was very excited about attending my first "OLA" (as it's always called). But I quickly learned that the sessions are a crap-shoot, sometimes relevant but often obvious and dull. There's also a great deal of boosterism by OLA and the member libraries. For the difference between the two conferences, for OLA, think employers and libraries, for CUPE Ontario, think labour and library workers.

In recent years, our Library Workers Conference has focused on precarious work and health and safety issues, two themes that are inextricably linked. This year's conference was called "Sex, Drugs & Bed Bugs," a light take on very serious health and safety issues. My full report is here on the CUPE 1989 website. (No bed bugs are pictured there.)

* * * * *

The most moving part of the conference -- by far -- was a talk by outreach worker Zoe Dodd. Zoe has worked with marginalized people with HIV and Hepatitis C, and now her work has shifted to the opioid overdose crisis. She and her co-workers -- who are mostly volunteers -- had been telling the government that this crisis was looming for the past decade, but their alarm fell on ears that refused to hear.

Now the deaths from fentanyl overdoses eclipse those from HIV at the height of the AIDS crisis. Last year there was a 52% increase of fentanyl deaths over the previous year. Yet Ontario has refused to call this a public health crisis. British Columbia is the only Canadian province to declare opioid overdoses a public health emergency -- and this has saved thousands of lives.

Zoe Dodd (middle) and co-workers in Moss Park, Toronto
Death by overdose, Zoe told us, is preventable. The majority of those affected are already marginalized people living in poverty. (Indigenous people are 400 times more likely to die of an overdose than the general population.) Thousands who survive end up in comas, on life support.

There were coordinated emergency health efforts for both H1N1 and SARS outbreaks; lives were saved by those decisions. But when it comes to drug use, governments spend almost exclusively on enforcement, rather than harm reduction. That is, they treat drug addiction as a criminal issue rather than a health issue. This is a moralistic decision -- and a lethal one.

Frustrated and angry over both Ontario's and the City of Toronto's inaction, Zoe and her comrades acted on their own. They brought 10,000 vials of naloxone -- the drug that reverses fentanyl overdoses -- into Canada before it was legal. They raised $95,000 online. They pitched a tent and opened a site, staffed entirely by volunteers. At the conference, we were so proud to learn that CUPE Ontario bought the group a trailer, so they could safely serve more people! They did this while it was still illegal, a fact that makes me feel really good about my union.

This intrepid band of volunteers forced Ontario and Canada to change their policies. Now harm reduction sites are opening across the province -- including in Mississauga.

What does this have to do with library workers? Only everything. Libraries, as public spaces, are often places of drug use and of overdose. Library workers across North America are being trained in the use of naloxone, and they are saving lives.

Zoe addressed some myths about naloxone use, demystifying the process for all in the room. Many people -- including 1989 officers -- thought there was a danger of a person coming out of an overdose becoming aggressive and violent. Turns out this is simply untrue. Typically a person coming out of a drug overdose is groggy and confused. Their brain has shut down from lack of oxygen, and naloxone is beginning to restore the flow of oxygen to their brain. Far from being violent, they are only gradually waking up.

Many people believe that administering naloxone is dangerous, as we can be exposed to fentanyl or naloxone. This is also untrue. Fentanyl must be ingested to be harmful. Naloxone, Zoe said, is virtually "idiot proof". If a person is not overdosing, the drug has no effect. But if they are overdosing, it will save their life. (Note that more than one dose of naloxone may be needed.)

The most moving and disturbing part of Zoe's talk was hearing how she and her co-workers have suffered. Outreach workers and the people they serve are often one community. The pain they witness and endure is staggering. In one year, Zoe lost 30 clients and six friends. Outreach workers have committed suicide, overwhelmed by grief. There is a secondary crisis of trauma among the workers who have witnessed so much death. Now these workers are using their grief and anger to drive change. It was incredibly moving and inspiring.

The CUPE 1989 executive wants to get involved. For starters, we've decided on a three-part course of action. One, we'll get trained in the use of naloxone. Two, we will share this education with our members and our employer. And three, we will advocate for a greater role of social services in our libraries. We hope to host Zoe Dodd in our own libraries.

There have been some good stories about Zoe and her co-workers.

Meet the harm reduction worker who called out Trudeau on the opioid crisis in Vice

Front-line workers struggle to cope with opioid crisis in an issue of Now magazine with a great cover, and

'Drowning in all this death': outreach workers want help to fight drug overdose 'emergency' on

This is the video of Zoe Dodd addressing Justin Trudeau during one of his extended photo-ops.

* * * * *

This year's group exercise at the conference was listing the "Top 10 Crimes" we've witnessed or heard about in our libraries.

Toronto Public Library tops the list with a murder -- by cross-bow. Naturally, theft is big. Sex in the stacks and study rooms. Public masturbation, urination, defecation. Attempted kidnapping. Illegal drug use and drug dealing, of course. Harassment. Sexual assault.

The crimes that appeared on the most lists were crimes against children: abuse, neglect, abandonment.

* * * * *

And since this is, after all, my personal blog, I'll share that I have been elected chairperson of the CUPE Ontario Library Committee. It's not like I need anything else to do! But our long-time chair has stepped down (more on that later), and I felt like I had to step up.


thoughts on the latest u.s. gun massacre

As part of my continuing efforts to post here rather than -- or at least in addition to -- Facebook, here are some thoughts on the latest horrific massacre in the US, the country music festival in Las Vegas.

First, the inevitability of recurrence. When hearing about mass shootings in the United States, the worst part -- the most tragic, the most outrageous part -- is the certainty of knowing that nothing will change. That it will happen again, and again, and again.

A solution is known, of course. We won't end the culture of violence that permeates the US, but we can end access to large numbers of deadly weapons. The fact that the vice grip of a deadly special interest group outweighs the basic human rights of life and safety speaks volumes about the US political system. The congressmembers and senators who are bought and paid for by the NRA can never wash the blood off their hands.

Second, the true body count. Allan and I were talking about what it might have been like to be there. I admit I don't usually do this. I usually think about these massacres on a social and political level, somewhat removed from true empathy. But thinking a lot about the survivors, I know that every one of them will have PTSD. Many of them may never recover a fully healthy mental state.

Given the cost of mental health resources, the lack or absence of public mental health support, the survivors may or may not find help for this condition.

However high the final number of dead and wounded, the true numbers will never be known.


icymi: indiana woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for failed pregnancy

This month, four decades of anti-woman, anti-abortion hysteria in the US hit a new low.

Last August, an Indiana woman sought medical attention after a premature delivery resulted in the death of the fetus. The emergency-room doctor called the police.

In April, that woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

From WaPo:
Indiana woman jailed for "feticide." It's never happened before.

...Informed that officials were heading to her home, Patel told her doctors that she'd had a miscarriage and had left her stillborn fetus in a dumpster behind a shopping center. Still in his hospital scrubs, McGuire followed police cars to the scene and examined the fetus, which he pronounced dead on arrival. Patel was charged with child neglect, and later with killing her fetus, and on Monday she was sentenced to 20 consecutive years in prison.

The verdict makes Patel the first woman in the U.S. to be charged, convicted and sentenced for "feticide" for ending her own pregnancy, according to the group National Advocates for Pregnant Women (“NAPW”). Though Patel said she had had a miscarriage, she was found guilty of taking illegal abortion drugs. The Indiana statute under which Patel was convicted bans "knowingly or intentionally terminat[ing] a human pregnancy" with any intention other than producing a live birth, removing a dead fetus or performing a legal abortion.

Monday's sentencing brought an end to Patel's trial, but it may be only the beginning of the public debate about the details of her case. Patel's conviction has many pro-choice activists alarmed that feticide laws, initially passed as a means of protecting pregnant women from providers of dangerous illegal abortions and other sources of harm, are now being used against them.

"Prosecutors in Indiana are using this very sad situation to establish that intentional abortions as well as unintentional pregnancy losses should be punished as crimes," Lynn Paltrow, executive director for NAPW, told the Guardian in August of 2014. "...No woman should be arrested for the outcome of her pregnancy."
From The Guardian, at the time of Patel's arrest.
A 33-year-old woman from Indiana has been charged with the feticide and fetal murder of her unborn child after she endured a premature delivery and sought hospital treatment.

Purvi Patel faces between six and 20 years in prison for feticide and up to 50 years imprisonment for neglect of a dependent when she goes to trial, currently scheduled for 29 September. She is the second woman in Indiana to be charged with feticide following the prolonged criminal prosecution of Bei Bei Shuai, who lost her baby when she tried to kill herself.

Women's rights advocates see the decision by prosecutors of St Joseph County, Indiana, to apply feticide laws against Patel as part of the creeping criminalization of pregnancy in America. At least 38 of the 50 states have introduced fetal homicide laws intended to protect the unborn child and in a growing number of states – including Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina – those laws have been turned against mothers.
I would offer only one correction: these laws were never intended to "protect the unborn child". The laws are being used exactly for their intended purpose: to police and punish women. Especially - or exclusively - low-income women. Because let's be clear: the US's "war on women" is also a class war. Women who can afford private treatment will never be subjected to these humiliations. On the other hand, with the middle class shrinking and poverty burgeoning throughout the US, increasing numbers of women must fear these nightmare scenarios.

What would policies intended to "protect the unborn child" look like? Laws that gave us: Fresh, healthy food that every person could afford. Free quality pre-natal care. Free quality medical care for every person. Free childcare for the children already born. Jobs that pay a true living wage. Clean water.

Policies intended to protect children - in any stage of their lives - don't criminalize pregnancy.

* * * *

Canadians take note: a fetal personhood law was floated as a private member's bill in the Harper government. The MP who sponsored the bill admitted that its purpose was to "recognize the humanity of the unborn child". The recent sentencing in Indiana is the direct outcome of that kind of language enshrined into law.

The bill was defeated after public outcry.


federal court again rules in favour of health care and basic decency, against radical harper agenda

A few days ago, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the Harper Government's denial of health care to refugee claimants from certain countries is unconstitutional and cannot stand.
In a surprisingly strongly worded statement Friday, the federal court ruled Ottawa’s cutbacks to health-care coverage for refugee claimants are unconstitutional because they constitute “cruel and unusual” treatment.

The decision was quickly lauded by many, including the Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and Justice for Children and Youth — groups that, along with two refugee claimants, challenged the law.
Of course the Government plans to appeal, but the decision will be difficult to overturn. The Government and its complicit media partners can lie to the public - fabricated stories of refugee claimants who supposedly receive better health care than Canadians, calling refugees whose claims are rejected by the Government "bogus" - but hoodwinking the court is another matter.

My comrade Dr. J at your heart's on the left reminds us that this excellent court decision did not materialize from the rarified air of chambers and black robes. It is the direct result of people organizing on the ground.
More than two years of mobilizing have pushed the Federal Court to reject the Conservatives’ cuts to refugee health. This should encourage further mobilizing to reverse the cuts and challenge the broader agenda.

In April 2012 then Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced drastic cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program, beginning in June of that year. The government claimed that the cuts would promote fairness, save money and protect public health — but the cuts did the exact opposite.

There was immediate condemnation by health providers—including an open letter, occupation, interruptions of Tory press conferences, and demonstrations across the country. These led the government to quietly reverse some of the cuts, but this only created more confusion.

Health providers warned that these cuts would harm refugees and scapegoat them for other healthcare cuts. As Dr. Mark Tyndall said at an Ottawa press conference in 2012, "the government has used this issue to divide Canadians, pitting those who are dissatisfied with their own health coverage against refugees. Canadians are smarter than this. This is an attack on our entire healthcare system."

A year after the cuts there were already dozens of documented cases of refugees being denied essential medical care. Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers launched a constitutional challenge, and there was a second annual day of action across the country against the cuts.

The mobilizations pushed some provinces to say they would step in and provide care—throwing the new Immigration Minister Chris Alexander into a temper tantrum about making Canada “a magnet for bogus asylum seekers.” But the reality of the cuts has continued to emerge. According to the study “The Cost and Impact of the Interim Federal Health Program Cuts on Child Refugees in Canada”: “After the implementation of funding cuts, the admission rate of refugee children increased from 6.4% to 12.0%...Shifts in the levels of health care access (hospital to primary-based care or vice-versa) due to affordability and administrative hurdles may make the vulnerable refugee population sicker, eventually leading to overall increase in healthcare costs.”

Court decision
This June was the third annual day of action against cuts to refugee health, and now the Federal Court has reflected public opinion.
The ruling itself, written by Justice Anne Mactavish, alludes to the effect of public opinion on the court.
The 2012 modifications to the [Interim Federal Health Program] potentially jeopardize the health, the safety and indeed the very lives, of these innocent and vulnerable children in a manner that shocks the conscience and outrages Canadian standards of decency.
Advocates for public health care, human rights, and refugees hail this decision as both just and important.
“It is a good day for pregnant refugee women and sick refugee children who have been picked on and bullied for over two years by the federal Conservative government,” said Berger, who believes the government’s cuts had been “devastating.”

The Federal Court decision “makes clear that a government cannot deliberately subject human beings to physical and emotional suffering as a means of punishing them for seeking refugee protection,” said Audrey Macklin, professor and chair in human rights law at the University of Toronto, and executive member of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

“With today’s decision, the Federal Court has recognized that the government’s cuts to refugee health care violate the fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, without any lawful justification,” said Lorne Waldman, lead counsel on the case and president of the lawyers association.
This decision also further extends what is being called "the federal government's court-case losing streak," but which is more properly thought of as a legal bulwark against the worst excesses of the Government's radical agenda.

Earlier coverage of this issue on wmtc: here, here, here, here, here, here.


dark times in canada, part 1: the lancet: the case against canada as a world citizen

I want to share two articles from well-respected venues reflecting on what's happening to Canada now - where it is and where it may be going.

In The Lancet Global Health, one of the foremost medical journals in the world, there's "A rising tide: the case against Canada as a world citizen", Chris David Simms. It begins:
A generation ago, Canada was perceived to be an exemplary global citizen by the rest of the world: it took the lead on a host of international issues, including the Convention of Child Rights, freedom of information, acid rain, world peacekeeping, sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime, and humanitarian and development assistance—much of this under conservative leadership.

During recent years, Canada's reputation as a global citizen has slipped, in recent months more precipitously than ever before, and in new directions. The Climate Action Network recently ranked Canada 55th of 58 countries in tackling of greenhouse emissions. Results of other analyses show a government systematically removing obstacles to resource extraction initiatives by gutting existing legislation, cutting budgets of relevant departments, and eliminating independent policy and arms-length monitoring bodies.

Canada's reputation is further undercut by its silencing of government scientists on environmental and public health issues: scientists are required to receive approval before they speak with the media; they are prevented from publishing; and, remarkably, their activities are individually monitored at international conferences. These actions have outraged local and international scientific communities.
It's a short piece, and worth your time to read and circulate. And agitate, and write letters, and demonstrate, and vote.


kind of a not-funny story: ned vizzini, youth fiction, and suicide

It's so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself.

That's the first line of Ned Vizzini's excellent 2006 youth novel, It's Kind of a Funny Story. By the time I read the book this year, the author was already dead. Vizzini committed suicide last December; he was only 32 years old.

Those facts alone are tragic. But now that I've read this book, I find Vizzini's death even sadder. On some level, I chide myself for that: every person's life is of equal value, and every early death is a loss. But we feel the way we feel, and Vizzini's suicide feels, to me, inexpressibly sad, a monumental loss.

Vizzini wrote youth fiction in a natural, straightforward voice, with deep insight and wry humour. It's Kind of a Funny Story is a slightly fictionalized account of the onset of the author's depression as a teenager, and the five days he spent in the psychiatric unit of a hospital in Brooklyn, New York. It's a funny book, often poignant, sometimes very moving, always very honest. It's an excellent book, and was made into a very good movie in 2010.

Vizzini's work touched the lives of millions of young people. We can be sure that untold numbers of teens and young adults with depression recognized themselves in Craig Gilner, the intrepid narrator of It's Kind of a Funny Story, who is trying to save his own life, trying to believe that his life is worth saving.

Vizzini was a very talented writer, and was hugely successful. He found the kind of success as a youth author that I used to dream of - that I worked very hard for, but did not achieve. It's easy to speculate that Vizzini's early success contributed to his depression, but I think those easy answers are just as easily wrong. He was depressed. He sought help, he got help, but eventually his depression overwhelmed him. This happens to successful people, and it happens to people whose depression prevents them from ever achieving success. It happens to talented people, and it happens to ordinary people. For every Ned Vizzini, David Foster Wallace, and Anthony Lukas who kill themselves, there are thousands more, whose names we never know.

Suicide is called many things: cowardly, selfish, crazy. I find all of these judgements strange, and wrong. One of my little missions is, when I hear or read someone speaking ignorantly about suicide, to  always counter with a more compassionate perspective. Empathy really shouldn't be too difficult: imagine being in so much pain that death seems like the only option.

There is another thing about suicide: shame. In most western countries, suicide is among the three leading causes of death of people between the ages of 15 and 44, and the second leading cause of death between ages 10 and 24. And these figures do not include suicide attempts, which are much more frequent. (Figures from WHO and NIMH.) Most of those deaths also represent survivors: the loved ones left behind. I know many people whose lives have been touched by suicide, including my own and my partner's. Yet it's still rarely spoken of. Many families still change the cause of death in obituaries and fabricate stories for family history. Attitudes about mental illness have changed and are changing, but the stigma associated with suicide speaks to how much work remains.

I wish Ned Vizzini was still here to write more great teen novels, or to do whatever else he wanted. I hope his work has made life a little more bearable for some of his readers.


after eight years, i have a less-than-ideal observation about ontario health care

Since moving to Canada in 2005, my experiences with Ontario's health care system have been extremely positive. Through the public system, my partner and I have been able to access health care whenever we needed it, in convenient and pleasant settings, at no cost - that is, paid for with our taxes. The quality of care has been at least as good, and often superior, to anything I experineced in the United States.

I love our public health care system, and I would love to see it expanded.* Single-payer, nonprofit health care is the only system that makes any sense.

When I fractured my foot, I experienced a flaw in the Ontario system for the first time. The consequences for me happened to be minimal, but many people are affected seriously, and negatively. And apparently, the flaw stems from attempts to improve the Ontario health care system.

Like many people, I had no idea that bones in my foot actually had fractured. I couldn't put any weight on my foot without excruciating pain, but it seemed impossible to have broken a bone doing essentially nothing! That day, I continued to limp on it, and iced it. The next morning, when the foot was swollen and purple, I realized something was wrong.

We waited about four hours at Urgent Care (which seems reasonable to me), got a temporary plaster cast, and was told to report to the fracture clinic the following day. At the fracture clinic (part of the hospital's outpatient services), I was seen by a technician, who removed the plaster cast, prepped my x-rays for the orthopedist, and even prepared the walking cast, knowing that's what the doctor would ask for. The clinic was a large room separated into cubicles by curtains. Every patient there was waiting to see an orthopedic surgeon.

The doctor came in, turned his head towards the x-ray for a split-second, told the technician to fit me in a walking cast, and continued on to the next patient. I am not exaggerating: the doctor was in my cubicle for less than five seconds. He glanced at the x-ray so quickly that I could hardly believe he saw it at all. He was in and out of the cubicle without breaking stride.

The technician explained the walking cast to me - when to use it, when I could remove it - and told me to book a follow-up appointment in six weeks.

That night, I was in quite a bit of pain and called the clinic to ask if I should be concerned. Someone answered my questions by phone, but I felt that a simple hand-out for patients would have been very helpful. Perhaps a few different variations of FAQs could cover most questions about fractures, saving staff time, saving patients concern, and potentially preventing patients from worsening their condition or even returning to the hospital unnecessarily.

The fracture clinic was extremely efficient; it was too efficient. Everything was so fast and bare-bones that I couldn't help but wonder if if quality was being compromised.

Six weeks later, back at the Clinic, I waited only briefly for another x-ray and another glance from a doctor. The technician told me to wear sturdy sneakers, and I was on my way.

Once out of the walking cast, I had painful muscle spasms in my calf and hamstring, and went for some massage. Before long, I also realized that six weeks of immobilization had badly weakened my injured ankle, already chronically weak. I knew I need physiotherapy and booked some appointments.

The physiotherapist told me that her professional community in Ontario is endlessly frustrated and upset by the outpatient fracture clinic. My experience was absolutely typical: blink and you miss the doctor's visit. In my case, the fracture was common and not complicated, and the diagnosis was correct.

But, said the therapist, in many cases patients are sent home without treatment... and when the pain doesn't go away, and they come back, they learn that the first doctor blew the call, missing a fracture.

In addition, said the therapist, patients are not given information on after-care, and no one suggests physiotherapy. This, of course, leads to slower and less complete healing.

But here's the most interesting part. The physiotherapist said that this assembly-line treatment is a result of the focus on reducing wait times. Hospitals are under so much pressure to reduce wait times and meet patient targets that quality is being sacrificed.

Reducing wait-times has been the over-riding goal of Ontario health care for several years. In the Canadian context, "wait-times" generally refers to waiting for treatment in hospital emergency departments, waiting for orthopedic surgeries like joint replacements, and waiting for cancer diagnosis and treatment. It does not mean how long you wait to see a doctor on the day of the appointment, as many USians think.

So it would seem that this aspect of our public health care has been a victim of its own success.

The answer, of course, is not privatization and it's not a two-tier system where people with means can opt out. The answer is a more fully-funded public system. In this case, the answer might be as simple as giving doctors five minutes more per patient.

* We have prescription drug coverage and dental insurance through my partner's job (and might through my job one day, too). If we didn't have that, a hefty chunk of our income would go towards prescription drugs, and perhaps in that case we would buy a private insurance package. The absence of dental and prescription coverage is a serious heath care gap, especially as fewer and fewer jobs include benefits. I wonder how much more coverage Ontario could afford if corporate taxes were restored to 1999 rates? How many fighter jets would buy us universal prescription coverage?


wmtc rebooted

I was in the middle of writing a post about my plan to get back into an exercise routine... when I broke my foot. Doing almost nothing. Walking along in the mall, on my way to get my hair cut and then go to work, my ankle turned over sharply. I was horrified, thinking it was yet another ankle sprain. But no... turns out it's a three-part fracture in my foot.

I was worried at first: if I could break a bone just by walking, is there a problem with my bone density? Are my bones becoming fragile? But I've learned that fractured foot bones are very common among people who have a history of ankle injuries. Every time your ankle turns over, a ligament pulls at those small, friable bones in your foot, weakening them. This was an accident waiting to happen.

I was very sad and frustrated at my ruined plans to be more physically active. But before long, those feelings were replaced with relief that this happened after our trip to Spain and not before.

I'm in a walking cast, like a ski boot, so as far as fractures go, I'm pretty lucky not to have the inconvenience of a plaster cast. I spent a good portion of my early teenage years on and off crutches, an experience that permanently changed my perspective on life. Now, hobbling around the house with a cane, I'm remembering what it's like to be less mobile, to have one or both hands used for stability so you can't carry things, how long it takes to get things done. We live in a house with three floors and no bathroom on the ground floor, so life will be a bit more challenging for a while.

* * * *

This is another opportunity for me to praise Canada's excellent public health care system, and to remind us that Ontario's coverage should be further expanded, not continually reduced. My doctor took x-rays, found the fracture, and sent me to Urgent Care, where (after a wait), I was fitted with a temporary plaster cast, and given instructions about visiting the Fracture Clinic the following day. At the Fracture Clinic, I was seen by the orthopedic surgeon on duty, a specialist who does nothing but treat fractures. They gave me the walking cast, scheduled a follow-up appointment, and here I am.

This would have all been "free" - paid for by our taxes - but Ontario covers only plaster casts. Walking casts are out-of-pocket. If you have supplemental health insurance, you're reimbursed, and if you don't - as is increasingly the case - you're on your own. The friendly technician who made my temporary cast said that some people opt for plaster because they can't afford, or don't want to pay for, the walking boots. That's wrong. Everyone should have the same options, regardless of ability to pay. I'm sure in some cases this is regardless of desire to pay, not ability, but I don't like to see that two-tiered system creeping in. I'd much rather my taxes fund someone's increased mobility than fighter jets or worse, the Conservative Party's slush fund.

* * * *

Now, time suddenly has been returned to my life, time in which I had been planning on walking, hiking, swimming, or doing exercise classes on Roku. This seems like the perfect opportunity to write. If I'm successful, this blog will again reflect something other than my own small corner of my world.


mississauga m.p. calls for "investigation" of abortions: conservative m.p.s continue their anti-choice agenda

Wladyslaw Lizon, Member of Parliament for Mississauga Cooksville East (my own riding), is back in the news. The Conservative MP has teamed up with two of his fellow backbenchers in an attack on Canadian women's reproductive rights.

The last time Lizon surfaced, he had "alerted" Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney that a Mississauga woman had worn a niqab during a citizenship ceremony. Thanks to Lizon and Kenney, face veils are now banned from those ceremonies. This man is anti-choice in more ways than one.

More recently, Lizon, Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon—Wanuskewin), and Leon Benoit (Vegreville—Wainwright) demanded that the RCMP investigate all later-term abortions performed in Canada over the last decade. According to these MPs, the doctors who performed these procedures should be charged with homicide.

The three MPs claim that there were 490 later-term terminations performed in Canada between the years 2000 and 2009. Where did the men get this 490 number? From an anti-choice blog. Where did the blog get the number? They made it up. They took published statistics about abortion in Canada, and extrapolated from there. The blog claims that these procedures involve a live delivery. Their basis for that claim: anti-choice propaganda. They really have no idea how many of later-term abortions were performed, nor do they know the medical details of those procedures.

Let's be clear on exactly what's happening here. Later-term abortion is the perfect wedge issue for the anti-choice minority to drive into the pro-choice majority, in order to begin reducing Canadian women's access to abortion. Many people who are moderately pro-choice regard abortion as acceptable only in the first trimester of pregnancy. After that, the woman is showing. A fetal heartbeat might be present. The procedure itself is more complicated and presents a greater risk to the woman.

Second and even third trimester abortions aren't pretty. But they are necessary.

Women who choose to terminate later-term pregnancies are usually in desperate circumstances. They are carrying nonviable fetuses - the fetus is dead, or would die immediately after birth. Or the fetus may be healthy, but the continued pregnancy puts the woman's own life in grave danger.

Women who terminate later-term pregnancies are usually mourning the loss of a wanted baby. Some women in these situations choose to carry the pregnancy to term, even knowing their fetus is dead or will live for only minutes. That's their choice. But many women and their partners feel it's better - feel it's necessary to their sanity and their grief - to end the agony as soon as possible. Imagine what a safe, available procedure must mean to them.

(In the US, there is a third reason for later-term terminations: "chasing the funds". The woman wants a first-trimester procedure, but can't afford one. As she tries to scrape together the money, her pregnancy advances, which makes the procedure cost more, so she needs to find more money, so the pregnancy advances, and on it goes. I wrote a more in-depth piece about later-term abortions, and my small part in helping women obtain them, here: blog for choice day: providing a safe haven.)

This latest Conservative attack on women's reproductive rights must be seen in context of all the others. With Motion 312, MP Stephen Woodworth called for a Parliamentary committee to examine fetal personhood. With Motion 408, MP Mark Warawa seeks to ban sex-selective abortions, disingenuously couching his anti-choice bill in the language of women's rights. A few years back, MP Ken Epps tabled the "Unborn Victims of Crime Act": he claimed he was protecting victims of domestic violence, but we caught him revealing the truth. Now these MPs want the RCMP to charge doctors with homicide.

Through all this, Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeats that his government is not re-opening the abortion debate, a claim that by now has become almost laughably transparent.

Meanwhile, in Ontario, Conservative MPs are seeking to defund abortion services. Conservative leader Tim Hudak distances himself from this just as Harper does, but women's rights cannot depend on political theatre.

It's vitally important that we see these attempts to limit abortion rights and access for what they are - and that we beat back every single one. The vast majority of Canadians are pro-choice. But many people have mixed feelings about abortion in certain circumstances - be that sex selection or later term or anything else - and those are the areas that anti-choice forces use as their wedge, to begin chipping away at our rights. That steady chip-chip-chipping away results, eventually, in the situation we see in the US: a right to abortion that is virtually meaningless, that exists only on paper, only for the privileged few that can afford access.

Our reproductive choices do not need investigating. They do not need approval by Conservative MPs or the RCMP - or our neighbours - or anyone else. Whether or not we ourselves would choose abortion in whatever circumstances, we must denounce these anti-choice actions, loudly and publicly. A threat to any reproductive rights is a threat to all.


marxism 2012 program notes: from each according to their ability: the role of socialists in disability movement

This is the final post of my notes from the 2012 Marxism Conference. This was the first Marxism conference to include a talk on disability, an exciting development full of potential. I wanted to blog about it in great detail. A friend was recording the talk, so I stopped taking detailed notes... and then the audio didn't come out.

Melissa Graham was kind enough to give me her notes, but the others didn't have anything written to share. What follows, then, is the general idea. What does disability have to do with capitalism and socialism? Where do disability and socialism intersect, how do they relate to each other?

* * * *

From Each According to Their Ability: the Role of Socialists in Disability Movement
May 25, 2012
Melissa Graham, Michele Macaulay, Patricia Reilly

Melissa Graham
Member of IS Canada, Social Worker, Disability Rights Activist, Wheelchair User

Melissa began by praising Marxism 2012 for being the first of the annual conferences to include a talk on disability, but emphasized that radical activism within the disability community is nothing new.

In the UK, the British Deaf Association and the National League of the Blind and Disabled were both radical groups. The NLBD was founded as a trade union in 1899. Members included blind war veterans, mainly working in sheltered workshops, who campaigned for better working conditions and state pensions. The league organized a national march of blind people on Trafalgar Square in 1920, carrying banners with a new slogan: "Rights Not Charity". Despite the small numbers, its aims were widely supported. The first legislation specifically for blind people was passed in the same year, followed by more in 1938.

Much later, in the 1960s, many people with disabilities started to reject being labelling as deviants or patients, and to speak out against discrimination. Inspired by many social movements, especially by the US black civil rights struggle, the disability movement really began in the US.

One example of this shift was the "Rolling Quads", a group of student wheelchair-users at the University of California Berkeley, who established the first Independent Living Centre in 1971. Within a few years, hundreds more ILCs were created across the US and other countries, including Canada. The Independent Living Movement opposes institutionalization and stresses self-reliance; through this, it has had a lasting influence.

These days the movement has shifted again. With the development of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (patterned after the US's Americans with Disabilities Act), many organizations that were once active advocates now take their direction from government legislation, while they fight each other for funding. While there are individual activists rising to the challenge, the movement is still divided by disabilities and class.

Image from PeaceNews
The disability movement, said Melissa, needs to rebuild its history, to get in touch with its radical roots. The first-ever Disability Pride march in Toronto took place last year, calling attention to how austerity budget cuts disproportionately affect people with disabilities. The government thinks people with disabilities are compliant and quiet, and will swallow the cuts quietly.

Accessible transportation is a huge issue for people with disabilities, and an enormous obstacle to organizing. During the recent struggles in Quebec, many students with disabilities were afraid to strike, afraid of losing their grants. Many people with disabilities work for agencies funded by the government, and are afraid they'll be targeted and fired if they agitate.

The recession in the UK has hit disabled people hard. Massive cuts to public spending further reduce already inadequate - but vital - disability benefits. The cuts hit all working-class people; understanding disability discrimination can play a part in uniting resistance to the attacks.

All struggles for freedom from oppression share common ground with Marxism. Ironically, a primary source of oppression of people with disabilities is their exclusion from capitalist exploitation. Many disabled persons are unemployed or underemployed against their will. Their non-conforming bodies are deemed less (or un-) exploitable by the owners of the means of production. The ideal worker is one whose body can work like a machine for the ruling class.

On the other hand, people who receive disability benefits are routinely portrayed as cheats and freeloaders. Even though it's been shown that fraud accounts for less than one percent of benefits - and even though the benefits themselves take up a minute portion of the overall budget - the media and conservative governments create a perception of rampant fraud and waste. Melissa quoted a study in Glasgow showing that people in focus groups believed 70% of disability claims were fraudulent.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (of which Canada was one of the last countries to sign) creates a paradigm shift: from charity to rights and inclusion. There is a very real fear that current and future austerity measures will drastically infringe on the rights contained in the CRPD - including social protection (Article 28), the right to live independently in the community (Article 19) the right to mobility (Article 20).

The European Disability Forum has been compiling data from across Europe on the impact of austerity budgets on people with disabilities. Cuts are affecting people's lives in very real, very scary, and very permanent ways, affecting people's ability to live independently. The cuts also contribute to negative stereotyping of people with disabilities. The language and messaging - describing disabled citizens as "expenditure items" and "drains on economic efforts" - further contributes to stigma and exclusion.

And yet in the UK and Canada, people with disabilities are better off than in many other places in the world, a very sad commentary. In many countries, people with disabilities live in a de facto state of apartheid. They are forced to the fringes of society, ostracized from things that many of us take for granted, such as getting a job or taking public transit.

So what can we do as a movement? Build connections. Reach out to people we see doing activist work, and connect with them through related struggles. One of the biggest barriers people with disabilities faced is isolation. Even when groups of people with disabilities do become active, it is rare for allies to reach out.

Melissa is a great comrade with a lot of energy and a wry sense of humour. You can read her blog here: B-tch on Wheels.

Michele Macaulay
Psychiatric Consumer Survivor

Michele described how the neoliberal governments of the past ended or defunded the office of psychiatric advocates in hospitals. Now there is no one in hospitals to ensure that people with mental illness are not mistreated, or retraumatized, or denied access to services they need.

The health care system is completely inadequate when it comes to mental illness. She described the attitude as "be quiet and take your meds". Michele spoke briefly about the anti-psychiatry movement, which I also heard about in this talk.

Lack of mental health services disproportionately impact low-income communities, racialized communities, aboriginal people - people dependent on the public system with no resources to opt for private care - and people who the dominant culture would rather not deal with. She described the anti-psychiatric movement as an "equity-seeking movement," with much in common with other people's movements.

Psychiatric survivors often can't find work, can't even get interviews, and are often put in "sheltered workshops" where they are paid below minimum wage.

I wish I could tell you more about Michele's moving and important talk. But sadly...

Patricia Reilly
Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups

ONIWG is a nonfunded, grassroots group advocating for injured workers. Patricia described the history of workers compensation funds, and it was an eye-opening view.

The concept of workers' compensation - of a system whereby employees who were injured on the job could be compensated - arose in response to corporate complaints about workers' lawsuits. To get the compensation system, workers gave up the right to sue.

In the early years of the 20th Century, there was a great deal of social unrest, all over North America. In Canada, a royal commission created a system meant to quell that unrest, to alleviate the burden on families of caring for family members whose work left them disabled, and to protect companies from the growing unrest. The idea was to take care of people for as long as they were injured, including for the rest of their lives, if necessary.

The Harris Government destroyed all that. (For non-Canadian readers, Mike Harris governed Ontario from 1995-2002. In brief, he destroyed as much of the social safety net as he could. Most of the difficult and unjust conditions Ontarians struggle with today can be laid at the feet of Mike Harris.)

The Harris Government changed the Workers Compensation Board to the Workplace Safety Insurance Board. Think of the difference in emphasis; the agency's name change reflects a change in orientation. Where once workers were compensated, now workplaces are insured. Now, injured workers are left to battle it out with their employers through a system whose goal is to pay out as little as possible.

Under the Harris Government, the province's vocational rehabilitation program was first privatized, then discontinued altogether. The person who oversaw that change is now the chair of the WSIB.

With the change, the WSIB has overseen a 50% increase in claims denials, with $630 million in benefits cut, vocational retraining slashed from 19 months to nine months, a 30% reduction in permanent impairment awards, and similar reductions on every level.

Image from Diary of a WorkCover Victim (AU)

Patricia described the massive disconnect between disability brought on from workplace injury and the compensation system - how she lost her home, and cashed in all her retirement savings, in order to survive. This may sound familiar to US readers, who know these stories affect millions of Americans who lack basic health insurance. In Canada the bar is a little higher, but it doesn't cover nearly enough. A huge number of injured workers live in poverty. ONIWG's studies show that after injury, 80% of injured workers lost full-time employment, fully half lost their homes, and half were forced to rely on food banks for survival.

The Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups are workers organizing to creat change. They run a speaker school to train people for public speaking, they hold letter writing campaigns, and they teach about the history and social basis of their work. Among their greatest allies are the United Steelworkers, Ontario Federation of Labour, and OFL President Sid Ryan.

From the ONIWG website:
What we are fighting for!

Reform of the Workers' Compensation Act and Policy and return to the founding principles.

Dignity, Respect and Justice must be the foundation for a renewed Workers' Compensation System. We want a new Workers' Compensation Act, with stated purposes to truly assist and compensate workers injured, made sick and disabled at work.
You can read injured workers' stories here.

* * * *

The discussion after this talk was particularly powerful. UK organizer Judith Orr spoke about how the cuts to social benefits have brought an increase physical attacks against people with disabilities, with government rhetoric legitimizing the idea, framing people with disabilities as "draines" on the system and freeloaders. People with disabilities are not considered valuable under a capitalist system, because they don't create profit.

Dr J said that the struggles of people with disabilities is the most damning indictment of capitalism - capitalism at its most raw. People need time off work. They need accessible transit. They need safer workplaces. They need shorter working hours that can still meet their material needs. But capitalism cannot accommodate conditions that do not augment the labour market, that do not create profit. If there's anything most damning about capitalism, it's this inability to deal with any deviation from the profit-making norm.


must-watch video: how canadian women won abortion rights and what we must do to keep them

The Harper anti-choice brigade is back in the news, this time taking aim at a different abortion controversy to try to chip away at our fundamental rights.

Wladyslaw Lizon - sadly, the MP for my own riding - is holding forth against later-term procedures. (You may remember Lizon's name through his memorable Islamophobia, which caused Jason Kenney to forbid the wearing of niqabs during citizenship ceremonies.) When it comes to later-term abortions, don't be fooled. The overwhelming majority of abortion procedures in Canada are performed in the first trimester of pregnancy. In the tiny minority performed later, the fetus is either dead or non-viable, or the woman's life is being endangered by the pregnancy. Women needing later-term abortions are usually in dire circumstances, mourning the loss of a wanted pregnancy. Even if a Canadian woman wanted to obtain a late-term abortion on a healthy fetus, she could never find a doctor to perform it.

But whether it's sex-selected abortion, later-term abortions, or violence against pregnant women, it's always the same strategy: find a wedge, misrepresent the issue for broad appeal, and try to drive it in, using private members' bills so that Harper can still claim to not be reopening the abortion debate. But when the most powerful MP in the House of Commons, the de facto Deputy Prime Minister, votes in favour of one of these bills, just who do they think they're fooling?

The frightening truth is that they may be fooling many people. These proposed restrictions appeal to many people who are nominally pro-choice but still squeamish about abortion in some circumstances. But it doesn't matter if they approve, if you approve, or if I approve. Women's basic human rights - the right to bodily integrity and security of person - cannot be conditional on public whim. The right to abortion must be absolute, and subject to no one's approval.

Pro-choice Canadians need to educate themselves and others on these anti-abortion-by-stealth threats - why they are real, and why we must continue to push back against them.

This week I attended an inspiring event co-sponsored by Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics and University of Toronto Medical Students for Choice: a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Morgentaler decision, which legalized abortion in Canada. Innis Hall was packed to the rafters, with people listening in the hallway, unable to fit in the room.

We heard a series of terrific speakers, and watched the film "The Life and Times of Dr. Henry Morgentaler". All the speakers were great; I wouldn't have missed any of them. But this woman, my friend and comrade Carolyn Egan, brought down the house.

Please watch, and please share. And please, defend your rights.

I highly recommend watching all these videos!

Jillian Bardsley, Medical Students for Choice, Toronto Chapter, on Canada's lack of abortion providers, and what students are doing about it

Michele Landsberg, author, former columnist for Toronto Star, instrumental in writing about abortion and other feminist issues

Angela Robinson, Women's College Hospital, on anti-abortion by stealth, and how she found the movement

Author and activist Judy Rebick, with memories of working alongside Dr. Morgentaler, as "the girl from the clinic," and the widespread public support for their work. I know of Judy as the founding editor of and as an anti- Israeli apartheid activist, but I hadn't known her vital role in the movement to legalize abortion in Canada.

To get involved:

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada

Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics

Canadians for Choice


updates: acupuncture, slow cooker, star trek

I decided to try acupuncture again. In October, I saw my nephew and niece-in-law who practice Traditional Chinese Medicine and other holistic healing methods. They encouraged me to use our small insurance benefit on more treatment, even though I can't afford to continue it past that.

I purposely started in December, so I could use the acupuncture allowance for 2012, then go straight into the benefit for the 2013 calendar year, for maximum bang for my insurance buck.

I definitely feel a change. I have more energy, my head is clearer (less fibro fog), and I am cooler. Like many women my age, I am always overheated. My face is usually flushed, and I have frequent and pronounced hot flashes. I always ran warm - always preferred winter to summer, rarely complain about the cold, and so on - so this age-heat thing has been pretty dreadful. And suddenly, it's 90% gone.

The doctor expected immediate results and seemed frustrated that it took five or six treatments to start working. He asked if I've had the pain and fatigue for a long time, and seems to indicate that that's why it takes several treatments to put right.

It's remarkable. But it's also frustrating. After our small insurance benefit is used, there's simply no way I can afford to continue.

As for the acupuncture experience itself, I enjoy it. The needles are completely painless, and once they're in, I lie there in a kind of floaty, meditative state. It's deeply relaxing. As the needles are removed, I feel a tiny, extremely brief sensation at each point, less than a pin-prick. I am also taking herbs, mixtures which the doctor changes weekly.

It's a bit difficult to enter into the concept of TCM. I'm accustomed to thinking along the lines of Western medicine: this helps with fatigue, this helps with pain, this helps with metabolism, and so on. TCM treats the body as a whole, so when energies are aligned, when the body is harmonious, pain will decrease, energy will increase, unpleasant sensations will stop. I don't pretend to understand it, but it's not as if I understand the chemistry behind the Western medicine I take, either. The results, however, are unmistakable.

[If you are interested in treatments and strategies that I use for fibromyalgia, you may want to read my fibromyalgia information site.]

* * * *

I'm really enjoying my slow cooker. I'm using it about once a week, and I'm going to try to continue that during the school term. It's especially useful for making food in batches to take to work.

As I collect slow-cooker ideas, recipes, and websites, I've noticed two things. One, many people have difficulty explaining how they cook. Or perhaps they are embarrassed to share their methods? People say things like, "You just throw anything in," or "You just do whatever, put stuff in the pot and turn it on." But what do you put in? "Just anything. You know, chicken, whatever." Huh?

Also, many actual slow-cooker recipes use processed food. I see many recipes calling for canned soup, bottled barbecue sauce, powdered taco seasoning, and the like. All that adds massive amounts of salt, sugar, corn syrup, and various unpronounceable ingredients to your diet. I'm a little bit shocked that people still cook that way.

What's more, so many people seem completely unaware of what they're doing. One recipe called for packaged taco seasoning, bottled barbecue sauce, and canned soup. A commenter noted that it tasted kind of salty, so she's looking into salt-free beans.

I do use shortcuts. I don't make my own stock, as some of my friends do (some are reading this post, right?), and I use canned beans. But canned beans, when rinsed and drained, have the same nutritional content as dry beans, and I buy low-sodium stock. Canned soup is loaded with unnecessary sodium, and how difficult would it be to substitute whole ingredients that would give you the same effect?

* * * *

As I mentioned last week, I'm watching "Star Trek TOS" - the original Star Trek series - in order, from the beginning, on US Netflix. I've already seen my favourite episode - silicon-based life! - and two or three episodes that were totally new to me.

I'm enjoying it so much that I'm tempted to follow Allan's Stephen King example and write about each episode. Last term, in my children's culture course, I did some media analysis, and really enjoyed it. (I am occasionally forced to admit I like some aspect of my Master's program.) Star Trek is so ripe for review: racism, sexism, xenophobia, colonization, war and peace, capitalism... Stop me before I blog again!

I'm sure Star Trek has been analyzed to death. And I have no shortage of things to write about. And I have a distinct shortage of time. It's tempting. But I think I can resist.


doctors vs jason kenney: the fight continues

The Harper Government continues to scapegoat the most vulnerable among us, demonizing refugee claimants, denying them due process, forcing them out of Canada.

Yesterday we heard that four people arrested at the border were part of a human smuggling ring. Peter Showler, director of the Refugee Forum at the University of Ottawa and the former head of the IRB, says:
What we are looking at here is people who may very well be valid refugee claimants who will be in jail for more than six months; people who may very well be victims of discrimination, if not persecution, and they will have to prove those refugee claims while they are in prison.
If these four people are victims of human smuggling, and they have managed to make their way to Canada, Canada should be protecting them, not persecuting them.

Those refugee claimants already living in Canada are having an increasingly difficult time. Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care continues to document an increasing number of refugee claimants entitled to Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) coverage who are being denied health care. They say that ministerial mismanagement has caused dozens of IFHP-eligible claimants to go without care, as doctors are unable to decipher the impenetrable web of rules and grids established by the Ministry.

Every single one of these cases has been verified. The government's response? They've accused the doctors of "purposefully altering" the facts of the cases.

Between the Harper Government and a group of doctors fighting for health care for refugee claimants, who do you think is lying?

Here's a sample of the cases the doctors have documented, in which IFHP-entitled refugee claimants have been refused coverage and care:

• A young child from Africa with a high fever but has no health insurance because his IFHP has not been activated

• A woman in her third trimester of pregnancy develops pre-eclampsia, a potentially lethal disease, but has no coverage to treat her condition

• A man with a rectal mass is turned away from care a multitude of times although he should have health insurance according to the government's own policy

• A young child from Africa could not get a chest X-ray after her IFHP was issued but there was a delay in its implementation. She eventually was found to have pneumonia

• A man is scheduled for surgery for a kidney stone causing an enlarged kidney but may have to cancel the surgery as he waits over two months for renewal of his coverage

• Two young children with multiple hospitalizations for asthma cannot get access to their inhalers leaving them at risk for seeking out care through emergency departments

• A woman missed her opportunity to get prenatal screening because she awaits the initiation of IFHP coverage. The baby will be a Canadian citizen.

This list is expected to grow exponentially after December 15, when the government will announce its list of so-called designated safe countries. Refugee claimants from any country on that list will be fast-tracked and shipped out, without the due process that Canada has a legal obligation to give. Dr. Philip Berger, Chief of Family and Community Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital, says:
Refugee claimants are not tourists or illegal immigrants. They are people seeking refuge and safety in Canada; they are here legally, within our borders, doing what they are supposed to be doing. Many will become Canadian citizens. The federal government should rescind the cuts and continue Canada's historical and ethical tradition of caring for refugees.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has joined the growing number of voices denouncing these cuts as an affront to Canadian values. The recently publicized case of a man denied access to chemotherapy is not an isolated incident.

Dr. Meb Rashid, medical director of the Crossroads Clinic at Women's College Hospital says:
The number of cases we have seen of patients needing access to, but denied care will be multiples higher after December 15th. After that date Canada will be telling some of the most vulnerable people in the world that they are not worthy of basic health care, including for refugees who have heart attacks and pregnant women refugees and their children.
Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care is calling on the Harper Government to suspend these health-care cuts and "find a better and more Canadian way to achieve the government's goal of equity and at the same time protect the health of refugees". They have submitted detailed proposals on how this might be achieved.

To date, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care has received no direct response to its proposal.

Earlier wmtc coverage:

manitoba to defy jason kenney, cover refugee health care

teen arrested for asking kenney about refugee health care cuts

canadian health care professionals continue to speak out for refugee health care

canadian health care professionals stand up for refugee health care

59 cents campaign: stand up for health care for refugees

harper and kenney's refugee healthcare changes are based on lies - and people will die

canadian doctors protest cuts to refugee health care


manitoba to defy jason kenney, cover refugee health care

The Province of Manitoba has announced that it will cover health care for refugee claimants, in defiance of Jason Kenney's vindictive cuts to help at the federal level. (I haven't been able to find the link from the Winnipeg Free Press; I hope this capture at iPolitics is trustworthy.)
Manitoba will help refugees access health benefits the federal government recently took away.

Health Minister Theresa Oswald said in a prepared statement that the province doesn’t agree with the cut because it’s hurting families and will lead to longer-term and more expensive problems.

Agencies and advocates for privately sponsored refugees and health-care providers have rallied against Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s cuts to supplemental health benefits that took effect June 30.

The refugees’ sponsors were left to pay for any prescription drugs, prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs, vision and dental care they needed, otherwise, they would go without.

Dr. Mike Dillon, who has worked with refugees for decades, praised the Manitoba government for recognizing this as a concern and for picking up the slack.

Oswald said the province will add up the bill and send it to the federal health minister.
This would not have happened without the persistent activism of nurses, doctors, and other health care providers, who fought back for their patients. Well done, Manitoba! Who's next?


canadian health care professionals still protesting cuts to refugee health care

Canadian doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals continue to mention refugee health care at every public media opportunity. In this case, a student nurse takes advantage of Lisa Raitt's appearance at KidSport to remind the Government that Olympic medal-winning wrestler Carol Huynh came to Canada as a refugee - and that all people, including refugees, need health insurance.


teen arrested for asking kenney about refugee health care cuts

Cheers for Bashir Mohamed! He interrupted a speech by Jason Kenney, trying to ask questions about refugee health care, was removed and arrested, and now he's challenging the illustrious Minister คาสิโนออนไลน์ แจกเครดิตฟรี 2019to a debate. Video here.
An Edmonton teenager was arrested Saturday after grilling federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney during his speech at a Conservative party barbecue.

Bashir Mohamed, 17, said he bought tickets to legally attend the barbecue, which was held inside a hanger at the Alberta Aviation Museum for more than 400 Tories.

Mohamed and two friends with video cameras arrived with a plan to question Kenney about the recent government cuts to health-care coverage for refugees arriving in Canada.

The policy, announced in April and in effect as of Canada Day, prevents refugees from accessing prescription drug, dental and other extended health-care coverage unless they're covered by a federal program.

The cuts were made to extended coverage that most Canadians pay for or already have covered by insurance. The government expects the policy to save $100 million over the next five years.

"This has been in effect since Canada Day and right now a refugee cannot receive certain health care," Mohamed said. "The reason I chose this course of action is because the minister doesn't allow question and answer debates."

Get 'em, Bashir! You're a people's hero!


and the jason kenney award goes to... jason kenney (updated)

Have you all seen this petition? The Honourable [sic] Jason Kenney asks us to sign a petition thanking none other than Jason Kenney. Macleans found it amusing, and the National Post has the Twitter talk.

But it took Dan Murphy, cartoonist with The Province, to really do it justice. Please watch and share!

Note: To see this video, please click here. The auto-play was too annoying!

Also, my recent Kenney-related post is running at The Mark.

Also also, this cartoon at the Hamilton Spectator.

Also also also, Tabitha Southey: Cabinet minister is a thankless job – unless you’re Jason Kenney.


"dissenting doctors do canada proud" as harper and kenney follow a familiar pattern

The fightback over the Interim Federal Health Program (health coverage for refugees) is being noticed. So is the typical pattern of propaganda staged by the Harper GovernmentTM when it wants to kill another piece of what makes Canada a decent country.

First, Janet Bagnall in the Montreal Gazette nails the Harper Government playbook. Then Jeremy Klaszus, writing in the Calgary Herald, Harper and Kenney's home turf, writes:
Canadian doctors are fighting for all the refugee health cuts to be rescinded, so all are treated with dignity. Their dissent is an honourable act of welcoming, an example of what Canada can and should be.
Bagnall's excellent column is worth reading in its entirety.
The Harper government is nothing if not predictable in how it goes about dismantling a program or service. It starts by denigrating the program and the program's beneficiaries, and telling Canadians that they've been played for fools by the beneficiaries. Once that message has been drilled home, and the government judges that the moment is right and Canadians' attitudes changed, it proceeds to get rid of the offending program - no matter how impractical, immoral or ultimately costly the exercise might prove to be.

Examples include the gun registry (accompanied by criticism of the police departments that claimed it was useful) and alternative sentencing programs (with much sneering at justice departments, notably Quebec's, that believed having sentencing options was good for society).

The latest case is the government's decision to severely curtail or simply eliminate health benefits for refugees, with some slight backtracking last Friday.

Until June 30, the Interim Federal Health program, which is similar to provincial health-insurance programs, provided basic health coverage to refugee claimants no matter where they came from or under what circumstances. The coverage was available until a claimant became a permanent resident, at which point the province began picking up the tab, or until the claimant abandoned or withdrew his or her claim.

The government proceeded as it always does. First, denigrate the program: Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has tirelessly painted the IFH program as little more than a draw for bogus refugee claimants. Free eyeglasses and a round of antibiotics are, apparently, more than enough reason for people to try to sneak into Canada on their flight from war, famine or violence. Kenney labels failed claimants "illegal immigrants."

Second, tell Canadians they are being played for fools: Kenney has done his best to set Canadian citizens against refugees, saying refugees have until now been given better health care than residents, whereas in fact refugees have been given the same level of care as the lowest-income Canadians.

Third, when Canadians protest, as virtually the entire medical community in the country has, just tough it out: Call them "militants," "activists" and "extremists."

Dr. Philip Berger, chief of family and community medicine at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and a founding member of a group called Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, says that those are words Kenney has used to describe national medical groups including the Canadian Medical Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union, the Canadian College of Physicians, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Paediatric Society.

From Kenney's zeal to reform Canada's refugee program no one would guess that refugee-acceptance rates are at their lowest in the history of the Immigration and Refugee Board, at 38 per cent in 2010 and 2011, according to the University of Ottawa's Human Rights Research and Education Centre. In recent years, the centre has found, the acceptance rate has been stable at between 40 and 45 per cent of the roughly 25,000 claims made every year. At that rate, a total of 11,250 people are accepted every year, including 2011.

That figure is dwarfed by the 4.3 million people around the world who were newly displaced in 2011. Last year "saw suffering on an epic scale. For so many lives to have been thrown into turmoil over so short a space of time means enormous personal cost for all who were affected," Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said last month.

Ottawa seems less concerned with the fate of refugees than with how to categorize them. The government has two types: deserving and undeserving.

Deserving refugees, if health-care provision is a guide, are those who are government-sponsored, brought to Canada as permanent refugees through the Resettlement Assistance Program (as well as some victims of people-smuggling). According to Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, these refugees will have cost-free access to physician visits, diagnostics and laboratory testing through their provincial health coverage, along with prescription drugs, vision care and dental coverage.

Undeserving refugees appear to include those sponsored by church groups or other humanitarian organizations; those who have come from countries designated by the minister as places where refugees should not be coming from; those who have sought asylum in Canada after fleeing their homeland; and those whose claims have been denied. Refugees from countries deemed "safe" by the minister will have no coverage even in the case of emergencies. ("Safe" is a fast-moving target. Amnesty International reported this week that migrants in Greece are being beaten up.)

Refugee claimants from countries Canada recognizes as not safe will be covered for urgent or essential care, including physician visits and laboratory and diagnostic testing, the Doctors for Refugee Care group says. There is no coverage for preventive care. Otherwise, refugees will not be eligible for health care unless their condition involves a risk, narrowly defined, to public health. A contagious illness such as pneumonia is not considered a threat.

Quebec has promised, temporarily, to fill the gap by paying for medical care for all refugees. Doctors have promised to keep track of cases of compromised care. The group Doctors for Refugee Care will collect data as refugee patients run out of medication and become ineligible for care.

"As soon as we get data on harm done to refugees, we will be reporting it," said Berger.
Klaszus brings the fight to Harper and Kenney's doorstep; this excellent column ran in the Calgary Herald. (It was posted in comments on this earlier thread, but many people don't see comments.)
Dissenting Doctors Do Canada Proud

It would have been easy to just keep quiet.

When the federal government announced cuts to refugee health care in April, it seemed like a done deal. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney indicated that starting this month, the government would no longer pay for supplemental health services such as prescription drugs, dentistry and eye care for refugees. This was framed in terms of fairness: most Canadians don't get government coverage for such things, so why should outsiders? That's not right!

"We do not want to ask Canadians to pay for benefits for protected persons and refugee claimants that are more generous than what they are entitled to themselves," Kenney said in a news release at the time. This, he suggested, would save money and protect Canadian taxpayers from being exploited.

Doctors were having none of it. Kenney's announcement triggered an incredible flourish of dissent. A coalition of care provider groups - including the Canadian Medical Association, dentists and social workers - protested the cuts in an open letter, warning Kenney that the changes would hurt some of the most vulnerable people in the country. The consequences could be "catastrophic," they warned. Protests erupted across the country.

To make their point, a couple of doctors even interrupted funding announcements by Conservative cabinet ministers. That takes cojones. These events are usually self-congratulatory affairs at which the minister is showered with adulation. Everyone present is expected to fall in line and give thanks.

So it was encouraging to see Chris Keefer, a doctor, spoil that tired script by confronting Natural Re-sources Minister Joe Oliver at Toronto General Hospital last month. "This is not the legacy of Canada," Keefer said of the cuts, interrupting Oliver. "This is not the kind of country that we want to live in."

Hospital administrators were visibly embarrassed by the disruption, and told Keefer to sit down. He didn't. He was then told that he ruined the announcement.

Tarek Loubani, a doctor in London, Ont., did the same thing to Human Resources Minister Diane Finley. "I'm very sorry minister, I cannot let you continue until the position of your government changes on this issue," said Loubani. "We're talking about people's lives here."

In the face of this dissent, Kenney is doing a contortion act, saying the supplemental coverage will continue for government-sponsored refugees, though not others. That appears to be a switch, though Kenney has described it as a clarification.

It seems more like obfuscation. If the goal is to make coverage equal for all, why is supplemental coverage now being upheld for government-sponsored refugees? That's inconsistent with the rationale Kenney laid out in April. Why should outsiders - government-sponsored or not - get coverage that we Canadians do not? This is supposed to irk us, remember? How quickly Kenney has forsaken the taxpayer!

The dissent will keep on, in part, because so many Canadians are connected with the refugee experience. My grandfather experienced it in Germany when the Red Army forced his family to flee westward from East Prussia in 1944. Even though my grandfather was a Ger-man seeking shelter and food from other Germans, he was always aware that he was viewed as an outsider. "An intruder," as he put it.

Refugees from eastern Germany took work from locals in the west. It was the same old story: Why are these people taking what is ours?

That experience of being ostracized made a deep impression on him. But so did small acts of welcome: a bed to sleep in, a foot bath, a loaf of bread. Later, he and my grandmother would extend similar hospitality by sponsoring a Vietnamese family when Canada opened its arms to the boat people. That great welcoming was easily one of our proudest moments as a nation.

Canadian doctors are fighting for all the refugee health cuts to be rescinded, so all are treated with dignity. Their dissent is an honourable act of welcoming, an example of what Canada can and should be.
Also: Elie Wiesel and the Toronto Board of Rabbis publicly denounce the defunding of refugee health care.