Medicare was born amid controversy in Saskatchewan in July 1962, when the province’s medical profession went on strike rather than cooperate with a new government plan. The essence of that plan was that visits to the doctor would be paid out of tax revenue rather than having individuals pay out of pocket. The CCF government wanted to ensure that anyone could receive medical care no matter their ability to pay.
I was a 14 year-old in Saskatchewan in 1962, and have never forgotten those tense few weeks. Now, on Medicare’s 60th anniversary, I have written two articles about the dispute and given an interview to CBC Radio. Among other things, you will be interested to know that the RCMP thought that it was all a communist plot and so it spied upon Medicare’s proponents.
Child of Medicare
I was an adolescent in 1962 when Medicare was introduced. My parents were poor so it meant a lot to them. This is our family photo in 1962. I am on the right. The doctors’ strike had a lasting impression upon me. I write about that for Broadview magazine.
In its opinion section on July 2, 2022 the Globe and Mail carried my article about RCMP surveillance of Medicare and its founders. This piece is based upon material which I obtained under an Access to Information request regarding the RCMP Security Service.
CBC Radio in Saskatchewan was interested in the story about RCMP spying upon the advocates of Medicare. Shauna Powers, host of Saskatchewan Weekend talked to me for 12+ minutes.
Medicare was, and is, a proud achievement, but the COVID-19 pandemic, the aging of our population even as it grows all present challenges. We have to meet them by preserving and improving our health care system, not bowing to privatization as some would have us do.
Women at demo, black & white: Bettman Archive
Child of Medicare: Gruending family photo
Public demo, colour: Public Archives of Saskatchewan
The 60th anniversary is indeed an achievement to celebrate. However, perhaps due to many extra pressures resulting from the covid pandemic it’s also become clear that changes and improvements are required if the current Medicare system can continue to provide adequate coverage for all Canadians. The ongoing tensions between the federal government and the provinces require a renewed assessment of health care needs especially for residents in long term care situations, Indigenous and racialized communities and people living in remote regions of the country.
Thanks Frances for your perceptive comment. I agree that we are in a delicate and dangerous time regarding health care. We can point to the COVID pandemic as a magnifier for our difficulties, but we simply must improve upon the care that it available. If we don’t the voices demanding privatization will grow louder.