Health care in Canada's north - designed to fail . . . . ?

Health care in Canada's north - designed to fail . . . . ?

Postby Oscar » Mon Oct 22, 2018 8:55 am

The health system in Canada’s North is failing — but not by accident. ‘It is designed to do what it is doing’

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By Tanya TalagaStaff Reporter Fri., Oct. 19, 2018

SIOUX LOOKOUT, ONT.—Dr. Mike Kirlew meets me at the Sioux Lookout Airport because it is -40 C and my rental car won’t start. During the winter months, cars need to be plugged into power outlets overnight or their batteries will freeze. Mike laughs as he tries to jam the key into the ignition of the Toyota-turned-ice-block, but the key won’t move. The steering wheel won’t budge. Everything is frozen.

The sun blazes in the cloudless blue sky, but it gives us no warmth as we scurry to his car and hop in. Mike takes off his thick, beautifully beaded moose-hide mitts and pushes back his beaver fur hat before he starts the car and turns up the seat warmers. He pops in some Bob Marley. The smooth sounds of reggae evoke images of a climate about 80 degrees warmer, a perfect antidote to the harsh realities of the Canadian winter.

Dr. Michael Kirlew in Sioux Lookout, Ont. He says the health-care system was designed to care for non-Indigenous Canadians, and that’s why it is failing Indigenous people.

Mike, who was born in Ottawa to Jamaican immigrant parents, is a physician who has devoted his entire life to living and working in Sioux Lookout. He arrived here by fluke  —  he had hoped to go to Moose Factory, along the James Bay coast, but he was told the medical residency program was full and instead he had to go to the Sioux. He, his wife, Yolaine, and their three children make this their home. For nearly 11 years, Mike has been grappling with the suicide crisis in northern Ontario, and he sees no end in sight. He is the one who, on a moment’s notice, drops everything to respond to a health crisis in Canada’s remote North. He cared for Jolynn Winter and Chantell Fox in Wapekeka when they were toddlers. He sees first-hand how a lack of the determinants of health  —  education, basic services, a safe environment, and employment  —  debilitates these communities.

“Let me take you on the five-dollar tour of town,” he says, then laughs: “OK, maybe it’s the $4.99 tour.”

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