May 142012
 

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has released its National Strategy report. It took them five years to compile and write it. I understand that they had two Chairmen — the original one resigned. I’ve heard several interviews with the second Chairman, a physician, and the original Chairman, a Senator, and I caught a snippet of the original press conference when they released their strategy.

I have no idea what this all means.

Health is — stupidly — a provincial issue. I can sort of see why different provinces may want to educate their subjects, I mean people, differently. But last I saw, human beings who live in Ontario are biologically, physiologically, and anatomically the same as those living in Alberta. But we seem to believe a doctor trained in Saskatchewan won’t know how to treat human beings living in Québec. Or that human beings living in New Brunswick don’t suffer from the same diseases or need the same kinds of treatments as those living in British Columbia.

I don’t know what our Fathers of Confederation were thinking when they made health a provincial responsibility.

In spite of how this illogic treats Canadians unequally and in some cases disastrously so, provinces are jealous over health. They don’t want to share it with the federal government. It’s okay for the federal government to give them money to spend on it, and maybe it’s okay to have national medicare rules about who can pay for what, although that’s changing after the Supreme Court ruling, but they don’t like the Feds telling them what to do with the money. If province A wants to spend it solely on cancer, and province B wants to spend nada on cancer but only on heart disease, then they get to do that, and the Feds can’t do anything. Or don’t, for fear of treading on toes.

It’s all about power. Not about the overall health of Canadians.

Yet here we have a national strategy on mental health. Yes, Canada was apparently the only major nation without one. But we also don’t treat health as a national responsibility. Since when are the provinces going to harmonize their approach to mental health — or physical — so that an Ontarian suffering from major depression can know that if they move to Nunavut they will receive the same treatment, the same level of care? Since when will the Federal government ensure the same level of care is not less than the minimal in any province or territory? Since when will the provinces give over any power so that a national strategy on mental health really is national?

In one interview I heard the Chairman say that different provinces will implement the recommendations differently, depending on what they do now, the implication being that at the end of the day a Canadian can live anywhere in Canada and know that they will receive the same good care. Hardly. I can’t see that happening? Can you?

No, a national strategy only has meaning in this country if Canadians challenge the provinces over their absolute power over health and demand that health be national, that a doctor licensed in Nova Scotia can practise and prescribe in Manitoba, that a Yukoner has the same access to a GP or psychiatrist as a Newfoundlander, that treatments in whatever form they come in are covered equally across the country from coast to coast to coast.

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