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Canadian Health-Care Reform: Fit for Failure?

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I was disappointed to hear that you would not recognize pure unpolluted water and nutritious, certified organic food as the foundation of medicare.

OPEN LETTER TO:
Roy Romanow, Commissioner
The Future of Health Care in Canada
Box 160
Saskatoon, SK
S7K 3K4

Dear Mr. Romanow:
When you were a guest of Lindy Thorson on CBC Radio's noon phone-in program on March 5, I was disappointed to hear that you would not recognize pure unpolluted water and nutritious, certified organic food as the foundation of medicare. It is unfortunate that some of the people your age who are making these decisions didn't grow up in the world I did. If you had, you would recognize the importance of pure water and nutritious food as being fundamental to good health.

I am 78 years old and grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930s on a farm 16 miles south of Swift Current in what is today known as the "dust bowl." I attended a country school. We had fresh whole milk from the cows every day (it wasn't pasteurized, which destroys calcium). We had fresh, homemade butter on bread that my mother baked twice a week. We had fresh eggs from the chickens three times a day all summer. There was no refrigeration to keep the eggs.

If company came on Sunday, we ate the roosters. If the milk went sour, Mother made cottage cheese out of it. During the summer, we had fresh vegetables from the garden and during the winter we had potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips and parsnips from the root cellar in the basement. We also had canned vegetables such as corn, peas, string beans, tomatoes and onion pickles that were home canned with a minimum amount of preservatives, only vinegar. Surplus eggs and cream were marketed weekly.

Some people said we lived in poverty. I say no.

This was in the era before toxic pesticides polluted our food, air and water. There weren't any antibiotics or growth hormones in our meat. We didn't have any money to buy pop or junk food a good thing. Medical doctors charged $2 or sometimes accepted a bag of potatoes or a chicken for an office call; however, office calls were few and far between.

I wasn't exposed to pesticides until I was 25 years old in 1949. The healthy lifestyle and diet I had enjoyed gave me a good foundation for life. Children born today do not have this luxury.

After 50 years of using pesticides here in Saskatchewan, Dr. Allan Cessna, National Hydrology Water Institute (federal environment) says that all surface water in the province and one-third of the wells are polluted with herbicides. A large majority of Saskatchewanians use surface water for a potable water supply.

This province uses one-third of all the pesticides used in Canada. We have the highest rate of breast and cervical cancer in Canada and the second highest rate of prostate cancer. In fact, cancer, chemical sales and food banks are our growth industries. We have over 40 per cent of the cultivated land in Canada and three per cent of the population, yet we are not able to feed ourselves. Lineups at the food banks are getting longer. Farmers are driving up to 70 miles to food banks and there is request for four more food banks right now in rural areas.

I believe there are more undernourished and hungry people in Saskatchewan today than there were during the Great Depression. The reason? Our farm economy is dominated, exploited and polluted by transnational chemical companies. The transnational drug and chemical corporations have us all on a treadmill. They take away our rights to the family farm. They are selling us large volumes of pesticides that make us sick and large volumes of drugs that are supposed to make us well again.

Well, Mr. Romanow, I have described what life was like in the Great Depression and the present depression or whatever kind of crisis you want to call it. The reality is, our present medicare system was built on the healthy foundation for the life we were lucky enough to have in the 1930s.

You can tinker or fiddle with policies and economics all you want, but if you don't fix the foundation, which is to provide an adequate supply of pure unpolluted water, air and certified organic food, we will lose our national medicare.

Medicare was developed here in Saskatchewan. I was proud to vote for the first health district in Canada in Swift Current in 1947. Now only you can decide if this province will provide the leadership Canada needs to preserve medicare.

Your Letters Needed
alive readers are encouraged to write to Mr. Romanow and urge him to consider the foundational importance of healthy food and pure water, and to include thamas prime principles of national medicare. The address is the same as above.

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