In Canada, health care is not universal.

Sometimes objective criticism of your government can only come from a foreign news outlet. Jessica Yee, a Chinese-Mohawk woman from Toronto, has published an article in The Guardian, a British newspaper, about Canada’s deep-rooted discrimination against indigenous communities.

Last week, on June 23, 2009—during a swine flu outbreak that disproportionately affects impoverished First Nations reserves—Health Canada delayed shipping hand sanitizers to First Nations reserves, because they contained alcohol. The Canadian government was concerned that the hand sanitizers would fuel alcohol addiction among reserve communities. (That’s racist.)

Jessica Yee, in Canada’s swine flu shame (The Guardian), writes:

Let’s review the facts. In the two and a half weeks that the government deliberated over whether to send hand sanitiser to reserve communities, this is what happened:

• More swine flu cases developed

• Chiefs, community leaders, nurses and community health representatives scrambled to deal with the escalating outbreak without help from a non-responsive government

• Families, children, elders and community members in these areas had no choice but to wait and see if they were going to get any type of diagnosis or care as conditions worsened

• The wider Canadian population heard occasional reports of the virus developing more in First Nations communities but not enough to warrant a national outpouring of support.

Access to necessary healthcare services is an ongoing problem for many indigenous people around the world, and Canada is no exception. But universal healthcare and non-insured health benefits (which First Nations and Inuit individuals receive in Canada) don’t mean anything if you live somewhere you still cannot get household plumbing, let alone a visit to the doctor.

Read the rest of Canada’s swine flu shame at The Guardian.

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