Senators’ remarks on H1N1 curious

Shed light on their gaps in knowledge


Advertise with us

OTTAWA -- The H1N1 influenza outbreak on reserves in Manitoba took centre stage on the national news agenda early last week when a Senate committee summoned federal health officials to explain what was going on.

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$1.50 for 150 days*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles

*Pay $1.50 for the first 22 weeks of your subscription. After 22 weeks, price increases to the regular rate of $19.00 per month. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled after the first 22 weeks.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/06/2009 (4900 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — The H1N1 influenza outbreak on reserves in Manitoba took centre stage on the national news agenda early last week when a Senate committee summoned federal health officials to explain what was going on.

It was nice to see this issue actually getting the attention from the federal government it should have been getting from the moment the first cases showed up in St. Theresa Point.

But it also brought home how far away Ottawa can be from the on-the-ground realities in Canada.

Several minutes of debate were spent on whether or not it could possibly be true that communities in Canada don’t have running water.

One senator even acknowledged he’d never even been to a remote reserve.

When the members of a committee tasked with studying aboriginal issues don’t even know that many reserves in remote areas of this country don’t have running water, it’s no wonder these communities have been unable to shed Third World living conditions.

It also is discouraging that one of the chief recommendations to the committee was an independent task force to figure out what went wrong and develop solutions before the fall, when the virus is expected to make a potentially more menacing appearance.

British Columbia Senator Larry Campbell at least got a few laughs when he pointed out having a task force complete any sort of meaningful work by the fall is unlikely.

“It will be fall before they even figure out who will be on it,” he quipped.

Also of note at the committee was one senator, whose name I didn’t catch, who seemed tired of listening to Health Canada officials explain all the reasons why everything is under control on the affected reserves, despite so much evidence to the contrary.

“One of the things that always amazes me about civil servants,” the senator said dryly. “You always give the impression things are OK.”

But in the middle of the hearing, there was at least a sign that one senator in that room got that the outbreak of H1N1 is a symptom of the ills of our reserves and what is required is more than just speeding up shipments of hand sanitizer.

Conservative Senator Gerry St. Germain, the committee chairman, issued a call to arms to all governments in Canada to stop the status quo.

“Unless we do something differently we’re going to continue to get the same results,” he said.

“We’ve created a horror story out there as a society for the last 100 and some years for First Nations people. It’s time the (Assembly of First Nations) and every group, the governments, oppositions, whoever, start working together and making a difference in First Nations’ quality of life or else it’s going to victimize all of us… We are the healthiest and the wealthiest and it’s up to us to do something.”

“ö “ö “ö

Last spring, I stumbled upon a rally outside the National Capital Commission offices. City councillors, Ottawa residents, and my own MP, the NDP’s Paul Dewar, took turns trampling on the federal government for even thinking about locating the new Portrait Gallery of Canada outside Ottawa.

In 2006, the Conservatives shelved a plan to locate the gallery in the old U.S. embassy near Parliament Hill, and started a bidding process in which cities could compete for the gallery.

Although I love living in Ottawa, I am a westerner at heart, and it got my blood boiling to hear people suggest other cities in Canada are not worthy of having national institutions.

I couldn’t believe one of the arguments was that keeping it in Ottawa would mean it would be open and accessible to a lot of visitors.

The issue died last fall when the government said it didn’t have the money to proceed. But expanding the number of national institutions outside of the capital region continues.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last week Pier 21 in Halifax will become a national immigration museum. It joins the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg as the only two national museums not in the capital region.

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us