Revealing the Myth of Canadian Health Care; A Decolonial Practice

Review of Shaheen-Hussain’s book, Fighting for a Hand to Hold

Recent years have not been kind to the reputation of the health care system in Canada. Its image as a pinnacle of public systems, a place wherein care is freely offered to all comers, an unmitigated social good, has suffered. Much of this decline is attributable to the way in which the Canadian health care system has been enacted as a tool of oppression, from research exposing genocidal experimenta- tion enacted upon the bodies of Indigenous children to the deadly mistreatment of Indigenous patients in contemporary hospitals and clinics. Always held up against the American private disaster to the south, the Canadian health care system has sustained itself on a mythology that has, over the last several years, become increasingly scrutinized and critiqued both from those standing outside of its doors and from those on the other side of the threshold. For many professional organizations and governing bodies within medicine, the years following the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report were ones of great reckoning. Like exposed roots in upturned soil, the colonial foundations of Canadian medical practice are all too painfully visible. And while those outside the system call out its injustices and rattle its foundations demanding change, they are joined by people working within the system, who every day confront the policies that perpetuate and embed the racist practices therein. Health care workers committed to decolonial struggle are forcing a reckoning with the past and present violence of the Canadian health care system. In Samir Shaheen-Hussain’s important new book, some of these histories and contemporary struggles are put into print.

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