Friday, November 21, 2014

Our Sacred Rights

In our society there's not much more that we hold more sacred than our responsibility to protect our most vulnerable, our children. That's why we, in the eyes of the law, effectively remove all freedom of choice rights that we grant to adults. Our children's safety and well-being is deemed so indisputable, so closed to debate, that the law is able to override even parental rule if the law find that a child's best interest are not being considered. 

This has always been in case in case in Canada. That is, unless you are of Aboriginal descent. 

I am, of course, referring to two cases that have recently brought this discrepancy in our laws to light. In one, the Ontario Court ruled that a 9-year-old girl (known in the media as "J.J") suffering from leukemia cannot be forced into chemotherapy against her parents wishes. Instead, her parents are choosing to treat their daughter's cancer at a ill-reputed clinic in Florida, with massage therapy and a diet of raw food. Let's be clear on this - cancer is an awful disease. It turns people's bodies against themselves, ravages them, and can leave them emaciated and a shell of themselves. People survive it because of the leaps and bounds we've made in medical and public health science over the years. Not because of eating salad. 

This is allowed to happen because the family is Aboriginal and as such, is allowed to pursue traditional medicine under the Constitution Act of 1982. 

This case follows close on the heels of a similar case that allowed an 11-year-old girl, Makayla Sault, to forgo chemotherapy, and is now receiving treatment at the same Florida clinic as J.J. 

In the past, Canadians decision-makers have often failed to protect the rights of Aboriginal children and even worse, they have often single handedly harmed them. In J.J.'s and Makayla's case, we were given the opportunity to protect the well-being of two girls of Aboriginal descent and we failed. 

There's little that I can say on this issue that has not already been said, and to avoid unintentional plagarism, I'll leave it at that. André Picard likely said it best in his article, " this case, the court decided that the parents’ aboriginal rights take precedence over the life, liberty and security of an individual child....The affirmation of aboriginal rights should not condemn children to second-class treatment and death."

Friday, March 28, 2014

Clearing the air, and our heads.

I find it rare that I disagree with my public health colleagues. Oh sure, there's a disagreement here and there about the specifics, but it's been a while since the public health community has found itself fairly divided and kind of all over the spectrum on an issue. But it's happening now, all thanks to the e-cigarette.

While it's not entirely clear, the overall feeling I'm getting is that the public health community is preparing for a war against these battery-powered cigarettes. I could be wrong about this - but consider the official statements by certain key health organizations on the issue. The WHO cautions consumers against using e-cigarettes until proven safe and effective, and the American Lung Association's official statement on the twigs warns mostly against their potential harms. Advice from Health Canada and other agencies march to the same drum. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Falling behind without harm reduction

Last month, four AIDS advocacy programs and one former prison inmate took the unconventional, and rather inspired, step of suing the Canadian federal government for not providing a clean needle exchange program to the country’s prison inmates. Their argument, based on the premise that the government must provide prisoners access to the same healthcare services as would be available to them in the community, is unlikely to succeed in Canada’s courts. It does, however, bring to the forefront important public health issue.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Has it been four years already? Micronutrients Redux

There was an interesting article published by Slate late last week about a topic that I discuss in one of my first posts - the undeniably important role of micronutrients, particularly in developing countries, on global health. While there are many prominent issues that have a resounding impact on population health in many poor countries of the world, treatment deficiencies in micronutrients stands out due to it's relative economic feasibility.

Under New Leadership

On Monday April 16, 2012, the World Bank Group announced US nominee Jim Yong Kim as its next President, succeeding Robert Zoellick to become the twelfth leader of the world’s premier development organization. Despite his undeniably impressive accomplishments, the choice of Kim by the World Bank has been the brunt of much criticism, from the worlds of finance and international development alike.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Justice by Jury?

Let's start the week with a story hitting close to home. Jury selection starts today in Ottawa for what is sure to a be a complicated, long-lasting, emotionally draining, not to mention historic trial.

The accused in this case is 39-year old Jacques Mungwarere, arrested in 2009 in Windsor for his alleged participation in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Mungwarere specifically is accused to have participated in the mass killing in two schools and one hospital.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Justice for Sierra Leone

Advocates of international justice rejoiced this past Thursday, as some justice has been delivered to the former leader of the war-torn Liberia, Charles Taylor.

After being on trial for almost five years, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) found Taylor guilty on 11 counts including terrorism, rape, slavery, use of child soldiers and other crimes against humanity. This verdict is significant not only being it represents the first head of state that has been convicted for atrocities that occurred in Sierra Leone during the civil war of the 1990s, but also as Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted of sexual crimes by an international tribunal.