Vote for Quality Health Care

Election 2008 – an Opportunity to Restore the Health of Our Nation

“You have done your worst. Now we will do our best.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill, following the Nazi bombing of London in WWII

On September 10, 2008, lawyer Shawn Buckley launched a new initiative called the Canadian Charter of Health Freedom. Buckley is president and co-founder of the Natural Health Products Protection Association, which coordinated the national resistance to the Harper government’s proposed bills C-51 and C-52. “This Charter,” he said, “is an initiative to bring regulatory sanity back to the natural health products industry … [it] lists a bunch of rights that we already have … like sovereignty of our own bodies. Health Canada has basically taken those rights away.”  (He has successfully defeated Health Canada in court several times on issues of patients’ rights and natural health products.)

The new Charter was launched with simultaneous rallies held in Vancouver, Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Toronto. The NHPPA is now coordinating efforts to collect about three million signatures in order to make this Charter the basis of a new Ministry of Wellness (as opposed to the current Ministry of Sickness, aka Health Canada with its record of passing dubious, deceptive and deadly drugs).

Actually, this happened once before – in the US, when people had enough of FDA corruption and its resultant body count. In response to overwhelming public demand, a new national law known as DESHA was created, under which nutritional supplements are foods, not drugs, and regulated appropriate to their essential nature.

On the other hand, Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate treats all nutritional supplements as drugs and its regulations require clinical trials that no ethics committee would sanction (e.g. in order to justify a health claim for a natural product a control group of people would be deprived of vitamin C and then die of scurvy). Hence the slow and inexorable disappearance of many totally safe products since 2004. Buckley flatly describes this as “just insane.”

Unlike Health Canada’s regulations, Buckley’s new Charter uses the definitions of natural health products as adopted by the World Health Organization.

Now that the election is underway, Bill C-51 and C-52 are off the table. But – had C-51 and C-52 become law, even with the meaningless amendments proposed by Health Minister Tony Clement and criticized as such by his Conservative colleague MP James Lunney, the Harper government would have succeeded in doing its absolute worst for natural health care in Canada. And in fact they are still determined to do this if they win a majority government. They tried hard to rule as if they had a majority, primarily through their (now no longer secret) book of dirty tricks, “a 200-page manual which was given to Conservative [MPs] instructing them on ways to obstruct the work of the parliamentary committees,” as political journalist Geoffrey Stevens and others reported. These instructions aimed to destroy the justice committee and the ethics committee investigating the Mulroney / Schreiber scandal, and derailed the investigation into illegal campaign funding tricks the Conservatives used two years ago to get their current minority government. Imagine what would have happened to the health committee discussing C-51 and C-52! No Liberal or NDP member would have got a word in edgewise to question the assault those bills represented to medical science and Charter rights.

CONSERVATIVE HYPOCRISY IN HEALTH CARE

On September 6, I was dumbfounded when attending the 30th anniversary of Orangeville’s organic supermarket, Harmony Whole Foods. Prime Minister Harper actually sent a congratulatory letter to its owner-founder Jennifer Grant. Ironically, Grant’s success in supporting the health of her community with organic foods and supplements would face an uncertain future if Harper’s policies were allowed to prevail in agriculture and the natural health product industry. May I never become so jaded as to lose the ability to be outraged by such hypocrisy; the message was clearly a plug for the Conservatives under the assumption that organic food retailers and customers are stupid enough to support policies that would reduce and maybe even destroy the availability of such products.

For decades, Health Canada, instead of upholding the Food and Drugs Act, gave priority to the drug industry’s wishes by blatantly ignoring mandatory safety requirements, and supported the political priorities of several prime ministers, none of whom seemed to care about safe foods and drugs. This recklessness with public health has made Canada’s food supply possibly the most contaminated among industrialized countries, says Dr. Shiv Chopra, who in his “memoirs of a Health Canada whistleblower,” now hot off the press, describes how this came about.

According to Chopra, Harper’s predecessors left a horrendous legacy of unfolding epidemic sickness steadily increasing in an equally sick environment. Had C-51 become law, this process of steadily increasing rates of disease among Canadians would have been enshrined in law for food and medicine.  Had C-52 become law the same would have happened for the environment on which our survival depends. Now the Harper Conservatives tell Canadians that [we are] “On Your Side.”

CORPORATE AGENDA BEHIND WIDESPREAD DISEASE IN CANADA

Yet, “our side” is crowded with people directly affected by those Conservative policies of deregulation and privatization. Due to increasing levels of contamination in our food, air, and water, every second person in Canada may now expect to develop cancer, incurable Mad Cow Disease has come to stay, chronic diseases are becoming epidemic, antibiotic-resistant bacteria have made our hospitals the most dangerous places to go, and neurological and psychiatric disorders in our children are exponentially increasing every decade.

All of these nationally unfolding health disasters, involving millions of victims, are wholly avoidable, though very profitable for a few. All are caused or promoted by nutrient-empty processed food laced with pesticides and hormones, combined with an increasingly toxic environment.

Also the creeping bankruptcy of Medicare, due to Big Pharma profits which dictate nearly every budgetary consideration, are entirely the responsibility of successive governments that supported Big Business-oriented food and drug policies, forced upon us through trickery and double-speak which were also the essence of bills C-51 and C-52.

Prime Minister Harper, when he was the president of the National Citizens’ Coalition, expressed his wholehearted support for the ideology of deregulation in favour of Big Business interests “until government will be reduced to the point where it can be drowned in a bathtub.”

DEREGULATION PUTS PUBLIC HEALTH AT RISK

The recent dismantling of the food inspection authority (in Harper doublespeak it was a “safety overhaul” which Liberal MP Bonnie Brown called outright “deceit”) gave many Canadians a deadly taste of deregulation when some Maple Leaf Foods products caused a listeria outbreak. The Canadian Medical Association is now calling for a full-scale public inquiry stating that the independent investigation Harper promised “will be inferior to every epidemic inquiry in recent Canadian history [because it] would be closed to public participation … the investigators won’t have the power to subpoena witnesses or documents…  no public hearings are planned … [no] public report [will be] published, and … no commitment [exists] that the report will be made public or even given to parliament.” The CMA also condemned the Harper government’s lack of action on “bad animal feed containing recycled animal tissue [which] led to the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalitis” (Mad Cow Disease), a deregulation disaster he inherited and chose to ignore.

More of the same was waiting to happen when parliament shut down for the federal elections. Among the many deregulation bills which went comatose on the order papers, now awaiting resuscitation if the Conservatives get back into power, was one designed to deregulate the aviation industry. When India tried that some years ago, their domestic airlines quickly became known as “flying coffins” because that’s what they were. India was forced to recognize that deregulation is a deadly ideology.

PRIME OPPORTUNITY TO PUSH FOR FREEDOM OF CHOICE IN HEALTH CARE

The effort to establish freedom of choice in health care as a basic right in a democratically sustained government department through the Charter of Health Freedom could also be seen as the commencement of a civilized divorce from Health Canada. Most divorces are the result of one partner waking up and realizing that this relationship is based on abuse or neglect and has ceased to serve the needs of both partners. A divorce can sometimes be a creative force towards change and enlightenment for both partners. The NHPPA’s proposed Ministry of Wellness would take away Health Canada’s ability to allow only what suits Big Pharma, and force the issue that Schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act is a violation of human rights. Just who does Health Canada think it is when it insists on maintaining a list of just about every major disease that may only be treated with toxic chemicals or surgery?

Nobody knows what government we will wake up to on October 15. Will it be the same nightmare of arrogant patronization in which the Harper government presumed to tell us what is good for us? Will it be a somewhat more reasonable and contrite Liberal government that learned from the public health messes initiated by the Chretien and Martin administrations? Or will it be a government that actually has respect for constitutional rights and finally demonstrates realism and humanity through environmentally sound programs and policies such as proposed by the NDP and the Greens?  Anybody but the Harperites can give Canadians a chance at physical, emotional, fiscal, and environmental recovery. Santa, is it too much to ask this Christmas to be given a government that actually works for people?

CITIZENS TAKE BACK CONTROL OF HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT ON A GLOBAL SCALE

The timing is astounding. This summer the World Trade Organization talks collapsed primarily because India refused to have its agriculture taken over by the US, Canada and the EU. At the heart of that successful resistance is largely the red hot fight over GMOs which India’s farmers are not prepared to have forced upon them.

Simultaneously, the ratification of the EU Constitution was scuttled by Ireland whose people voted against it primarily because they opposed “regulatory convergence” with the rest of Europe on food and natural health products; this is now likely to become a major issue in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament. The currently ongoing US federal election put their Senate bill S1082 on hold, which is virtually identical to our defunct C-51.

This summer the Australian government was found guilty of breaking the law when trying to destroy health freedom there. Now New Zealanders have stopped the harmonization process of natural health product regulations with Australia and made this into an election issue. There is change in the air, and it just might clean up the air as well as the food supply and medicine. Maybe, just maybe, health and ecological sanity will become slowly but surely more important than profits from death and sickness.

CAST YOUR VOTE FOR QUALITY HEALTH CARE

Regardless of what we will face October 15th, we must take our cue from Churchill who after all did not know with any degree of certainty that he would win WWII when the bombs rained onto London. In other words, it is absolutely vital to stop re-acting to destructive government policies and start acting constructively in order to take charge of our bodies, our country, and our government and bring about what we know to be positive change. True, it was necessary to react to the potentially disastrous bills C-51 and C-52 and stop the attempt at legitimizing the anti-science and pro-Big Business policies in the food and medical sectors.

“Doing our best” requires that we stop complaining about the darkness and instead light a candle; start the construction of what is in the public interest regardless of government corruption; use one’s creative imagination “to build a better world”, for which according to Tommy Douglas it is never too late. This Charter of Health Freedom is the first step towards putting human safety and unbiased science back into center stage and forcing greed to step back.

What can you do? Call CBC Radio and Television, and CTV and TVO, and provide the moderators with questions to be put to the political candidates:

  • about rejecting a return of C-51 and C-52,
  • requesting their support of the Charter of Health Freedom,
  • demanding they will stop giving Big Pharma the benefit of the doubt,
  • committing them to reform Health Canada,
  • and voice whatever else makes you mad.

You might want to write to your MP and ask him or her the same questions and politely, but firmly demand a precise reply and save everybody the embarrassment of a puerile canned response. Most important of all: get out there and vote, take all eligible family members with you. Apathy and despair are as unhealthy for your body as they are for the body politic. Take Shawn Buckley’s advice when faced with an MP: “Learn to ignore what they say and look at what they do.”

References

  • www.charterofhealthfreedom.org
  • www.nhppa.org
  • www.shivchopra.com
  • Chopra, Shiv. Corrupt to the Core: Memoirs of A Health Canada Scientist, Kos, 2008
  • Ferrie, Helke. What Part of No! Don’t They Understand: Rescuing Food and Medicine from Government Abuse – A Manifesto, Kos, 2008
  • Ferrie, Helke. The Birth of the Charter of Health Freedom in Canada, Kos, November 2008
  • Hajek, Criss, ed. Does Your Vote Count? , Dundurn, 2003
  • Michaels, David. Doubt Is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health, Oxford, 2008
  • Wagner, W. & Steinzor, R. eds. Rescuing Science from Politics: regulation and the Distortion of Scientific Research, Cambridge, 2006

Sources:

  • M. Lampman. Lawyer takes on government on natural health products, kamloops This Week, Sept. 14, 2008
  • S. Kirkey. Medical journal demands public inquiry into listeriosis outbreak. Canwest, Canada.com Sept. 17, 2008
  • James Lunney, MP, letter to Health Minister Tony Clement, June 30, 2008, www.jameslunneymp.ca/speeches
  • Bonnie Brown, MP. Harper ignores health risks for food, Oakville Beaver, September 6, 2008
  • B. Tieleman. Harper recycles 1996 slogan. StraightGoods.com, September 9, 2008
  • L. Martin. Team Harper wrote the book on chaos. StraightGoods.com August 19, 2008
  • Geoffrey Stevens. The real reason Harper wants an election, StraightGoods, September 1, 2008
  • E. Gould. The WTO Doha Round Breakdown, CCPA Monitor, September 2008
  • I.Theilheimer. Privatization in many forms looms as potential election issue, PublicValues.ca, September 13, 2008
  • C. Roberts (research officer for PIPSC). Transfer of Federal Labs: A Blueprint for Dismantling Public Science, published by PIPSC and on the internet, July 2008
  • I. Theilheimer. Food Safety compromised by self-management, PublicValues.ca, September 6, 2008
  • A. Saul & S. Hickey. Unacceptable Losses: Hospital-Caused Deaths. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Second Quarter 2008, Vol. 23, No. 2

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