Category Archives: History of Medicine

Public Health, Rights, and Protest in the Age of COVID-19

Jennifer Tunnicliffe COVID-19 and the steps taken to inhibit its spread have inspired significant opposition across Canada over the past ten months. Protestors have rallied against measures implemented by provincial governments, and movements such as The Line Canada and March to Unmask have used public demonstrations and social media platforms to denounce mandatory mask-wearing, quarantine procedures, travel restrictions, and lockdown… Read more »

COVID-19 and Canada’s Untapped Immigrant Labour Resources

Jon G. Malek The COVID-19 pandemic has not only created health and economic crises across the world, but has exposed systemic problems that have long existed in Canadian society. One issue that COVID-19 has highlighted, institutional barriers to recognizing the credentials of foreign trained professionals, is complicating provincial responses across the country. In Winnipeg, healthcare professionals and public school teachers… Read more »

Building a white Canada: gender, sexuality, race, and medicine

By Allison Lynn Bennett Sexual control is inherent to empire. Colonial authorities and doctors understood sexuality as key to maintaining white superiority. Reproduction and health were the focus of eugenic measures that played on gender, sexual, and racial stereotypes. As a settler colony, Canada imagined itself as “British”, or “white”, and therefore regulated the sexual lives and behaviour of both… Read more »

In the Wake of Columbus: Amerindian Antecedents to COVID-19

 “What causes the Indians to die and to diminish in number are secret judgments of God beyond the reach of man. But what this witness has observed during the time he has spent in these parts is that from the province of Mexico have come three or four pestilences, on account of which the country has been greatly depopulated.” –… Read more »

“Symbol of the IGA”: The International Grenfell Association hospital ship Strathcona and the 1970 mass tuberculosis survey of northern Labrador

John R.H. Matchim Since the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen was reactivated in 2004 it has conducted multiple mass health surveys of Inuit communities across the Canadian Arctic. In 2004 and 2017 surveys organized by the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services and Laval University’s Population Health Unit asked some 2,000 residents questions about housing, family violence, addictions,… Read more »

Epidemics and Racism: Honolulu’s Bubonic Plague and the Big Fire, 1899-1900

Yukari Takai More than a century before the global outbreak of Covid-19, another deadly disease struck Honolulu, one that ignited the tragic unfolding of many stories about public health, urban fires and social inequalities, particularly racism. The bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death, hit Honolulu’s crowded and throbbing Chinatown in December 1899 when it took the life of… Read more »

Learning from Past Pandemics: Resources on the 1918-1919 Influenza Epidemic in Canada

By Sean Carleton, Andrea Eidinger, Carolyn Podruchny. This is an Active History/Unwritten Histories Collaboration. We are living in unprecedented times, or so we are being told by many commentators, health experts, and politicians these days. Just last week, Dictionary.com released a list of “The Best Words to Use During Unprecedented Times” to help people describe their experiences during the COVID-19… Read more »

The Distance Between Us: The Implications of Pandemic Influenza in 1918-1919

By Esyllt W. Jones For a historian of pandemic influenza these are uncanny days. The past is colliding with the present. As if a thread has emerged, now, connecting us with those who faced, in their own ways, a globally shared experience in 1918-1919. A group of nurses in High River, Alberta, wear face masks in an attempt to ward… Read more »

Canada’s First Medical Malpractice Crisis

By R. Blake Brown Two CBC journalists, Habiba Nosheen and Andrew Culbert, recently reported on the challenges faced by patients trying to sue doctors for medical malpractice. Their story adopts the tone of an exposé. They note that several factors make securing compensation for serious errors difficult, including that most doctors are members of the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), an… Read more »

Thalidomide and the UK Welfare State: How a Unique Tragedy Showed the Problems of All People With Disability

This post was presented to the Carleton University Disability Research Group earlier this year and is cross-posted on their website. By Jameel Hampton Beginning with the recognition of the special needs of disabled schoolchildren in the 1880s, the British state took on the welfare of groups of disabled people perceived to be deserving of statutory welfare. Disabled ex-servicemen and blind… Read more »