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Helen Mussallem

Helen Kathleen Mussallem, CC, nursing educator, reformer and administrator (born 7 January 1915 in Prince Rupert, BC; died 9 November 2012 in Ottawa, ON). Mussallem started her career as a nurse at Vancouver General Hospital and was deployed overseas during the Second World War. She was instrumental in reforming nursing education in Canada and around the world. In her 18 years as the executive director of the Canadian Nurses Association, she helped transform nursing into a profession and promoted its role within Canada’s health care system.

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The Discovery of Insulin

For many years scientists believed that some kind of internal secretion of the pancreas was the key to preventing diabetes and controlling normal metabolism. No one could find it, until in the summer of 1921 a team at the University of Toronto began trying a new experimental approach suggested by Dr. Frederick Banting.

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Maude Abbott

Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbott, cardiac pathologist, physician, curator (born 18 March 1868 in St. Andrews East, QC; died 2 September 1940 in Montreal, QC). Maude Abbott is known as the author of The Atlas of Congenital Cardiac Disease (1936), a groundbreaking text in cardiac research. Though Abbott graduated in arts from McGill University (1890), she was barred from studying medicine at McGill because of her gender. Instead, she attended Bishop’s College (now Bishop’s University), earning a medical degree in 1894. As assistant curator of the McGill Medical Museum (1898), and curator (1901), she revolutionized the teaching of pathology by using the museum as an instructional tool. Abbott’s work paved the way for women in medicine and laid the foundation for modern heart surgery. (See also Women in STEM).

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SARS in Canada

Canada experienced an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. Most of the infections originated in Toronto hospitals. The outbreak led to the quarantine of thousands, killed 44 people and took an economic toll on Toronto. It also exposed the country’s ill-prepared health-care system. Confusion around SARS fuelled an uptick in anti-Asian and anti-immigrant sentiment.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Joseph Rotman

Joseph Louis Rotman, OC, MSC, businessman and philanthropist (born 6 January 1935 in Toronto, ON; died 27 January 2015 in Toronto). Rotman was a prominent businessman who was active in oil trading, oil and gas exploration, merchant banking, real estate and venture capital investment. Later in life, he became a notable philanthropist with a focus on education, the arts and health care. The Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and the Rotman Institute of Philosophy at Western University both bear his name.

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Jennie Trout

Jennie (Jenny) Kidd Trout, physician, teacher (born 21 April 1841 in Kelso, Scotland; died 10 November 1921 in Hollywood, California). Trout was the first female physician licensed to practice medicine in Canada. She received her license from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ontario in 1875.

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Antibiotic Resistance in Canada

Antibiotic (or antimicrobial) resistance developed with the wide distribution of antibiotic medications in the 20th century. Resistance occurs when the medication is no longer capable of killing or preventing the reproduction of bacteria. A major global health challenge, antibiotic resistance makes treating diseases more difficult and expensive, and it results in fewer antibiotics that are effective in managing infectious diseases. Rates of antibiotic-resistant infections are rising in Canada. In hospital settings, infections that resist multiple drugs are also becoming more common. In 2019, an expert panel of the Council of Canadian Academies estimated that resistant infections contributed to more than 14,000 deaths in Canada the previous year. Canadian health agencies, medical professionals and industries are active in multiple efforts to combat this problem. 

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Provincial Government in Canada

Under Canada’s federal system, the powers of government are shared between the federal government and 10 provincial governments. The Constitution Act, 1867 granted specific jurisdiction to the provinces in 16 areas, compared to 29 for the federal government. However, provincial powers have expanded since then. Provinces can levy direct taxation and derive most of their non-tax revenue from the use of public lands and natural resources. Provincial governments in Canada are modelled on the British Westminster parliamentary tradition and reflect the principles of responsible government. They comprise an elected legislative assembly, from which a governing cabinet is selected by the premier. The lieutenant-governor assents to legislation as the representative of the Crown.

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Brock Chisholm

George Brock Chisholm, CC, CBE, psychiatrist, medical administrator, soldier (born 18 May 1896 in Oakville, ON; died 4 February 1971 in Victoria, BC). After earning honours for courageous service in the First World War, Brock Chisholm became an influential psychiatrist. He introduced mental health as a component of the recruitment and management of the Canadian Army during the Second World War. He directed the army’s medical services, served in the federal government as deputy minister of health, and became the founding director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO). His vocal attacks on methods of indoctrinating children with societal myths made him a controversial public figure. He was an often provocative advocate of world peace and mental health. 

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Health Canada Warns of Dangers Linked to E-Cigarettes

Health Canada issued a second warning about the potential dangers of vaping e-cigarettes after two people died in the United States. Hundreds of others have contracted lung disorders. Dr. Nicholas Chadi, a spokesperson for the Canadian Paediatrics Society, said “We’re getting a strong message from the US that we need to be careful about vaping devices and aerosols that come from those devices. We’re still looking for answers, we don’t really know what might be causing these people to get ill, but we do know there are known harms associated with using electronic cigarettes.”

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Study Finds Dangerous Lead Levels in Canadian Drinking Water

A year-long investigation conducted by 120 journalists representing nine universities and 10 media outlets, including the Toronto Star and the Institute for Investigative Journalism, found that one-third of 12,000 tests in 11 Canadian cities since 2014 registered lead levels in excess of the national safety guideline of five parts per billion. Voluntary tests were also conducted by homeowners in 32 towns and cities across Canada, with similar results.

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First Nation Issues State of Emergency After Evacuation Request Denied

The Neskantaga First Nation, located about 450 km north of Thunder Bay, issued a state of emergency after its request for emergency evacuations was refused by Indigenous Services Canada. The request was made after the town’s water pump and backup water pump broke down, resulting in contaminated and unfiltered water. A spokesperson for Indigenous Services said that technicians would arrive within days to repair the pumps. The Neskantaga reserve has been under a boil water advisory since 1995.

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Study Warns of Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

A study conducted by the Council of Canadian Academies concluded that the number of bacterial infections that are resistant to treatment will likely grow from 26 per cent in 2018 to 40 percent by 2050. The report estimates that, over the next 30 years, around 400,000 people will die from these superbugs at a cost to the economy of about $400 billion. The chair of the panel that produced the report, UBC microbiology professor Brett Finlay, said, “This is almost as big, if not bigger, than climate change in a sense because this is directly impacting people. The numbers are just staggering. It’s time to do something now.”

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Vaccination and Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada

Vaccination is the introduction of a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a disease. Vaccine hesitancy is the refusal or delayed acceptance of vaccination due to fears or anxiety about vaccines. It includes a range of concerns such as uncertainty about vaccines’ contents and their safety and the belief that vaccines are responsible for causing other medical conditions (e.g., autism). Other factors include opposition to state control and infringement on individual liberty, suspicions about the pharmaceutical industry and a declining faith in science and medicine. In Canada, as in other wealthy countries, vaccine hesitancy has increased in recent years.

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Canada's Opioid Crisis

Overdoses from a class of painkiller drugs called opioids are claiming the lives of thousands of Canadians from all walks of life. The death count is the result of an escalating public health crisis: an epidemic of opioid addiction. The crisis is made deadlier by an influx of illicit fentanyl and chemically similar drugs, but it can be traced to the medical over-prescribing of opioids, including oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine.

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15 Cases Reported in Vancouver Measles Outbreak

Two more measles cases were confirmed to have originated at two francophone public schools in Vancouver, bringing the total in that cluster to 12. An additional three cases were reported to have been contracted in Asia. BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said that children at public and private schools would be required to show proof of immunization against measles and other diseases beginning in September. Immunization rates at Vancouver public schools were shown to be well below the 90 per cent rate needed to ensure “herd immunity.” (See also Vaccination Rates are Plummeting.)

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Food Insecurity in Canada

Household food insecurity— the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints — is a serious public health problem in Canada. In 2017–18, 1 in 8 households were food insecure. This amounted to over 4.4 million Canadians. Of that number, 1.2 million were children under 18 years. While food banks are a well-known public response to food insecurity, most food insecure households do not use food banks and there is no evidence that food charity is a durable solution. There is wide consensus that governments need to act on food insecurity through income-based interventions.

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Pandemics in Canada

A pandemic is an outbreak of an infectious disease that affects a large proportion of the population in multiple countries or worldwide. Human populations have been affected by pandemics since ancient times. These include widespread outbreaks of plague, cholera, influenza and, more recently, HIV/AIDS, SARS and COVID-19. In order to slow or stop the spread of disease, governments implement public health measures that include testing, isolation and quarantine. In Canada, public health agencies at the federal, provincial and municipal levels play an important role in monitoring disease, advising governments and communicating to the public.

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Eric Lindros Testifies to Parliamentary Committee on Concussions

Hockey Hall of Famer Eric Lindros, whose playing career was cut short by multiple concussions, urged a Parliamentary health committee to create a national protocol for preventing and treating sports-related concussions. He recommended banning hitting in hockey until players are in their mid-teens, ensuring players have months of recovery time every year, and consolidating various protocols across different sports and regions into a unified approach.