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It’s time for Universal Pharmacare in Canada

By: Sarah Jefferies

We’re depriving Canadians of their Basic Human Right

Canada is the only developed country with Universal Healthcare without Universal Pharmacare. We don’t pay out of pocket for our hospital and doctor visits, so why should we be paying for prescription medications to manage our chronic illnesses, pain management, and improve our overall quality of life?

It’s time Canada should be providing universal access to prescription medication like we do universal health care. Canadians spent roughly $34 billion on prescription drugs in 2018. Competing pharmaceutical companies in Canada are forcing consumers to pay 20-40% more on medication than any other developed country with universal healthcare.

Universal Pharmacare Coverage

The only way for Canada to truly provide its citizens with the access they deserve is to adopt a public coverage plan. Paving the way to a universal drug plan begins with public coverage of essential medicines. This coverage is based on the World Health Organizations CLEAN Meds list. These are 125 most common medications that are deemed to be essential.

The end goal of Universal Pharmacare is comprehensive coverage in Canada. This is the coverage of a comprehensive formulary of hundreds of medications. Citizens will only pay the copayment, around $2-5. This program has been successful in other countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and United Kingdom.

Benefits to Canadians

There are many benefits to adapting universal coverage. It improves the value for our money.Public drug plans are more cost effective because of a single payer system, supplying generic drugs. This provides a huge incentive to drive down drug prices.

Universal coverage can also provide a better relationship with healthcare professionals and their clients by removing the cost barrier for citizens and prescribing universally covered drugs. According to the 2016 Canadian Community Health Survey, 8% Canadians reported to have skipped or stretched out their medication as a result of cost. Canadian seniors and people on social assistance are impacted the most and has been reported that their health had worsened as a result of skipping medication due to cost.

What could this mean for Canadians?

This is a huge breakthrough for the Canadian government, providing equal access to medication without discrimination. Once implemented, this program can save Canada up to $10 billion yearly and alleviate the cost barrier for many medications. All citizens deserve to have equal treatment and access to the medications they need to have the quality of life that every Canadian deserves.

How do we get there?

The federal government can set provinces and territories up for success by providing the appropriate subsidies to have a successful transition plan.

An 8-year plan can provide realistic guidelines to negotiate new legislation for National Pharmacare by 2027. The Federal government would work with each province/territory to negotiate a funding plan suitable for their needs. Transition support would include subsidies to support IT changes and ensure that national pharmacare standards are uniform across all provinces and territories.

Lastly, the government would provide funding to help adapt and change company business models. This would include changing private insurance coverage to covering copayments and insuring rare or drugs not on the national formulary.

There’s no better time

Canadian government must take action now and provide the universal coverage we deserve to ensure all citizens live a healthy life without the barrier of cost for medication. If our government doesn’t take action, the discrimination will continue, and cost will continue to be an issue for those who rely on medication.

The quality of life of Canadian citizens should be the forefront of the government’s priorities. By adapting a new legislation to adapt a Universal Pharmacare program, we are working in the right direction to equality for all.

With a new minority government in place, it is possible that the Liberal government can push towards universal pharmacare. Trudeau government made a promise to implement a down payment on pharmacare over the next four years. It’s time for our government to come to an agreement, work together, and advocate for a healthier society.

How safe are Canadian School Buses?

By: Olufunke Pegba-Otemolu

Canadian school buses should be a safe means of transportation for our children, not safety risks.

Yet the state of Ontario school buses means lives are being needlessly lost and major life-time injuries sustained through accident. Canada has recorded at least 23 school bus passenger deaths and 10,480 documented injuries since 1984.

Is it fair to say because of the low deaths’ percentage involving school buses, the necessary safety measures should not be taken? No, we can’t because the life of every child matters.

The fact that education is offered free, does not mean the standard of safety for the children should be overlooked or compromised. In order words we have an obligation to these future leaders to provide them unaltered safety measures in all situation at all times. Out of seven fatalities in small school bus crashes, six children would have survived if they had all worn a seatbelt.

While cost should not be a major factor when it comes to protecting children, the data shows the costs of safety are manageable.

Though the accidents may not happen yearly, the percentage may seem low but let’s not forget that the life of some children are being cut short due to either negligence or irrational thinking of saving cost or funds. These children who died are from a family where they are cherished.

Second, it is an irony that seatbelts, primarily designed to minimize injury or restrain a child from been thrown out of a vehicle, is enforced for children in private vehicles but is not available in Ontario school buses. Even the adult bus drivers are belted Third, eight states in the United States representing about 40% of the U.S population are required by law to have seatbelts on school buses as their National Transportation Safety Board and National Safety Council agreed that seatbelts on school buses save lives and prevent injury.

While the Ministry of Transportation in Canada is yet to take a stand on this. The minister recently set up a task force to examine the issue and promised to do the right thing once a report is submitted by the task force.

Hopefully, it will dawn on the government that retrofitting and installing seatbelts in the new school buses is very much doable, and not as complicated as it is been perceived, rather it will bring school bus passenger deaths to the barest minimum, because the aim

here is to make sure there are no deaths when accidents happen and major injuries are reduced to as well.

This goes to say that the safety of children should not be debated nor speculated before the right decision is taken.

Abortion In Canada, Are Charter Rights being Infringed Upon?

By: Emalee Patrick

History has made it clear that women are willing to risk their lives and freedom to exercise au-tonomy over their own bodies. Before the implementation of the Charter of Rights and Free-doms, Authors De Hart and Kerber, in Women’s America Refocusing the Past, cited that in the 1970s approximately 200 000 women had illegal abortions every year. Of those women, it was approximated that 200 died every year due to unsanitary conditions and unlicensed “doctors” performing procedures.

In 1982, the Liberal government implemented the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A fundamental goal of the Charter is to recognize everyones right to life, liberty, and security and not to be deprived of this right. It is also the Charter’s responsibility to uphold equal protec-tion and benefits under the law without discrimination of race, ethnic origin, sex, gender, age, ability. In 1988, relying on these provisions in the Charter, the Supreme Court ruled it unconsti-tutional to ban abortion. Later, it was ruled that men could not veto a woman’s right to an abor-tion.

The three sides associated with abortion:

Though abortions have been legal in Canada for thirty years, the debate continues with three sides most prominently represented.

Pro-life- The opponents of abortion have historically responded to abortion developments through protest, raids of illegal clinics, and (three) shootings of physicians that continued to per-form abortions. Currently, pro-life proponents are focusing on electing pro-life leaders across the country to pass anti-abortion laws. This may be unrealistic as recent Conservative Prime Minis-ter Stephen Harper, had avoided the topic of abortion, and dissolved bills made by pro-life mem-bers of his own party to separate rights of murdered pregnant women and their fetus’.

In the 2019 Federal debate, Pro-Life Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, stated that if elected, he would not reverse any of the progress made relating to abortion. This reaction may be viewed as evidence that Canadians have accepted abortion as a fundamental right rather than a privilege.

Pro-choice (Status Quo)- Those supporting the status quo recognize that no one has the right to veto another’s choice of abortion. This option continues allowing provinces to regulate abor-tion, which has resulted in disparities in the allocation of funding (what the province is willing to cover for its citizens), resources (clinics and medical professionals), and gestation periods in which women are granted access to the service.

Therefore, some women must travel within Canada and even to the United States to access abortion. This is problematic in that only a portion of women would have access to the re-sources required to obtain alternative methods. Overall, inconsistencies in access to abortion services in Canada results in provinces of privilege and continues to violate women’s reproduc-tive rights throughout Canada.

Pro-choice (Do More)- Those who are in support of doing more and advocate for a Federal abortion law to provide universal standards for all women in Canada. Abortion access is an is-

sue of equality and social justice, as women should not be excluded due to socio-economic sta-tus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested increasing medical abortions as this approach is less invasive and the medication has been labelled safe as it passed the longest drug approval process in Canadian history.

The WHO suggests granting prescription privileges of medical abortions to doctors, nurses, and midwives to spread out this service. Medical abortions are only available up to nine weeks ges-tation; therefore, improvements in surgical abortions must also be made. More doctors must be trained to continue standards of abortion care.

Overall, Canadian women are not willing to surrender control over their reproductive rights. Criminalizing abortion is recognized as denying women of their fundamental rights. Yet, without improvements in current abortion practices, unnecessary barriers are being created or are al-ready in place for many women. Canada’s best course of action is to implement a Federal Abor-tion Law that provides equal services to all Canadian women. It is time Canadians had clear standards in affordability and abortion access. A woman’s right over her own body should not be contingent on socio-economic status; therefore, it is up to Canada to close these gaps.