In the wake of World War II, Canada began implementing universal health care for all citizens. A lot of this work is attributed to Tommy Douglas, a Baptist minister who went into politics.
When Douglas was a kid his leg became infected and required numerous surgeries. Because his family was poor he nearly had the leg amputated had not a surgeon volunteered to do the surgery as long as his medical students could observe. Douglas’ chronic leg troubles always served as a reminder of that moment in his life. During the Depression, Douglas was a graduate student studying sociology and finishing his doctorate in Chicago. Seeing the overwhelming poverty created by the economy and the needs of the people he quit grad school in order to take action to help those less fortunate; he became a minister. After WWII Douglas and many leaders in the community were faced with physician shortages and doctors going on strike. The debate became a moment that necessitated action. Should health care be considered a social good or just another private commodity? The solutions proposed were that of a privatized system where families purchased private insurance and government aid would be available for the poorest (like in the U.S.), or universal health care. Remembering his experiences and acting upon the support of the Christian church in Saskatchewan, universal health care was instituted in the providence. Soon after it became a national plan and a point of pride among Canadians.
We often compare our U.S. health care to Canada’s and it goes back and forth between all the pundits as to which is better. For me, the most interesting point of the story is that it was the religious community that backed and fought for universal health care. What a stark contrast to how our major religious communities in the U.S. politically align themselves. It also goes to show the lack of “we’re all in this together” spirit we have in the U.S.