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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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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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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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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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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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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. 

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Suicide among Indigenous Peoples in Canada

First Nations in Canada have suicide rates double that of the national average, and Inuit communities tend to have even higher rates. Suicide in these cases has multiple social and individual causes. To date, there are a number of emerging programs in suicide prevention by Indigenous organizations that attempt to integrate Indigenous knowledge with evidence-informed prevention approaches.

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

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BC Introduces Aggressive Vaping Regulations

British Columbia introduced Canada’s toughest regulations on vaping products. Under the new rules, the sale of flavoured vaping products will be limited to age-restrictive stores, some flavours will be banned, plain packaging and limits on advertising will be required, and the sales tax on such products will increase from seven per cent to 20 per cent as of 1 January 2020. A study published in the British Medical Journal in June 2019 found that vaping increased 74 per cent among youth in Canada between 2017 and 2018.

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Ottawa Releases Long-Awaited Arctic Development Policy

After extensive consultations with First Nations and territorial governments, the federal government released its policy on developing the Canadian Arctic. It had been in the works since 2017. Eight priorities were identified, with health, infrastructure and economic development leading the way. However, many criticized the policy for not including specifics on how it would be implemented. International law professor and Arctic expert Michael Byers said, “In terms of an actual plan, there’s very little here.”  

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Air Pollution Could Increase Rates of Mental Health Issues, Study Finds

An international study published in the open-source journal PLOS Biology found a correlation between high levels of air pollution and higher rates of biploar disorder and depression. (See also: Mental Health.) Examining data from the United States and Denmark, the researchers found that geographic areas with the worst air quality were associated with a 29 per cent increase in rates of bipolar disorder, a 148 per cent increase in schizophrenia and a 50 per cent increase in cases of depression.

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Asbestos (QC)

Asbestos, Quebec, incorporated as a village in 1899 and as a town in 1937, population 6,786 (2016 census), 7,096 (2011 census). The town of Asbestos is located in the Eastern Townships region, 53 km north of Sherbrooke and 58 km southeast of Drummondville. It is named after the mineral mined there from 1881 to 2011. During that time, Asbestos produced much of the world’s supply of the asbestos mineral, which is now banned in many countries because of its negative health effects.