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ISBN: 9780776636597-10

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Immigration and "Medical Manpower"

1968 and the Awkward Introduction of Medicare in Canada


From: 1968 in Canada


The year 1968 witnessed the launch of medicare, a public program so important that 50 years later many Canadians identify universal health insurance as a defining feature of our national identity. At the time, the Pearson government sought to frame the passage of the Medical Care Act (1966) as one of a series of nation-building exercises that would culminate in the Centenary celebrations. Nevertheless, the advent of medicare was accompanied by uncertainty, resistance, and large doses of criticism from many fronts. Fiscal and constitutional considerations loomed large, of course. However, the principal challenge was that there was not enough medical staff to accommodate the demand for services that a new single-payer system would inevitably unleash. This chapter examines the awkward launching of medicare in a fiscal, political, and medical context that made its success anything but inevitable.



David Wright and Sasha Mullally

David Wright is Professor of History and Canada Research Chair in the History of Health Policy at McGill University. A specialist in the social history of modern medicine, he has published extensively on the history of psychiatry, children’s health and disability, the development of hospitals, medical migration, and the evolution of Canadian medicare.