Nova Scotians rally for continuity of National Health Accord

Concerned citizens rallied together in Victoria Park on Monday as part of Stand for Medicare – National Day of Action.

by Brooke Oliver

Lucia Dutton at Medicare rally
Lucia Dutton shows her support at the Stand for Medicare rally on Monday. (Brooke Oliver / Peninsula News)

Concerned citizens rallied together in Victoria Park on Monday as part of Stand for Medicare – National Day of Action.

The Harper government has refused to renegotiate Canada’s National Health Accord after it expires on March 31. The accord provides funding and sets standards for public healthcare across the country. Refusal to renegotiate means the end of federal involvement in healthcare, and $36 billion in cuts by 2024.

Federal cuts would affect Nova Scotia with a loss of $902 million.

James Hutt, assistant co-ordinator of Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network, says he believes the government is “turning its back on the provinces and walking away from responsibility.”

“[The Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care network is] calling for stable standards and national funding to make sure we get the same quality from coast to coast,” said Hutt.

This prompted the Nova Scotia Citizens’ Healthcare Network to create a petition that could be signed at the rally.

Lucia Dutton was among those who came together, and signed the petition.

“Harper would like to bring us back to where the United States is now and we don’t want to go there. We don’t want to privatize health care,” she said. “It means a lot of people just won’t get cared for, especially those who are low on money.”

Dutton also explained her personal reasons for supporting Medicare.

“About three years ago I became very sick, and I figured if I lived in the United States I’d be dead now,” said Dutton.

Hutt says that these cuts would mean slashing services and denying care to those who need it most.

“Over 25,000 Nova Scotians are waiting to get into long-term care homes,” he said. “Without a national approach to health care and stable funding, how can we ever hope to give our seniors and the chronically ill the care that they actually need?”

Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network extended invitations to Premier Stephen McNeil, Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie, and acting NDP leader Maureen MacDonald, as well as NDP health critic Dave Wilson.

Both MacDonald and Wilson were in attendance and showed their support by signing the petition, which is to be delivered to Province House.

Those attending the rally signed the petition, which was designed to look like a patient in a hospital bed.
People at the rally signed the petition, which was designed to look like a patient in a hospital bed. (Brooke Oliver / Peninsula News)

Driving change through sport

Can a soccer ball change lives? The players and organizers behind Halifax Street Soccer think so.

By Brooke Oliver

Cultivating a new community for the less fortunate through sport. (Brooke Oliver/Peninsula News)

Valentin Mocanu and Lucas Goltz believe that a ball can change the world.

Mocanu, a Dalhousie University medical school student, and Goltz, who works in social support services, met upon moving to Halifax three years ago.

The two began discussing their passions for helping people of marginalized backgrounds, learning that they had both done work on Vancouver’s downtown Eastside.

“We decided that there wasn’t a lot of non-profit work in respect to this kind of community development involving sport,” explains Mocanu.

And thus, Halifax Street Soccer was born.

Part of a bigger picture

The Halifax chapter is a branch of a larger organization, Canada Street Soccer, and is the only group of its kind east of Montreal.

Their target group is anyone who has struggled with housing issues, income, lack of food, addiction, poor family upbringings and so forth.

The group usually sees upwards of 30 individuals come out each Sunday evening. They encourage anyone to drop by and play, free of charge. They have welcomed people from all walks of life including university students, professionals, and even ex-professional soccer players to join in with their regulars.

However, it is more than just sport.

“We use a very multidisciplinary approach. We have social workers, we have nurses, and Lucas has worked in homeless shelters. We work very inter-collaboratively to target a lot of things,” says Mocanu.

Johnny, who proudly shows off his bright green indoor soccer shoes, is one of the original players. He did not share his surname.

“For a long time, when I was in school, I got hit in the gut with a ball, so it knocked the air out of me, and that was the end of me playing that game,” he says with a laugh.

‘I’m abused in the net,’ Johnny says with a laugh. (Brooke Oliver/Peninsula News)

Though he was rusty in the beginning, Johnny has improved a great deal and played his first game against another team last year. He says he has met many of his greatest friends through soccer.

“We really try to make this a family and much like any family reunion, if you miss one week or a couple of weeks, which I’ve been unfortunate to do that last couple months because of exams, you really feel like you’re missing out. It’s just great coming back and seeing the respect and I love that everyone comes back to you,” says Mocanu.

Looking to the future

After sending their first athlete to the Homeless World Cup in Mexico last year, Mocanu, Goltz and the players are all excited about what is in store for Halifax Street Soccer.

The directors are interested in expanding beyond the current organization, and starting a league.

However, in the coming weeks they are all excited to simply move their Sunday night practices outside as nicer weather approaches.

Halifax women celebrate International Women’s Day, point fingers at government

Dawn Ferris, vice-president of women’s issues for the Halifax-Dartmouth and District Labour Council, took International Women’s Day as an opportunity to point fingers at the Harper government regarding cuts to women’s programs.

By Brooke Oliver

Dawn Ferris, vice-president of women’s issues for the Halifax-Dartmouth and District Labour Council, took International Women’s Day, this past Saturday, as an opportunity to point fingers at the Harper government regarding cuts to women’s programs.

“I would say [Harper’s cuts] affect me because I’m Canadian. Our rights are being eroded. One of the first things his government did when they won their majority was they cut 12 out of 16 offices across Canada for the Status of Women, because apparently, offices for the Status of Women weren’t that important to him,” Ferris said.

Additionally, in spring 2010, the Harper government cut funding for Match International, a Canadian organization that provides funding to women’s groups across the globe.

In a news release in honour of this year’s International Women’s Day, Match International says “the average women’s rights organization has an annual budget of $20,000 per year.”

Ferris is also worried that the current discussions on Omnibus Bill 525 surrounding occupational health and safety standards will take its toll on Canadian women. Currently, Canadians have the right to refuse and challenge any activity in the workplace that they believe may put them at risk.

“So if you say, ‘I am a pregnant woman, I have been told to go use those chemicals and clean up a spill, I don’t think that’s healthy for me,’ this most recent Bill, 525, actually takes that right away,” said Ferris.

Governmental changes affecting women are happening in Nova Scotia as well, Ferris said.

Homecare workers walked off the job Feb. 28, demanding pay equity to their counterparts in hospitals. The government responded by refusing to send the issue to arbitration. The workers, 85 per cent of whom are women, were legislated back to work.

Ferris said she believes that the Nova Scotia government, in doing this, “took away the right for these women to collectively bargain.”

These discussions were facilitated through events organized by Ferris, including a rally in downtown Halifax, as well as the screening of the film Made in Dagenham in Dalhousie University’s Ondaatje Hall. The film provides a depiction of British women pushing their government for equal pay.

Buttons such as this adorned the clothing of approximately 40 individuals at Saturday night’s film screening.
Buttons such as this adorned the clothing of approximately 40 individuals at Saturday night’s film screening.

Halifax resident Lynn Yetman chose to celebrate International Women’s Day by attending the screening, as well as connecting with the important women in her life.

“I did email my two daughters and remind them that they are strong, beautiful, wonderful smart women who could do anything they wanted to do,” Yetman said with a smile.

Local vocal ensemble, Women Next Door, performed at the screening. Their aim is to shed light on women’s issues, queer and lesbian rights, peace and love, and invoke change through song.